Wednesday, August 10, 2022

I’m a sex addict – reality isn’t like fantasy

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Let me tell you what it’s like to be a sex addict – really like. And no, it’s nothing like in movies, TV programs, or even newspaper headlines, where someone famous (usually a man) gets caught doing something they shouldn’t, and then declares that he’s “looking for help,” and immediately delivers a new leaf . True recovery takes much longer. It can last a lifetime.

We’ve heard a lot of bizarre and unusual stories lately about people in the public eye who have experienced catastrophic falls – a Tory MP watching porn in the House of Commons, someone caught masturbating on Zoom – but these kinds of stories is nothing new for sex addicts.

I’ve been to recovery meetings for sex addicts where I’ve heard stories of men and women who couldn’t stop touching themselves; Self-pleasure so obsessive you wince.

I’ve listened to people reveal how they engage in sexual activity (alone or with a partner or a sex worker) up to 20 or 30 or even 40 times a day – that’s how often it leaves them completely disabled, distracted, unable (sometimes literally) to focus on work or get anything else done. I’ve heard of lives ruined by thrills and extreme promiscuity, of attempted suicides thanks to an inability to maintain or repair a relationship. I’ve heard of families torn apart, marriages broken, jobs lost and reputations shattered.

Addicts aren’t always “bad” people, but we usually have a hard time staying moderate. Many of us are the way we are because of deep-rooted issues like childhood trauma, abuse, or shame. I ask anyone who judges us not to write off an addict—whether it be alcohol, sex, or drugs—without knowing what they’ve been through. I ask everyone for sympathy.

We want to actively practice this in our own communities – and whenever we hear of the demise of a public figure, we remind one another that we are one step away that “it is all about the grace of God.”

“Halt” is an acronym I find incredibly useful when it comes to my own addiction: it stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. This is what addicts in recovery ask, like me, when we’re about to relapse or when we’re tempted to “play off.” We’re trying to figure out what is Yes, really go ahead with us before we do this.

And it’s never felt more relevant than during the pandemic, which has been a particular concern for sex addicts: many of us found it isolated and lonely, which only made our compulsive sexual behaviors worse.

Being stuck indoors all the time, like all of us, has been difficult for reasons like easy access to pornography. When it’s that easy to switch to “private” view on your smartphone and go to a free website; When hardcore pics and videos are just a few clicks away – and you don’t have to sign up or pay for them – it’s too easy to jump into it and fall back into bad habits.

Fortunately, during Covid, addicts still had access to support – for example there were 12-step recovery meetings via Zoom every day – but there were strict rules. You were not allowed to “lurk” on the screen with the camera off and you had to use your first name. The rules of anonymity of such groups are untouchable: What you see in a meeting, what you hear and who you meet must never be repeated – even if the “room” is virtual.

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Covid has helped many of us reduce addictive behaviors: thanks to the Rule of Six and lockdown bubbles, it has been harder to seek sex, paid or otherwise. For some of my fellow addicts, the lockdown prevented them from going to strip clubs and bars or seeing sex workers. The enforced isolation has also made it easier to do some important things, like working with a sponsor. We’ve also talked a lot — reaching out (talking to other addicts on the phone when you feel you’re being exposed to certain behaviors) can help you stay strong. Zoom meetings made me feel less alone.

Thanks to Covid, many of these meetings continue to be offered online, which is a huge benefit for addicts living in remote areas – plus, recovery groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous (although there are other alternatives) are remarkably diverse and inclusive. No matter who you are or what you have done, you are always welcome.

In a way, my addicted family feels like mine real Family. You know my deepest secrets and regrets and still accept me. They understand me in a way that “normal” people might not.

What I really want to combat when it comes to the popular discourse about sex addiction is the idea that it’s somehow exciting or dangerous, glamorous or exciting. It really isn’t. It’s destructive, it takes over your life – it can even kill you. There is no smear or polish that can hide the fact that 17 percent of sex addicts have attempted suicide.

Every day we face overwhelming feelings of shame and stigma, guilt and fear of being discovered. The pressure to hide our secretive sexual activities and obsessions can push many addicts to the breaking point. Many of us have affairs, some of us lose our jobs, some of us end up in jail or hospital with STDs.

So shut up if you’re laughing at us or assuming we’re all “perverts”. We are human, just like you; and we fight If nothing else, be kind.

Helpful tips on how to start a conversation or when you are worried about someone can be found on Samaritan Website. You can contact them Samaritan hotline by phone on 116 123. The hotline is free and open 24 hours a day, all year round. You can also contact Samaritan by email jo@samaritans.org. The average response time is 24 hours.

*If you have an anonymous confession send it to DearVix@independent.co.uk for a chance to appear in our new series. Discretion guaranteed.

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