Addiction? Compulsion? Excuse?

I thought sex addiction was an excuse, not a real disease. Cheat on your spouse? That’s okay because you can’t help it if you’re a sex addict. Surf Internet porn day after day? Not your fault when you’re an addict.

That’s baloney, of course. It is your fault if you cheat. It is your fault if you surf porn. And neither of these are necessarily addictive, just like getting sloppy drunk and puking doesn’t make you an alcoholic.

To truly qualify as an addict you have to do it over and over, which sounds a lot like a compulsion. But people do a lot of different things that qualify as sex, and they do them over and over. For example, you can be a married heterosexual man and have vaginal intercourse with your wife twice a week. You can crave it, enjoy it, plan for it, and think about it, and NOT be an addict.

So to truly, truly qualify as an addiction it has to be compulsive AND destructive. And here’s a tip: feeling like shit afterward counts as destructive, whether you’re gorging on a gallon of ice-cream or masturbating.

When . . .

You want to stop,
You need to stop,
You can’t stop
You don’t want to stop
You need to stop, etc.

You’re an addict.

In my own recovery trying to define my behavior has caused me a fair amount of grief because the treatment is different depending on what’s wrong with you, at least that’s what I thought. If I was sick I needed medicine. If I was bad I needed to become good. And if I couldn’t become good, I needed to at least remove myself so as to avoid contaminating my family.

And here’s where the label of addiction really helped me. I went from a bad person who couldn’t be good to a sick person who had to care for herself in particular ways in order to maintain health.

Speaking of which, let me just say that when you’re twisting like a worm on a hook, miserable but unable to stop, miserable but unable to understand WHY you keep doing what you’re doing even though it makes you so miserable; you can look like a seriously wrecked human being. My abusive therapist got the ball rolling with his diagnoses of borderline personality disorder. But when I got to treatment, I got the works: all three major personality disorders (borderline, narcissistic, and antisocial) plus a mood disorder (major depressive).

*Note to treatment facilities – when the diagnosis is given by an abusive therapist, it probably has more to do with the therapist than it does the patient.

Of course none of those diagnoses were correct. I was reeling from a seriously messed up relationship with a therapist I had trusted to help me make sense of a strange reaction to converting to Catholicism and an inability to stop masturbating. I was suicidal and clinically depressed. I was suffering from acute post traumatic distress syndrome which was exacerbated by a panic disorder.

And that, my friends, is the downside of going to rehab. They will view you through a particular lens, and sometimes that gets in the way of seeing what’s actually there.

The upside of rehab is that you go from being bad to being sick. And trust me, that linguistic difference is huge. Even though they got my diagnoses wrong, I got better. There were regular meals and exercise along with therapy that wasn’t abusive. And given a safe place with caring individuals that are competent therapists, my mind healed.

I healed! How cool is that!


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