Friday, October 4, 2013

Don's Journey into Manhood

Today I'd like to share my friend Don's story. His journey was a little different from mine in that he was married with a family before he began this journey. He is an awesome man of God and now leads one our Small Groups in Joel 2:25 ( )

In late 2006 I had grown utterly disillusioned with my life.  I had been fighting my same sex attraction through adolescence and my college years and for 25 years of marriage.  I was losing the fight.  I had a deep faith but I had concluded that the Love of God was somehow not meant for me.  I had prayed unceasingly for 40 years for release from this burden without any impact.  The worst part was the loneliness.  I lacked the kind of male friendships that I longed for and found straight men to be so unemotional and disconnected that they seemed incapable of real intimacy.  My wife was emotionally distant and hurt from my general lack of pursuit of her heart and I was facing the prospect of living the rest of my life in emotional isolation.  I could not stand it anymore. 

I resolved to do one of two things.  Either I was going to kill myself or I was going to get a boyfriend.  It was at this time my pastor preached a sermon on homosexuality.  It contained much of the ignorance that is common among straight men about homosexuality laced with an equally condemning understanding of Romans 1. The gist of the sermon was that men with same sex attraction (ssa) brought this upon themselves through the decision to indulge homosexual fantasy and engage in homosexual behavior.  He left me with the message that I was indeed cursed by God and condemned due to my own actions far and outside His Grace.  The “problem” would be solved for me in his scheme of things if only I would just stop it.  Stop thinking homosexual thoughts and start loving God like he did.

I was furious.  I sent him a scathing letter from what I thought was an anonymous email account but it turns out I had left a clue or two in the address and the letter that led him back to me.  He approached me.  I admitted I was the man who sent the letter, and he introduced me to a third possibility – getting help.  He admitted that he didn’t really understand what I was going through but he introduced me to a man he knew whose son struggled with this issue. That man got me in contact with a ministry in the Dallas Fort Worth area. 

In early 2007 I walked into my first ever support group for men with unwanted same sex attraction.  There were about 70 men women and family members there About two thirds of them were men who had either come out of the gay lifestyle or who were hoping to live life consistent with their values despite the strong temptations they were dealing with.  I felt two very strong emotions, first relief to realize I was not alone, and second grief that this was the “club” I appeared to be a member of.  Not exactly the kind of thing a child dreams of when growing up.

Over most of the next three years I made some progress.  I began to understand my ssa and to get my behaviors under control.  As I began to work hard on my sexual fantasy life and any acting out sexually I began to get access to the other issues in my life, my narcissism, my lack of understanding of how to relate to others, my lack of emotional empathy toward the needs of others, my tendency to manipulate others to get my needs met.  All these revelations about myself were a shock.  

I have since learned that when an issue is hidden from God and maybe even myself, God will not force his Love upon us to fix it.  If I keep something hidden and am not giving God access to it He cannot bring healing and wholeness to that part of my life.  I began to understand for the first time that ssa was, in medical terms, a presenting issue, much like angina is a presenting issue for much more serious heart disease.  The pain of angina may be what is demanding my attention but merely relieving the pain of the angina is inadequate as a strategy and malpractice as a medical approach.  Angina, and by analogy ssa, was not my real problem, but neither the Church group nor the counselor they recommended seemed able to impact the deeper issues that were causing the surface problem.  I had to wonder how common it was for gay men to have these issues and be unaware of them as I was unaware of them.  The counselor and the church ministry were not bad, they just were not up to the task of this issue.  I share that, my own journey from these approaches because I know how many men with sea have "done everything" and found the interventions they had access to woefully inadequate and concluded there was no help for them.

