Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Sexual Addict Among Us

The rapper Kanye West recently admitted to Details Magazine about developing a sexual addition problem in his youth. This prompted me to author this blog entry.

In the summer of 2006, I wrote a blog entry about sexual addiction. In the post, I talked about my own experiences with sexual addiction. The post was titled Concessions of a Crack Whore, and though some may have thought it was meant to be a catchy title or glib, it was really because I felt deep shame about labeling myself as a sexual addict. Probably more shame than if I were a crack whore. Oh, and you can strike the probably.

Anyway, if you want to read a personal post of mine, one that I am really proud of . . . a post of substance that has no concrete answers, follow the link.

But I want to focus today, not with my own revelations about how I developed a sexual addiction, but how I continue to learn to live with this affliction.

Being a sex addict is not nearly as cool as it sounds. I don't have threesomes with neighbors, videotape me "doing it" with the pizza guy, or anything as seemingly glamorous as that. That's not what being a sex addict is all about. For me, it is about cycles. And if you think your menstrual cycle is bad, at least a menstrual cycle is regular. And for most of us, a box of pads and a few Midol or Advil help us cope.

Note: I am only talking about my personal experience. I am not a licensed counselor, and I am not going to be using clinical terms. My brain does not think in clinical terms, and if it did, I would merely bore most of you to tears.

The addiction starts with a stressor. And for me, I have noticed that I have what I call background stress and immediate stress. Background stress would be the state of the economy (when I have not lost my job, but there is all of this chatter about hundreds of thousands of people on the unemployment lines, 401Ks going down, etc.) Then there is the immediate stress. Perhaps I have to work with someone on a project, and there are tight deadlines and I don't really like the person. Perhaps I have not had enough quality time with my husband, and I fear we are drifting apart. All of these are stressors in my life.

When I have more stress than I think I can handle . . . then the cycle may begin.

For me, identification is key. If I know what is going on, and sometimes I don't, my first reaction would be to deal with these stressors in what I consider a grown-up way. Part of this, for me, at least, is hitting the gym. I can run on the treadmill, swim in the pool, do exercise and gather my thoughts. Then I wonder how I can relieve the stress. It could be effectively dealing with a co-worker, reconnecting with my spouse, or realizing that things are not as bad as they seem.

But, if I either don't realize what is going on, or if I am in so much pain/fear/whatever that I don't care, then the sex cycle starts. I have a need to connect and don't choose an appropriate outlet, and it is as if I can see myself from across the room, starting to make bad choices. At this point, I can still recognize what is going on, and I can stop the cycle, but if I don't, I just want to "feel good." Consequences matter not.

It is as if the person I am doesn't matter anymore, and I just want to feel something. It is very primal, and I have described it as if I am going in a rage. And by rage, I don't mean I say mean things or get bloodshot eyes. I can no longer seem to think. I just want to feel.

At this point, before I knew what I was doing, I would make really bad choices. I had sex in my office, not caring if I got caught and fired, or really caring if my husband found out. Certainly, at first, I was . . . careful . . . but when I am in a rage stage, I throw care to the wind. That's actually how I eventually was caught by my husband (and, happily, that started me on my road to recovery).

Anyway, when you don't really care – like reality doesn't really exist – then you begin to pursue some very risky behavior. [Reader, please insert any risky sexual behavior image you would like.] In my previous post, I wrote about having sex in a public restroom in a club. Yeah, unprotected sex in a bacteria-infested restroom. Yuck! And that was not even the worse experience I had. The worst experience was being at a man's house at lunchtime and having him urinate on me. I cried for an hour before having the composure to call back to the office to make an excuse for me to go home early that day.

I mean, these are experiences that I would have never guessed I could do. Never in a million years.

Anyway, after the sexual acting out and gratification (and/or emptiness), I realize that I am a complete moron. I wake up from the stupor and feel extreme shame. I always promise that it is the last time I will do this, and things seem fine for a while.

Then another stressor is in my life, and the cycle may start again.

Since going to counseling, I have not cheated on my husband with another person "in real life." And for the most part, I don't chat online or look at porn. For the most part. And when I fail to recognize the signs or don't care, I may look at porn or chat.

I have had to make other choices as well. Rules, if you will.

I don't masturbate. I am not saying that masturbation is bad. I actually stopped masturbating in college for three semesters. It wasn't until half-way through my sophomore year that I figured I could masturbate in the restrooms after I heard someone else from the dorm doing it. Yeah, Leesa is not the sharpest tool in the shed. My problem is that masturbation starts taking over, and it is hard for me to stop. So it just is not a part of my life. I miss it, too.

I write erotica in a very controlled environment. I love to write, and occasionally, I want to write erotica. But I cannot write erotica if I am depressed or stressed. And I can't violate the masturbation rule when writing erotica. I can promise you that I received more orgasms from my first several stories than anyone else received. It was a part of my writing process that I no longer repeat.

I don't have sex toys. Sex toys would be a temptation. 'Nuff said.

No pornography in the house. Not that we had a lot of porno anyway, but I deleted all of the images I had stored on my hard drive and CDs. Oh, and we got rid of about ten classic books that dealt in sex. Some of them were a bit rare, but they had to go.

Restricted chatting. I used to chat online a lot. Now I rarely do.

The rules that I occasionally break are the online chatting and the viewing of pornography online. Believe it or not, I have only masturbated twice since establishing these rules. Once was by myself at home, and the second time was when I was chatting with a friend (the orgasm was tremendous). Both times I masturbated, I then felt extreme shame. Same with the online chatting, and only occasionally with the viewing of pornography. I have broken these rules rarely, and I get on track shortly thereafter.

