Author, Amy Dresner, has been very open with the world about her past with sex addiction. She is now in recovery and is here to share her experience.
It’s sort of public knowledge (thanks to my book “My Fair Junkie” and a few articles on TheFix.com) that I’m a recovering sex addict. (And no it didn’t get me a ton of dates but neither did it bring on a slew of creepy messages either. Thankfully.) Sex is still so laden with shame and Puritanism in America that being a sex addict, let alone a female sex addict, is highly stigmatized. There are some doctors and sex therapists who don’t believe sex addiction is real. Well, I’m here to tell you it felt horrifying real to me. And I’ve done my time in SLAA and SCA and SAA and there are rooms full of people who can attest that it’s compulsive, all-consuming, mortifying and ruining their fucking lives.
What was my sex addiction like? It was mostly having sex with a slew of Tinder randos without protection, without even knowing their last names. A few regulars in my stable were old comedy buddies which made it a little less horrible. I’d be shaking with anticipation on the way to the hookup and crying with shame and degradation on the way home. This continued for 2 or 3 years. There was no intimacy. It was a dope deal for me: I came to get my “fix”. I’m still not sure if it was about the validation of being wanted or the fleeting high of a risky rendezvous but it certainly wasn’t about sex or them.
I finally hit a truly horrific bottom and like that…just stopped. Was I cured? No. Had I dealt with the issues? Absolutely not. My sex addiction soon morphed into codependency and love addiction once I fell in love and got into a relationship. Looking back, I think I masked my latent sex addiction tendencies with this guy as having a “really high sex drive”, feeling rejected when he didn’t want to fuck and demanding sex if the drought went on too long. And no I never cheated.
When that boyfriend dumped me in early 2017, I completely shut down. I was beyond broken-hearted. I didn’t masturbate. I didn’t date. I didn’t have sex. It’s been over 2 and a half years now and I’m still celibate. For addicts, extremism is a far easier road than moderation. And I know many a sex addict who has retreated into what’s called “sexual anorexia” as a way of coping. Celibacy is easier than trying to navigate the minefield of sex/dating/relationships. And after being in love which is really the special sauce, hookups had no appeal for me anymore. If anything they scared me. I’d become very clear that I am not one of those people who can sleep with somebody and not become attached. And attachment hurts. So fuck all of that. I’d just hang out with my cat and watch Netflix.
However, I recently had an eye-opening experience. I went on a coffee date at 12:30 in the afternoon in a mini-mall. I mean how much more pedestrian and unsexy can you get, right? Surely nothing would happen. I mean nothing could happen. WRONG.
I was so turned on by this individual and that I could barely sit on my stool and it was obvious from my constant shifting.
“Are you alright over there? “ he asked me.
And then it started: me being provocative, touching his leg, collapsing with laughter into his chest and then…kill me…confessing that I was a squirter. Or used to be.
“It’s been a long time so dust could come out of there now, I have no idea,” I joked, trying to undo the incredibly inappropriate revelation.
In the parking lot, I made a pass at him and things began to get hot and heavy. It was now 2:30 in the afternoon and we were in a crowded parking lot but none of that mattered. I quickly felt myself getting out of control and to my surprise, said, “I gotta go” and jumped into my car. Two seconds later, he slid in the passenger side. He touched the groin of my faded black jeans and I immediately exploded all over the car.
“I told you I was attracted to you!” I said half irritated. I was angry and surprised and embarrassed. I felt like my body had betrayed me. Squirting is quite a magic trick if you’ve never seen it. If you’re into it, it can be arousing. If you’re not, it’s just fucking weird and gross.
Something inside me had been triggered by this event and I could feel it. I tried to be cool for a month or two and then the old behavior started. I have an entire bank of naked pics on my phone from when I was an active sex addict. So when I didn’t get the response I wanted at the fast rate I needed, I pulled out the big guns. The problem is these pics work. I was invited to his house within an hour. But he quickly informed me that he wanted to take it slow and get to know me. Ugh. “Sure,” I lied. “No problem. Good idea. Let’s take our time.”
We hung out and kissed a bit but it wasn’t enough for me. The monster had been awakened.
“Put your tongue in my mouth!” I heard myself demand.
“Relax,” he cooed. “It will all happen”.
As he walked me to my car, out of my mouth popped, “Just get in the car and quickly jack me off.” I still cringe when I think about it. Always the lady. Fuck. He wasn’t fazed but I became acutely aware that the “MORE” in me had now taken the reigns.
I called my sponsor the next day. “I’ve never gotten to know somebody before I had sex with them,” to which he aptly replied, “That’s nothing to brag about, sweetheart.”
I spoke with an addictionologist/psychiatrist and former owner of Townsend Treatment Center Dr. Howard Wetsman https://www.youtube.com/c/EndingAddiction to get some insight. “If you have an addiction, you have certain things that work for you. For some people, it‘s cocaine. For others it’s Oreos. For you, it’s sex and love…and meth and coke and booze and nicotine.”
“If you have normal dopamine, sex is a normal reward, like looking at a sunset, getting closer to your lover. You might get a dopamine rush from an orgasm followed by some oxytocin but you won’t get a spike-like you experience. Of course, after the spike is the crash where you’re scrambling for more dopamine.”
He explained that a lot of people smoke after sex because they’re using the nicotine to mute the dopamine crash. Interesting right? And I just thought it looked cool in European movies.
“For some people addicted to sex, it’s the orgasm that’s the reward. In other people, it’s the person that’s the reward. In still others, it’s the tension before the act,” Wetsman explained.
I needed to ask myself, “What is happening in my brain that I am seeing people as sources of dopamine instead of people? This guy had quickly morphed from being a guy I wanted to get to know into a syringe for me. He became an object and I’m sure he could feel it. No matter how much I actually liked him, my neediness was bleeding through. He had/was something I wanted and needed.
When you have a dopamine spike, your brain latches onto the details of that experience, person, etc. Your brain, like a squirrel, knows where the nuts are hiding and demands that you go there. That’s where the reward is. But every addict will tell you, you never get as high as the first time. And what we call “obsession” is actually biochemical attachment.
What do I do when my body is acting in a way I don’t want it to act? Turned on? Triggered by a house I used to smoke crack in? Telling me I have to eat all of the potato chips? I need to recognize that I’m having a body thing. It’s not about the booze, or the guys or the drugs or the food. It’s about the dopamine. The solution is getting right with yourself and doing things on a daily basis to keep from becoming vulnerable to this mid-brain biology.
The first of these is to not feel shame about your sex addiction because shame automatically lowers your dopamine tone and sets you up to relapse and act out. So fuck shame and let’s talk about this stuff. In the end, sex addiction isn’t about sex. Just like drug addiction isn’t about drugs. It’s about the illness of addiction that centers around reward and there’s nothing embarrassing or shameful about that.
Amy Dresner is a journalist, author, and former comedian as well as a recovering addict and alcoholic. She has been a columnist for the addiction/recovery magazine theFix.com since 2012 and has freelanced for Addiction.com, Psychology Today, and many other publications. Her first book, “My Fair Junkie: A Memoir of Getting Dirty and Staying Clean,” was published by Hachette in 2017 to rave reviews from critics and readers alike, and is currently in development for a TV series.