The other thing that became apparent to me after some time is that my level of ssa was not changing.  That was not merely my situation.  The level of ssa for other members of the support group also was not changing.   Perhaps most disturbing to me were men who had been in the program for years, had married largely on “faith” that their ssa having been dealt with in their minds at a spiritual level would not interfere with their marriages, were struggling in their marriages and still deeply conflicted about their unrelenting ssa.  Their struggle within their marriages was set on a path not meaningfully different from my own even though the first 25 years of my marriage was completely without support or intervention.

The last thing that began to discourage me about the program was an occasional message from the leadership that intentionally or not was laced with shame.  One sermon by the leader of the group stands out in my mind more than any other.  His message that day was about how each of us have a choice.  We can succumb to the temptations of ssa or not and the decision was our own.  The factor that would decide it for us was simple.  If we loved Jesus enough we would prevail and if we failed it was because we simply did not love Jesus enough.  I didn’t fully understand what was wrong with this sermon at the time but I knew there was something missing from this formula for success.  The only thing I knew for sure at that moment was it wasn’t working for most of the men there, and for the men for whom it worked it only worked in terms of keeping them from acting on their temptations.  Their lives were largely deeply dissatisfying and the sadness and loneliness with which the lived their deeply faithful lives was stark and palatable. 

Despite all these concerns I continued on this path in large part because I thought that is all that was available to me.  I continued to attempt to “pray away the gay” and to replace my need for human contact and emotional and physical intimacy with spiritual intimacy with God.  What I began to observe in others first and gradually in myself is that these men, who believed deeply that they had a spiritual problem and a spiritual deficit compared to other men, were in fact some of the most deeply devoted and spiritual men I had ever known.  Their problem had driven them to a dependence on Christ that was real and moment by moment, but they led lives of profound emotional isolation and had not been able to receive the joy of fellowship with God in its fullness because of the unrelenting nature of this issue.  These men had a problem to be sure, but at its core I began to realize their problem was not fundamentally a spiritual one.  I began to realize that these men were in much the same place I had been in late 2006 and the only difference was that they had used their faith to resign themselves to their fate.  

What I later have come to conclude is that ssa is best understood as a failure to achieve a developmental task.  A male infant around two has to separate from mom, bond to dad in identification and then reattach to mom in contrast.  Most men with ssa have failed to achieve this developmental task or some other similar developmental task necessary for the development of healthy opposite sex attraction.

I have a nephew who as an infant lost hearing due to ear infections.  He did not go through the developmental task of language development because of the trauma of those repeated infections that prevented him from achieving that task at the normal time.  Later due to medical intervention his infections were ended and his hearing was restored through implants but that did not mean he could speak.  He still had to achieve that developmental task, a task made more challenging because his brain development had proceeded and like most developmental tasks we are designed to achieve them at certain times in life when the brain is primed and ready to achieve them.  It wasn't easy but he got a therapist with expertise in helping people achieve this developmental task of language development.  He was certainly vulnerable to a spiritual problem of envy or anger or self pity but that was layered on top of his developmental task.

So with medical intervention his repeated trauma was treated.  Only then could he get effective medical intervention to begin to restore hearing.  From there he got expert help achieving the developmental task he had missed.  Certainly faith has a role to play for him.  He needed to maintain courage to confront difficult issues.  He needed to stay the course of the treatment despite setbacks and frustration.  He had to have the courage to step out and begin talking to strangers and dealing with being misunderstood.  His faith was important in maintaining the courage to do that and not to develop feelings of inferiority, self pity or anger.  But his problem is not a spiritual problem.

Men with ssa typically have some kind of experience or trauma that interferes with the normal course of bonding to parents.  It doesn't mean that they were beaten or molested or that they currently have a bad relationship with their parents.  In fact one of the symptoms for men is to become the "good boy" and that often fosters a very good surface relationship with parents.  But something goes wrong and the child doesn't achieve the task of separating from the mother.  With the right intervention of a good counselor trained in Reparative Therapy the traumas that interfered with the initial developmental task can be addressed and the man can get access to experts help in going through those developmental tasks.  
My nephew's speech patterns are not perfect.  Anyone talking to him would know that he had some difficulty at some point in the past, but today in his 20's he enjoys a full life with friends and long hours of conversations with a wide network people who love and care about him.  

