Sex Addiction. . . More, more, more . . .

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An addict will always get their fix, whatever obstacles are placed before them, and if your fix is sex then the internet is a dealers den. It’s not just immigration hoo-ha that is filling UK newspapers, but Prime Minister Cameron’s demand to block online porn, in ‘order to protect children’, bastard love-child of the so called ‘snoopers charter’.

We’ve heard this message before when homos were banged up in prison, before they were de-criminalised in 1967, in order to ‘protect children’ and that never worked as we weren’t peodophiles, but paid the price for ignorance. Nor will this, but that’s a different story, this blog is about sex addiction costing you more than money, and blocking porn isn’t the answer.

sex-addictionSince 60’s liberation, gay men have notoriously been labeled ‘promiscuous’, in much the same way that society called women that enjoyed sex ‘whores’. Neither viewpoints hold water, nor does a current study by the University of California, published last week, on the respected Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology site, pronouncing that “Sexual desire, not hypersexuality, is related to neurophysiological responses elicited by sexual images ( not sex addiction )”. 

This small study of 53 people ( including 13 females ) with no indication of sexuality preferences, has been panned from all quarters as meaningless, even though it hit headlines : in short, it concludes that sex addiction is a fallacy and people are just plain horny. Partners of sex addicts would certainly disagree, with this conclusion.

However, the rise of the internet, has increased opportunity for sexual exploration and therefore sexual compulsive behaviour can become unchecked. My view is that the internet has offered space for sexual and emotional discovery, that encourages the notion that sexuality is not so black or white, that developing grey areas of ‘men who have sex with men’ and bi-curious, have enlightened those who in the past were simply suppressed or confused.

However, sex addiction IS real. You know at least one sexual compulsive who needs more, more more, and it may be you. So where do you begin to arrest this condition? Let’s start here :

Cruise-Control-Weiss-Robert-9781555838218Robert Weiss in his book CRUISE CONTROL / Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, writes on the topic of seeking a cure :

” Many people who read books like this one enter 12 Step programs, seek therapy, and check into treatment centers are seeking ” the answer”. They want to solve all their problems and answer all their questions – as if their addiction were an equation in a maths quiz.

Some will drop out or give up when they find out that they aren’t going to be cured once they figure it out. The problem is that they don’t actually want or know how to solve the problem; somehow they think that having that “Ah-ha” moment of understanding will be enough.

No amount of information is going to stop a sex addict from repeating patterns of problem behavior. You can only meaningfully change your behavior by taking deliberate, ongoing, active, and committed steps toward change. While this and previous chapters have described and discussed understanding sexual addiction, upcoming chapters will focus on creating change. As we move forward, we’ll learn how to make this happen one day at a time. But first, let’s consider how party drugs and other addictive substances become intertwined with sex addiction”.

Change occurs through action not just understanding, and recovery stems from acting out the unfamiliar. Maybe you are in an open relationship where goal posts keep changing or one wants more than discussed when it comes to boundaries. Yet the perception of sex addicts fisting themselves in a selfie or sauna sex salivation is also a fallacy, as as many kinds of sex addicts abound as the range of fetishes on a porn site. Often sexual compulsives are serial relationship finders believing that regular relationship sex will keep them away from pursuing addictive habits, but it rarely works.

mirror-man-150x150Most sex addicts hunt alone anonymously, while many are also romance addicts addicted to the chase, sexting, flirting, grooming, arranging and avoiding feelings of ‘being alone’ and seeking approval. Real approval comes from looking in your own mirror, not outside of it.

In recovery, healthily ‘being alone’ is essential in determining feelings of withdrawal, patterning and self valuation. Many support groups for sex addiction exist, check the net, or purchasing the book above, will at least acknowledge that sexual activity is getting out of hand and can be resolved.

Maybe some chems need to be dropped or reducing alcohol if you use frequently. We know that some things go together like apple pie and custard, but sex addiction also has it’s own companions : and you know what they are and where they lead.

Put a lid on it.

A-kettle-boiling-006Do you resort to the silent treatment when you are upset with someone or go hell for leather in a latin way? Is your stance to seethe like a boiling kettle or perhaps one volcanic eruption and it’s over?

Either way anger pushes buttons like grindr on speed dial. Don’t you just love people who express ‘passive aggressive’ under their tongue while ‘mopping & muttering’ cleaning the floor? This is likely to indicate “YOU should have done it”. Inter-personal relationships huh, no wonder they call them a “laboratory of learning”.

