The Joy and Pain of Being Human
Imagine a life filled with close friends, a happy family and purpose.
Sounds ideal right? For over four decades I lived right there. Or more appropriately, attempted to live. For me, it was more “idealistic” than ideal.
Add a dash of secret sin and deceit to the above imagery and you begin to see how the ideal can quickly devolve into the façade. The proverbial double life. Not the type of living one naturally aspires to.
Joy to Pain
At the ripe old age of 10, I became a baptized Jehovah’s Witness. Those were the best of days as the saying goes. Indeed they were. After all, I was a kid. Bicycles, cartoons and baptism: These fell into place quite nicely into a space of prepubescent pleasure and happiness.
The years of temptation and sin were still well ahead of me. So far ahead, I’d ne’er given it a thought. Why would I when all my hopes and dreams were a big box of childhood delight.
It was a good life – until it wasn’t.
Bring on the pain
My first introduction to the lure of vice occurred in Fremont California. Now in my early twenties I had a job “direct marketing” cookbooks by canvassing neighborhood businesses. One day working a small business mall, I came across a big, black metal door. The door had serrated holes in it which made it hard to see who or what was on the other side. But I knocked and soon greeted by an attractive, young blond woman with a European accent. She dressed in shall we say… a particularly provocative way.
Seconds later, an older woman appeared with dark hair, bulging cleavage and the same accent. The older one shot down my offer of a cookbook. Then she gave me something. A wink and a smile. That was it. The seductive images of these two women became branded into my mind. I couldn’t shake the curiosity running through my veins. Who were these women? Why were they dressed that way, and what were they up to?
Hopeful for closure on this situation, I returned the next day with a naïve anticipation. I loitered outside for the longest 3 minutes of my life and finally I mustered up the nerve to thump once again on the big black door. Then, in a moment quicker than I could comprehend, there I was inside the lair of no return. The older one greeted me with a perfume laced hug and that wink and a smile again. “We offer relaxing Swedish massage” she said.
Oh oh. I was in deep shit.
In my shame I didn’t go back for weeks. But when the shame subsided enough I did. The business was gone. No more massage. That should have been the end. But, it didn’t matter. The seed was now planted. One fortuitous encounter sparked an insidious yearning for other opportunities to act out in what I eventually came to learn were sexually compulsive ways.
It became a deceitfully addictive coping mechanism in which I could escape. So much so that I was eventually cut-off from the JW’s, lost my marriage and went bankrupt.
Instead of the joys of the past, I was dwelling in a place of great torment and anguish. Bicycles, cartoons and baptism didn’t do it for me anymore.
Acting a fool, I exhausted the goodwill shown to me by the JW community, my wife, and most importantly the God I worshiped. I think back on the wasted time, money and relationships and soberly accept the fact I can’t change the past.
But you know what? I decided to get better and take back my life. To take responsibility for my actions now to shape the future I want.
And, if you see yourself in my story I’m here to tell you this – so can you!
When we stay stuck in the guilt and shame of our pasts we can’t see a bright future for ourselves. And there’s no shortage of people to remind us that we suck. After years of struggling with the guilt and shame I’m proud to say I was able to break free from the shackles of compulsive behaviors. I’m no saint, but I’ve learned to practice the choice of self-control.
There is so much more to the story and my book will fill in the more anecdotes and outline the path I took to my recovery. I want to share my story to encourage others struggling the way I was. Often, the most important lessons in life are those learned the hard way. There comes a point when you realize you have to get on with it. People will say and do as they will but ultimately we are responsible for our own actions.
The life experiences from this journey have been a source of both joy and pain for me. Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer there is no true gain without some pain in the process. Personal growth comes at a price. We have to decide if we’re willing to pay that price.
It’s all part of the joy and pain of being human.
© Marc Townsend
Follow me on Twitter @maloanthonyby