One Woman’s Perspective on her Sex Addiction and Recovery

The  following is an interview with a woman who self-identified as being in  recovery from a sex addiction.  She is in her 40’s, professional, and  married with children.  She asked to remain anonymous for the sake of  her privacy; she used the pseudonym “Nora.”  I asked her about her  addiction and about being a woman and sex addict.  I began by asking her  to describe her sexual addiction:

Dr. S: How would you describe your sex addiction?

Nora: At this point in my recovery, many previous problematic  behaviors have dropped away, leaving only the core of my addiction –  which started in early childhoodmasturbation with disturbing fantasy.   So in describing my sex addiction, I would say that I have been able  to let go of all my problem behaviors without great difficulty but  struggled to achieve abstinence with masturbation with those  fantasies.  I am currently sober and have been for some time, one day at  a time.   My addiction started in early childhood, and later was  obscured by the acting-out I was doing with men.  But it was all deeply  influenced by the control and rage-based fantasy world which started in  my childhood.

// Dr. S:  How did you know it was an addiction?

Nora: I was unable to stop my behaviors on my own.  I would  make promises to myself to stop having one-night stands, unprotected sex  and falling in desperation (love) with unavailable men.  I would be in  one desperate relationship, and cheat on that person, intrigue with  other men, or cheat on him in my fantasies, and go from one bad  situation to the next – from my teens until my late 20’s.  I started  therapy because I was terribly unhappy, and early-on in treatment my  therapist told me to go to Al Anon because I had a family history and  relationship history being with others who struggled with alcohol and  drugs.  I began understanding I was a co-dependent but I wasn’t able to  yet accept my own sex and sex and love addiction issues.

Dr. S.: What made you accept that you were powerless over it/that it was an addiction?

Nora: Accepting my powerlessness has come in stages in my sex  addiction recovery.  About a year or so into individual therapy my  therapist, who had already told me to go to Al Anon, next told me I  needed to go to SAA [Sex Addicts Anonymous].  I was angry and refused.   I am surprised that somehow I didn’t quit therapy.  But later I was a  bit more open because I could see my inability to stop acting-out  sexually and with love addiction.  I hit bottom.  Prior to my bottom, I  was sure I had met the love of my life: a seminary student who was  moving out of the country in a week.  I was certain I would be able to  convince him to stay and be with me!  When he left and I never heard  from him again I came crashing down.  I remember looking around and  seeing natural beauty, and happy people, and I was miserable.  I  remember thinking that I had to quit these behaviors and get a grip.  I  went into to therapy deeply humbled and told my therapist I was going to  go to SAA meetings.

Dr. S.: What made you feel like you needed recovery?  What did you do for recovery?

Nora: I went to SAA.  Unfortunately I didn’t continue to go to  Al Anon.  I didn’t understand at the time the struggle I had with  co-dependency was as serious as my sex addiction problem.  I was still  confused and thought that now that I was in SAA that would take care of  everything.  Of course it didn’t and later I realized a lot of my  inability to get completely sober in SAA was because I wasn’t working on  my co-dependency.  After a while I returned to Al Anon and remain in  both programs now.  I am not in AA but I understand from AA friends who  also go to Al Anon they consider themselves “double winners”.  I hope  that is true for me as well.

Dr. S.: What have you come to understand are the origins of your sex addiction?

Nora: I believe that its origin was in my early childhood.  I  was raised by two parents both with significant mental illness.  My  mother had a severe anxiety disorder and my father struggled with  depression and rage.  There was a tremendous amount of tension, rage,  and fear present at all times in my family.  My father had been a war  veteran and it was only later in his life that I suspected he likely had  PTSD.  He was also a high functioning alcoholic.  He was terribly  violent and for some strange reason, I took on the role of standing up  to him and often bearing the brunt of his violence while no one in the  family stepped-in or defended me from it.  So I was an extremely angry,  fearful, and anxious kid.  I think my anger saved me but it became  eroticized and the root of my sex addiction.  I had all this anger  directed at wanting to save my mother and defeat my father.   I was  never going to let a man or anyone have power over me and I was never  going to let anyone’s anxiety intrude on me – at least that was my power  fantasy, which of course isn’t – and wasn’t – reality.  I wanted to  have power over men and women.  And in my mixed up thinking thought I  could do that sexually.  Unfortunately my concern about power was not  just with men but in all areas of my life and these issues kept me from  being close and intimate with family, friends, and my partner.  At its  root, I was terrified of intimacy.  My “savior” anger has probably at  the same time turned out to be my worst enemy.  It remains a central  part of my recovery work today.

