Looking for something else, I came across this approximately five year old Newsweek article regarding sex addiction, which I had seen oh so many months ago.
In re-reading through the article, I had an “aha” moment.
Honestly, in the case of me and Blue Eyes, post discovery mid January 2014, I found myself wrapped up in obsessively searching the internet, but I quickly lost interest in generalized articles with provocative photos, salacious stories of libidos run amok, and the mention of Tiger Woods. Maybe as a diversionary tactic, or maybe because we were receiving so much in-person therapeutic information on sex addiction, I lost interest in searching about sex addiction on the internet. In my brokenness, I became obsessed with why women cheat with married men. I started reading mistress blogs, and researching why people cheat in general, and then I became so disheartened by what seemed to be a complete loss of morals, integrity, and dignity in this world, that I spiraled into a place of not wanting to look at anything or go anywhere or talk to anyone.
I wrote my journal entries and tried to keep my sanity while traveling with my husband, the newly diagnosed sex addict. I was also dealing with the barrage of phone calls from the stalker, and a downright legitimate fear for my safety and the safety of my family. I can hear the old whore cackling right now thinking about how she messed with my mind.
So, as I am glancing through this old Newsweek article, it became obvious to me how much power an article like this has on people who have no other exposure to sex addiction. The article has a photo of a guy in cowboy boots with a gal, in fishnet stalkings, on his lap. Provocative photos are very common in articles about sex addiction. Instead of making it clinical, they want to make it sexual because… yes, you got it, it garners more readers. The anonymous stories in the article are about people who are clearly way out of control. They bring up Grindr and Ashley Madison. They talk about the movie, Shame, and I quote: “However powerful and queasy Shame’s odyssey into full-frontal debasement may be, the film only begins to tap into the dark realities connected with sex addiction.” They quote Robert Weiss as saying, “They end up losing relationships, getting diseases, and losing jobs.” Which is absolutely true, but what they don’t say is that there are also guys out there who are medicating old wounds with sex, who are coping with their lives with illicit porn, masturbation, cyber chat rooms, etc… who do not lose their jobs and who keep it a complete secret for decades. The reality of the situation is there are all kinds of sex addicts, but what is fed to the general public is this idea that the addict is out of control, which is exhibited in over sexualized out of control behavior like having sex with a prostitute in a dark alley, or publicly getting a blow job in a gay bar, or ending up destitute on the street on food stamps, and people get it in their heads that anything less than that is a lie. That rich guys with jobs are just using sex addiction as an excuse for cheating.
And here we go again with people talking about Tiger Woods (from the article):
Here’s what the experts will tell you that sex addiction is most decidedly not: a convenient excuse for sexual indiscretions and marital truancy. Chris Donaghue, a sex therapist who hosts the show Bad Sex, says Tiger Woods, for example, does not qualify as a sex addict, despite his well-documented sexcapades and treatment at a Mississippi rehabilitation center specializing in sex addiction. “Because he didn’t honor his integrity and marital boundary does not make him an addict,” Donaghue says, adding that people will say, “ ‘Because I get in trouble, because I cheat, I’ll just blame it on sex addiction. That’s my get-out-of-jail-free card.’ ”
Contrast Woods’s wild-oats sowing against the experiences of Harper, an Atlanta-born television executive who found himself caught in the grips of sex addiction for four years. After joining an online dating service, Harper fell into a pattern of juggling multiple relationships, sexting incessantly and focusing almost singlemindedly on hooking up. He discovered he could usually get his partners into bed on the first date—sometimes within the first hour of meeting. “And these weren’t desperate women,” he says.
So, Chris Donaghue decides he is qualified to pass judgment on a man without ever having met him, without treating him, without knowing what was going on inside Tiger’s head when he left his gorgeous wife and two adorable children in his mansion to go have extramarital sex with a stripper or a waitress in the front seat of their pick up truck in the parking lot of a dive bar? Mr. Donaghue does not actually state why he thinks Tiger is not a sex addict. I can only assume because Tiger is wealthy and a celebrity, that he doesn’t get the same level of compassion. But why? If anyone grew up in a fucked up house with absolutely unreal expectations of him, it was Tiger (in my opinion). I don’t see how this guy’s contrasting story proves that that guy IS a sex addict. These articles are shallow and designed to get people to read about something that is at the same time titillating and disgusting. We are all so much better than the people in these articles, right?
You see, diagnosing a sex addict is a complicated process. I can speak to it because I watched Blue Eyes go through it, numerous times, over weeks and weeks and with multiple specialists. Pages and pages and pages of questions about his childhood, his habits, his feelings, his behaviors, his beliefs. Multiple questionnaires and in-person diagnostic appointments with trained therapists. His regular therapist, who came free with Blue Eyes’ bar fees (so there was no real incentive for him to diagnose Blue Eyes with anything… he could sit in his office alone all day and still get paid), and who had seen Blue Eyes for years, since his brother’s suicide, had started directing Blue Eyes gently towards sex addiction materials even though Blue Eyes had divulged very little about his sexual acting out. As he got to know Blue Eyes, he could see that there were compulsive behaviors being used to medicate old (and new) wounds.
So what was my “aha” moment? I realized after reading this article that this is what a lot of people are educating themselves with regarding sex addiction and it hurts more than it helps because this article is designed to get readers, not to really educate people. Therefore it lacks the substance needed to help people understand the addiction. Don’t get me wrong, there is good information strewn about in the article, but the stories are a very small sampling of what a sex addict really looks like. I have received comments on my blog about how Blue Eyes doesn’t sound very much like a sex addict, but merely a run of the mill cheater. Mainly because he didn’t lose his job (well, he is self employed), he didn’t lose relationships over this (he came pretty damn close, still might) and he is not destitute on the street. Now I realize where all this is coming from, not from real life, but from one off articles strewn about the internet.
I can assure you, after speaking with numerous wives of sex addicts and after Blue Eyes’ involvement in a 12 step group for over two years, that the people left destitute on the streets living on food stamps, is a distinct minority. There are men in huge debt from mortgaging their houses to pay for prostitutes, but most have lucrative jobs. Most of these men are comfortably middle class and were able to keep their secret lives secret for many many years. Their drug ranged anywhere from obsessive porn viewing, online chat rooms, one night stands (usually while traveling for business), prostitutes, massages with happy endings, to full blown affairs. What drives each individual sex addict is unique, but the underlying commonality is that they kept their addictive lives secret, they lived with guilt, shame and regret. They thought they could control it, they would never do it again, but they kept doing it despite the potential, or actual, consequences. They knew it was wrong, but they just couldn’t stop, until they admitted who and what they were, and they got help.