Nobody wakes up one day and decides to be a sex addict. Just like alcohol, sweets and shopping, sex has become one of the many vices I use to feel better about myself. It started out innocently as I navigated my way through university, rewarding myself with a martini, a piece of cake or an outfit after a hard day’s work.
I’ve never considered myself an addict to any of these things, even though I like to pound back tequila shots at the bar, eat an entire box of chocolates in one sitting or refuse to go home until I’ve completed an ensemble –- because while the craving to indulge doesn’t go away, I always know when enough is enough.
I’m not a chain smoker who can’t go 5 minutes without a cigarette, and the thought of losing my money to slot machines repulses me. I’ve never woken up from a blackout and an empty bank account, so having an addictive nature wasn’t a term I’d use to describe myself -– until this year, when I finally came to terms with having a sex addiction.
Unlike superficial activities such as the above, sex is one of the healthy activities in life that brings you closer to other human beings. It’s something everyone does and no one should be ashamed of. Growing into a sex-positive feminist who was shedding the conservative values of her upbringing, I embraced my sexual appetite early on and basked in the glory of being able to recite tales about past conquests. Men as a whole had sex often and freely –- why couldn’t I? It didn’t occur to me that something healthy could be considered an addiction.
Yet the first time I had sex, this insatiable urge grew inside me to have it again and again.
It was my 17th birthday, and I was lying in the single bed of my 19-year-old boyfriend. At least I thought he was my boyfriend. We had been seeing each other for a couple weeks after my friend begged me to come with her on a double date with this guy she met on Plenty of Fish.
Because I was grounded for my birthday for sneaking out the window the week prior, we were celebrating with a party at his place. After a few drinks, I had waved him up the stairs to see his room, a.k.a make out like the teenagers we were. Before that point I don’t even think we had kissed. It hadn’t occurred to me that the stop he made at the drug store before his house had been a condom run and we were going to have sex. But when he started taking off my clothes and asked if I wanted to, I said, “Umm, sure.”
Afterward, I felt nothing. So we did it again on the drive home. I wasn’t going to accept a reality where my first time was anything short of the magic society had taught me it would be. Soon, after some practice, what had once been a numb, out-of-body experience became a state of euphoria that produced a craving to get high with every orgasm.
Because I confused sex with an emotional connection like many women, I continued to crave it to feel loved -– something I lacked while growing up in a home where my parents concentrated more on the television than talking to me after a hard day at work.
My parents will never be the kind who hug voluntarily and genuinely support me in achieving my dreams. Their priorities lie in making money and living a comfortable life, not following a passion and living a larger purpose. So when I started running a magazine and it finally got off the ground, my mother responded with, “But are you making any money?”
I’ve spent 24 years trying to prove myself to my mother, believing one day she would become a warm, emotionally supportive parent. And while I know she loves me and did her best raising me, her irritability and mood swings have wreaked havoc on my self-esteem in the form of cold neglect and yelling insults. My dad tried his best to keep the peace in our house, but mostly pretended everything was fine under the influence of daily rum and cokes.
This created a void in my heart -– and as I got older, I compensated by filling the void in my thighs.
This involved the person who I had my first time with for years to come. Friends who I was attracted to. And people I wasn’t attracted to. The more I had it, the more I wanted it, and soon sex lost all meaning and became more of a game: Who could I get to have sex with me next? With every exciting challenge, I felt better about myself. And with every conquest fulfilled I developed a further reputation as a homewrecker.
There was the musician who had sex with me when his girlfriend was upstairs. The writer who took me back to his place while his girlfriend was at work. The electrician who had broken up with his girlfriend and was pursuing me while she still lived with him. And the artist who didn’t tell me he had a girlfriend. I never set out to break the girl code, but my habits won over my morals and with every drink (there was always a drink –- it numbed the guilt), my inhibitions loosened. An important factor to note: Afterward, they always went back to their girlfriends.
You might be wondering why those with sex addictions can’t simply get off by themselves and leave others unharmed. To explain, a sex addiction isn’t really about sex at all -– it’s about feeling wanted, powerful and in control.
Sadly, most of the time for a sex addict those things are an illusion. You feel drawn to someone as if there is a force pulling you toward them and the only way to get them out of your mind is to get your fix. But once you do, you just want more. It’s really the other person who has the upper hand.
The men in my life had become drug dealers. They would somehow contact me when I was at my weakest –- and while I know they didn’t look at it as taking advantage of me, it was damaging to be the one they lusted over but didn’t want to be with.
I’m not saying my actions weren’t morally wrong, and I’m definitely not blaming my actions on my addiction. Of course I was attracted to these men and wanted to have sex with them. But the difference between a regular person having sex and a person with a sex addiction is that you can’t stop your actions even though you know you don’t want to go through with them.
The thought of getting high off someone’s desire for you, feeling the warmth of their body and of course having an orgasm is the only thing that consumes your mind.
These days, I’m working on healing the void in my heart. For once in my life, I’m at peace with being single and am only allowing healthy relationships into my life. I’ve successfully cut out the drug dealers and have started attending Sex Addicts Anonymous.
Unlike alcoholics who can’t drink without controlling themselves, sex addicts set their own limits to what is considered crossing the line. Mine is having sex with someone I don’t feel that magic with -– not the magic society tells you you’ll feel, but a real connection with someone. I’m living an ongoing recovery that is tempted constantly, but I’m finally able to say there’s more to life than sex.