As a person many looked up to and even envied, I had what appeared to be a successful thirty-five year marriage to my wife Ellyn, three thriving children, and a high-profile career. What was hidden from others was the fact that for most of my life I had been leading two lives, and the values of those lives were direct opposites to each other.
A nationally known public speaker with an Ivy League education, for much of my adult life I traveled the country, speaking and writing on the values of leading a moral life. I was a religious man, considered by many to be an expert on ethics, integrity, honor, and citizenship, and was thought to be a man who practiced those virtues. I held those values dear then, and still do.
But the truth of my double life came crashing down on me and those who had trusted me early one morning in 2004 when a dozen armed federal officers pounded on my front door, demanding to be let into our home. They had a search warrant. Ellyn was confused and terrified. I knew why they were there. My name is Brady and I’m a sex addict. This is my story.
For almost seven years I had been viewing pornography on the Internet. Some of those images were hidden on my home computer, including degrading pictures of children engaged in sexual activity. I had received those images by email from others, and I had sent them to those who wanted them. I spent hours every day on the computer, away from my wife and family, depriving them of time they deserved from me. Most importantly, I pulled away from God, my ethical system, and my personal moral code. I knew what I was doing was wrong, but I could not stop.
Eventually my addiction reached out beyond the pornography and I began engaging in sexual activity outside my marriage. I engaged in sexual activity with strangers, people I did not know or care about, adults I met online or in hotels, in video stores, or in bars or clubs. Again, I knew what I was doing was wrong. And yet, for reasons at the time totally beyond my understanding, I could not stop.
Addicts stop when the pain of the addiction becomes greater than the pain of stopping. I stopped on the day federal agents came to my house with a search warrant.
The consequences of my behavior were severe: damaged relationships, loss of job. I had no confidence that the time in prison I knew was coming would relieve my desire to act out sexually, so three months after my arrest I checked into one of the premier facilities in the country for the treatment of addictions, including sex addiction. I remained there for over four months, learning about those things that influenced me to act as I had acted and discovering how to begin recovering from sex addiction. The decision to undertake residential treatment for sex addiction is the most important decision I have ever made.
In treatment I was introduced to the programs of several twelve-step groups and learned that addicts who are committed to getting better, to recover from their disease, can successfully help each other. I faced the truth of my behavior and stopped lying. I became reacquainted with God. I began to recover.
The judge had delayed my sentencing so that I could complete treatment. But just over 13 months after the police first came to my house looking for evidence, I was in a Federal courtroom to learn my sentence for receipt and distribution of child pornography. We made a brief presentation. One member spoke for the family, giving a moving statement. I spoke briefly, admitting guilt and expressing regret. A representative from the treatment center explained sex addiction and my treatment. The judge recessed the court to make a decision. My family and friends were optimistic. Then came the sentence:
“Mr. C., I don’t want you to die in prison, but you might.”
“I sentence you to ninety-seven months in Federal prison, and five years of supervised release.” In the back of the courtroom, I heard my wife Ellyn scream. I began writing my story.
I’m writing not because my personal story is unique, but because it’s not. Too many people end up in a place in their lives where they never intended to go, never believed they could go, and certainly never wanted to go. I’m only one of them.
I served just over seven years in Federal prison and have been home for several years. Hope has reappeared, and I can see the future. The twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which serve as the basis for all twelve-step programs, promise me that “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it” and “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” Those promises and more are coming true in my life. I hope others can learn from my experience – what sex addiction was like for me, how I became an addict, what I did to recover and maintain recovery, and what my life is like now.
I’ve chosen to tell my story anonymously. There are two reasons for that. First, the publicity that surrounded my arrest and conviction extracted a considerable toll on my family, my employer, my church, and others around me. I victimized them once by my behavior; I do not wish to do so again. Second, the traditions of twelve-step programs caution: “Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity.” When I choose to speak directly about the benefits of specific programs to me, I need to do so anonymously.
The names, events, and circumstances of my story are true, but adjusted to protect the anonymity of the individuals involved.
Welcome to my journey walking through the storm of sex addiction. Join with me to discover that recovery from sex addiction is possible, that relationships can be healed, and that addicts and their loved ones can have hope and a bright future. This story will show you the path.
My story was adapted from the introduction to Walking Through the Storm.