Perfect Stranger

Joshua Alexander looked at all the lonely women in internet chat rooms-- and saw nothing but opportunit

"Finally I turned the cell phone over to my wife.

"I never talked to her again," Alexander says sadly. "She must have called every day for about a week. I don't know what my wife said to her. One time I tried to talk to her online, but she just called me a bunch of dirty names and pretty much read me the riot act. She said don't ever talk to her, that I had ruined her and her daughter's lives. After that I never saw her online again."


After D-Day at the mall, Alexander still had a handful of Internet women to fall back on, with more always waiting in the wings. But he says he has never had another physical affair since then. In nearly five hours of conversation, the closest he comes to explaining why is when he's sitting on the porch beside Bev. "There is a bottom line," he states. "Eventually it comes down to the reality that, who is to say that if I were to leave my wife for one of these women that I met online, that I wouldn't continue to do this behavior with that other woman? I am who I am and I do what I do. Would anything change?"

With ongoing therapy and Bev's vigilant monitoring, he says he has learned to control his compulsion. After a recent knee injury that kept him out of work for five months, he once again is holding down a full-time job. "Part of the healing process is finding something else to put your energy into. My therapy is out in the garage--a new motorcycle. We got a boat and spent time out on the lake, but there's only so many times you can see it. With a bike, you can go anywhere. I still spend a lot of time on the Internet, but now it is looking at sites for motorcycle parts and accessories, or the schedule for police auctions. It's like the motorcycle is my new addiction."

He still goes out to karaoke bars on occasion. "Music has always been an outlet for me. I used to play the guitar whenever I was bored or depressed, but now I mostly sing. I like anything by George Strait and Garth Brooks. I do Elvis's [American] trilogy, a series of classic American, patriotic songs. One of my favorite songs is 'It's Only Make Believe,' by Glen Campbell. Another is a song by John Michael Montgomery called 'The Little Girl.' It's about a little girl whose father is a drunk and her mother is a drug addict. She is always hiding behind the couch, afraid, and one night her dad kills her mom and then himself. Some people from the city take her far away and she goes to a family she loves. It's a beautiful song.

"I won't lie to you," Alexander says a little later. "I still go into the chat rooms sometimes. I'm a hell of a lot better than I was six years ago or six months ago, but an addict is still an addict. Anytime you get on the Internet, there is that itch to get in there, especially if you are going through a hard time. It's tempting for me because it was such a wonderful experience. But the difference is, now I know it is a fantasy world. And I don't go so far as to get involved in relationships. I don't meet people physically and I don't tell them that I love them anymore.

"I'll say I am single sometimes, but I don't try and start a relationship. I try and make them feel good about themselves without allowing it to be taken too far. I might say, I am not interested in a long-term relationship--but if I were, I would have no problem having one with you. But let's just be friends.

"For the longest time, I had a low opinion of myself, and so I know what that feels like. It's easier for me to boost other people's egos than my own. It is gratifying to me to help somebody who is depressed, or self-conscious about their looks. Sometimes I tell them to be true to themselves, and they may call back and tell me they had a date the other night for the first time in years. That's gratifying. There is no better feeling in the world than helping somebody else. A lot of people think that if you can touch one person it is all worth it.

"But the flip side of the coin is how you do it," he says gravely. "You have to be very careful how you do it."

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