There is an interesting parallel to the problem of the "pray away the gay' approach.  My brother's religious beliefs were of a kind that for some time attempted to treat my nephew's problem with prayer.  He too thought that all problems were spiritual problems and needed to be addressed completely with prayer and religious devotion to achieve a solution.  That came in part because early on it was the incompetence of doctors that contributed to my nephew's deafness.   His theology was a cruel task master for his son's affliction until he saw the light and had compassion on his son and took him to the right doctors.  
Many men see well meaning but poorly trained therapists who do not help their ssa much, or maybe even make things more difficult for them.  The kind of techniques that help men with sexual addictions often are not helpful for men with ssa and many counselors don't know any other approaches to sexual issues in men.  That is not a reason to abandon therapy as an approach, only to do what my brother finally did and get the right kind of help with the right kind of expertise.
I should note here that I began this journey with a lot going against me.  I was older, in my 50’s.  Fundamental changes in personality at this age require a lot of work.  I later learned that there are many many paths to ssa and that frankly I had experienced all of the most common causes of ssa and from the earliest imaginable age.  The prognosis from a therapeutic point of view was grim.  More about the reasons for that later, but I should say that men come to this with very different levels of difficulty around ssa.  For men who begin the journey out with some level of healthy opposite attraction (osa) in place, merely changing behaviors can be a profound and healing experience in and of itself allowing for a fairly normal life.  For men with more exclusive same sex attraction the journey out is more difficult and the option of merely not acting out leaves so much undone and so many facets of life unattained that it is rare for such a man to sustain the effort.  

I was finally able to summarize the approach of Church programs by recognizing that their sin focused approach which treated ssa much like osa.  The Church’s advice to men with osa after all the fluff is removed is something like this.  When a young straight man avoid sex by delay delay delaying sex until you marry and then focus focus focus your sexual desires on your wife.  This strategy when applied to the ssa attracted men is, delay delay delay, and delay some more until you finally die.  It is no wonder most young men today when faced with this advice conclude that the Church must have it wrong, that such a demand from God is unreasonable and so enter the gay lifestyle assuming that either the Church has it wrong or a God making such a demand is not worthy of devotion. 

I share this part of the story not because it is helpful to show the way out of ssa, but because I know it is a story shared by so many with unwanted ssa and by so many gay men.  They try what they have access to, the counsel of a nearby sympathetic therapist or pastor and a Church based program of support whether it is called 12 step or Celebrate Recovery or Sexaholics Anonymous.  These programs are all valuable and help but they are all missing something and men who depend upon them alone are failing and being failed by the Church and in large numbers are giving up and entering the gay lifestyle.  They can be valuable parts of the journey but they rarely are the whole story for a man who successfully overcomes ssa.

I knew something was missing.  I knew they were close to the truth but were not quite there.  I began to grow discouraged and in 2009 was close to being at the same place I had been in 2006.  That is when God allowed me to come in contact with a group called “People Can Change.”  They put on men’s experiential weekends to help overcome their ssa.  I knew I needed something so I signed up.  I was anticipating a typical Church men’s weekend.  There would be preaching and singing and I would get “revived” and get courage and resolution to continue the fight.  I had no idea what I was about to experience but it was nothing like any Church weekend retreat I had ever been on before.

I didn’t just learn about my ssa that weekend.  I experienced relief, freedom and for the first time in my life I experienced actual change in my level of ssa attraction in the days and week immediately following my weekend.   I know at the very least they were on to something - something that worked.  I now had access to a network of men who could direct me not just to the local sympathetic counselor but to professionally trained therapists who knew how ssa developed, how it was sustained and how to begin to change it.  A network of men who were experiencing success and sharing with others how to succeed.