Here is one surprise: sex with my husband is better than ever. I won't go into details, but we don't break any rules of physics – and that is okay. Body parts don't go where they were not designed to go, and we have a good time reconnecting. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my face.

I am going to end with the same paragraph I used in my last long post on this subject.

Comments are okay, but not necessary. This is a dirty post about a dirty subject. Some don't believe that this exists, and some don't see it as a problem. Men have asphyxiated while masturbating in a closet (clear bag over head) – nice image for the daughter and wife to see. Some have performed illegal sex acts. Others have driven into trees while masturbating. Sad, sad stories. Hopefully someone reading this may do as I have done and sought help before their live spiraled out of control. Or maybe this will encourage tolerance.


LarryLilly said...

Well written. It reads not as a soul searching question of acceptance, but of honesty, clarity and yet while insightful, the touch of humility that says, Hey I am human, I try, and I dont always do what I am supposed to do, but I am not being hypocritical and saying I didnt do it.

We have all been there, thanks for making us all look inwards and see how we are all human.

~Deb said...

Dirty or not dirty, I'm only going to comment with this:
"{{{{{HUGS TO YOU}}}}}}}"

Thank you for being so honest and opened today.

Xmichra said...

wow. There was a lot in those two posts... just wow.

I think not only you, but your husband has remarkable strength... he is trying to reconnect, and there are many people out there who simply couldn' after all that had been done and said. Kuddos to him for that.

AcuityTodos said...

Leesa: I admire your ability and willingness to write about real issues in your life. I am glad that you have found ways to reconnect with yourself and your husband. A great, humbling, post. Thank you.

kathi said...

I relate to this post all to well. I have an addictive personality, and sex has been one of my problems. The problem would also be that I'd become 'raw' and it would take more and more to get me off or to feel just plain sex did nothing for me. And I understand that shame you're talking about, and still it wouldn't stop me from stooping lower and lower. I, too, had to just stop because I lose control and can't stop myself. Not to say that I've never fallen off the 'wagon', but it's rare.
So, I relate, babe, all to well. Good post.

Leesa said...

larry: you know, I was tempted to post this after Ash Wednesday, but decided to do so today.

~deb: love you, Babe!

xmichra: yeah, two long posts. The road back to marital bliss has been a rough one, but we are there. I think there will always be trust issues now, though. He says he trusts me . . . but sometimes I can tell he is scared. Thanks.

acuity: the first time I wrote about this was so hard. I like to pretend I have it all together, but sometimes . . . . you know?

kathi: yeah, you use the word "raw" and I use "rage". I think it is the same thing. A bit hard to describe. Thanks for your kind words.

Awake In Rochester said...

I appreciate you honesty and openness. We all are addicted to something. Work, alcohol, food, a person, an emotion etc. So your not alone. The question that I have is how do we break our addictions. I don't expect you to answer. But that is an answer I've been seeking for sometime now.

Have you ever seen the movie "What the Bleep Do we Know?" It's very good. Part of it deals with addiction, and quantum physics. It does talk a bit about how to break an addiction. I highly recommend it. I find quantum physics fascinating. I just don't like that part where they bash God in the movie. lol

PS - If there is a parallel universe I hope that I'm having a lot more fun there, then here. lol

Ian Lidster said...

This was very powerful and honest, dear friend. Your candor impresses me greatly. I read your '06 entry as well and I was amazed at how much I empathized -- something you've probably already figured out. For me it was at the time of my first marriage and I was as obsessed and active as you suggest about you. So, I know what it is like. Good for you in your honesty, I admire your courage. I have written my tale in private but have never psoted or published it.

Now, on another vein, I have an award for you over at my blog.

Leesa said...

awake: I don't like God bashing either. I think it makes people feel more important than they really are.

ian: thanks for the kind comments. Yeah, I saw the award yesterday. Was a bit afraid to pick it up.

Anonymous said...

You have set up some great boundaries for yourself. Do you have someone you can talk to when you get tempted? Not like a person who will enable you, but someone who can talk you down?

Dr. Deb said...

I think it is so important to know what triggers uniquely set things off. Addiction is a very specific disorder, and maintaining the safe zone is both art and science.

Great post. Brave post.

Leesa said...

knot: what a great question. and the answer is . . . no, really.

dr. deb: thanks, sweetie.

Awake In Rochester said...

There isn't much God bashing in it. Generally it's a very good movie, and gives hope!

I'm sorry if I sounded like I was minimalizing. You are courageous! And I thank you for this post.

Sheen V said...

I hear you, and I can certainly relate. Keep strong!

Brian Sorgatz said...

Your story touches my heart. I have to try to write something helpful here. I wouldn't presume to talk you out of your religious convictions, but I wonder if a bit of psychological polytheism could help. "The gods have become diseases," said Carl Jung, and maybe that statement explains your addiction.

From what I've read, you seem to experience a great wobbling back and forth between intense thrill-seeking and intense shame. It makes me wonder if it's specifically the wobbling from one extreme to the other that causes all the trouble. Although your pattern of acting out leads to pain and danger, the basic principle behind each extreme is essentially something understandable and honorable, is it not? Both desire and inhibition are represented as gods and goddesses in mythology. Perhaps your inner slut is promiscuous Aphrodite acting through you, whereas the inner prude that makes you hate yourself afterwards is virgin Artemis. Maybe it's glib and sentimental to talk about mythology here, and I admit I don't know how the idea boils down to practical advice. But I suspect that it's useful to imagine our disturbing impulses as deities to be propitiated. When we learn how to do that, can it turn our monsters into helpful guides?