An Atheist’s 12 Steps to Stop Crossdressing
Introduction – Some of my readers may wonder why I, Barnabas, as a Christian pastor running this very clearly Christian website, would publish a guest post by an atheist. Let me explain. I have not given up my beliefs. I still believe that real lasting change, forgiveness of sins, and true meaning and purpose in life can only be achieved by knowing Jesus the Lord and Savior of this world. But I also want this website and community to be a place of hospitality and welcome to those who believe differently from me. I think I’m following the example of Jesus who spent much time dining with non-religious people. Further, there is a lot to be gained from discussion and debate. I have been tremendously helped to refine and even correct some of my views about crossdressing from talking with others I disagree with. More importantly, I have a heart to reach out to others with the message of the Gospel as well as the truth about crossdressing. To do so, it is good to build bridges with others by looking for common ground. I think the Apostle Paul behaved similarly in Athens in Acts 17 where we see Paul debating with philosophers and yet agreeing with some of their own authors as a starting point for discussion. Perhaps allowing guest posts like this will bring about more productive conversations with readers who don’t know Christ, but who may want to learn more about him. Last, I also am well aware of how few websites exist that try to look at the downsides to crossdressing or that try to give help to those wanting to give up crossdressing. For all of these reasons, I am quite happy to provide a forum for people like Keith, who while not being a Christian is very respectful of our views, and he is trying to give up crossdressing and help others do the same. – Barnabas
Written by Keith
I had come to a point in my life where I was tired of having part of my mind taken over by another ersatz individual. The strain of keeping this individual quite and hidden was starting to become a worrisome burden and mental health risk. My wife would have let me carry on dressing – in private – though she would not wish to see or take part and was obviously distressed by the whole thing, she said once that she was not interested in other women that way. (How would I feel it she went around dressed as a man?). I was using make up, nail varnish and wearing female underwear more. I started to notice that I was becoming careless and that I had not cleaned the make up or varnish off properly and might lead to be being exposed to those I did not wish to know, my secret – it would have cost me my job. I was once walking through a woman’s clothes shop, dressed as a male, but wearing bra and knickers underneath thinking that it was all well hidden and feeling quite good. I heard a young girl say to her mother “why is that man wearing a bra”. Acutely embarrassed and utterly deflated I did not hear the reply, but realised that I was not as subtle or invisible as I thought and swiftly left and removed the bra as soon as practical. This was the start of the end of my alter ego.
I am an atheist, though I acknowledge that there is no proof either for or against there being a god. I have no desire whatsoever to challenge anyone’s beliefs whatever they may be. I believe that we are all free to follow our own path through life, (it may not be a good path). I strongly believe that crossdressing is addictive and destructive. It is most often a hidden and furtive activity which when exposed can cause the massive pain of betrayal to loved ones and destroy lives and families with its secrecy and lying. I am aware that my footsteps on the crossdressing road have caused misery to the very few loved ones who knew of it, including failed marriages and mountains of self loathing and scorn on myself. I finally tried to stop and broke free for a period of 3 years before the pandemic struck and I fell off the wagon. A sharp jolt sent me back to abstinence and a hunt for websites to help. So I am now trying to help others quit this addiction if they so wish, by writing a version of the 12 steps without the religious aspects.
Bill Wilson, a former member of Alcoholics Anonymous, created the 12 steps in 1938. During his experience, he wrote down his ideas and tips regarding sobriety. The idea of the 12 steps has now lent itself to various recovery groups for addicts of many varieties. On this website Barnabas has posted a blog outlining his personal take on the 12 steps program, adapting it to helping others stop crossdressing. While I really appreciate and agree with some of his steps, many of the adaptations, like the original, steer the addict towards religion. My version of the 12 steps is intended to equally help all crossdressers, religious, non-believer, biological male dressing as female or biological female dressing as male, and others who are transgender in some way. Please adapt pronouns and other terms to suit your own circumstances.
12 Steps for non-religious crossdressers:
1. Want to stop this destructive behaviour.
Without a strong desire to stop any addictive behaviour be it drugs, alcohol, gambling, crossdressing, etc, it will continue unabated. You will always find excuses for your behaviour. My personal excuses ranged from boredom to I love the feel, they are only clothes, somebody in my family or at work had done me “wrong” and this was my “payback” (even though they had no idea), it’s my life I can do what I want, it doesn’t hurt anybody (the biggest lie of all) – I am sure you can add to this list. It has taken me decades to realise that it has hurt the people I professed to love and still has the power to do so again. All the excuses were just to avoid having to deal with the problem in a meaningful way and allowed me to wallow in my own misery, sorrow and shame, a form of psychological self-harming!
