I had it made. I was a successful physician. I had a great practice, good friends, hobbies, and my health was good. I had a loving wife, grown children and even grandchildren. I wasn’t wealthy, but I was financially secure. One cold December night that all changed. “Who is this woman?” my wife asked while showing me a computer copy of a picture. Of course, I lied and tried to come up with excuses why the picture was on my computer but it didn’t take long to realize that I was busted. I confessed that I was talking with women online and even exchanging pictures with them. I had discovered Craigslist and was mired deep in emotional affairs with women I had never met in person. That scenario occurred several years ago, and my life has changed quite significantly since that night. Oh, I had been caught before more than once watching pornography on the computer. I was even seeing a therapist occasionally regarding my “obsession” with looking at hard core pornography on the internet. I didn’t give much thought to it being wrong to watch pornography or even to email with other women as long as I didn’t meet up with any of them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My therapist had done lots of work with the Missouri Physicians Health Program, and I was familiar with their program because in the past I had used them when I was Chief of Staff to help with a couple of physicians involved with substance abuse. I talked with Bob Bondurant and decided to go for inpatient treatment for sex addiction. Sex addiction? What the…..! Sure I had heard of sex addiction, but I wasn’t a sex addict was I? Yes, I was, and am a sex addict.
I stopped smoking the year I started medical school, I stopped all alcohol over 20 years ago, but breaking the hold of sex addiction is so much harder. During treatment, I admitted things to myself and others that I had never told anyone. I told of being molested by two of my uncles when I was very young. I told of having a lifelong obsession with pornography and masturbation. I was raised by a very young mother who turned my day to day care over to a very crusty grandmother who talked openly about sexual things as though I was a small adult. Men’s magazines belonging to my uncles were left around the house and I hid and looked through them as often as I could. I seemed to be knowledgeable about sex as far back into my childhood as I can remember.
As I grew, I was obsessed with women and fantasized constantly. I had the usual high school crushes and had sex for the first time in high school. I married at age 22. I always had men’s magazines hidden around the house. I lived a life of secrecy regarding my need to look at the magazines and masturbate. After a few years, I was divorced and lost my children. I soon remarried and continued my constant need for pornography and masturbation. That marriage lasted for many years with me having multiple affairs and going alone to medical meetings where I would meet partners when I was out of town. That marriage also ended and I married a third time. This wife discovered the picture on my computer. Are you seeing a pattern here? It certainly wasn’t the women, it was me causing the problems in my marriages.
Thank God for MPHP and my therapist recommending that I go for treatment. When I came home from treatment, I thought that things would be fine. But, things fell apart quickly when my wife decided that she could not stay married to me after years of my secrets and not knowing the real me. She filed for divorce and moved out. That put me on a relapsing spiral of pornography, Craigslist affairs and escorts. Fortunately, some sense was instilled in me at the treatment facility and I started going to a treatment group affiliated with the MPHP. It was very helpful and got me back on the right road. I also started going to a group meeting that was just for sex addicts. I remain with that group to this day. The group gives me great solace.
Everyone understands drug addiction or alcoholism, but little attention is given to sex addiction. The most recent DSM doesn’t accept it as a diagnosis. Listen to me when I tell you, it is real! It has cost me thousands of wasted hours, marriages, and time with my children not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars. I am certain that sex addiction will become more prevalent as time goes on. It has been said by Dr. Patrick Carnes that “the internet is the crack cocaine of sex addiction”. It is easy for young or old to find any erotic venue that interests them online. Reality can never keep up with the fantasy that can be conjured up with just a few key strokes. But, fantasy is very unreal and if your mind is healthy, it is not the joy that can be found between two consenting, loving people.
So where is my life now? Thank God for treatment and for my meetings that I regularly attend. They help me realize that my life doesn’t have to be centered around sex. I know now that I can love and be loved in a healthy way. I am so very blessed to have met a woman a few years ago who both understands, and accepts me. I was honest from the beginning with her. I plan to be with her forever. Sex addiction can be controlled and you can have a normal life. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it.
[Name of author withheld]