Dr. S.: What made your recovery different as a woman than  it would be for a man?  Why do you think more women don’t get help for  their sex addiction?

Nora: I think that some of the differences have been that  there are far more men in [SAA] meetings than women.  There have been  more women who identify with the “love addiction” side of things and  sometimes I feel they don’t recognize that “love addiction” is often  eroticized fantasy of power and that has to do with sex as well.  I  sometimes feel isolated and alone, and that there still is as much  social stigma about women being sex addicts as there has been  historically about women being open about having sex.  “It’s just not  done.”  I see all the statistics that show women are becoming addicted  to internet porn in larger and larger numbers, but I am not seeing these  women in my meetings.  It makes me sad.  I have seen a tremendous  increase in attendance in the conference call, women-only meetings but  perhaps that still suggests we women are afraid to go to face to face  meetings?  I am glad for the support of the conference call meetings.

Dr. S.: Have you had any relapses?  How do you think about relapse?

Nora: If you are referring to my inner-circle, or bottom-line  behaviors, I have had no slips in areas such as sex outside of my  relationship, affairs, and intrigue.  But I have had slips with  masturbation and fantasy.  Sometimes I understand the slips and  sometimes I have to work to get it.  I have done a fair amount of  therapy and work the 12-steps and understand that I have to practice my  program, one day at a time.  I don’t believe I can promise never to have  a relapse, and that is not about having one foot out the door or making  excuses.  But I think with regards to my core sex addiction, if I stop  taking care of myself and/or stop working my program, I can find myself  in trouble.  Sometimes I feel I am in my addiction even though I am not  acting-out.  This is when I have lost my grip on the “here and now,” and  I confuse where I am powerless and where I have power.  If I think I  can deal with my addiction or stress by myself, then I am in trouble.  I  know I am powerless over addiction, so one day at a time makes me more  responsible to do everything I can do to stay honest and work the steps  and choose to bear the hard stuff that I used to act-out over.

Interests and Behaviors in Sexuality

Sexuality ContinuesSexuality between consenting adults is a natural and healthy experience and expression of sexual involvement.  It is important to view sexuality positively; respecting and accepting  diverse values and beliefs.  Individuals, communities, and society reap great benefits when  attitudes of tolerance and acceptance of sexual preference is openly discussed.  Internal and external peace are exuberant and social connection harmonizes.

Attractions, desires, fantasies, and life choices vary from person to person and understanding the fluidity of the life cycle and personal choices can unite us.

Sexual preference transforms in various forms such as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, fluid, and queer.  There are also several types of sexual activity and classifications; for instance sexual intercourse, oral sex, mutual masturbation, S&M, bondage, and tantric.    These identities are valid and completely normal.  It is just as typical to be attracted to both genders, engage in heterosexual and homosexual activity as it is to be attracted to just one gender.  It’s a matter of genetics, personality, personal choice, and can even change over time.  It is fluid and evolves as we change throughout our lifetime.  It is an individual predilection and genetic make-up that cannot be affected by the influence of others.

Sexual identity naturally changes as our drive and desire transforms as much as humans logically change over time.  It is dependent on our psyche, life experiences, self exploration, belief systems and personal acceptance.  What attracts us and arouses us is extremely variable. At various stages in one’s life, a person may identify as heterosexual, only to get to a point later in life where they can acknowledge that they are also attracted to members of their own gender. At that point, they may decide to identify as bisexual.

Similarly, someone who has identified as gay might discover that they are attracted to someone of another sex, and their self-identification may change because of their experience. It is common and not strange or uncanny to change sexual identity.  Sexual attraction is a personal endeavor and cannot be converted or influenced by anyone else.  Biology, physiology, and psychology components make it difficult to change an individual’s sexuality.  Gay or lesbian sexual orientations cannot be transformed to heterosexual and vice versa.