2. Believe that it is possible to stop.
You must believe that it is possible to stop the behaviour. If you are a crossdresser who does not believe that you can stop, look for a moment at alcohol addiction. Alcohol addiction has both an emotional and physical dependency element. There are innumerable alcoholics who have conquered their addiction. Crossdressing has no (proven) physical dependency element or cause, so the only thing keeping you crossdressing is your emotions and desires. Believe in yourself, you are in charge of your emotions and desires, no one else.
I stopped in the past due to a very serious health issue, leading me to erase any traces of my addiction. I had previously worried that unknowing family members would find out that I was a crossdresser but I did nothing about it – see the excuses above. The worry turned into terror of exposure during my illness or on my death. I stopped cold turkey, it was hard at first and lasted three years by which time I had fully recovered my health. I relapsed at the start of the pandemic (the old excuses applied) but I have now been free again for a year. If you try hard enough you can stop. I had incentives to help me. Look for your incentives to stop – Relationships, work, costs and perhaps just plain I want to stop!
3. Make the decision to stop.
Consider what your crossdressing may destroy – family, friends, reputation; the list goes on and decide to stop, TODAY. Then stick with that decision. It is definitely not easy, but it does get easier as time goes on. Decide every day that “I will not crossdress today”. Cleaning a cupboard this week I found a brand new pair of tights (pantyhose) in a far hidden recess. The urge to try them on, just once, just for the feeling, just for a minute, was nearly overwhelming. I am pleased to say that I managed to resist. I had made a promise to myself to stop this behaviour. If I cannot keep a promise to myself, how will I keep promises to others and how could I expect them to keep promises to me? It is keeping this promise that is keeping me on track.
4. Believe that stopping will improve your life.
If you don’t believe that stopping crossdressing will improve your life, what has brought you to this point, why are you here? Was it the constant lying about what you have been doing? Perhaps you’re fed up with having to crawl to the back of the attic to get your secret stash? Are you worried that the secret stash will be found – if you’re not worried about this, why is it a secret? Why is it hidden? Are you worried that the wife/girlfriend is starting to notice that her stuff is getting stretched? You get the idea. Now imagine that you’re not a crossdresser any more – the lies about crossdressing vanish, no illicit clothes to hide so no secret stash for anyone to find, the other half’s clothes remain as she has left them. Now you can be free of guilt for you no longer have anything to hide and are not hurting others. A huge weight is lifted from your mind freeing it for other uses.
5. Seek a purpose in your life.
What does life mean to you as a human and resident of this planet? What will your interactions with others achieve, good or bad? How would you like them to act towards yourself and your loved ones? We live on a highly complex, but damaged sphere of interrelated materials, ecological and metrological systems, with no lifeboat. How can you help others and the planet? How can you help yourself? If you apply yourself to this search truthfully and without fear you will find a purpose. Now that I am not crossdressing, I have found the time to support two life saving charities in a practical way. This has increased my self esteem and vision of my worth no end.
6. Get rid of all the paraphernalia.
This is an absolute must. Get rid of it all, not a single pair of knickers or tube of lipstick kept back for emergencies. Stop reading CD stories or watching porn on the web! You can do it, you are intelligent and do have the willpower to say NO to yourself, you just have to do it. In time the urges fade. Stick with it and believe in yourself. If you can reach out to others for help, you do not have to compromise your beliefs to do so on this site.
As I mentioned at stage 3, I found a pair of hidden tights. The urge to put them on was almost overwhelming. Had I done so even for a minute I know that I would have wanted to go further. I would have thought – “I lost the battle today so why not go further?” I found the strength to resist and the tights ended their life in shreds, unworn. If you did succumb, don’t worry, it’s just one incident. You have been pushed back, but it’s not the end of the fight. Stop, think and reclaim the battle.
7. Don’t let temptation win.
Temptation springs from your own mixture of emotions, desires and experience, whether it is to break a diet for a nibble of chocolate or pull a pair of the wife’s knickers and bra from the laundry basket to wear. You are in control, reject the temptations and rewrite your desires, and create new experiences.
I absolutely adore some of my wife’s clothes (some I hate) and would love to try them on. I have sworn to her that I will never touch her stuff (again) in that way. By constant denial and recognising that it’s her personal stuff, I have found that my desires in this aspect have just about vanished or are easily pushed aside. I would hate to have to admit to her that I had broken my promise, been untrustworthy and worn her stuff or any other female items of clothing. I told her of the tights I found and that I had thrown them away. It was a good feeling to admit this.
8. Hold to some form of accountability for your actions.
Whilst this is a good thing to help rid yourself of addiction, it is difficult if you are strictly in the closet. There are no groups of people in my area (or anywhere that I have heard of) who meet in person to discuss their crossdressing addiction, as alcoholics often do. That is why I am happy to stay on this site as I can admit (anonymously) any backsliding or temptations.