People Can Change (PCC) itself was made of men who had struggled with ssa and had found a third way – a way out of ssa – not just a way out of the gay lifestyle or the gay identity but a way out of ssa as a debilitating and life dominating problem.  It offered a strategy, an understanding of what was really necessary for real change and a support network to see the strategy through.  And unlike my Church program instead of being insular and keeping me within the confines of only their approach, PCC through its web site and its human network was a treasure trove of information about every conceivable ministry and therapeutic approach with one objective criteria - what had men found helpful to them.  In the marketplace of free wheeling ideas that was the PCC network of men and resources some specifics came to the top and became the obvious path for me toward change.  The PCC approach could be summarized with an acronym, the M.A.N.S. Journey.

M stood for Masculinity.  At one level this was “doing what men do” but at another level it ran much deeper.  It was about identity.  Seeing myself as a man, equal to other osa men, not better, not less than, equal to them and able to see myself as “a man among men.”  That phrase, “a man among men” was used often in PCC and I began to see an attractive man differently.  Not as someone who had something I lacked or something I needed but as someone much like myself.  Different because I was an individual like he was an individual but in more ways that mattered the same. 

This search for my true identity is essential to the journey out of Same-Sex Attraction.  For myself perhaps the most important single component was to see myself as God sees me.  Before I continue I need to preface this with some of the key understandings that have changed me.  I was taught many many things by my church about God and my relationship with Him that are not just false, but deeply destructive.  I understand the desire to use analogy and explanation and that preachers and Sunday school teachers are attempting to make the Word of God intelligible but many of their attempts are worse than leaving us alone with the word itself.  Unlearning these was essential to being set free from those lies.
One of those teachings is that when God looks at me He really doesn’t see me but He sees Jesus.  That is how I become acceptable to Him.  That requires me to view God as somehow not fully cognizant of His own universe and worse, to view myself as essentially unchanged after my conversion to Christianity.  Instead the word speaks of a transformation so fundamental that it is quite difficult to believe in the light of our experience.  There is a reason why the word says “the just shall live by faith.”   This is in fact the faith walk, to believe what the word says of us.   To obey the admonition to “know no man after the flesh” which is to say to no longer judge the men we meet based on their outward behaviors.  The most important and difficult man to obey that admonition with is myself.  God didn’t just decide to put on blinders for me when I came to Christ.  He changed me at the deepest levels.  Take a moment to read the following passages and don’t attempt to dilute them to make them consistent with what I see.  Merely believe them in faith.  It will revolutionize your life.  It did mine.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Something didn’t happen just to change how God sees me.  Something happened to me, changed me on the inside.  The bold print is my prayer for men with ssa.  Prayer for a revelation of the depth of God’s love for you.  Again this is a prayer God longs to grant.  Like so many things I needed help to get there and there is a little book, “He Loves Me, Learning to live in the Father’s affection" that had a major impact.  The book and audiobook is available through Amazon and the first edition is now available as a pdf file at –
A stood for authenticity.  In so many subtle ways I had led a double life.  My sexuality was only on the surface of this.  My life had been marked by what PCC called shadow.  So much of my life I had pushed down, hidden, denied, suppressed.  I had grown up in a home where feeling genuine emotion was not safe and expressing them certainly was not.  I had put on a mask early in life long before my ssa had appeared, holding myself out as the cheerful obedient child hoping by being the “good boy” to please my parents.  I unwittingly had related to God in much the same way.  As I grew older I continued to exercise this skill of not feeling my true emotions as a defense against feeling them.  My true emotions seemed frightening because in large part they were painful emotions.  I had years of pain to grieve and I had steadfastly not allowed myself to feel the pain the sadness and the anger that grief entails believing it was my Christian duty to forgive and forget.  Unfortunately I had been taught a lie.  

