Coming to terms with sex addiction, even if you are the one who has it, is a very difficult thing. There are so many misconceptions about sex addiction in the community at large, and often the addict feels an enormous amount of shame over his or her behavior.
The first time someone told me I was a sex addict, I thought the guy was crazy. I was 30 years old or so at the time, married, and was having affairs with two women. It wasn’t about the sex of course; it was all about the control and power. I was sleeping with all three, juggling them, and telling them all I loved them. My marriage was hanging by a thread. I had lost my job because of too many unexplained absences due to my affairs. My anxiety was through the roof and I was depressed, but despite all of these things I kept doing the same thing, lying, manipulating, sleeping around, anything to get this big old shot of dopamine.
So I went to counseling. I had been before, but it hadn’t helped. This was probably in large part because I didn’t tell the truth about anything. So I tried someone new. He told me that counseling was pointless until I decided I wanted to do something about my sex addiction.
I thought to myself, “Is this guy insane? I came here for help and he thinks I am a sex addict? What a lunatic.” I couldn’t face it; I couldn’t deal with it on any level. Five years later, I had been divorced twice, and was homeless and sleeping on couches before I finally went to rehab.
For me, it was an enormously difficult thing to face up to, let alone talk about. At one point I would much rather have continued on in my despair and addiction than openly talk about it to anyone.
Even when it became obvious to me that I had a serious problem, I never thought I could talk about it to my wife, to my parents or to my friends. In my heart I knew that if I said anything to anyone about not being able to control myself, they would have thought that I was a freak and would be ashamed of me. It has been a lot of work to realize that was not true. My wife, friends and family loved me and supported me no matter what. It was me that thought I was a freak and was ashamed of myself.
I also had a problem with drinking, but that didn’t shame me at all. To me that was what guys did — they went out and got drunk together. But the things I did sexually were secret; I couldn’t let anyone know what it really was about. If I did tell people it was with false bravado: “Hey look at me, I cheat on my wife constantly.” I never let on how desperate I was.
Even though I had many people in my life I could have trusted, who would have helped me, I trusted no one.
So what do you do if you have a problem with sex addiction? Tell someone. Tell your girlfriend. Tell your mom. Tell your best friend. Be prepared for rejection of course, it might happen. I am blessed with some special people in my life — not everyone is so lucky.
But still, tell someone. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Well, maybe you should be ashamed of your actions, but you don’t need to be ashamed of your addiction and who you are. Honesty is the first, and for me, the hardest step.
To stand in front of those you know and admit you have a problem with sex addiction is a very brave thing, and you are going to need to be brave to beat this. Ignoring it and waiting for it to go away won’t work. I promise. To get better I had to step out of the darkness and into the light.
It isn’t easy though. Even now, all these years later, when I write these types of articles I hear the voices: “Someone I know will read this, they will judge me, they will think I am a freak.” But this is part of recovery for me; it is part of getting better.
So, do I go around telling people I am a sex addict? No way.
I know that may seem contradictory, but with all that I said above, sex is still taboo in our culture. It just isn’t talked about. There still has not been much public education about what sex addiction really is, how it happens, what it all means.
Very few people in my life know this about me, and there isn’t any reason for them to. The ones who do know are people I can trust.
The difference is that now I am not ashamed, and that now when I need to talk to someone about it, whether it is my best friend, my parents, or my partner, I am able to do so without shame. And that really feels good.