About two years ago, a mentor of mine invited me up to go sailing on Lake Erie to a somewhat famous tourist attraction called Put-In-Bay. It was October Fest weekend, which gave people all the more reason to drink excessively and act nutty. Of the group of guys I was with, I was by far the youngest—by at least 25 years. Among other things, this left me in a bit of a bad mood as I felt like a loser to be hanging out with these older men. How am I going to attract girls if the people I hang out with are twice my age?
So we are sitting down in a tent eating bratwursts, drinking beer, and listening to a band when a beautiful blonde girl walked in front of our table on her way to one of the vendors. Anthony, my mentor, turns to me and says, “Hey, why don’t you go up and talk to her? She’s beautiful.” And indeed, she really was beautiful—blonde, round-faced, and in great shape—just my type. I responded half-heartedly, “maybe.” Taking this as a pathetic no, Anthony responded again, “Ok, well when she walks back, I’m going to stand up and introduce you to her.”
“Don’t you dare!” I exclaimed.
Sure enough, the girl walked back past our tent and an enthusiastic Anthony stands up and says, “Excuse me, my name’s Anthony and I want to introduce you to my son. He’s single, handsome, and a great Christian man that’s looking for a nice girl to date.” My heart was racing, and of course in the moment I wanted to smack him for calling me out like that. I was delighted but also nervous as all get out.
In my mind, I was thinking: “She is absolutely gorgeous, but how can she ever be attracted to a man like me? She has it all, and what do I have to show for that? There’s nothing impressive about my job. I’m still struggling with pornography. I’m still in school. What can I really offer her?”
As this was going on in my head, I was able to stand up, smile, introduce myself, and shake her hand. I found out her name and that she was living about three hours away. She smiled and seemed to be interested—she even gave me her number! She said that she would be downtown in the evening if I wanted to hang out with her. And just like that, she went back to her seat. And I sat back down and returned to “Eeyore mode.”
Ruining Spontaneity and Missing My Chance
Now, of course, I was excited. But I wondered, where could this really go? She lives two hours away from me and I was working full-time and trying to write my thesis. How would I have time for a relationship? And where would I ultimately be in a year (I was looking for jobs out of state)?
On a more personal level, I was so intimidated by the thought of going up to her friend group, introducing myself, and then holding a conversation with a bunch of strangers that I just avoided it altogether. When there is nothing about an interaction that is romantic, I can literally talk to anyone. But when it comes to women, I have never had that smooth confidence that I have always wanted. Part of it is my dismay for small talk and another my introversion, but the most important reason is that I am afraid of rejection. My lack of confidence often deters me from taking the risks that I long to take. I end up shooting myself in the foot before the adventure even starts.
Evening came and I still had not reached out to her to hangout. The group of men I was with wouldn’t stop giving me gripes over this missed opportunity. This further instilled my sense of hopelessness. But, sometimes you need to have these moments of embarrassments to really get your act together. And this certainly was the case for me—thinking of the beauty of this woman ignited something in me.
It isn’t so much the fact that I failed that bothered me. It was the fact that in some manner I realized I was competent enough to attract this beautiful woman but I just had no confidence or ability to follow through. It was that great space between potentiality and actuality; between what is and what could be that really bothered me. My “could be” self was right in my hands, and yet it felt so far away.
Facing The Wind With Courage
That night, our group of men decided to take a risk and sail back to the dock in the dark! Being the youngest, I was asked to go to the bow and look out for logs and other objects that were otherwise out of our sight and potentially harmful to the boat. With the wind blowing and waves splashing, I could hardly hear what the other men were talking about, so I had a lot of time to myself. It was a two hour voyage across Lake Erie.
I sat there in the darkness and looked up into the sky and pondered how I had ended up in this dismal place. It was sort of an archetypal moment for me—as I was literally “facing the wind” without any protection on the boat. Internally, my soul was experiencing the forces of doubt and perceived failure.
I realized that I had not matured in the romantic aspect of my life. I had been wasting my time and avoiding taking risks by using pornography. My days of being a stud athlete and basically always having girls around me were over—I realized that I couldn’t expect a woman to fall right into my lap anymore. My reality had changed. I realized that I needed to somehow grow and improve myself. I needed to be bolder and work on things that are unpleasant about myself so that I could be strong enough to take risks and wager being rejected. I would be wrong to lay all of this at the feet of pornography, but certainly my avoidance of “facing the wind” of life by finding easier ways to cope had stunted my development. I was upset with myself.
At the same time, there was an ounce of hope that was unleashed in me. Maybe I had something to offer after all? The fact that the girl I thought was out of my league was actually interested in me instilled an ambition to get myself together. Over time, I realized that women should be pursued not simply for romantic purposes, but out of respect for their dignity. Not only have I been selfishly failing myself, but I have been failing women in general. This is something that I continually struggle with and seek at which to get better. All of this because of one feisty mentor and one beautiful woman!
Are there any young men or women in your 12-step group that you have thought about taking under your wing but have failed to do so? If so, what’s holding you back?
Outside the realm of addiction, what areas of your life do you need to work on that you have been withholding “from the wind?” Do you have a vision for your life beyond just simply stopping your addictive behaviors? And do you have a good collection of mentors to help you work on your goals?
Quarter Joe is a lifelong Catholic and has been in recovery for pornography addiction for nearly three years. He is passionate about the spiritual path of the 12-step model and the power of Jesus in the Eucharist in bringing healing and transformation.