Pain unfelt cannot be forgiven.  Anger unfelt cannot be forgiven.  I can only forgive what I have allowed myself to feel and as my feeling had been partial so had my forgiveness.  As I began to touch the pain the anger and the sadness of my childhood I began for the first time in my life to grieve in a healthy way.  Greif is a process that when experienced in a supportive healthy environment is cleansing.  My sadness to that point had manifested in a death spiral of self-pity loathing and despair, instead of manifesting in genuine anger and sadness that can result in feeling better afterward. What astounded me was that for the first time in my life as I began to get help through my Reparative therapist my grief was a process and it was working toward an outcome, an end.  I didn’t fully understand what I was doing but for the first time in my life I was going through the grieving process of my lost childhood and the full cost to me of the things I had suffered.  No longer in denial I began to welcome the grief and the cleansing power of the tears I shed.  With those tears began the cleansing process of forgiveness, forgiveness my Church advisors had assured me I had achieved the “right” way years before.  But because I had attempted forgiving and forgetting hidden hurts that had been too painful to feel alone, too “bad” to fully examine in the culture of the Church, I had never really forgiven them.

Much of this “grief work” as it is sometimes called really needs a guide to help you through it, or at the very least an understanding friend who can affirm you through the process.  This is the primary therapeutic process of Reparative Therapy, the branch of psychoanalysis that deals with ssa with amazing effectiveness.  Although the numbers are growing, few therapists really understand ssa or how to effectively treat it.  It isn’t a sexual addiction and it isn’t to be treated as a parallel of opposite sex attraction.  For most men this grief work, turning the self pity and unproductive death spirals of negative thinking into something that actually resolves into something cleansing the way true grief can, requires expert help, the wisdom of a good Reparative therapist or the supportive environment of what is unfortunately a very rarely seen Church community.  A true reparative therapist can help this through a variety of processes that he specializes in.
The other place much of this kind of work can happen is in Men’s experiential weekends.  These techniques are understood by a number of different men’s organizations and most men around the US have access to these groups nearby.  Probably the best for men with ssa is the weekend called Journey into Manhood which is put on my People can Change.  There are others as well where you would be doing your work alongside osa men who have similar wounds to heal but who had them manifest in adulthood in different ways than ssa men.

When I changed from my Church recommended to therapist to a Reparative therapist I made more progress in three months than I had in the previous three months.  My story is not an unusual one.
The cumulative impact of this work in therapy and in men’s work has been the healing of the childhood trauma that led to my ssa.  As the trauma has been healed the compulsive neurotic drive behind ssa has lessened for me making the next strategy more effective.

N stands for Need Fulfillment.  In truth this was the greatest paradigm shift for me from the Church programs and the Church recommended therapist who had treated ssa as if it was a sexual addiction.  The flesh cannot create new needs and all wants are founded on a true need.  God designed us to have needs.  All wants arise as a means to meet a God given need.  The flesh is merely offering ways to meet those wants regardless of whether those wants or ways of meeting the wants are healthy in the long run or consistent with my values as a Christian.  Because of this the ways offered by the flesh typically only medicate the need, offering some temporary relief but in the long run the need is not only unmet but more acutely felt but since the offering of the flesh has relieved the pain of the unmet need temporarily we are trained to appreciate the relief the flesh offers and to flee to it at times of greatest distress.  Any attempt to control the flesh that doesn’t recognize this is doomed to fail.

This paradigm shift allowed me to do two things, first to have much more mercy on myself and to be kind to myself regarding what my flesh was pushing me to do.  By ending my own self-condemnation I was opened up to finding healthy and Godly ways to meet the underlying need that ssa seeks to meet.  We all grew up with a need for attention affirmation and affection from a man, particularly our fathers.  In God’s ideal world a father supplies these in abundance and we enter our sexually aware life with these reservoirs full to overflowing and can then keep them full with the ordinary interactions of life.   If we enter adolescence with these reservoirs empty and dry and feeling as if masculinity is something “other” then the need for masculine attention affection and affirmation is easily confused and entangled with the drive to connect through sexuality and homosexuality full bore is born out of that unmet need combined with that confusion of identity. 
Here is where the Church programs have it almost right, and that difference between having it right and almost right is the difference between failure and success for the vast majority of the men who go through those programs.  It should be said that in Dallas it is difficult to meet a gay man that has not been touched for at least a short time by the ministry I was a part of.  That speaks both to the success of the program’s outreach and the fundamental failure of programs like this as a whole. 

