Sexual Addiction A Cultural Epidemic
Written By: Mark Smith
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Our phones have been kept pretty busy these days with an explosively expanding client group–sexual addicts and their families. You have read about them in the newspaper, heard about them in the neighborhood, and unfortunately, many of you have been eyewitnesses to the terrible destructiveness of this addiction in your own personal lives with family members, friends, or co-workers. They come from every walk of life: the schoolteacher who molests a student, the actor arrested in an X-rated movie theatre, the salesman who is obsessed with on-line pornography, the husband who goes to topless bars, the boyfriend who runs up thousand-dollar telephone bills to sex talk services, the basketball player who contracts AIDS through groupies, the high-profile business man who gets arrested in a car having sex with another man, the sportscaster who is arrested for sexual assault, the successful doctor who gets arrested for sexual contact with teenage boys, the wife who has a series of affairs, the famous minister caught visiting prostitutes, the couple who ends up divorced after experimenting with an open marriage, and even a former President of the United States named Bill.
In this article I will attempt to explore and discuss answers to the following important questions: Why do we seem to hear about these incidents of sexual acting out more and more frequently? What is sexual addiction versus just a normal, healthy, zest-filled interest in the God-given gift of sexuality? And finally, what can the sexual addict and his or her significant other do right now in order to avoid losing marriages, ruining careers, getting arrested, wasting limited financial resources, or risking public embarrassment?
I believe that sexual addiction is on the rise because sexual materials are so much more readily available now through the Internet, pay-for-view movies, chat lines, cable, etc. Men who would never frequent an adult bookstore can get enough porn to fill a bookstore in the comfort and anonymity of their own home. The unbelievable power of the Internet makes it almost unfair for struggling sexual addicts to stay sober. They are no match for its power. After listening to my clients who are sexual addicts share about their struggles, when I finally got on-line about a year ago I truly was concerned that naked women were going to pop out of my computer every time I turned it on. I haven’t had one pop out yet, but my guys tell me it is just because I don’t know or care to know the places to log on to. The problem of sexual addiction is huge and it is only going to get larger as technology increases.
What is a sexual addict anyway? We aren’t suggesting that every man who does a double take when a beautiful woman walks by is a sex addict. God made men to be visually stimulated. We aren’t talking about a super human level of false morality that suppresses the fact that we are sexual beings. I will share five characteristics of sexual addiction that I have noticed to be present in various degrees in almost all sexual addicts.
#1 Obsession. Sex addicts use sex to medicate feelings and to alter their moods. When an alcoholic gets depressed, he drinks. When a sex addict gets depressed, he gets on-line or he masturbates or he has” a woman. He probably doesn’t even recognize his depression for what it is, as he so quickly turns to his drug” to cover it up. He isn’t having a relationship with a real person; he is ingesting a substance. It begins as a curious interest in what types of sexual materials are available on the Internet and eventually turns into an obsession that takes the addict away from his feelings and away from an intimate, loving, accountable relationship with his wife. It happens so slowly that he doesn’t even notice, but she notices. His main relationship is with his drug of choice–selfish isolated sex.
#2 Loss of control. Eventually a sexual addict gets out of control. He spends too much time on it. He spends too much money on it. He betrays his wife. He degrades himself. He gets arrested. He loses his job. He loses sleep to it. He indirectly hurts his children because he can’t truly be there for them in this addictive state. And yet he many times still contends that it is not a problem. He thinks about it all day long. It is the most dominant, exciting, and stimulating thing in his lonely life.
#3 Relationship problems. Sexual addiction causes severe relationship problems. It tears people away from people. People need love, intimacy, and a sense of family and community. However, for many men, they have been taught to bury their neediness, their emotions, and their humanity extremely deeply. They aren’t mere weak humans; they are competitive, driven, strong, money-making machines whose goal it is to feel in control at all times. They tend to select women who are too passive when push comes to shove. Many times sexual addicts also have work, money, power, alcohol, drug, and control addictions as well. With such men or women, many times healthy neediness gets replaced with a counterfeit form of neediness–sexual addiction. Healthy neediness includes needing emotional support, encouragement, empathy, as well as sexual intimacy. They don’t notice the lack of emotional intimacy in their marriage as long as they are having sex frequently. The problem for them is that eventually their partners shut down sexually due to the lack of closeness and intimacy. That is how God made women to operate, unless they have their own sexual addiction or unless they are too powerless to stand up to their sexual addict. These addicts then blame their partners for the sexual distance, and then develop a sense of entitlement to further indulge in their sexual addiction. She isn’t taking care of me, so that is why I have permission to have sex with other women.” Divorce, isolation, depression and loneliness are the ultimate consequences of such a self-centered non-intimate lifestyle.
#4 Secrecy. Sexual addiction lives, breeds, and grows best in the darkness of secrecy. I frequently hear from my clients about their experiencing double lives–being very upright and moral on the outside while being completely given over to sexual addiction in their inner lives. Recovery from sexual addiction begins when the addict opens up and shares his secrets. Many times, in order to have the humility and brokenness to finally open up, the sexual addict must hit bottom by experiencing painful consequences. Secrets have a way of eventually coming out in the wash anyway. People are who they are, and eventually who we are is made known. There is great healing and forgiveness once a sexual addict begins to open up, tell the truth, and be accountable.
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