Passive aggressive types who can’t express in words what they want, really pushes buttons in those who do the volcanic eruption and it’s over. Trying to decode ‘shoulder shrugging’, ‘don’t know’, ‘not sure,’ ‘I’ll have what you’re having laziness’ can blow the whistle off any kettle in reaction, and there you have it – reacting – rather than responding, never works. Living with others who cause you to blow your top, making you feel irritated, ignored or victimised is difficult, but it’s even more difficult to accept that those feelings are not “given’ to you, you simply choose to employ them, because often you couldn’t get your own way.

Learning to accept the behaviour of others, rather than wish they acted out differently, is the key to emotional balance, and maybe anger is a luxury you can’t afford anymore. It always leaves you short changed. 12 Step Programme material talks about being ‘powerless over people, places and things’ which means we can only change our response to others, not change them. When you accept this at heart, it’s easier not to take things personally, if anger is around you. This reminds me of The 4 Toltec Agreements with Self, but the two that stand out for the solution to other peoples anger toward you, are these :

Don’t take Anything PERSONALLY. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you become immune to the actions and thoughts of others, you won’t be a victim of needless suffering.

Don’t Make ASSUMPTIONS. Find the courage to quietly ask questions and express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings and thrust anger.

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Similarly another well read practiced tome, ‘A Course In Miracles (ACIM )’, states that “We are never upset for the reason we think”. This helped me a lot when in emotional turmoil about someone’s behaviour toward me. It stops me in my tracks to recall that what is happening in this moment, be it an angry client, or a late bus when I need it, is that getting angry is unlikely to make the bus arrive and that ACCEPTANCE is the answer to emotional wellness. This also means that when a client or friend is angry ‘they are never upset for the reason they think’ – it’s more about the unhealed back story. Whatever is unhealed in the past, like abandonment, abuse or guilt will resonate like a boiling kettle at some point. You just happened to be standing there. This does not mean that we avoid taking responsibility for our own actions, thoughts and behaviours – we are not exempt- but it does offer the facility to view the bigger picture of a quarrel or internalised angst.

Recovery from codependency also means creating boundaries in order to perceive a situation correctly. Checking out your role in someone’s anger toward you, means yes you might have responsibility here, so if you are wrong own it. If you feel ‘wronged’ question it, then recognise whether, this is ‘their stuff’ or ‘your stuff’. Getting defensive is not a solution but a fuller understanding of the bigger picture, including ‘you are never upset for the reason you think’, and not inviting debate, can end the game. Let feelings pass, see the facts and reconcile later.

larry-kramer-e1304350020598There are occasions where anger has relevance. I remember a time in the AIDS years when Larry Kramer rattled gay cages when he said ” gay men weren’t angry ENOUGH” over AIDS and created ACT UP in 1987, a direct action protest organisation over apathy to the solutions of friends dying, with the slogan SILENCE=DEATH. 78 years young, he is still is a fiery, angry, wonderful, beast of passion. So yes there are times when anger has a purpose! Some say we are not vocal enough about rising HIV rates when we live in a world of information about the virus, and the current rise of social media and armchair activism, though often criticised, has at least lent fervour to our spirit of injustice on world events.

Perhaps we need more Larry Kramers’s to remind us of our silence, where it’s wise to express anger and if WE don’t do it – who will?

http://blogcritics.org/book-review-the-four-agreements-by/

http://acim.org in many languages.

This blog of mine was first published in HIM-MAG on October 1st 2013 : http://www.him-magazine.com/2013/10/01/put-a-lid-on-it/

Cory Monteith post ‘Glee’

Cory-Monteith-Died-Glee-620x350There is always a back story. The sudden death of ‘Glee’ actor Cory Monteith, brings home the disease of addiction to the breakfast table. While you munch on muesli, someone is overdosing in an ambulance or comatose on meth, or in rehab truly believing they really have consumed their last drug. They haven’t. It’s a bit like a road accident, it always happens to someone else, until it happens to you. Not only do we think we are exempt from such precarious scenarios, but we expect rich, famous, talented people to be exempt too, after all money and fame solve everything don’t they?

Addiction has been referred to as ‘the disease that tells you, you haven’t got it’, and even being aware you have it, is no insurance. Born in 1982, the year Betty Ford opened her celebrity clinic, 31 years old Cory has now peacefully passed away from the accolades, the internal struggles and the sheer pain of not being able to stop using. In March this year he voluntarily entered rehab for substance addiction yet again, to delve through his back story, not a new exercise for Cory as his first rehab stint was age 19.

