Sex & Love Addiction
By Jasmin Rogg, MFT
“I think that guy had a gun. I’m glad he left.”
“I was sitting in the bathroom at the Hudson, peeing. I was so tired. My stilettos were digging into my feet in the worst possible way. My silk Diane Von Furstenberg dress was wrinkled from being worn for 13+ hours. The wool Max Mara coat I had on hung loosely on my nearly anorexic frame. The Prada bag I had been carrying lay in a puddle. I looked at my phone. No new messages. 1 a.m. To my left sat a half finished bottle of Amstel Light that someone else had left behind. I contemplated picking it up chugging it and bringing to an end the two and a half years I had been sober. Ugh. You. Disgusting. Fat. Whore. Really? Amstel Light? No one loves you. You can't even find anyone to sleep with. You suck. People you slept with don't even want to sleep with you again. You're awful. And hideous. And now. You are going to drink someone's half finished cheap beer like a homeless person in a dive bar. Ew. Get. Up. And go. Home. Now! So I did. I don't feel well.” ~quote by a beautiful 23-year-old woman
He never laughed and he barely smiled, a grin perhaps, for cover. He went through the motions, where his activities in this impoverished little world of his were repetitive and ritualized, and he would employ people (often for money) to forget the misery for a moment and relieve himself. It was not about relating, loving, caring, or sharing fun, but rather performing a function, where bodies were revealed, while the souls remained hidden, an interchange of physical signs; of aliveness without any indication of emotion in spite of the smell of despair, expressed by shamelessness and irresistible motions.
She was young and pretty, with an intricate design of paling scars on her arm. Without prior notice (and against his will), she insisted on imposing herself into her brother’s life and apartment, the last person she had left in the world. She sang with heartbreaking soulfulness into the microphone and left pleading messages on the telephone to some lover, where she puked her insatiable and bottomless neediness into the receiver. No one was left to listen and so she would resume cutting herself and enforce some care of some kind. Nothing left to lose but some blood.
As little children they were sexually abused, and thus abandoned. Sexual abuse always means utter abandonment by father and mother – which are rendered useless in the face of such experiences, where the child has to find a way to survive on her own, somehow, with injuries. No matter whether the parents are the perpetrators or powerless extras – they are not supplying desirable role models for adulthood – the mastery of life is not to be learned from them. No consolation to be had. Happiness seems lost forever. The child learns to be a sex object, and more attractive than adults at that, and the future is lost. They think, “I am worthless” except, of course, for my ability to provide this service, as long as I am young. They take it on – faceless participants, sometimes in dark alleys with strangers, and inevitably encounter survival issues. Numbed out from the post-traumatic stress, indifferent to fate and physical intactness, they identify with the role – lifeless, emotionless, incapable of self-protection, self-care, and self-love. They are lost in a dark and meaningless world, unengaged in life pursuits, convinced of their own cynicism, stuck in emotional paralysis, shut down to the colors and sounds of life and love – exposed.
He is the blowfish – tattooed, pierced, muscles pumped, seducing a stream of replaceable “chicks” to service his needs on a physical plane, he tries to show that he is bad-ass, numb to the neediness of the inconsolable little boy inside that wants to cry for his mommy who died when he was little and left him at the mercy of his violent alcoholic father. He is decided not to show his vulnerability (ever again…). He has sacrificed his development to the illusion of safety behind aggressive posturing and over-identification with more or less adolescent behaviors, and so… he has become his father, dedicated to causing pain to others, during sex and otherwise. He wants to think that he is safe in that role, but really, his aliveness merges into the playing of a role. He is a fake.
She had not known it then. Her mom worked and went to school. Many endless, lonely days were spent in fear until she came to understand that mom would come back in the end. The loveless days were burnt in her brain with experiences not meant for little girls. She could not name these things that took place. Her mom never noticed why she resisted daycare (mom was busy and impatient). As an adult she repeats it again and again – a repetition compulsion where she is trying to undo what they did to her by seeking sexual embraces, where she gets to feel powerful for the fleeting moment where she is the object of desire. It can’t be mastered and she cannot stop herself. Actually, she adds more trauma. She says, “All men are pervs” and “I am shit.”
The compulsive pursuit of sex and love in all the wrong places, like all human behaviors, is meaningful. It expresses a purpose where a memory, trauma, or mental construct is communicated – a part of self that seeks expression, to be acknowledged and understood.
It is in our human nature to bond with each other. Such attachment means “I can trust someone to carry me to safety, even when I’m broken.” Sex and love addiction is a symptom of attachment disorder – the addict doesn’t trust anyone. She runs from intimacy, but seeks intensity through unavailable partners, who are also addicts, mentally ill, or otherwise problematic. There is a failure to bond expressed in obsessive-compulsive attachments to random and exchangeable objects. She tolerates things she shouldn’t tolerate. She seeks comfort or at least a little tension relief, and forgets about the past and the future.
Ultimately, there is no good alternative to wholeness. Every single one of us deserves healing – reintegration of injured parts of self. Once we realize that we cannot ever disown these aspects, even if we don’t like them, it’s about uncovering what we tried to forget and recovering what we sought to lose.
The exit of existential discomfort can be found – paradoxically – once we give up the frantic search for a way out. Hope appears by offering it to others. It’s all about endurance and kindness. There is nothing better than making peace with one’s own truth and rewriting one’s story with a happy ending.
“Come on, heartache, sit down.” – lyrics, Billie Holiday