“We admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior–that our lives had become unmanageable”
–Step One of Sex Addicts Anonymous
I have a confession to make: I’m a sex addict.
I am not shucking and jiving this time. I’m not joking as I usually do. This is not a game, either. I am an honest to Creator, ride or die real life sex addict. And have been for years.
My journey down this path started when I was five, when the abuse started. But I didn’t even put two and two together until I was in my early 20s. I was attending the University of Illinois at Springfield when I began considering the possibility of having a problem with sex. You would too if you were doing the following: constantly fantasizing about who I was going to with and when, having sex in public places, quickly slipping out of my clothes when asked, having anonymous sex–among other acts unexplained at the time. I finally asked my therapist at the time whether there were 12 Step programs for “people like me.” Luckily, he found a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting or two in my area.
I wish I could say that I stopped the minute I stepped into the church or the hospital room where the meetings took place. But then, I would be lying to you, Dear Reader. Though those attending were doing the best they could under the circumstances, many of the people there were as sick as I was at the time (and I’m still that sick when I want to be so). Also, I could never find a ride to these meetings and I was not comfortable asking for rides, so I didn’t have a chance to go to meetings. I continued to act out with people by meeting them on phone sex lines and online chat rooms. If I could not find what I was looking for there, then I would attend nightclubs and live shows hoping to find a sex partner. When I was in a committed relationship, I didn’t even consider it a relationship unless we were in bed. Of course, these relationships did not last long. There was a period when I was single for about 8 years, but continued to have sex as often as I could with whomever. Hell, I even traveled to Champaign-Urbana, IL about once or twice a week to sleep with someone who eventually treated me the way I felt: like shit.
I wish I could say this stopped after I moved to Rochester, but it only got worse from there. I continued to meet up with people and I didn’t care who they were. And I was active in my alcoholism at the time, so my behavior was much worse. I was very new to the area and didn’t know anyone, so I was lonely, afraid and had no coping skills to combat this. So what else could I do besides act out sexually?
Eventually, I became tired of my own behavior; I knew that there had to be a way out but didn’t know who to talk to about what I was going through. One of my roommates had a computer and I was at least sane enough to look for “S-Groups” (or 12 step groups for sex addicts) online. Eventually, I found Sexaholics Anonymous–or SA. I lasted in that group for about 3 years, but stopped going because they do not allow married same-sex partners to have sexual intercourse. And–since I don’t tolerate homophobia–I felt SA wasn’t for me. Plus, there weren’t many women in the group, so I didn’t have many members to talk to when I either acted out or was on the verge of doing so. I don’t know how long I was out of the game, but I know now that I was extremely untreated. I still acted out, used people for sex and became either depressed or angry if I didn’t get sex. I would hook up with polyamorous couples for the sole purpose of having sex with them. I had no level–no boundaries. Almost every threshold was crossed. I’ve had so many pregnancy/STD scares; one-night stands; and manipulators in my life. I’ve been accused of stalking (which I didn’t do). I didn’t care what happened to me or what position I put myself in. As long as you wanted/loved/needed me, I didn’t care.
All this caught up with me, though. I was sex-free when I moved to Buffalo until one incident and that incident prompted me to seek out Sex Addicts Anonymous–which is different from Sexaholics Anonymous. Why am I telling you this? Because sexual addiction is common among those who have been sexually abused. While many sex trauma victims avoid sex like it’s the Black Hole, many others engage in compulsive sex. Davis and Bass (2008) write:
“…you may seek sex with strangers or have affairs that jeopardize a relationship that’s important to you. You may be addicted to pornography, phone sex, Internet sex, or sex in circumstances that are humiliating, violent, dangerous, or reminiscent of the abuse. You may continue to be sexually abused or sexually abuse others. Whatever the habitual behavior, you may find it extremely difficult to stop, despite repeated attempts and good intentions…” (p. 24).
It took me a long time to figure out why I was behaving the way I was. Why I felt so trashy in the past and why I treated people the way I have. I finally realized what was going on with me. Sex has been my medicine for such a long time. It was an indicator that I was attractive, wanted and loved. And it was the only time I wasn’t being ridiculed or belittled. But–once the act is over–I have me to deal with and everything on the inside I tried to avoid comes back. And I don’t want that feeling again.
Which is why I am being treated and why I’m doing the best I can be and stay healthy. It’s a constant struggle and–when I fall–I just get back up and try again.
I hope that what I say is helping others who are struggling with sex addiction. This is just like any other addiction, but much harder to deal with because you can’t put down sex like someone would a whiskey bottle or a crack pipe. Sex–when used correctly–is a physical extension of expressing love to someone you care about. Sex is also another way for people to connect with one another. But when it’s used to hurt either someone else or yourself, there’s a problem. And you do not have to live with that problem anymore once you receive help.
It’s out there.
Author unknown (2005). Sex Addicts Anonymous. Houston, TX International Service Organization of SAA, Inc.