I’m going to come right out and say it – I’ve been in Anthony Weiner’s shoes.
Fortunately for us, my family and I didn’t have to go through all of this on public television and no-one asked me to resign my position because my sexual misdeeds were never publicized. But after all my efforts and successes quitting the drug addiction that had plagued my life I had to deal with a darker, more secret, set of issues that almost brought down everything I’d worked so hard to build. Sex can be tricky.
So yes, somewhere out there are explicit pictures I sent to women I met online although I had long ago erased the sexy pictures they had sent my way. It was part of the purging process I went through with my wife as we tried to build our trust after a simply devastating betrayal; a long purging process that to some extent is still going on more than a year after everything came out. Like I said: Sex – tricky.
The day I was found out was probably the most embarrassing, gut-wrenching, ego-shattering day I will ever experience. It trumped going through a cavity search on my way to jail or seeing my family in the courtroom as I plead guilty to count after count in my drug case. There’s nothing quite as humbling as standing in front of the person you love admitting you betrayed them, lied to them, and did so repeatedly with multiple people.
A number of pieces I read on the topic suggested that feeling “hot” or “sexy” was the most important factor in Weinergate prompted me to write this piece even though I’ve obviously been mulling this over since the whole Weiner-sex thing became public. There is no doubt that impressing these random women and getting their approval of my sexuality was an important part of the appeal for me and it’s true that this is not something many men experience in their everyday life. Still, I don’t think it was the only part and it certainly didn’t feel like the most important.
As I’ve written about numerous times in regard to my drug use and addiction, I have impulsivity issues. I always have and likely always will although I’ve learned to function relatively well with them. The problems arise when the behaviors I engage in are kept private and for me, online sex-chatting with women was a pretty normal thing that had started in the days of MySpace and continued on unabated. The problem was that I obviously wasn’t going to let anyone in on the extent of it. When I would get in relationships online chatting would take a backseat, but it never really disappeared.
There’s something appealing, at least for someone like me, about the idea of unattached women who are ready to act a little “dirty” whenever we were both in the mood without really expecting anything in return. The more involved I got the more resources I found for finding these women and the more effort I put into impressing them so I could get what I wanted in return. In some ways, it gave me a way to hold onto the freedom of being single without having to cross some imaginary physical boundary I had convinced myself was the real version of “cheating” I knew I wasn’t to cross (full disclosure – I’d already done that).
When you combine a long single life, the immediate gratification of online sex-chatting/image-swapping, and bad impulse control you end up with some pretty messy results. I ended up using every opportunity I could to get a glimpse of the next picture a woman sent me, read an explicit message, or follow up on a response to a picture I’d sent. I no longer had drugs and this semi-anonymous sex was my quick fix. The rush was very similar and given the relationship between my old meth use and sex it makes a lot of sense.
At first I’d diagnosed myself as a sex-addict, which seemed fitting given my experience with drugs and my previously-mentioned impulsivity. Now I think that at least a good portion of it has to do with the above influences along with a pretty distorted view of the male-female relationship I had put together from my early exposure to porn. But I’ll leave at least some of that to a later date.
For now, whether it offends others or not, I feel Anthony Weiner’s pain. I am almost certain that as deliberate as this behavior seems to everyone else it had become so compartmentalized in Anthony’s head that even he didn’t know the extent of it. Shameful, taboo, and somewhat compulsive behaviors tend to do that. I know they did for me. I hope he gets to keep his family as I got to keep mine. It took a lot of work and understanding from my amazing wife, but it’s possible. Sex is tricky, especially when it’s secret.