Sexual studies have proven that people’s sexual attractions and sexual identification cannot be changed by peer or societal pressure. It is an assumption that everyone is born heterosexual, and that it takes an experience with someone who is already gay, lesbian or bisexual to “convert” a person to being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Many gay, lesbian, and bisexuals are aware that they have non-heterosexual attractions from the age of three with no adaptation or sexual experiences necessary.

Bisexuality is having the ability to find people of more than one sex attractive.  It’s the capability of being attracted sexually and/or romantically to members of more than one sex. You don’t need to have had sex with someone of the opposite sex to be a heterosexual, or to have had sex with someone of the same sex to know you are a homosexual – you just know what you like and what you find attractive. If you know that you find people of more than one sex to be eye-catching and sexy, you may call yourself bisexual, whether or not you ever have sex with partners of more than one sex.  It’s all a matter what we accept about ourselves and our willingness to express it within our community or to society. Bisexuality is also varied in terms of attractiveness.  Some people find themselves equally attracted to men and women, but many bisexuals find that they are more attracted to people of their own sex, or more attracted to people of another sex. It’s a matter of identifying what group or particular community; straight/heterosexual or queer/homosexual you can relate to most.   The attraction to one or more genders is proportioned differently for each person and can change with time as well. A person may be attracted to one sex forty percent of the time, and members of another sex sixty percent of the time when they are sixteen and then change at the age of thirty-five to seventy-five percent and twenty-five percent.   Bisexuality is not an excuse or a prerogative to have sex with whomever and whatever you want at any given opportunity.  Bisexuals are not sex fiends and just as normal in their sexual frequency as homosexuals, heterosexuals and other Trans identity.

Bisexuals may even be celibate.   Bisexuals in conjunction with any other kind sexual identity have a variety of kinds of relationships over the course of their lives; from one-night-stands to long-term, committed relationships, and they are just as likely to be responsible, loving, faithful partners as anyone else.   Bisexuality doesn’t mean you must have a male and a female partner to feel fulfilled. While some feel best in unconventional relationships where they have more than one partner of whatever sex or gender; it’s not a requirement for being bisexual.  Bisexuals have the same feelings and emotions as all humans.  Persons who consider themselves bisexual bond, fall in love, and have committed relationships.  And like everyone else, bisexuals are capable of being fulfilled or unfulfilled in their relationships dependent on the health of the relationship. Being bisexual doesn’t mean you are hiding the fact you really are gay or lesbian.  It’s still as difficult to pass or identify yourself as gay, bisexual or transgender in our society.  Heterosexuality is falsely accepted as the norm.

People of bisexual nature are not the same as individuals who consider themselves straight.  It may be confusing at times to see a person romantically involved with a person of the same sex and then a few months or years later romantically involved with a person of the opposite sex.   There shouldn’t be an automatic assumption that same-sex partners are gay and a bisexual person with an opposite-sex partner is straight.  A bisexual person doesn’t change their identity from gay or lesbian to heterosexual, they are bisexual consistently.

Having sex with a person of the same sex, doesn’t mean you are gay or bisexual.   The way you choose to identify yourself is up to you. The only person who can determine personal labels is you.

Be realistic and truthful about what that may mean for you in terms of knowing how to have safer sex with someone of the same sex as you.  Bisexuality is not the determent to spreading STI/HIV/AIDS because people of such orientation have sex with homosexuals and heterosexuals.   Sexual preference is not the culprit; unprotected sex with infected partners and passing it to an uninfected partner is the origin of the problem.  It is the responsibility of each person to be honest, conscientious and make healthy sexual choices.

Mother-Daughter Relationships

While searching the internet on mother-daughter relationships I was drawn to an article on, “Mother-Daughter Envy: Truth or Fable?” by Dr. Terri Apter.  The article mentions viewpoints throughout history from Helene Deutsche to Rebecca Walker and her perspective on the “Electra Syndrome” and Dr. Phyliss Chesler.

Helene Deutche obtained her doctorate in psychological medicine in a time when women rarely were granted to chance to achieve higher education.  In 1925 she wrote the first book by a psychoanalyst on women’s psychology; “The Psychology of Women’s Sexual Functions”.

The book and her work were influenced by her studies with Freud and her personal conflicts with her mother.  She felt problems are caused in women from a variance between narcissism and a mother’s love.

