Warning: naughty language ahead!
My name is Leigh and I’m a sex and love addict.
That sounds so fucking ridiculous, doesn’t it?
Can you imagine standing up in an anonymous group meeting and saying those words aloud!? Is this really a thing, or just simply a New Age condition that we’ve put a label on to keep everything in a nice, neat, and tidy box?
I’m sure it’s much more powerful to watch or hear this kind of statement in an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, but why?
We can clearly see the devastation that alcohol and substance abuse causes. We know that abusing alcohol and other substances affects health to the point that if the person continues to live their current lifestyle, it may result in death.
When someone has an addiction, such as alcohol or other substances, unless they’re a functioning addict (and even then functioning still ends in tears), it leaves a trail of devastation behind. Relationships breakdown and families are often destroyed because of the addict’s addiction and, let’s face it, selfish behaviour.
But can being a sex addict really be that devastating?
Oh poor you, going out there and having sex—that must be totally soul-destroying. Umm, yes it fucking is, actually.
How unhealthy is being a sex and love addict? I mean, really, what’s going to happen—you die from too much love and sex!? It’s kinda the Walt Disney version of world problems today. Right?
The other issue that comes with this addiction is that it’s still, at times, “a man’s world.” Take Russell Brand for instance. He was one of the first to admit to his sex addiction, among various other addictions, and he admitted that it was harder to acknowledge mainly because as a man, other men have adulation for the guy who goes out and bangs loads of hot women. How many men do you know who would laugh and say “that’s every man’s dream”?
Well, I can’t comment from a man’s point of view, but it must have been an issue to Russell, otherwise there wouldn’t have been a deep-seated desire within him to find change.
I’m grateful for people like him who talk openly about this and bring it into the forefront, as it is a “thing.”
Here’s my experience of being a sex and love addict, how it has shattered my life, and how I’m learning to overcome it one step at a time, one day at a time.
When did I know that I had a problem? To be honest with you, there are moments when I’m still in denial and my ego tells me that maybe I want to wear this label as it’s kinda cool and different. Plus, I can use it as an excuse, rendering me powerless for the shit choices I’ve made.
The thing about being a sex and love addict is that you don’t hit it hard (pardon the expression) and go out on a big bender like you would do if you’re addicted to substances. There have been times when I’ve had self-control and actually—yep, you heard it here first—not had sex with somebody when the opportunity presented itself. But I fucking crave love and connection in such a way that I’ve developed an unhealthy relationship with it.
That’s the key: acknowledging your relationship with the addiction.
Take alcohol. There are people who can enjoy a glass or two, or even a bottle, of wine and not continue to need it to give their life meaning or purpose. When you’re an addict, suddenly life loses its meaning and purpose and the only thing that makes it bearable is to use—whatever the poison of choice may be.
When I, we’ll call it “use,” I wake up in bed with somebody who I barely know well enough to give so much of myself to, and I’m then hit with this overwhelming sense of regret, shame, self-loathing, worthlessness, and every other horrid, self-hating feeling and thought that you can think of.
If, like me, you’re still in denial of your choices, you try to turn the sorry state of affairs around. You convince yourself that they mean something to you and that this feeling is reciprocated. You believe in your head (like a big-budget romantic comedy) that this time is different. The connection was so strong and the chemistry so deep and meaningful that you’d be foolish not to explore it. It was meant to happen and you’re meant to be together and this way of connection was so beautiful and meaningful that this time will be different.
Then, when they suddenly lose interest, because ultimately it was just sex and neither of you discussed it being anything more, it’s in that moment of realisation that you acknowledge you’ve been used for sex.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not playing the victim in this and blaming the men in my life—it’s like the heroin that you jack up into your veins or the bottle of whiskey that you neck because you believe at the time that you need it and desire it so bad you just have no self-control. In the end, you realise that the desire has control over you and you’ve been used and spat out again, like a cannonball, and it ends like the Miley Cyrus song, “Wrecking Ball.”
We all know that addiction doesn’t just happen to happy people who have their shit together. It manifests because the person carrying the addiction is masking their pain with whatever their addiction of choice is.
When you’ve used—again—whatever your poison of choice is, it brings you back to the feeling that brought you to the substance in the first place. I’m worthless, I am nothing, I don’t deserve to be happy. I best continue to self-destruct because what do I matter anyway. This continues to feed the wild beast that is addiction!
At 38, I look back and realise that I’ve had a problem and haven’t wanted to face it. I desire being loved, which at first glance appears a normal and healthy basic human need, but the difference is that I put it above all else.
Like other addicts, I’m impatient and need to get my fix so bad that I am willing to give my whole naked and vulnerable body over to a complete stranger. Now this may sound exciting and all Fifty Shades of Grey here, but the consequences are no fairy-tale—I can tell you. We glorify casual sex and tell other women that it’s okay to go out and seek it in the same way that men do. We tell ourselves that it doesn’t make us sluts or slags and that we feel empowered, but we’re not addressing the problem here.
If you love yourself and you have self-worth, then yes, it’s good to satisfy those basic human needs and there shouldn’t be shame in that, but whether you’re a man or a woman, we all know that after the act we don’t always feel that great—unless we’re in a fulfilling relationship that puts a spring in our step. I can satisfy an urge or a scratch—I can devour a whole bar of dark chocolate in one sitting like a wild wolf ripping apart flesh for food—but at the end of it, I’ve just simply given in to an urge and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
So how does one overcome this unusual addiction? Well, the first step is being aware that there’s a problem. Then we need to acknowledge how the problem has caused pain and suffering, and lately, like the last of the 12 steps, I’ve been praying and surrendering to a higher power than myself. I’m not preaching religion here, but it feels good to have a faith that there is something out there bigger than me and that this higher power is able to give me the strength when I feel that I’m too weak to bear any more pain.
Does this mean that I can never have sex again and or have a relationship or that anybody else with this dis-ease has to do the same? God, I hope not, as that’s the sorry state of mind that drew me into the arms of the random people in the first place—the bullshit thought that I can’t ever have a healthy and deep and meaningful connection with another human being. So fuck it—or rather, I’ll fuck it instead. Sorry, it’s crude but true.
What it means for me is celibacy, for sure, at least for the moment anyway. It means sitting with the horrible, uncontrollable feelings of needing to be loved and desired, but not acting on them—no dating apps, no more seeking relationships.
For me, it means connecting with my body in a healthy way through exercise, yoga, and meditation. When I feel that I’m in a better place where I’m not fragile and delicate, maybe I can put myself back out there again, but I will have to set boundaries for myself. It will mean getting to know somebody a lot, with intimacy being the last thing that completes the jigsaw puzzle and not the first piece that I literally lay down in order to build something.