I personally find this tricky. At the height of my crossdressing obsession I attended a group for crossdressers to meet and dress up in a safe place in a nearby town. My wife knew of this and reluctantly accepted my desire to explore the group. As we all do, I went too far and pushed the boundaries. A heated discussion ensued and I ceased attending these meetings. So my wife is my accountability partner. I would not dream of involving anyone else in person, for her and my children’s sakes and to be honest, my own. That is why this site is wonderful as I can express my thoughts on here without worries about recriminations or loss. Am I a coward for not telling anyone else – perhaps, or perhaps I am strong, but I do not want to destroy relationships with friends and family just to ease my guilt and shame. To tell others unasked for would probably destroy the very thing that you are trying to protect. Be very aware that by unburdening yourself on to a loved one, this binds them into your world of secrecy. They cannot share it with their friends, for they too now feel the need to keep this secret or lose friends/family. They cannot or do not want to reveal their feelings of rage, grief to a close friend. This is an ongoing uncalled for burden in their life and is not fair.
9. Accept the fact that you will always be an ex-crossdresser.
Any ex-smoker or ex-alcoholic will tell you that they are just one cigarette or drink away from being a smoker or alcoholic again. So like them you will always be one pair of panties away from being a crossdresser. This is a function of addiction and though it will diminish, it will always be part of you.
A friend quit smoking 20 odd years ago, but in certain situations they become aware of the need for a cigarette – easily dismissed after all these years, but nevertheless the temptation is there. So one brief step into a pair of knickers, even for a few minutes will often lead to the inevitable – well I’ve put the knickers on now, might as well put the bra on as well, it’s just for a minute or two, honestly. If you believe that you will believe in the tooth fairy. Three years into my abstinence in a moment of frailty I did buy panties and I was a crossdresser again, buying more stuff. I had to start the fight over again several months later.
10. Use Cognitive Behaviour Therapy to sidetrack your mind.
CBT is a technique for diverting the mind away from unwanted and intrusive thoughts and behaviours. The simple premise is that when unwanted thoughts or desires occur, which they will, you acknowledge the thought then immediately start thinking of something else. Something that will have the power to distract your mind away from the thought of crossdressing. Listening to music will probably not work as your mind will drift back. You need to concentrate your thoughts on subjects unrelated to crossdressing such as a problem at work, doing a puzzle, a DiY project etc. The aim is to divert the mind away from the unwanted thoughts or behaviour. You could use the same diversion every time as long as it does the job. Personally I volunteer for several charities, putting in a lot of hours for each. We walk a lot and I am studying a language. I also like to think about what I get out of this site and what I can give back. Just writing this blog post has been quite a revelation and opening up to myself (maybe not a diversion but it does halt the “I want to process”).
11. Be strong in the fight, don’t let your defenses drop.
Beating crossdressing is a forever war and not a single battle. The enemy will never cease its attacks and will find ways to infiltrate your defenses. You have won so far and gained so much. It is easy to become complacent – I’m now free of crossdressing and don’t need to worry about it anymore. You drop your guard and the enemy thoughts sneak in and lay the foundations of another battle against the fantasy that you will look good in that dress.
I am aware all the time of the constant battle within my mind. Since childhood I have been a strong fantasist, creating and living lives/situations that aren’t mine – escapism if you will. I still am. If I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t immediately get back to sleep, my mind drifts into a fantasy, in the past that would usually involve my being forced in a myriad of various scenarios to dress as a woman. I now focus elsewhere, though still in fantasy; if I focused on real world issues I would never get back to sleep. So even in the drowsy half asleep world the fight continues. Stay strong, keep your guard up.
12. And finally – RELAX.
You are locked in a constant battle with your subconscious. That can be incredibly mentally draining. In actual war troops are sent on RnR if they are not to suffer from battle fatigue and have their ability to fight diminished. So it is the case with a mental fight, such as you are engaged in. Learn to step back from the fight – without capitulating – and take some time off. Pursue a project or activity which you know will exclude possibilities of crossdressing and also occupy your mind fully.
I pursue several courses. I volunteer at several charities. I am learning a language. I engage in outdoor pursuits such as long walks in the countryside. Barnabas lists a whole heap of things in his post about getting a hobby. As I was taught on a cognitive behaviour course, I have in my mind a quiet place(s) that I can retreat to that has the ability to still my mind. Mine are usually beautiful places I have actually visited and felt calm and happy in, a beach, a jungle or up a mountain. I would urge you to do the same.
So finally, what am I trying to say?
Make no mistake you are entering into your own very personal war, but ….. YOU ARE BOTH COMBATANTS. Yes you are at war with yourself, the part that wants to put on a dress and the part that does not. You are not in control of your subconscious mind but you are your conscious mind and the one can direct the other if you train it to. After all, you are the one responsible for allowing it to get into crossdressing in the first place. It might have taken years to do this and will perhaps take years to reverse it but if you persevere you can regain control. I hope that the steps above will assist you in your fight.
Keith, an atheist