Like Freud, her theoretical model for female development presumes women must compensate for their lack of a penis; penis envy.  She emphasizes feminine masochism, passivity and gives a biological basis to these qualities.  Her theories seem to put the stamp of inevitability on self-denigrating female behavior and thus to justify women’s oppression throughout history.

Next in the article, Rebecca Walker’s perspective on the Electra Syndrome is explained.  The Electra Syndrome is a Freudian concept that a girl, like a boy is originally attached to the mother, however during the psychosexual developmental stage she discovers she lacks a penis and becomes libidinally attached to her father.  She imagines being impregnated by him while she becomes hostile toward her mother.  According to the theory, penis envy leads to resentment toward her mother, who is believed to have “castrated” her.” The hostility towards the mother is then later revoked for fear of losing the mother’s love, and the mother becomes internalized.

Dr. Phyliss Chesler argues double standards still exist in mental health and illness and women are often burdened with labels of gender, race, class, or sexual preference.  She is an activist for women’s rights, equality and studies women, culture and their affects upon society.

The article expresses unique viewpoints on mother-daughter envy and it brought forth memories of my own experiences with my mother.  As a child, I felt as if I could never satisfy or please my mother.  There was a constant struggle to receive love from her.

I was also jealous of the attention and dedication given to the men in her life.  She catered toward their needs, foregoing her own desires, identity and I felt like an afterthought.  She easily became angry with me; perhaps through her own lack of central identification and self-love.  Whatever the reason, I became the source where she relinquished her frustrations.   She reacted with demeaning words, uncontrollably slapping me in a circular motion, hitting me with her shoe or even throwing the drink from my hand in my face.

As I became a teenager, I grew beyond my years.  I looked like I was eighteen when I was thirteen.  I was tall and slender with full, voluptuous breasts.

My mother aimed to protect me even though I felt berated for the way I dressed.  A daughter’s public exposure and repudiation of her mother is still prominent even in these modern times.

I dressed like any other teenage girl, but well-endowed features made it appear as if I was initially dressing scantily.   As we walked down the street, drivers periodically drove by yelling cat calls.  My mother shamed me into thinking their behavior is demeaning and men yell at any woman who dresses like a slut.  She said, “It isn’t any indication that you are attractive; they look at you as a piece of meat.”  I felt I had done something wrong when in fact I was innocent.  I was naïve but I wasn’t initially going out of my way seeking attention by men.  Her reaction made me think I was the one at fault and I behaved badly.

I didn’t see it at the time but as I look back, she was envious.  She disguised the envy with displays of protectiveness, tenderness and love.  She had a strange competitiveness that led her to undermine me as almost every turn.   She feared my sexuality as she was resentful of my own pleasure, admiration and fun.  She certainly had concerns about sex and sexuality.  She conveyed the message “You are a strong, young woman but you are unaware of your vulnerability.”  It was a combination of maternal protectiveness yet jealousy of my youth and her traditional, old-fashioned values to deny and suppress female desire.   She was a big advocate not to have sex outside marriage even though she lost her virginity outside her first marriage at the age of nineteen.  She was a hypocrite in her preaching and value system.  Her actions did not follow her teachings.  As I matured, I looked at things in a more realistic manner and tried to understand what was right for me.

She did encourage masturbation and exploration of your body.  It went against her traditional value system, but a good lessoned I have learned as I explored my own sexuality as an adult.  Self-exploration brings awareness and an ability to communicate what you like when you are finally in bed with someone whom you care about.  You are then able to share your desires openly, confidently and sensually.

The article offered different perspectives on the relationships between a mother and daughter.  The dynamics can sway between a mother’s good intentions, personal regret, lack of personal identification and oblivion to her own emotional input to her daughter’s well-being.   Mothers may envy their daughters’ youth, sexuality, ambition, and freedom.

On the other hand, a daughter may feel negative emotions of envy, criticism and shame toward her mother and/ or her accomplishments.  It is difficult when conflict or condemning viewpoints exist between traditional and liberal values or variances of both.

Regardless both are detrimental to the relationship.  The mother- daughter relationship is critical and influential in both women’s lives.  It reflects and measures self-love, self-worth, acceptance and tolerance of others and respect and open mind for unique perspectives.  Their relationship is extremely impactful throughout their lifetime and affects adult relationships, intimacy and connection.  The ability to let go and forgive each other and establish your own self-worth can create the kind of relationship warranted beyond their own.

