Sex Addiction: Surviving the Scorn
Sex Addiction, Alcohol Addiction and Public Perception
I’d like to back up for a moment and briefly discuss alcoholism. By way of establishing some personal credibility with regard to alcoholism, I’ll share that I’ve been clean and sober from alcohol for 23 years; I believe that gives me room to speak on the subject—unlike those who love to criticize sex addiction, most of whom have no personal experience with it. But I digress. Although humans have been struggling with alcoholism for hundreds and probably thousands of years, it was only recognized by the medical community as an addiction in 1956—almost 20 years after Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) was founded—and it wasn’t until 1991 that it was recognized as both a medical and psychiatric condition. The larger questions about alcoholism and substance abuse in general—for instance, the debate as to whether addiction is behavioral, neurochemical or some combination of the two—is beyond the scope of this article. I’m merely pointing out that there is still widespread debate about the nature of alcoholism and how it should be classified. Taking a step even further back, I’d like to recognize that AA didn’t come into existence until the 20th century, which is evidence of our enormous capacity for denial. In light of all of these facts, it comes as no surprise that there is widespread doubt, scrutiny and even ridicule around the concept of sexual addiction.
Recovery From Sexual Addiction: Staying the Course
If you struggle with sexual addiction, you know on a personal, experiential level how real it is. Perhaps you lost your job; perhaps you lost your family; perhaps you hurt someone you care for deeply as a result of your struggle. Perhaps you even ended up in jail. One thing you know, and one thing I know and can validate for you, is that it is not a copout and it is certainly not easy. Like me, it may have been an enormous relief—like the weight of the world lifting off your shoulders—to sit in that first meeting and say, “Hi. My name is _______. I'm a sex addict. Today I'm feeling grateful to be sitting here.” I’ve even heard one person finish that common intro by saying, “Thank God I’m here. Finding this meeting was like finding a unicorn. I was starting to doubt it even existed.” And though it may have been easy to make that introduction, I’m willing to lay money down that driving to that meeting—finding it online, getting in the car, sitting at stoplights on the way over—was not easy at all. You were probably scared, doubtful and trying to find 101 reasons not to go. But you went. I can also validate for you that telling friends and loved ones, if you have taken that step, is possibly the most nerve-wracking thing you’ve ever done. It was for me.
Admitting to sexual addiction is not the “copout” it is so often called by critics. It is not shirking responsibility and it is by no means a way to make an excuse: it’s an explanation. Let me repeat that: for those who don’t understand, for those who doubt, let it be known that sexual addiction is an explanation of behaviors, not an excuse for them. Finally, I want to affirm for anyone in recovery from sexual addiction that you’re not taking the easy way out. In fact, the opposite is true: you are on a path that requires courage, conviction and the highest degree of personal accountability and responsibility imaginable. And even though I’ve never met you, I wish you the best of luck—I’m proud to be counted as a fellow recovery partner.
By Angus Whyte