I’ve been writing about the notion of sex addiction since I started this blog, and about my relationship to it. It’s funny: people often read the blog (and in particular, the “My Story” section) and somehow take away from that that I “am a sex addict,” or that I think of myself as a “sex addict.” While my thinking on this question has shifted and changed over the years (and I expect will continue to do so), I think I’ve generally been pretty clear about four seemingly contradictory points of view:
- I don’t really believe the notion of “sex addiction” is particularly helpful, to me. I think it’s a metaphor and while, for a while (in 2009, particularly) that metaphor was helpful for me as I pulled myself out of the grip of my compulsions, it stopped being particularly helpful for me by New Year’s Eve of 2009.
- I don’t think there’s anything for me to gain personally by denying that I am (or at least was) an “addict.” My behavior was certainly indistinguishable from that of those addicted to any substance – I lied, cheated, stole. My whole life revolved around my next “fix,” and I was lost. So, from a radical empiricist’s perspective, I certainly was an addict.
- I suspect that addicts to heroin or alcohol might dispute my #2. Because I never suffered withdrawal. “Sex addicts” often claim they suffer withdrawal, and there may well be some brain science that supports the idea that they suffer something structurally similar to certain aspects of withdrawal. But it’s not withdrawal. It really isn’t. I’ve seen Trainspotting. I have friends who’ve been hooked on heroin. I’ve held people’s hands while they went through the DTs. I drink coffee on Yom Kippur, even if I’m fasting (which I do 2 out of 3 Yoms Kippur), and I know what caffeine withdrawal feels like. And, I’ve quit smoking four times in my life. Sorry – but a “sex addict” simply can’t claim to have experienced withdrawal.
- There are many people whose path out of what I understand as compulsive sexual behavior has depended fundamentally on their understanding of their suffering as the “disease” of “addiction.” I feel about this much like I feel about religious belief: if it works for you, great. But I’m not buying it.
And, on the question of whether, today, I’m an addict, here’s what I wrote to a lovely woman (whose clit I hope very much to lick very soon) recently:
“I don’t go to meetings. I don’t feel my life is unmanageable. I don’t, often, feel powerless over sex. But I do sometimes. Also? Over binge watching. Nutter butters. Political web surfing. Tetris. Writing. And so on. Sex is one of the many things about which I can become obsessed, with which I can interact compulsively. But addiction isn’t, any longer, a metaphor I find particularly helpful. I see sex, and my relationship to it, as a fully integrated part of my life, one thing among many that I enjoy, but that can, in the wrong circumstances, be a destructive pleasure.”
So. That’s where I stand today. Tomorrow? Maybe I’ll have a different answer to the question.