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It is quite possible to be addicted to sex, in the same way that one may be addicted to drugs. Drugs work because they are artificial versions of substances our brains naturally produce, and are wired to react to. The drug ecstasy is thought to closely mimic the rush of brain chemicals produced when humans engage in sexual behavior.

Addictions have a psychological as well as a physiological component, however. The primary identifying characteristics of any addiction include:

  • escape from/medication of/comfort for the pains of life that are not properly dealt with
  • a perplexing loss of personal control
  • a personality divided between the "normal" self and the "addict" self (the addict has a "secret life")
  • a blatant disregard for the consequences of one's actions
  • a progressive nature (a.k.a. "I used to do a little but the little wouldn't do it so the little got more and more")

Sex addicts are typically highly intelligent and creative people, precisely because of the mental chicanery we must engage in to delude ourselves and rationalize our insane behavior. It was truly a zen moment when I realized that my brain itself was defective and thus I could not "think" my way out of my problem, I had to "act" my way out of it.

That's where the twelve steps come in. It is not necessary to comprehend how they work in order to work them and see the benefits. This is difficult to believe, particularly for someone who has the personality of an addict! Addicts who are still in the midst of the delusion are touchy, self-centered, and proud. This mental warping of reality is why the disease is so cunning, baffling, and powerful, and why someone must hit "bottom" in order to admit the problem.

Familiar examples are Marv Albert, Bill Clinton, your friendly neighborhood dad busted for solicitation, the Catholic priest scandal, or the church-going man with a computer full of jailbait pictures. Many addicts consider the police or FBI their friends for helping rescue them (not at the time of the arrest, but much later!)

I regularly attend meetings of Sex Addicts Anonymous and, based on my experience, recovery from sex addiction is possible for anyone who earnestly desires it. I know many men who lost marriages due to extramarital affairs and prostitutes, or who have molested children and gone to prison, who have recovered and have years of sobriety. One man I know and love like a brother has 12 years of sobriety, and I myself have experienced a period of 5 1/2 months.

The twelve steps are simple, but FAR from easy. On the plus side, recovery means MUCH MUCH more than simply not masturbating compulsively in front of the computer or making obscene phone calls. For addicts, it is a completely different way of life that leads to true serenity and happiness that transcends anything we could have comprehended previously, and makes the prospect of returning to our former lives incomprehensible.

Being a queer dude, this was never hard. At the time, just then an adult in 2000andsomething, most of us thought marriage equality wasn't at all sure to happen in our lifetime; the dominant narrative on gay-identifying men was that we'd sleep around. That was sort of the space society had for us. And it's really hard to know when you're acting how you are because it's how you want to act or when you're acting how you are as a performance, but I like to think it was the former.

Only how I wanted to act was pretty toxic. Merlin told us that power is like money: You can usually get it if you're competent and it's the only thing you want in your life. Same thing with sex. There's this whole narrative about how getting laid is some kind of challenge, but that hasn't been true at least since the advent of the internet. You can always do it. If it's your scoreboard you're interested in, it's free to find a partner. And you can have a good time with that partner. There's nothing wrong with each individual act, and there isn't even anything wrong with them taken together, depending on how you took them together.

But there's something wrong with ignoring your professors because you're browsing Adam4Adam. And maybe sex was just the excuse; maybe today I'd just be browsing reddit or imgur instead of Craigslist. But I knew about E2 back then, and I wasn't browsing E2, even though abstractly I liked it more. Sex is a powerful motivator, an easy ego booster, and the narrative of difficulty surrounding it makes it a hefty shortcut when you've found the tools to make it easy to find. It lets you feel cool. It lets you feel powerful. It lets you feel edgy. And it lets you feel good, in a visceral, physical sense. And it can be dangerous, particularly if you're bad at playing safe, which I particularly was.

This is in no way to denigrate what I guess we call "hookup culture." Not in general. Sex is good; celibacy is bad. But that's like saying "Food is good; starvation is bad." Abstinence is the counterpoint not to a healthy sex life, but to sex addiction. I'm a person for whom sex became an addiction, and the only way I knew to get out of that was to go cold turkey. Just yesterday I opened Adam4Adam again, as I do now and then, as I used to many times a day, and saw some 20-year-old whose profile read, "I'm now HIV+ thanks to a guy I met on here." I shivered. There but for the grace of Eris go I. It can be very empowering, fucking a bunch of strangers. But you need to look after yourself. And in terms of not being inclined to look out for yourself, screwing three strangers a week is on par with doing a line. Feeling empowered disguises powerlessness.

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