In 2014, I spoke with Dear Miriam from The Irish Farmers Journal and Irish Country Living about the issue of Sexual Addiction and how to get help.
‘I’m an addict living a double life and I feel so alone’
I read your recent column about living with addiction with great interest and intrigue. I don’t live with an addict, but could relate to what some of the people were saying.
The addiction that everyone is most familiar with is that of alcoholism, but people are not so familiar with other equally destructive addictions, such as food, work and gambling. Then there is the addiction I am battling with: it is that of sex addiction. Many will think this to be farcical, but in reality it’s not – it’s an addiction. When one is addicted, they are not in control, which in turn leads to the addiction taking over that person’s life – that is where I am.
I have numerous partners every week and I frequent places that I know I shouldn’t. I know what I am doing is wrong, not only for myself, but for everyone around me – for the hearts that I break, never allowing them to see this side of me, cutting them out of my life if they get too close. But I continue to do it, telling myself I will stop time and time again. I lead a double life. I live away from home and I don’t have one friend outside of work, which makes me a very lonely person. Because I prioritise my addiction, it rules my spare time.
I have now started to seek counselling because I want to stop, but even she tells me it will never completely go away. Am I going to be like this for ever? Will I grow into a lonely old person with no one noticing when I die? What would my family think if they knew? I have so many worries going round in my head every day, sometimes I feel so lost. I’m in my 20s and successful with my career, but my life is so empty.
Thank you for your letter. On your behalf, I have made contact with Orlagh Gahan, a psychotherapist at The Centre for Sexual Addictions in Dublin (www.centresexualaddictions.com) which provides one-to-one confidential and non-judgmental counselling/psychotherapy for those struggling with potential sex and pornography addiction, as well as to their loved ones.
As you rightly say, sex addiction is by no means “farcical” and, according to the centre, is a real and growing issue. As with all addictions, an unhealthy relationship with sex is developed as a form of coping or self-soothing. Though, unlike alcohol or drug addiction, sex (like food) is a basic primal drive, therefore making recovery slightly more complex yet absolutely attainable.
Of course a big problem is the stigma and lack of understanding attached to addiction, which can see people isolate themselves from their loved ones – a scenario that you describe in your letter.
It’s often this “shame barrier” that prevents people reaching out for help, but the fact that you have already started to seek counselling is a massive step and one that you should be proud of. However, if you feel you are not being sufficiently supported by your counsellor, it’s worth finding a counsellor who does have experience in psychosexual or addiction issues.
The centre advises that through appropriate counselling, you should get the emotional support you need to explore the addiction cycle, triggers and behaviours, as well as relapse prevention and recovery techniques. I know you fear that this problem will overwhelm you, but by getting the right support and learning to reconnect with yourself, you can overcome destructive or addictive behaviour and become capable of great things, including re-engaging on an emotional and intimate level with loved ones, thus reducing your sense of loneliness and isolation.
This addiction is only one small aspect of yourself and through counselling, commitment, support and personal understanding, a healthy balance and a healthy sexuality can be restored.
So please, remember you are not alone. Reach out for the support that you so deserve. I wish you the best of luck.