Until a few days ago, I had never heard of Sex and Love Addiction.
I had heard of Alcoholic Anonymous and Al-Anon. I had even heard of Adult Children of Alcoholics. In fact, I can remember sitting with my little sister, coloring with crayons while our older brother attended AA meetings and our mother attended Al-Anon meetings. Our absent father was too busy drinking to attend any meetings or even to be a part of our lives; that might play some part in my issues with men.
My family is full of addicts, but I figured that I was the lucky one. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t do drugs. I have a two drink limit because any more than that makes me feel ill. Marijuana makes me feel anxious and paranoid, so I simply don’t indulge. I tried smoking cigarettes many years ago but it never ‘stuck.’
My drugs are sex and food. I have been treated for both bulimia and anorexia (ten years apart), but I never considered that my sexual relationships might actually be an addiction… until very recently.
Search for: ‘sex addiction’
I thought to google ‘sex addiction’ after a particularly repugnant binge of Craiglist sex-acts. This manic sex binge was triggered after a pretty typical first date with a man I liked ended with sex and then the guy ignored my text the next morning. Though he replied later that evening, by then I had already met up with two different strangers from craigslist, neither of whom I found even remotely attractive.
My Google search led me to the website of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, where I printed out the list of Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction. Reading over the list, I decided to highlight whatever that might apply to me and I jotted down some notes.
As I read through the items one by one, my paper became wet with neon-yellow highlighter ink:
Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction
1. Having few healthy boundaries, we become sexually involved with and/or emotionally attached to people without knowing them.I always imagine I know them, even when it’s only been a few days… or hours.
2. Fearing abandonment and loneliness, we stay in and return to painful, destructive relationships, concealing our dependency needs from ourselves and others, growing more isolated and alienated from friends and loved ones, ourselves, and God. Yeah… ‘codependents R us.’
3. Fearing emotional and/or sexual deprivation, we compulsively pursue and involve ourselves in one relationship after another, sometimes having more than one sexual or emotional liaison at a time. As much as I fear being cheated on, I always have one or more men ‘in the wings’ so that I won’t have to be alone whenever the current relationship ends.
4. We confuse love with neediness, physical and sexual attraction, pity and/or the need to rescue or be rescued. Yes. ‘He needs me!’ Or ‘He wants me so bad!’ Or-barring that- ‘Maybe he’ll see how vulnerable and scared I am and won’t abandon me?’ I fucking hate myself right now.
5. We feel empty and incomplete when we are alone. Even though we fear intimacy and commitment, we continually search for relationships and sexual contacts. I try to enjoy being alone, sometimes preferring it…but I always end up ‘giving in’ and seeking out intimacy, but I oftren prefer ‘single serving’ intimacy with a strenger or a new person… probably because it’s easier to project whatever I want onto them and I don’t have any obligations to them and I can easily ghost them.
6. We sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing care, and support. Ha! Like how I feel a sharp sting from even a HINT of threatened rejection and I go and find a way to numb my brain with sex or exhibitionism?
7. We use sex and emotional involvement to manipulate and control others. I think I may do this, but it’s not as easy to identify and own. I think this might be like when I call up an exboyfriend and get back together with him when I’m feeling lonely, only to break it off again when I feel smothered a week or two later.
8. We become immobilized or seriously distracted by romantic or sexual obsessions or fantasies. All. the. time. Since I was 10 years old. Ugh!
9. We avoid responsibility for ourselves by attaching ourselves to people who are emotionally unavailable. Falling in love with a guy I met on an airplane and dating him long distance for 6 months until he came to my state? Check! Falling in love with a surgeon in Mexico and dating long distance for 8 months until he wanted to move here? Check! Living with an alcoholic who cheated on me with his secretary? Check! Marrying a man who cheated on me when we were living together before we were married? And who then cheated on me again 6 months after the wedding? Check! I LOVE emotionally and geographically unavailable men!
10. We stay enslaved to emotional dependency, romantic intrigue, or compulsive sexual activities. FUCKING CHECK.
11. To avoid feeling vulnerable, we may retreat from all intimate involvement, mistaking sexual and emotional anorexia for recovery. At times, I withdraw almost completely. In the last few months, I deactivated my Facebook account, quit my job to go back to school online, changed my phone number and gave no one the new number, and spend hours a day in the bath.
12. We assign magical qualities to others. We idealize and pursue them, then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations. Story of my life.
© 1990 The Augustine Fellowship, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Fellowship-Wide Services, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Am I a sex and love addict?