Someone yesterday mentioned feeling like they're reading the same post twice a week when it comes to my addiction posts, and I can see how that would be tedious to some people.
At the same time, I work for a website that requires me daily to produce content from my own brain, heart and experiences. We don't rewrite news stories and add a zing-y headline and a sentence of commentary, here. We mine our lives, and my life is inextricably tied up with addiction, as Lesley's is with fatness, as Cat's is with, well, addiction. The lens through which I view the world is that of a recovering addict, as well as a woman, a white person, an Oklahoman, a rape survivor, a person who has been obese, etc. etc. etc.
Even so, I wanted to sit on this post for awhile after writing about cocaine yesterday, but I've found that if you turn your back on inspiration, that bitch will steal shit from your house and disappear. And I was certainly inspired when I read the Salon headline: "Don't believe the sex addiction hype!"
The piece, in response to a Newsweek cover story labeling sex addiction "an epidemic," aims to counter the story's thesis by putting forth the argument that sex addiction, far from an epidemic, is a myth. It's supported by an interview with a psychologicist named David Ley who is writing a book called, surprise, "The Myth of Sex Addiction."
I once stopped reading a book because it put the term "sex addict" in quotation marks, so I was immediately put on the defensive by his argument. I am a sex addict who has been hearing people deny the existence of sex addiction since long before I was first diagnosed. I get it -- a famous dude gets busted cheating, then scampers from the harsh spotlight of judgment straight to a sex addiction treatment program. It inspires jokes.
And I don't claim to know what goes on with Tiger Woods or Jesse James. I will say that repeated infidelity in a context where it could easily be discovered and almost certainly will bring about extreme consequences such as public ridicule and loss of income and career success, not to mention your family, seems like addictive behavior to me. But even if some married guys got caught with their wangs in a porn star and blamed it on sex addiction to try to squirm off the hook, that doesn't mean there aren't real people in this world suffering from a real disease.
Although I imagine it sometimes seems as if I have no boundaries, I do have at least one. With respect to people in my life who are affected by what I write, I don't write fully about where sex addiction took me. Therefore I can't point to the grotesquely specific incidents I hope would shock you into understanding how horrible sex addiction is.
I can tell you that I risked my life literally and daily in pursuit of sex. I risked jobs, my health, and my freedom, as well as every previous relationship I ever had. I violated my own values system repeatedly, did things I am ashamed to say in front of my own therapist, and yes, it got me high. Then, when it stopped getting me high, I had to escalate to more shameful, more dangerous behaviors to get my fix.
Like a lot of female sex addicts, my drug of choice was anonymous sex with men I met on the Internet. It started well before I was of legal age and escalated to multiple encounters a day in college. It was a way for me to self-soothe -- first masturbation, then risky sexual encounters provided a cocktail of endorphins spiked with the strangely comforting shame and fear that sex had always signified to me. It was a way for me to feel powerful -- holding erotic sway over a man with a boner makes me feel huge, unstoppable. Being lusted after, with all its intensity, especially when amplified by sickness, fetish and addiction, feels so much better than love to me. Sex addiction is a drug addiction where other people and your own body chemistry are the drug.
Women like me, women who aren't taught to love themselves, go looking for something to fill us up, to convince us that we are beautiful and worthy of love. Drugs and alcohol and food and shopping have all done that for me, but nothing ever did it as well as the intensity of passion that comes from fulfilling the unrealistic yearnings men feel for fantasy creatures.
The problem is that it only worked, only made me feel valuable for the duration of our encounter, then I immediately needed to act out again. I was an endless gaping hole of need that could never be filled -- toward the end, I found myself rising from one encounter and setting up another before I'd left the short stay hotel room.
I have no doubt that if I'd continued on the path I was on, I would be dead. Pursuing a feeling, a specific chemical rush, to the point of death? I can't think of anything to call that but addiction.
I'm not sure why David Ley is so invested in disproving sex addiction, since obviously there are real people suffering in the world who are being helped by the diagnosis and ensuing treatment. He seems to think that sex addiction is about vilifying unusual sexuality, which in my experience couldn't be further from the truth. I want everyone to do whatever kinky freak stuff they want to all day long, as long as they're making themselves happy. If, however, that person feels that their sexual compulsions are beyond their control, are hurting them or others or are just making them as miserable as I was, I'll be happy to welcome them to the (depressing, sorry) sex addict club.
Here's my favorite quote from the Salon piece:
"This is a moral attack on sexuality. It is in the interest of people to build and develop fear of sex. Because they think that if we’re not afraid of sex, people are going to go out and have lots of sex."
Sex addiction has nothing to do with sexuality. In fact, I would argue that while I was caught in a destructive cycle with anonymous sex, I had very little concept of my own sexuality. I didn't stop to wonder whether I was attracted to the person I was sleeping with, what sexual acts might feel good to me or whether I was "in the mood." I felt driven to have sex with anyone at any opportunity that was offered to me. That's not sexuality, that's a sickness.
Of course, I know this won't really be "the last time" I have to defend the validity of my experience. But if you are one of those people who goes around talking about how sex addiction is a myth, I ask you to just consider the fact that just because you haven't experienced something doesn't mean it's not real. And that even if you ultimately don't change your mind about sex addiction, your "jokes" can be painful as hell for those of us out here struggling with this "imaginary" disease.