It wasn't about sex. It was about control and power.
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 was always different sexually, and it was a problem from a very early age. Of course I didn’t think of myself as an “addict” for quite a while — that took a few decades of my life being a disaster. I could tell a lot [of] stories about what I was doing, but I’d rather just say I was really screwed up.
This wasn’t about sex, although I did enjoy that; it was about control and power.
At one point I was married, having sex with three women at work, and telling two of them I loved them. To you that might seem horrible, or it might seem exciting. I don’t know. To me it was like walking around electrified, all day, and all night long. I would have sex with at least two women a day, sometimes four, and when I found time in between, I would beat off. It was a wild ride.
It might go without saying, but this caused problems in my life. I had numerous opportunities to stop taking this scene further, but I kept pushing it to the bitter end.
And that is where what the professionals call the “addiction” part comes in. I did things sexually, over and over again, that completely fucked up my life. Acting in the way I did gave me a huge rush, an enormous shot of dopamine. Later, I would feel shame, depression and anxiety over my actions, and the only thing that would make me feel okay again was the rush I got from doing crazy shit sexually all over again.
And I couldn’t stop. No matter what happened, no matter how bad things got, even when I lost marriages and then homes because of my infidelity. I could never keep a job because of my sexual behavior. Instead of stopping, I was getting further into it, going into darker and more depraved places.
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, because what else could I do? But I didn’t want to do inpatient. Being locked up with twenty other guys like me for thirty 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.
They 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.” You can’t change a lifetime of compulsive behavior by hanging out in L.A. for two weeks, going to groups in the day, and eating sushi at night with a bunch of other addicts.
Though my behavior seemed under control, my thoughts, fantasies, and impulses remained the same ones that had been roiling my brain for the last thirty years.
Naively, I had thought that after two weeks of treatment they would be gone. But the only difference was that now, when I did something, I really felt like shit about it. At the end of two weeks it was obvious I wasn’t ready to deal with real life yet. 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 shithole. We had to go to bed at a certain time, we slept on crappy beds, we couldn’t leave the facility, we had roommates. 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 who had the same problem; he had just come from prison, too. There was also a millionaire who had slept with thousands of people, from anonymous guys in subway bathrooms to beautiful female models. And a male nurse who went to sex clubs and screwed ten guys a night. It was hardcore.
I hated it there; it made me uncomfortable. I did things I didn’t want to do and dealt with issues I didn’t want to face, but, in the end, I did begin to change. 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.
That was seven years ago. It is still a struggle of course. I am still me, I still get turned on by the same things. It isn’t that I don’t have sex anymore. I do, and I still have the same kinks. Writing about it helps. I recently wrote a book called Raping the Gods that tells the story of an out-of-control sex addict.
In my 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 just stay honest with people in my life and let them know who I am. And I don’t cheat on my partner. The thought of doing the things I used to do is thankfully no longer a turn on.
Brian Whitney is the author of Raping the Gods: A Tale of Sex and Madness, available at Amazon now.
This article was originally published at Em & Lo. Reprinted with permission from the author.