*This is a true story about a real man currently in 423 Men. "Jack" is not the author's name. Names and locations have been changed for the privacy of involved parties.
This dark account contains shocking and graphic details of mental illness and abuse. Please be forewarned... this post is hard to read. The article is not included here for its "shock" value. Rather, we hope to demonstrate that the light of Jesus Christ penetrates even the darkest realms of bipolar disorder, BDSM (bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism), and extreme erotic role-playing. A changed life, as in the case of our brother Jack, is the fruit of God's mercy.
There is hope. Read on...
When I was in fifth grade year, my grandmother, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Even though she was given a lifespan of four to five years, my grandma died only five months after her diagnosis. Within two weeks of her death, my grandfather became ill with terminal lung cancer. Today my psychiatrist believes that my own father's bipolar disorder is due, in part, to these traumatic events, and contributed to his emotional breakdown when I was just a child.
My father was both physically and verbally abusive to me. He once burst into my bedroom with an ax and nearly destroyed everything in the room. Dad was a big man, able to bench four hundred pounds. He even tried to strangle me one time and so, as a boy, I learned how to disassociate from emotional and physical pain. I developed trichotillomania (hair pulling) at the age of twelve, tearing out my hair in large clumps. It was at this young and tender age that I became addicted to the endorphin response to pain.
Our next door neighbor was one of my friends and a safe place to hide out from the abuse at home, of so I thought. One day, he mentioned his father’s pornography stash and wanted to use me to “practice for his girlfriend.” My neighbor violated me with both oral and anal sex.
My father continually berated me, telling me that I was a disappointment to him. He constantly reminded me that I should be a better athlete, especially since I had bulk and a muscular body type. I achieved third in the nation for my age group in the discus throw, but it was never good enough for dad. I suffered a serious knee injury and had three significant reconstructive knee surgeries by the age of sixteen.
Although I graduated as a valedictorian and with ten varsity letters, I was never came back from the knee trauma. I still tried out for sports in later high school, but remained mostly on the sidelines. I so badly wanted to my teammates' approval that I willingly gave myself away sexually to many of the other guys on the team. I would agree to do anything, just so I could feel a part of the team.
After college, I married my wife, Jane. In 2009, we adopted two children from another country. Our adoption agency misled us by failing to disclose Adam's history of severe trauma. During the initial five years Adam was in our house, he had three mental health hospitalizations, one lasting for over a hundred days. Adam broke Jane's wrist during an altercation, and he was verbally abusive to her. I, too, was physically assaulted by Adam... bitten, punched, hit with baseball bats, rocks, shovels, and rakes. Daily, my adopted son threatened to kill me or my biological son.
My doctor placed me on Adderall for my inability to focus. I was later diagnosed with bipolar disorder and, as Adam's emotional and physical blowouts escalated, my mania levels also increased. Slowly, my Adderall dosage was increased from 10 mg to 70-80 mg per day. The high intensity of these amphetamines, significant home and work stress, and an inability to sleep greatly impacted my inability to emotionally self-regulate. Additionally, my father re-entered our lives and became verbally abusive to my wife and me.
While I had briefly experimented with BDSM early in college, the desire to dive into this form of erotic-role playing and self-harm now became a very real temptation. In 2013, I entered the dark world of BDSM.
Sadly, it’s wasn’t difficult to find and join the BDSM “lifestyle.” Portland has numerous underground dungeons scattered at private residences, as well as bathhouses where people can subject themselves to torture. I knew I was in trouble when one of my dom sirs (the dominant person in bondage role-playing) stopped torturing me because he stated “no one could endure that much pain and not react.” The level of suffering they forced me to “experience” made it almost impossible to disassociate from the pain as a coping mechanism.
Although I had been seeking help for years, I was not in the right state of mind to recognize the type of help I needed. On December 10, 2015, I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began a four month detoxification process off amphetamines (Adderall). On a daily basis, my mind told me I was worthless and should give up my fight with my mental illness. I would create morbid mental slide shows, sometimes many times a day, in which I observed myself die by a variety of methods. Initially, I thought I had the “will power” to manage my mental illness with medication and therapy. However, that false sense of security set me up for a few instances of failure and regression. I learned firsthand the importance of having a strong support network and accountability system in my life.
I refused to let my mental illness become the final chapter of my life “book.” I tried often to remind myself that I was the author of my own story. My psychiatrist once told me that I needed to let go of the "Superman" self image, and become content with being "Batman." She explained that, although Batman was human, he still accomplished amazing things in this world. I never thought I would become a sex addict or mentally ill; however, my condition forced me to become reliant on God to simply survive one day at a time.
On Saturday, February 25, 2017, I was introduced to Westside A Jesus Church because I was invited to a Men’s Breakfast event. That evening, I began to explore the church’s website and came across the 423 Communities page. In my previous church, they viewed my bipolar disorder as a character flaw instead of a medical issue. I thought to myself, "At last. A church that understands."
I am blessed now to live more in the present and to focus less significantly on my future or my past. There are so many amazing opportunities that I missed during my various manic episodes. Now, I am trying to live out each day as if it was my last. After about six months in the 423 recovery program, I was offered a position of support leadership. Today, I co-lead a 423 Men group and have discovered renewed purpose and sense of fulfillment. Jesus and my brothers in recovery saved me from the horror of my addictions, and now I get to help other men.
Attending worship gatherings and my 423 Men group has empowered me say goodbye to the the guilt and shame that characterized my many manic episodes of the past. My wife is also receiving significant help through 423 Betrayal & Beyond. I cannot possibly thank my new church family enough for its willingness to create an organization like 423 Communities to address the painful issues associated with sexual addiction. Where there was once brokenness, mental illness, bondage, and addiction, 423 Communities has offered me hope, redemption, and grace.