In my years as a yoga practitioner and instructor, I have met several people who are current or recovering addicts.
This isn’t a surprise. Like any community, the yoga community represents people from all walks of life. As someone who has a number of addicts in my extended family, I was familiar with various forms of addiction. There was one sort, though, that I was not familiar with and that was sex addiction.
If you mention addiction in conversation, most of the time the tone becomes quieter and/or the faces of those around show a mixture of empathy and sympathy. Mention sex addiction, though, and it’s more likely that what will follow is a series of laughs and winks and comments like, “I wish my partner suffered from that!” Despite the fact that an estimated three to five percent of the American population alone suffer from it, many people doubt that it actually exists.
One of the biggest misconceptions about sex addiction is that these are people who simply have high sex drives. They aren’t. While people with high sex drives enjoy sex and tend to have it more frequently than most people, they are not actually addicted. Their sexual drive does not interfere with their daily lives nor do they necessarily have multiple partners at the same time. (In fact, many people with high sex drives are in monogamous relationships.)
With sex addicts it is a different story. They often alter their lives to fit around their addiction. The ones I knew worked for themselves or in jobs where they could set their own hours. In at least one of the cases, one of them worked in a profession that put him in touch with a lot of young, single women.
Other common myths and misconceptions are that sex addicts are rich, powerful, good-looking, and/or not getting enough sex with their current partner. None of these are necessarily true. Sex addicts come from all walks of life, can be male or female, and the vast majority are as ordinary as they come. In cases where they are extraordinary in some way—Michael Douglas and Tiger Woods are two very well-known celebrities who have gone public and shared that they sought treatment for sex addiction—many either outright dismiss it by saying, “Oh, they just happened to get caught cheating!” or in Woods’ case, are left scratching their heads wondering why they were stepping out in the first place given that their spouse was arguably far more attractive than the women he was supposedly having sex with. What many don’t get is that a sex addict isn’t concerned with having any sort of real relationship with their sex partners. To put it bluntly, as long as the other person is willing to put out, they will have sex with them.
Years ago, I became friends someone who was a bona fide sex addict. He was and still is one of the most charismatic people I ever met. Blessed with intelligence, physical attractiveness and the ability to connect with various groups of people, I saw how sex addiction ruined both his professional and his personal life. Every time he entered into a new relationship, he was convinced that the new woman in his life was “the one” who would, in his words, “keep [him] good.”
Needless to say, it never happened.
I asked him once why he bothered with relationships. Why not just date or hook-up and let everyone know he did not want to be in an exclusive relationship with one person? He looked at me as if I were crazy. The truth is that he wanted to be in a relationship. He longed for real intimacy even though his sex addiction prevented him from ever experiencing that.
It was then and there that the reality of his situation hit me like a ton of bricks: he didn’t want sex—he needed it. Like a heroin addict who had stopped getting high a long time ago, he didn’t even enjoy sex anymore. For him, it was just a task.
Ultimately, we parted ways because I got tired of hearing him lie to himself and those around him, and I was not strong enough to watch him destroy himself and deny that he had a problem. When I last heard from him a few months ago, he was mourning the loss of a nearly two year relationship. He claimed he had been faithful to her despite the fact that she told several people that she caught him replying to a personal ad for a sex partner on Craigslist. I believed her. As we parted ways, I told him that I really hoped that he would find some sort of inner peace. I meant it then and still mean it, but in all honesty I do not think that will ever happen until he and others with his addiction get the professional help they need.
While sex addicts can be helped with therapy, it is a lot easier said than done. Like many addicts, sex addicts may be in deep denial. Plus, anyone who has ever tried to change their own behavior can relate to how hard it is to do so. When choosing a therapist, it is helpful to find one with a background in sexual addiction. There are also support groups in some areas for sex addicts and their partners.
Lastly, if you are the partner of a sex addict, it’s important to educate yourself about co-dependent behavior as well as know that it is not any failing on your part. Often times the partners of addicts, especially if they are women, may believe that they aren’t attractive enough, sexy enough, etc. to keep their significant other from straying. This simply is not true. Also, the only person any addict can really change for is themselves. With that said, those who do successfully modify their behavior have a lot to look forward to not the least of which is having the ability to use sex as a means of intimacy and connecting with someone they truly care about.
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Ed: B. Bemel