Building Blocks for a Successful Relationship from Meeting to Marriage

I came up with an eight step system for individuals looking for a long and lasting relationship.  After much personal experience, observation and research, I have discovered these steps provide a greater chance for a lifelong partner versus just a one night stand.  These steps are not ingrained in stone and there are certainly rare and wonderful cases where a one night stand can turn into a successful marriage.  However to increase your chances, I have determined these steps provide the proper criteria and mind set for marriage.

Building Blocks for a Successful Relationship from Meeting to Marriage

First Three to Six Months

1.  Meet

  • Encounter at work, school, gym, grocery store, running/ walking club, art/ writing class, workshop, or any personal interest group.

2.  Establish a Friendship

  • Treat each other as buddies.  No pressure for sex and truly get to know the person without expectations for the future or external demands.  In this type of relationship, you are permitted to be yourself and learn each other’s character, values and beliefs.

3.  Set Boundaries and Stand-up for your principles and viewpoint

  • Be willing to end the relationship if they aren’t met.   You may be surprised how the relationship turns for the better after someone takes a stance if there is something special brewing between the two of you.

Six to Nine Months

4.  Continue to build boundaries; working on polite yet assertive communication.

5.  Respect

  • Respect naturally forms if there is admiration and deference toward each other.  Appreciate signs of mutual respect such as thoughtfulness, consideration, politeness and respect of privacy.  Small considerate actions mean the most.

Nine Months to a Year

6.  Love is revealed

  • Revel in your love, tender affection and romantic desires and longing for each other.

Year to Two Years

7.  Persevere the relationship

  • Steadily persist in consistent thoughtful actions toward each other despite problems or difficulties if they exist.

8.  Marriage

  • Make a 100% Commitment.  Be willing to work and give the relationship hundred percent; through thick and thin; the good and the bad times. During difficult times, look for the positives and enjoy your spouse more each day. You may be pleasantly surprised how your spouse responds; naturally reacting nicer.  An amazing transformation will eventually occur, illuminating happier times together.
  • There is a remarkable difference between a commitment of 99% and 100%. At 100%, you are seeing your problems all the way through to their solutions. At 99% we can still find a way to take the path of least resistance…and usually do.

Sex is not a Relationship

Sex is not a relationship.  Sex is a physical, biochemically driven act.   There is no evidence that chemicals are released in a woman’s brain that initiates a bonding with a man she has sex with.  Both sexes can form bonds from sex – or not – depending upon circumstances.  But the choice to employ intellect and see the act as purely pleasure, purely physical is a quality humans possess; otherwise each sexual liaison would lead to a relationship.   Taking it from there, relationships form from time spent with someone where spending that time together results in a mutual desire to spend more time.  It’s over time that a bond grows, not in an instant (or 30 minutes of sex).   Sex can be great (even better) when there are no strings attached.  Most men understand this too.

Our emotions come into play when we are feeling “underpowered” such as when we are sick, stressed, etc.  At those times we can view sex as an emotional event, when we are not already attached emotionally to the person, because we need and want the emotional support.  At those times the touch of another human can be comforting and soothing and make us feel (mistakenly) that we are emotionally attached (or could be) to the person providing it.

Many marriages are engaged in for this reason and then end (badly) because the two people find out later that they were just looking for a “port in a storm” and mislead themselves about their feelings.

Getting back to the “friendship rules” concept, it is completely true that a relationship is dependent on the many things that happen before and after sex – not on what happens in bed.  If we like the person, enjoy their company, conversation, value system, etc. then we can become “close” to them.  Sex can add to this but cannot make up for its absence.  We must learn to be friends and then a relationship builds.  Women need to understand this so that they can expect less and, thus, be hurt less.

See the world and its realities and the road to happiness is paved with a surface of realism.  There is great value to sex and the value of a good relationship and know that they are separate things.

Monogamy

Monogamy is marriage to one person at a time or the practice of having one sexual partner. The modern world has presented so many choices and opportunities to connect and reconnect, venturing into matrix’s never conceived possible.  All the options can be overwhelming, confusing and exciting at the same time.  Is there a right or wrong anymore?

