By Vince Shifflett
According to Psychology Today, an addict is someone who engages in the use of a substance or behavior repeatedly. They exhibit out of control and compulsive involvement despite the negative consequences. I am a sex addict and have been for most of my life. I have never actually admitted it, so this is very challenging for me to talk about. I have always been afraid of judgment by others, so I kept it quiet. Today I speak out about my addiction. IMedicalNewsToday.com reports that 12-30 million people in the United States experience sexual addiction. Hopefully, by sharing my story, it will help someone who may be suffering from sexual addiction as well.
There are many addiction types such as addictive, compulsive shopping, eating, alcohol use, using drugs, gossiping, TV, and the list goes on. You can become addicted to anything. Again, it is compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli. An addict will risk everything they have, including their life, to support, finance, and participate in their addiction. Looking back, I have risked all of those things for my addiction to sex.
In this article, I will talk about my sexual addiction and how I have worked to get control of it. I must admit, it takes constant awareness and work for me to stay more centered and not allow my sexual addiction to control me.
We are sexual beings, and we should embrace that part of us. After all, none of us would be here if it weren’t for sex. Like anything else, however, it can become an addiction. There are multiple sex apps, spas, sex shops, sex video booths, a stroll in the park, Starbucks, gyms, and many other avenues to connect and have sex. Hooking up to have sex is as easy as swiping to the right on your smart device.
Where does sexual addiction come from? The real cause in the literature is unclear. We do know that sex causes a release of a chemical in the brain known as dopamine. Dopamine is also known as the feel-good chemical. Addiction, in general, can be used as a substitute for any and everything. For me, it feels like being hooked on a drug that’s always available in unlimited supply.
Compulsive masturbation, persistent use of pornography, failure to resist sexual impulses, cybersex, voyeurism, and lewd sex acts are some of the classic symptoms of sexual addiction. It is a highly dangerous and destructive condition. Like alcohol and drug use, it affects mental health, physical health, and personal relationships. It has certainly affected my personal relationships. The infidelity, hiding, secrets, and the sneaking around all led to painful break-ups and an unhealthy mind.
Is having a high sex drive pathologic? What defines high sex drive versus sexual addiction. After all, isn’t that most guys default setting since we always seem to be thinking about getting busy.
Growing up gay in a small rural town in Virginia led to feelings of isolation and disconnection. I carried those feelings into my adult life and temporarily resolved those feelings by acting out sexually. It felt good to be held, loved, and to experience the awesomeness of sex with another human. It led to compulsive behavior and became a craving of sorts.
I have discovered that, for me, sex was a form of acceptance. Having battled with depression, it was also a form of connection. It was that instant feel good and feeling of being wanted. It was a substitute for love.
I have since come to realize that sex only brought me very temporary relief from my loneliness and feeling of being disconnected. A few minutes of pleasure was just that—a few minutes of pleasure. Afterward, I was right back to feeling alone and disconnected until my next sexual encounter.
I’ve lost many friends due to their addiction to sex. Yes, like any other addiction, it can cause death. At age 57, I am finally taking a look at some of the deeper things in my life, asking the hard questions, and coming face-to-face with my reality. I am also at a place where I no longer beat myself up for my addiction. Instead, I am making more of an attempt to understand it and work to take control of it. It starts with understanding. Understanding where it came from—understanding why I feel the need to be compulsive with sex. And, most of all, understanding that I am worthy of more. I am worthy of real love and intimacy. I certainly have not found that in the bathhouse, sex shop, or online apps.
The more I love myself, the less I need sex to fill a void and make me feel wanted.
So, what do you do if you feel you’re out of control with sex?
There are treatment centers and self-help groups in pretty much every city. There is Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous that follow the same 12-step program as Alcoholics Anonymous. Then, of course, there is also meditation, energy healing, counseling, and prayer. For me, a combination of all of these has helped increase my awareness and, more importantly, my acceptance of the addiction.
Free yourself from addiction in an effort to live a healthier life physically, spiritually, and mentally.
Vince is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, Author, and Speaker. You can follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram as well as on his website at www.vinceshifflett.com