Where they have it right is that the relationship where I will gain the deepest and greatest level of masculine love that is consistent and affirming is directly from God.  My relationship with God needs to be both personal and intimate.  The prayer for that is one I believe God very much wants to answer.  What I must overcome to achieve this is the prevalent milieu in most churches regardless of overt doctrine, which is that my relationship with God is a performance based one in which if I am being pure in my behavior God is pleased with me and the relationship is close and if I am failing to remain pure that God is displeased with me and the relationship is lost.  To come to a healing relationship with God I must begin to understand that the love of God and therefore my relationship with Him is not dependent on my faithfulness or my performance but on the faithfulness and capacity of God to love.  One of the pathologies common to men with ssa is the belief that love must be earned and it is common to transfer that learned belief about love onto God.  Love in any relationship is not dependent upon the lovability of the object of love but on the capacity for love of the lover.  That knowledge should come as a great comfort to those who desire to come into the “rest” that the old testament promises for those who are loved by God.

The path to such an understanding of the love of God will be different for different men.   As so often happens though, a cognitive understanding of this or a doctrinal ascent to it is rarely sufficient.  I need to know this at an emotional level, a deep unquestioning place that corresponds to the primitive parts of my brain where emotion comes from, places like the amygdala and the emotional right brain. 
But here is where most programs fail men with ssa because they advise ssa men the way they advice osa men, to use avoidance to control sexuality.  If I am attracted to a man I am advised to avoid him.  The problem is that this approach is counter productive for men with ssa.  The attempt to avoid sexuality with men by avoiding the very men we admire whether for their physique or for their character feeds both the shame isolation and feeling of "other" that fuels ssa.  The first thing God tells us about man in Genesis is profound and sounds frankly modern if we understand it rightly.  “It is not good that man be alone.”  God created us social creatures with social needs.  I don’t want physical affection.  The desire for physical affection from another man for instance is not a perversion thought up by my flesh.  It is a God given need and anyone who attempts to overcome ssa without getting that need met will not only struggle but will live life with something God lovingly gifts us missing from our lives.  God made clear at a time He manifested himself physically and walked with Adam that Adam could not, should not, depend upon his relationship with God alone to meet his need for connection intimacy and love.   It is not me but the God who had infinite love to give who said clearly and definitively that His love alone was not enough.  Let that radical and yet inevitable consequence of the Genesis story sink in and allow that to enlighten what you may have been taught by heterosexual protestant pastors who likely unwittingly claim that you in your spirituality must achieve even though they never saw it as something essential for themselves – such a deep relationship with God that I don’t “need” the affection of others, particularly men, in your life.  I have heard men under the yolk of this teaching refer to long healthy hugs from another man as “a near occasion to sin.” Instead of seeing it for what it is, a gift of love. 

Allowing myself to respect my need, and to then find healthy ways to meet it was probably one of the truly revolutionary aspects of my own recovery.  The mechanism is simple and almost obvious.  In early adolescence because of a number of factors that can vary between different men, my need for masculine emotional connection, and masculine attention affection and affirmation got entangled with my blossoming sexual desires.  So how to disentangle it?  Experience each in intentional ways, in abundance and in safe settings the affection attention and affirmation I need so that I can disentangle them from sexuality.  In this way need fulfillment alone can be a powerful agent to alter same sex attraction by meeting and filling up the unmet need from childhood and by disentangling these ordinary and healthy needs for masculine connection from sexuality.