As humans evolve, we are more open-minded and willing to experiment to find the right answer as individuals not as society dictates.  History has presented the case that traditional methods may not be natural or provide the best solution for a happy couple.

The definition of monogamy strikes me as being quite hypocritical.  If you are truly ‘monogamous’ doesn’t that mean you are committed to the relationship through thick and thin; no matter the circumstances.  Thus divorce is not an option. If that is the case, divorce and affair statistics indicate the majority of humans are not monogamous.

My grandparents are a typical example of a monogamous relationship.  They married as virgins in their mid-twenties and remained together for over fifty years.  In the beginning, they shared a loving relationship, sleeping in the same bedroom, engaging in passion and giving birth to two children as my grandfather worked for AT&T his entire life and my grandmother remained home while she raised the children.  The roles were defined.  My grandmother nurtured the children, cooked all meals, and cleaned the inside of the house.

My grandfather worked during the day, washed the dishes after dinner every night and took care of the outside of the house on the weekends; mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, painting the exterior, and fixing any broken appliances.  He also ensured the American flag was positioned properly on holidays and times of mourning.  He took great pride in his country and taking good care of the flag was part of our family.

As time progressed, my grandparents moved to separate bedrooms and I really can’t recall them being affectionate toward one another.  It’s as if they just became roommates; not necessarily even friends.  I remember a lot of fighting, bickering and bantering.  They tolerated disrespectful and demeaning behavior from each other.  It was just the way it was.

My parents on the other hand lived a different lifestyle.  Since they came from difficult childhoods, they clung onto their first love, married soon thereafter, gave birth to me, divorced, and continued their quest for love as they married and divorced repeatedly.  They moved from one city to the next living the life dictated by society in hopes of fulfilling their personal voids.

My Dad is single and now searching for his fifth wife.  My Mom is on her fourth marriage and called me after one month of dating and stated, “I am getting married!  We are having the reception and wedding at Millerridge Inn in July, we are going to St. Lucia for our honeymoon, I want you to be my Maid of Honor, Carrieann is going to be my Bridesmaid and the color of the dresses are mint green; I already picked the style of the dress.

I was in shock after only dating for a month; she is getting married and knows all the details of the wedding.  I thought, did you two get to know each other or just discuss the details of the wedding for the past month.  Anyway, I have no reason to judge as long as she is happy at least for the next six years that’s all that matters.

The ‘new’ definition for monogamy should read, stay married to one person as long as the love and lust lasts and then you are free to divorce.   My parent’s history shows monogamy lasts for six years and then it is time to find a new person.  Is that really monogamous?   Is that true commitment?

Now that I have witnessed two generations of bad relationships, I’m wondering is monogamy natural.  It appears I am not the only one thinking this as I read many articles, studies and meet friends who are willing to experiment.  They set their own rules.  Some engage in full intercourse with others and some just flirt or share fantasies or dirty talk with others.  As long as the couple is open with their communication they are happy to allow their partner to interact with others.

Personally I find the later healthier than the two scenarios depicted by my grandparents and parents and couple’s who stay married but have affairs on the side.  At least the younger generation is willing to expose their personal desires and aren’t afraid of judgment or cynicism from other’s.  That takes great strength and confidence; two things I greatly admire.

Hello world!

Welcome, this forum is a place to openly discuss psychology issues, sexual fantasies, desires and realities in a safe and anonymous environment as I share coaching topics, educational material, and spiritual teachings.

Femmevolution is dedicated to empowering women and men of all diversities, bringing social, economic, educational, and spiritual justice to the under served.  Through coaching, education, and counseling services my mission is to increase women’s self worth, their right to have and determine choices, access to opportunities and resources, control of their own lives, and influence the direction of social change.  As women evolve, it liberates men to learn spirituality, feel safe to express their feelings and emotions, and foster better relationships.

My goal is to ensure mutual respect and equality between the sexes. As independent individuals, we are able to make our own decisions based on personal values. The key is to be aware of your behavior, your reaction to the consequences and be secure in your decision without fear of judgment.  This takes a great deal of confidence and self-assurance achieved through mirroring, validation, and empathy from others and accomplishing personal and professional goals.