I want something else. I’m not even sure what to call it anymore except I know it feels roomy and it’s drenched in sunlight and it’s weightless and I know it’s not cheap. Probably not even real.
— Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves
Hi again. It’s been a year since I last wrote anything, despite doing very little during that time. Or maybe because I did very little… Either way, I still don’t know if the person for whom I wrote that last piece ever decided to read it.
Doesn’t matter now. I may not have done all that much this year, but I did learn a metric ass ton, and I’m the strongest mentally that I’ve ever been. And maybe for that reason, I think I’ll keep this one short.
I first learned of the terminology “sex and love addict” in early 2020 when I briefly dated a woman who was newly navigating that identity. I admit when I first read the words on my phone, I perceived them to possibly the same extreme you may have. So.. do you just nonstop sleep with people? An ignorant immediate reaction, I know. Of course I never judged her or anything, and she’s probably the most self-aware and emotionally intelligent person I’ve ever dated. But like any addiction, the extreme to which it’s taken depends on the individual — as does the way it manifests. I definitely felt like I resonated with her after getting to understand it more, but I never allowed myself to entertain the idea that I could be one, too. Me? It takes a lot for me to sleep with someone! How could I be a sex addict?
Well, nearly two years later, and I’ve realized that — yes, I am one, too. Shout out to that wonderful ex who’s helped me through this discovery.
I think I’ve been this way since I was in high school, which means this addiction has played a real part in every single one of my romantic relationships, and sometimes the platonic ones too. I really don’t want to go too much into detail because I feel like I’ve exposed myself enough already, and I’m really not proud of the way this addiction has manifested, for me. But I do want to say that sex/love addiction can be as destructive as any other.
I feel the stigma, and I’ve even felt like an imposter at times. I needed that ex’s approval to finally be able to say — yes, I can be this, too. When I walked through these feelings with my mother and close friends, some said stuff like “well that seems pretty normal”. I mean, yeah. Obsessing over crushes is not abnormal. Heavily following someone’s social media is not all that weird in 2021. Going to a bar and getting hammered is fairly standard. Many folks are regulars at the casino.
All addictions start as normal behavior and evolve into dangerous territory — drinking, gambling, drugs, sex/love, clout. At first I thought addiction breeds in the absence of passion, but I know now that it also thrives in the presence of pain. And my life has been a pendulum swinging back and forth between the two.
That’s how you can tell that you’re filling yourself with the wrong things. You use a lot of energy, and in the end, you feel emptier and less comfortable than ever.
— Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed
I don’t want to say my entire love life has been a lie, but it has all been founded on the need to fill a void. That bit, I know, will resonate with everyone. We’ve all been told that we need to love ourselves before we can love anyone else. Well, I suppose I began by seeking to fill the void, and that eventually snowballed into needing the next hit. The chase, tension, glances, flirting, lust, passion — sometimes even deep, genuine connection. I sought it in all places and forms. An ode to my late favorite author — addicts always need more, now, again. (I actually mention this same book in my very first Medium piece).
It’s why I suggested to the love of my life that I might be poly. It’s why I became absolutely lost in a disastership with a narcissist. It’s why I absolutely sucked as a partner after the honeymoon phase of my serious relationships. It’s why I’d spot a woman I’d never met and decide to pursue her. It’s why I’d never give up on doors unless they were completely shut and locked. Even then I’d still show up knocking. It’s why I come crashing down when the highs run out.
I could go so much deeper into detail, but I don’t want to ramble, and I’ve put so much thought and reflection into all of this already. I guess I just wanted to say — hey, this is a thing I’ve realized. And now that I think about it, this piece of writing really encompasses all the pieces I wrote before it: the emptiness of dropping out, coping with the misery of school, managing the despair of chronic illness, the bandaid of a webgame world and clout, the collapse of my life in NYC, the mania of dating a narc, and failing to recreate a past love story. I’ve got quite the collection of sad stories on here. Lol.
It’s not the only form of addiction I’ve experienced, but I’m sincerely sorry if this addiction has ever impacted my relationship with you. I’m changing. The self-awareness has kept me from falling victim to my own trap. I’ve set boundaries for myself. I’ve learned that sex/love addiction can go hand-in-hand with other diagnoses, like BPD (yes that one’s also me). I actually just read this mind-boggling BPD anecdote on Quora, written by a psychotherapist:
If someone can’t enjoy what they do, it’s not because they want not to enjoy it, it’s because one of the consequences of “affect regulation” is the disconnection with positive emotions… That’s why pwBPD have very limited enjoyment. Because their brain is disconnected from the joy centers.
It might take a deeper understanding of BPD to really feel this quote the way I do, but for me, it really amplifies why addiction — especially sex/love addiction — would develop as a coping mechanism for people with BPD.
All that said, I have so much left to learn. I don’t know what will fill the void in me long term. I’ve been somewhat dragging my feet through a career that means nothing to me. My life’s been cluttered with fleeting experiences that were, in and of themselves, highs. The rest of the time I’d just survive in a place until I could leave. And then I left.
I know I need goals — short and long term. While I’ve tried to will myself out of this state I’m in, I still feel next to nothing about achieving — or trying to achieve — anything. I know I have ambition somewhere in me, but I haven’t been able to defog my glasses enough to see where that ambition should go. A long term goal to work towards, that I genuinely want, would soften the void. The highs can be replaced by better, newer hobbies and a real sense of community, which I haven’t felt in years. These are the gaps I need to fill without addiction.
I felt stuck in the bottom of a wishing well. I was desperate to shout what I wanted, but I didn’t know what that was. I only knew what it wasn’t.
— Amy Tan, The Hundred Secret Senses
Anyways, thanks for reading. Addiction is maddening, and I long for a feeling that isn’t a high, or the lows that follow. I hope I can find it in something healthy and stabilizing. I guess I just gotta give myself that chance.