Masturbation is such an awkward topic, an even more awkward sounding word. Maybe the worst ever invented. I can’t think of a worse one. Vagina, maybe? Or moist?

I digress.

Masturbation was never brought up in my upbringing; I stumbled into it as a curious 11-year-old boy with his very own attic bedroom and a lot of time on his hands. Since first discovering the act, I’ve experienced stretches where I masturbate “every now and then” and also every single day.

For the last two decades, masturbation has been my solitary way of coping with a sex drive and secrets and deep-seeded inferiorities and fears of connection with other men.

Until lately, that is.

I recently acquired my one-month sobriety token from Sexaholics Anonymous. Some weeks I have forced myself to attend these recovery meetings, but other weeks I have actually wanted to go and even enjoyed myself. It’s been helpful, these weekly reality checks where I remember: oh, right, I have lust problems.

I fantasize.

I eroticize.

I become someone I don’t recognize.

I’m not the little mister perfect everyone thinks I am.

I force myself to speak up at least once every meeting, if not more often, depending on the relevancy of that week’s topic. The guys there are great. I don’t necessarily sense or expect any lifelong friendships budding, but they are a solid group of men, young and old, mostly married, all of us wanting to conquer the addictive lust in our lives.

I still haven’t revealed the slight matter of my same-sex attraction to the group — only “lust” and “illicit web chatting” and “masturbation” in generalized terms. And I don’t know that I ever will reveal that tidbit, honestly; it feels good just to be one of the guys for once.

No differentiation.

No “their struggle” versus “my struggle.”

No “them” versus “me.”

Only us — men.

Sexaholics Anonymous preaches against sex with someone outside your marriage partner, an easy enough task for me, only that also includes what SA describes as “sex with self” — otherwise known as masturbation.

I’ve never heard masturbation described that way, and I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the description. Nonetheless, I’ve been convicted.

In order to (honorably) pursue recovery with Sexaholics Anonymous, I can’t act out in any way — including my favorite way of acting out since puberty.

I’ll be blunt and painfully honest now with everyone reading, male and female, family member and close friend and passing acquaintance and total stranger alike: writing this post sucks. Talking about my masturbation habits is probably the thing I’d least ever want to do (maybe other than watch Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel).

But the opposite of addiction is connection.

And we’re only as sick as our secrets.

And I don’t want to be sick anymore.

For almost two decades, I’ve been addicted to masturbation. I’ve relied on it to go to sleep, like a drug, and I’ve used it to open doors to fantasy worlds that leave me high one moment and still very much isolated amid the real world the next.

I’ve also been freely void of masturbation’s pull for other long stretches. And you know what?

I’ve noticed that I’m a far healthier person when I don’t masturbate.

My sex drive doesn’t magically disappear when I don’t do it, but I do find other outlets for all this pent-up energy and emotion.

I connect with people more. I hang out. I talk. Really talk. I hug people. I write. I run and work out and flood my endorphins in sunshine. I read and watch and listen to inspiring things. I eat well, I travel, and I drink coffee.

I live. I don’t hide. Alone in a room with my twisted male fantasies.

I’ve now gone over a month without masturbating, and it’s been so great. There have been a couple touch-and-go moments where I thought my streak might end, but on the whole, my life feels more focused and free without my regular trips to Fantasy Land.

And so as I continue down this journey of recovery with Sexaholics Anonymous, I wonder:

Can I really never masturbate again for the rest of my life? Wouldn’t that make me happier?

I’ll admit, the mere thought of never again pleasuring myself that way . . . is difficult. Impossible, even.

Since being that timid 11-year-old with an affinity for fantasy and solitude, I’ve settled for masturbation amid the raging waters of my same-sex lust and male disconnect.

I’ve never been with another man, and I have often rationalized these solitary sex-crazed fantasies over pursuing any sex-crazed realities.

In one sense, yes, I suppose “sex with self” is “better” than sex with another human outside marriage — male or female. If ever I or anyone faced a paralyzing choice between the two, of course the former has less consequences.

And yet this constant rationalizing of sexual outlets has never led to my ultimate good. I’ve had countless slip-ups with pornography, web chatting, fantasy, and obsession — and masturbation has always been the first pop in this eventual bursting of my sexual bubble.

Surely, there must be another outlet.

Last week, our other brother Kevin mused about the sinfulness of masturbation, and while I don’t necessarily disagree with his assertion that masturbation is not a sin, I also cannot in good conscience or spirit pursue the act myself without the associated lust, guilt, shame, isolation, and raging obsession.

Addiction.

After all, I am in recovery now. And like the alcoholic with a single beer or a drug addict with a single joint, I cannot expect to masturbate “every now and then” and hope to beat this addiction.

Therein lies my resolve to regularly attend Sexaholics Anonymous, among hopefully other support and community groups, especially men’s ones, not fighting this fight alone anymore.

Once upon a time I learned to be vulnerable with people, online and offline, and I want to reinstate this old familiar walk back into my story.

I don’t want to settle between choosing the “lesser sin” anymore. Between a sex fantasy with myself or sex fantasies lived out with others, online or in living color.

I want to be real about my struggle again. I want to stay connected, not addicted, and live freer.

I recently received my one-month sobriety chip from SA — meaning no illicit web chatting, pornography, and, yes, even masturbation. There were claps and cheers and hugs from the other guys in that room as I stepped up to receive my chip, and gosh it felt so good.

Affirming.

Is chasing chips and claps a selfish/silly ambition? To some degree, sure.

But when the chips are distributed, SA is very clear: these shiny little circles don’t cure us. We’re not healed by the power of this colored plastic.

But it helps to reach into my pocket on a daily basis and first feel the 24-hour chip, and then the 1-month chip beside it, tangibly reminding me of something greater than chips and consecutive days crossed off a calendar.

This journey of recovery is all about following Jesus. Of finding rest and comfort and purpose and joy in Him and in communing with His people rather than isolating myself behind a door and a screen and some wild fantasy world that will never satisfy.

I can’t promise I’ll never masturbate again; that’s a hard promise to keep. But like my brother Kevin also wrote of this messy topic: the Christian life is all about loving others and escaping the spiraling, idolatrous circle of me.

I think we can all agree: that’s a lifetime ambition worth fighting for.

Without delving into unnecessary specifics, are you able to masturbate without lusting, or has masturbation also been the first pop in a series of lustful, fantasy-driven bubble-bursts? Does the thought of never masturbating again also feel “impossible” to you, despite the freedom and health it might bring?

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