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When I began watching Love on a whim while scrolling through my Netflix, the description promised me a 10-part season of the ups and downs of relationships. What I expected was something just as uncomfortable and awakening as Girls, especially because it was in part created by Judd Apatow and Lesley Arfin, who previously wrote for the series – but what I didn't know was that I was being led into the trappings of my past struggles with sex addiction.
Love is based on two main characters – Mickey (Gillian Jacobs) and Gus (Paul Rust, who also co-created the series) – who are both seemingly Los Angeles outcasts. Mickey is a hip program manager at a radio station and Gus is a painfully awkward tutor on the set of a TV show. The two clash as Gus (and everyone else) thinks the elusive and jaded Mickey is super cool, and Mickey is too avoidant of real intimacy to give him a shot.
Thus goes the story of finding love as a sex addict: Instead of going for the person who's good for you, you keep going back to losers who will sleep with you but you don't have a future with. We see this with Mickey as she chases her former boyfriend out the door and tells him not to get into his mom's car and to buy his own clothes – and I've seen this in my own life as I've previously been known to exclusively date guys my dad once referred to as “sick puppies.”
It wasn't until I realized that I needed to love myself first that I began dating people who weren't toxic – and even after a year of dating my partner I still have times that I feel like sabotaging the relationship. As a sex addict, you use sex as a way to numb your feelings, and having too many of them can trigger you if you don't have the tools to stay in recovery.
Like Mickey, it's way easier for me to have sex with someone to temporarily feel better than to actually address the issues I need to deal with. And we both have a heap of poisonous coping mechanisms other than just sex. Watching Mickey reset the date on her sober app before frantically trying to keep her mind off relapsing by cleaning her apartment and drinking a green juice – anything that screams 'healthy' – is excruciating relatable. It wouldn't surprise me if other addicts, whether they're in recovery or not, shed a few tears or full-on sob while watching this series. Not only have I never seen such an honest portrayal of addiction on television – but I've never seen such a real representation of female sex addiction period.
The moment that Mickey admits she's not only an alcoholic and drug addict, but that she's also a sex and love addict, was groundbreaking for me. Even though I've heavily examined this aspect of my life and have heard from others who can relate, witnessing a woman admit on a 2016 television show that she's a sex addict brought out a moment of clarity you can only get from the media acknowledging your existence.
Even though I should have seen Mickey's statement coming, there's no doubt my tendency to avoid issues is still there. But once she said it, I started backtracking just like I did with my own life. Not only was Mickey reluctant to date Gus because he's not the usual dirtbag she typically has sex with – but once she tells him that she likes him and becomes vulnerable, she turns into a crumbling mess who's incredibly self-conscious. Once seen as untouchably cool, Mickey starts to lose her shit when Gus stops answering her calls – an embarrassing memory from my past when I would flip out and in turn scare partners away.
In my experience, the mark of a sex addict – or any addict, really – is that you use so that you feel in control. Once you start to become vulnerable, you lose that control, and that's when you either relapse or decide to seek treatment. For Mickey, it was going to an all-female Sex and Love Addiction Anonymous (SLAA) group that helped her to start the process of emotional healing – a big step from the person we first saw as doing anything to avoid her problems.
At the end of season one, Mickey confesses to Gus that her erratic behaviour was because she's an addict, and that she's going to take a year to work on her recovery. Just like my own recovery, Mickey recognized that she needed to put herself first despite wanting to jump into a relationship. We're left wondering about the future as we watch Gus and Mickey embrace – the potential promise of a blossoming, healthy relationship in season two – and this fills my heart with warmth as I remember the importance that the support from my partner, who was happy to take things slow, had on my own recovery last year.
I'm excited to see what happens in season two of Love and hope that it shows Mickey navigating life in recovery – hopefully less elusive and jaded and instead more open and humble like I've become myself. It would be a pleasure to see a female on television portray the painful truths of what comes after recovery for addiction, as it doesn't just end there. For me, this meant the newly awkward social encounters, being emotionally present during sex and giving up the person you used to be to uncover the person you actually are.
And because Love got female sex addiction right, I'm also excited for the dialogue that will hopefully be starting because of this brave new series. Addiction is isolating all on its own, but being a female sex addict is especially so, because of the slut-shaming stigma that comes with it. Knowing that there are characters on TV that go to SLAA meetings will undoubtedly help the next generation of women seek treatment quicker.