When people hear the term “sex addiction” they often laugh. If you’re addicted to sex, it just means you’re a pervert, right?
But sex addiction is very real. It’s caused by the same problems and life experiences that lead to drug and alcohol addictions — things like stress at work, financial troubles, relationship problems, abuse, low self-esteem, a death of a family member, and many other factors.
Whether it’s sex, drugs, or alcohol, people do it to self-soothe, to self-medicate, to ease the emotional pain.
I believe sex addiction is the MOST dangerous addiction. Here’s why: Sex is legal. So while good, law abiding citizens might not ever try drugs (I have never done an illegal drug in my life, as an example) and while law-abiding people might know better than to drink alcohol if they’re under 21, or to drink and drive…they still need to find a way to cope with their emotional pain. Sex is legal. It makes you feel good. It numbs the pain, and it doesn’t have immediate negative side effects on your brain. We see TV ads for the health effects of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol, but not sex. And it’s not going to get you arrested, as long as it’s consensual and you are both 18 or older.
Sex addiction was a huge problem when I got arrested in 2007, and it has gotten even more prevalent with the advances in technology over the past decade. In 2007, very few celebrities (David Duchovny was one, and LeAnn Rimes was rumored to be another) were brave enough to admit they had a problem with sex addiction. Today, even fewer will come forward, as the #MeToo movement encourages secrecy amongst sex addicts.
If you’re a drug addict, society looks at you as a helpless victim of circumstances who needs support and help. That’s why shows like A and E’s “Intervention” tug at the heartstrings. You root for the addicts. You want them to get the help they need. You want them to succeed. If someone publicly admits to having a problem with sex addiction, though, he will be laughed at, made fun of on late-night talk shows, and people will have a hard time looking him in the eyes. It’s like he (or she) is somehow contaminated, disgusting, vile.
Why is there this visceral reaction? It’s because everyone (or almost everyone) enjoys sex So when a person sees a sex addict, he recognizes that it could very easily be himself with the same problem.
She might have noticed that her promiscuity has increased significantly. Maybe he stopped using condoms. Maybe she recently downloaded a casual sex meetup app. Maybe she was diagnosed with Chlamydia. And because they realize “holy crap, this could very well be me getting made fun of,” they resist harder. They act repulsed by it, because heaven forbid they admit to themselves that they, too, have a problem. The truth hurts.
Few people are proud of it. If a single mom meets a married man from Alt.com or AdultFriendFinder or MeetMe or Tindr, and sleeps with him in a motel room, she will feel good for a few minutes, maybe a few hours, but then the shame sets in. That woman isn’t going to call her mom on the drive home and say, “Guess what, Mom? I just fucked a gross married guy and I don’t even know his name.” Well, maybe some women are that close to their moms. But my point is, when most people engage in risky or deviant sexual behaviors, they are ashamed. They can’t face the reality. They try to forget they did it. They tell themselves, “this will be the last time” or “it’s really not that bad, I just needed a stress release” or “everyone else is doing it so it’s no big deal,” but then they will feel dirty and disgusting and ashamed.
Maybe they cheated on a loved one and now have to live with the remorse. Maybe they slept with someone they weren’t even attracted to. Maybe he threw $100 at her after he finished. Whatever the case may be, it’s rarely something people feel proud of, so the toxic shame spirals. When they feel ashamed for what they did, they cope by having more sex. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Someone, right now, who is reading this, knows he or she has a problem. You want to stop, but feel out of control. You hate hiding it. You hate lying. And you’ve recognized that it’s getting worse, but you’re embarrassed or too ashamed to tell anyone. You’d be too humiliated to ever ask for help. You have gotten really good at hiding it, at keeping secrets. You’re sure nobody will ever find out. And besides, it’s your body, right? You’re not hurting anyone.
I used to think this, too. I hid my behaviors since I was 14 years old. I hid them well for 18 years. All through college, all through my marriage, nobody ever had a clue. Yes, I felt ashamed. Yes, I felt dirty. But I also felt good. It took away my pain. It made me feel special and wanted. Who doesn’t want that, right?
Suddenly, one day, it was no longer fun and games. I was surrounded at gunpoint by three police cars. I was the lead story on the nightly news. I lost my career. I lost my friends. I lost my wife. I lost over a million dollars in legal fees. I lost the last ten years of my life. I lost people’s trust. I’m going to be “tainted” on the sex offender registry for the rest of my life. The process was gradual. It took 14 years, but this is how it ended.
If you feel you don’t have control, whether it’s porn, sexting, hookup sites, etc, I implore you to get help NOW. Pay a therapist. Be honest about your problems. Tell your spouse. It won’t be comfortable. It might really suck. But it will pay off in the long-term, and just might save your life.
Get rid of the shame and secrecy. If not, it’s highly likely you’ll end up here like me. Trust me, you don’t want that.
I’m not saying to never have sex again. I’m just saying to deal with the underlying problems that led you to lose control. Reclaim your life. Confront your pain, don’t run from it.