Informal interview with Los Angeles journalist Jason Stafford covers some FAQ bullet points re: sex and love addiction and recovery…
Publicly exposing yourself the way I have — the unvarnished truth way, that is, as opposed to the Chat Roulette way — also exposes a gal to certain risks. When my blog posts get picked up by AOL, for instance, six or seven hundred strangers leave angry comments accusing me of being an immoral, selfish slut. And calling me “selfish” really wounds me.
I just remind myself that these are the same women who cheered for the adulteress Carrie Bradshaw to get back together with the adulterous Big, and that they’re probably not mad at me in the first place. They’re mad at the husband who betrayed them/ mother who abandoned them/ father who broke their heart. I try not to take it personally.
Most of all, I remind myself that they’re not who I’m cracking my chest open for in the first place. I’m doing it for people like Miss J of… let’s just say a popular Midwestern state, from whom I received the kind of letter that makes the ALL-CAPS SCREEDS on HuffPo worthwhile.
J. says: I felt compelled to write to tell you I just finished reading LOVE ADDICT from cover to cover for the third time. It was — I guess you could say a relief to learn that there is a name and explanation for what has been my so-called “lovelife.”
I am single again at 50. I have had four marriages plus countless engagements and exes in my past. Although I’m not an athlete or rock star, my number of sex partners are closer to the four-digit number than the three digit. I would never say I was a real beauty — I was just good looking (and sexy) enough to catch almost any eye I wanted, and catch I did. I was a master at flirting and the high I got from it would match the best high from any drug around. My friends compared me to Blanche on The Golden Girls and, more recently, Samantha on Sex and the City. I never apologized for it.
That was me. I could tell you about the “love of my life” — he had a wife and three children. Or the gorgeous lifeguard on St. Thomas, almost 30 years younger than me. At least I sent that one away! I have slowed down, a little, but it’s still there. That never-ending quest for the feeling of infatuation, whether short-lived or not…. there was no name for it - until now.
I am going to Alaska this summer. Am I going to stare at Mt. McKinley? Not so much. I’m more excited at the prospects of saucy Alaskan men to flirt with, you betcha. I know that might sound desperate, but I shouldn’t be desperate. I have a job, many friends, a close family, and a beautiful daughter… even a grandson that my heart bursts with love for. Yet the addiction for that feeling of infatuation, or as you say “limerence,” still consumes me.
Thank you again for a very enlightening, funny, and well written book. Best to you - J.
Okay, maybe it isn’t as wholesome as the math teacher who does it for the excitement a kid feels when he finally understands long division. Or as graceful as the ballet teacher who stumbles under the weight of two-dozen long-stemmed thank-you roses. But when someone puts down my book and announces “My name is J. and, damn it, I’m a Love Addict…” well, my eyes just well up with tears.
What can I tell you? I’m an immoral, sentimental slut.
Craving is a hunger so deep no amount of ANYTHING will truly fill it. But we love addicts keep trying, and trying, and trying…
Some symptoms of sex and love addiction aren’t so bad - mainly, the sex and the love. Some symptoms, however, suck suck suck. This is the worst: Withdrawal.
My long response to the good doctor will be up on The Fix, or HuffPo, or maybe the Studio City Patch. Journalism has become a crazy party game of late, something between Pin the Tail on the Donkey and throwing copy into a large fan and waiting to see where it lands.
Anyhow, David Ley is the psychologist who makes his living denying that there is such a thing as sex addiction. His new book is called The Myth of Sex Addiction, and his latest article in the London Telegraph is being widely spread by the large fanblades.
I can — and do — delineate the scientific problems with his thesis, but the main problem I have is with Ley’s logic. He falls prey to what’s known as the Deductive Fallacy. He posits that those who believe sex can be addictive are moralist anti-sex bible-thumpers, and therefore should not be taken seriously.
Here’s the thing. Just because moralist anti-sex bible-thumpers believe there is such a thing as sex addiction, does not mean that people who believe there is such a thing as sex addiction are moralist anti-sex bible-thumpers. It’s like saying that because Crips wear blue t-shirts, if you wear a blue t-shirt you must be a Crip. Junior high school kids in L.A. have gotten shot over that particular deductive fallacy.
I am not anti-sex; I love sex. (References provided upon request.) I have never read the entire bible, much less thumped it. Addiction is a health issue, not a moral one — although people do some pretty heinous things to satisfy their compulsions, whether for sex or gambling or alcohol or prettied-up-in-pink-bows romance. IMHO, slashing your ex’s tires is an immoral act. Sue me.
BUT…just because sex an be addictive doesn’t mean that everyone who has sex — even a lot of sex — is an addict. AND… just because reigious fanatics counsel sex addicts, doesn’t mean all sex addiction counselors are religious fanatics.
You’re a doctor. Apply some scientific rigor to your arguments.
Like Saturday Night Live’s original oversharer Stuart Smalley, I claim membership in more than one 12-step group. Unlike Stuart’s alter ego, I will probably never become a U.S. Senator. Of course, it was improbable that Al Franken would become a U.S. Senator, so who knows?
But back to the 12-step groups. A few decades of listening to people “in the rooms” — a concept so different from the television industry’s expression “in the room” I can’t even begin to tell you — I have noticed a few patterns. If you are getting clean and/or sober from drugs and/or alcohol, for example, recovery has some chronological benchmarks. I shall now overshare about some of them.
The first comes at around six to nine months, when the exhilaration of waking up rather than coming to fades and trudging a road of happy destiny suddenly sounds… trudgy. Its theme song is “Is That All There Is?” and it’s usually cured by one good hangover.
The next is usually at around 13 or 14 months of sobriety, when we discover that a one-year anniversary is not, after all, a golden threshold to a new world of riches and joy. For most folks, this sounds like “Where’s my great job/big house/nice car? Why even bother?” For love addicts, it looks like a 16-year-old waiting for someone to invite her to the prom.
To make it over that hump, I suggest quitting smoking.
Then there’s the two-and-a-half year mark, which I call the “What’s It All About, Alfie?” phase. This is characterized by cries of ”I don’t know who I am!” and “Oh my God, I’ve gained fifteen pounds since I quit smoking!” I have found working steps four through seven remarkably effective in getting over that hump. (If you are not already familiar with the Twelve Steps, they can be found here: http://www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf)
But the real doozy seems to come around six or seven years in. It’s no surprise that most AA meetings are bottom-loaded with people in their first five years. Not so many folks in the double-digits. Maybe it has to do with cellular renewal. Maybe it’s a Saturn return. Maybe it’s the alcoholic equivalent of the Seven Year Itch.
I’m going with the itch.
Caveat: When Ethlie starts talking about maintaining romantic relationships over a span of time, always consider the source. Ethlie has, so far, proved incapable of maintaining a romantic relationship over a span of time. That being said, I notice similarities between sobriety and relationship. Think back to your serious love affairs. If it made it past six months — a big if — the next minefield is usually two and a half years. “Am I in this for the long haul?” “Is it time to fish or to cut bait?” In sobriety, that means finishing steps eight through eleven. In relationship, someone gets pregnant.
Then comes year seven. Seven is when you’re so uncomfortable in your skin that you would just as soon take a potato peeler to your forearm as tell someone how you really feel. Seven is when you get loaded. Seven is when you commit adultery.
There are options, of course. Some people join a second or third twelve-step program — Alanon, or Overeaters Anonymous, or SLAA. Some people go to couples counselors. Me, I usually get a divorce. I’m working on it, though, awkwardly and in public. If Stuart Smalley can do it, so can I.