by Brian Whitney
I don't like calling myself a sex addict. When people hear that term most of them tend to have one of three reactions.
Some people think sex addiction doesn't exist, that it is just a made-up term to excuse bad behavior. A second group thinks that a sex addict is a crazy, out-of-control freak who thinks of nothing but getting laid every second of every day. The third group thinks it sounds fun: "What are you complaining about, man? You get laid all the time and you think it's a problem?"
I could tell a lot stories about what I was doing, but I'd rather just say I was really fucked up. My major issue was infidelity. I was often involved in three or four different relationships at once. I got an enormous rush from having multiple sexual partners and lying to all of them. This wasn't about sex, although I did enjoy that; it was about control and power.
And I couldn't stop. No matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, even when I lost marriages, homes and jobs because of my sexual behavior. Instead of stopping I was getting further into it, going into darker and more depraved places.
But to many people the thought of going to rehab for such a thing still seems bizarre. It seemed bizarre to me, but I went anyway. In fact, I went to two rehabs in 2007.
First I had tried finding help locally. I live in Maine. If my problem had been booze, meth or Oxys I would have been all set. But no one within 100 miles of me specialized in sexual compulsion or addiction. So I would have to travel.
I didn't want to do inpatient. Being locked up with 20 other guys like me for 30 days sounded like hell. So I chose a place in Los Angeles that did intensive outpatient work: I would stay in a hotel for two weeks, attend groups and individual counseling all day, go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings at night, and after two weeks I would come home, cured.
Just taking that step was dramatic. When you fly across the country and spend thousands of dollars to get help, there is no pretending anymore. The days of rationalizing my behavior as merely hedonistic were over.
In LA I became part of a group of four guys who would spend the next two weeks together. One guy had a fiancée and would go to Thailand and bang underage prostitutes. A second guy, who was in the military, gave all his money to a dominatrix; this made his wife mad. The other married guy liked prostitutes and porn. Then there was me.
We became relatively close. For two weeks we went to group all day, then to an individual session with a therapist, then to a meeting, then went out and found a cool place for sushi with the dudes. At night we would go to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, where we had the opportunity to see famous actors who were as fucked up as we were.
Part of being an addict of any sort is that you think if anyone knows what you are really like, who you really are, they are going to hate you. Why not? My whole life I felt weird; I sure as hell hated myself. And there is no treatment that in two weeks is going to get you off that train. Especially when you are going out for sushi every night.
I did find the therapist helpful: She called me on my shit -- she didn't let me cry and complain how hard it was to be hurting everyone and lying and stealing all the time. But the groups were just a lot of sitting around, talking things out and secretly thinking how messed up everyone else was.
The focus was mainly on "sobriety" -- total abstinence from any arousal. I was expected to go from "acting out" all the time in dark and depraved ways to living like a saint: no drinking, no fucking, no manipulating women, no beating off. They even wanted me to stop smoking weed.
There was no way any of that was going to happen.
They also tried to integrate our families, girlfriends, ex-wives and so on. At the end of the second week they all flew out, to meet with us and see how we had progressed. The answer to that question, at least when it came to me, was "not much." At the end of two weeks I didn't feel any different than before. So it was off to Philadelphia for a month of inpatient.
This was an entirely different scene: It looked and smelled gritty. This wasn't a pretty place in Arizona where we climbed mountains and did equine therapy. It was in a ghetto. We had to go to bed at a certain time, we slept on shitty beds, we couldn't leave the facility, we had roomies. It was like a minimum security prison for people who did weird things.
The people were different here as well. Their problems were more serious. My roomie was straight out of jail for exhibitionism. There was a former NBA player in there who had the same problem; he had just come from prison. There was also a millionaire who had fucked thousands of people, from anonymous guys in subway bathrooms to beautiful female models. And a male nurse who went to sex clubs and banged 10 guys a night. It was hardcore.
Individual counseling didn't really exist there -- in one month I had two sessions. Here "treatment" was all about beating you down, and making you address, in group, just what a shitheel you were.
We had to write about everyone we had ever hurt -- this was called a "victim list" -- and read it in front of the group. We had to work on letters to our girlfriends and partners, telling them everything we had ever done.
We went to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings in Philly, too. But instead of mixing with movies stars like in LA, we were pulling up in a van to a church basement in a poor part of town. The people in the meeting seemed sad and hollow.
There were about 15 of us at the Philly rehab, and two cliques developed rapidly. There were the guys in prayer group who were working oh so hard to get better. Then there were the guys outside smoking cigs and cracking one another up. I fell into the latter group. The NBA player and I temporarily became best buds. I can't find him now; he has dropped off the earth.
The stress was unbelievable -- not only the stress of doing the work and just being there, but the stress of admitting that I was an actual "sex addict" and so ridiculously messed up. I counted those 30 days off like I was in jail.
The things we talked about would be mind-blowing to the average person. Some guys would cry a lot, some would brag. We talked about sex all day, every day. I can only speak for myself but believe me it wasn't a turn-on. It was numbing.
In the morning we went around and introduced ourselves by saying what our problems were: "Hi I am Brian and I am an addict. My bottom lines are no sex with people outside of my relationship, no lying to and manipulating women, no booze, drugs and masturbating."
The next guy would be a handsome businessman type with a nice haircut: "Hi, I am Clint and I am an addict. My bottom lines are no sex with people outside of my relationship, no voyeurism, and no breaking and entering."
Then on to John, a creepy overweight guy who kept trying to hug me: "My bottom lines are no sex outside of my marriage with men or women, no videotaping my stepdaughter in the shower, no incest porn." On it went, day after day.
On the final day they do a ceremony for each person who completes the program, but I skipped it. I took a cab to the train station and hopped a train home. I didn't want a celebration of my accomplishments. After a total of six weeks of treatment I didn't feel very different at all. I just wanted to go home.
But surprisingly I did change after those experiences seven years ago -- at least for a while. I stopped having affairs and acting out in other ways, and I went on with my life. I got back together with a woman I cared about.
But even though my behavior seemed under control, my thoughts, fantasies and impulses remained the same ones that have been roiling my brain for the last 30 years. Naively, I had thought that after six weeks of treatment they would be gone. But the main difference was that now, when I did something, I really felt like shit about it.
By 2009 I was back doing the same thing, lying and manipulating to get what I wanted in the same old way. I let the same people down -- but this time they were not so forgiving. I lost everything all over again.
Lately, in my late 40s now, I feel different and, dare I say, better. Over the past year or so there has been some change. I don't hate myself so much. I keep the darkness off to the side. I am honest to the people in my life, as much as I can be, about who I am.
I believe that some of my recent success can be attributed to rehab. There is no doubt in my mind that I desperately needed some sort of pattern interruption, and treatment did that for me. But I also know that I am doing better in large part because the entire experience of rehab was so horrible that I never want to relive it.
Brian Whitney, a pseudonym, is the the author of 37 Stories About 37 Women and Am I Pleasing You, and the co-author of books written with adult film stars Porsche Lynn and Rebecca Lord. This is his first piece for Substance.com.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-477-8191 for Sex Addicts Anonymous.