I was able to do this in a couple of ways.  First by becoming an active part of the network of men who were alumni of the Journey into Manhood weekends.  We continued using some of the processes and techniques we learned on that weekend.  In addition I became active in a couple of organizations who did not focus on same sex attraction but were open to all men and thus were by far mostly osa men.  One was The Net, a weekly meeting of osa men in my community that were applying the insights of John Eldridge and his books on men and masculinity.  The second was “The Crucible Project” which is a Christian men’s group made up largely of osa men that also does men’s experiential weekends and has small group meetings.
This accomplished two things for me.  First it began to meet that deep set of unmet needs for masculine attention affection and affirmation and second it allowed me to see myself more and more as a “man among men”.  Someone who had something valuable to offer other men.  Perhaps most important though it allowed me to allow myself to be loved.  I began to realize other men could do what my father had not done for me, love me unconditionally.  This opened my mind and heart to the possibility that there was a God who could also love me in the same unconditional way.  I began to receive love I think for the first time in my life without thinking I had to earn it. 

S stands for surrender.  This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process, and not for the obvious reasons.  What I have learned and honestly only learned in therapy is the extent to which I have believed things that are not true and the attachment I have to these beliefs.  At some level these beliefs serve me.  The entire process is difficult.  I don’t simply have to realize these beliefs are false.  First I must become awake to having them, then become awake to how they are impacting me because each belief is a web and not a single statement.  The most difficult ones are the ones with connection to truth and in such a case a sharp blade is needed to divide the truth and the lie.  Becoming awake to this, and moving to truth, surrendering those beliefs has been an ongoing process that I am still on. 
I am now four years into this process of change having finally gotten really effective therapy and effective support with consistent answers that work.  The changes to my life are dramatic, real and profound.  I am happy, healthy and fulfilled.  I have become the father and husband that I needed to be.  I am a better teacher, better father, husband, friend, man.  I have healing of the issues created by my childhood trauma that most negatively impacted my chance for happiness and now I have healthy relationships with men that meet my core needs.   

I have very little SameSexAttraction left.  It is rare to be attracted to a man I see on the street or in life.  Living in a college town it is common for me to see men that match my visual image of ideal masculinity but I don’t see men as bits and pieces anymore but as whole people.  Women have become, well, interesting to me.  Despite having no visual sexual attraction to women at all only four years ago I am increasingly intrigued by women and find myself responding in what I would describe as “normal” ways.  I have more work to do around my wounding from my mother and I have done enough work around this to better understand how this is impacting the way I see women in general.  What may be more important to understand though is that the reduction in ssa has not been the most important part of the Journey.  Yes, much of this work has removed the aspect of ssa that makes it a neurotic drive, essentially impossible control as the subconscious drives me to act out.  The removal of the neurotic triggers and drivers through therapy has made everything else possible and made life sane.  But the most important daily part has been that the healing has allowed me to develop the kinds of emotional connection to others that makes life meaningful.  Life can go on without an orgasm but without connection life is truly without meaning.

The second thing that has happened was totally unexpected.  God has given me an understanding of the way He works through wounds, challenges and suffering I never had before.  I no longer ask the “why me” questions.  I am gifted with a strength I never knew I had and that strength comes from the very wounds that brought me to this place.  I am no longer a victim.  I have a wonderful blessed life and am able to share that blessing with other men osa and ssa because I have an empathy for and an understanding of men and their wounds. 

I will leave you with one last thought.  This journey has been difficult at times.  Painful at times, but everything about it has been valuable to me.  Even if I were to decide to go into the gay lifestyle tomorrow everything I have done would still be a gift to me because I have discovered the true me that has been hidden underneath ssa.  So my challenge to you is, before you take that step consider at least investigating receiving that gift.  If you decide after it is all over that you still want to make this move nothing will be stopping you, but you will have given God a chance to show you, there is a third way.

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