Leaving school at 16, the teenager with obvious drink and drug problems escalating at speed, coupled with kleptomania, compulsively stealing from family and friends until a family intervention occurred, to face his malaise. Stealing and getting away with it, has the same high as the compulsive gambler at the tables or city lawyers hoovering lines in a toilet at work, in order to cope with work pressures. Thinking no one knows or that you have got away with it is a buzz, but addiction is not choosy who it holds hostage, any age or social strata, as many will testify. Cory famously said in an interview, ” I was done fighting myself – I finally said, “I’m gonna start looking at my life and figure out why I’m doing this”.

MediaAssetsHands in the air, how many times have you heard someone say that? How many times have you sighed in frustration, like those close to Cory, the patient girlfriend, the family, the co-workers, the friends? WHEN will he get it? . . . perhaps, when will YOU get it? Maybe he did get it, maybe he had abstained for a period and relapsed his illness. We don’t know the back story.

Drugs and alcohol are not addictive, despite what governments tell us, multi millions consume daily without the need for attention, but those with an addictive personality need an alarm clock. WAKE UP! No point in explaining who they are, the risk-takers, boundary breakers, the chaos living clones who crash and burn, the secret silent users, and those who continue to act out compulsively with sex, workaholicism or food.

This is the illness of addiction, when self harm defies reason. They just can’t help themselves and push away anyone that judges. When I was bang at it I was oblivious to the harm I was causing. There was always an unspoken ‘incident’, another drama, or a repetitive pattern of low esteem with fix and rescue me escapades in motion. It becomes tedious to witness harm that people around addicts face daily, feeling helpless.

defusable-alarm-clockMany gay men remain heavy users of recreational drugs, including alcohol, but thankfully most never reach chronic addiction, they WAKE UP! and redress behaviours en route to avoid crisis. I didn’t. I worked the drug of denial until 1982, the year Cory was born, surrendering my addictions in that year, after my eighth relapse, on the cusp of death.

Then I got it : I could never safely use drugs & alcohol again, though I humbly acknowledge that it’s not been an easy road, but it was essential to begin the process of living a gay life without drink and drugs, or die a junkie. I’ve been miraculously clean for the whole of Cory’s lifetime, and seen hundreds of addicts die, it comes with the territory. I have not done it alone, and nor should you, but still remain vigilant, blessed and hopeful that recovery continues, for staying clean is not a given. Many addicts relapse after a clean period and overdose as the body can’t handle the new intake. My friend Tim, 26 years old, came out of treatment, got 4 months clean and did heroin. He was found by his brother slumped over the breakfast table dead after one hit. He took the gamble and lost, maybe Cory did the same?

My heartfelt thoughts go out to Cory’s partner, family, friends and inner circle while they absorb the shock. To value life, our friends, our GLEE and our inner strengths to carry this through, it’s wise to check your back story. Take stock often. Make changes. Seek help.

This blog of mine first appeared on GuySpy.com on July 15th 2013, 2 days after Cory’s death : http://www.guyspy.com/cory-monteith-post-glee/

Great Expectations

Setting expectations too high is societies curse, which is why government and partners fail us and media is flooded at this time of year with detox trivia, diet plans and resolutions. Don’t encourage them, be stylish – wait till February – or when you feel you want to, rather than need to just because it’s New Year. January is the time for looking back, not unplanned impulsive action. See where you have gone awry first. Take note of Dickens little orphan boy Pip in Great Expectations, “take nothing on it’s looks; take everything on evidence : there’s no better rule”.

It’s a pity that we take many things on first looks often without resort to reality, living a dream. It’s easy to be optimistically romantic in a club then discover 6 weeks later knee deep in “a relationship” that he’s psychotic, a compulsive liar or an addict. It pays to do detail sooner. Although the Pythons insisted that we look on the bright side of life, optimism is another word for denial so best if you face facts quickly, take everything on evidence and move on. Denial is an unconscious defence mechanism, which is why it’s so rampant, and therefore part of our core survival system.

None of us can survive our lives without a certain amount of denial to keep us in balance, but with denial in regards to addiction, the denial is taken to extreme and since gayers have a habit of breaking conventional bounderies, we are more prone to addiction, because we often have no boundary of when to stop and grow up. We don’t want the party, unconscious spending, cruising addiction and the chems to end – but if we don’t take stock, look back over the year, the end will come sooner than expected.

Why do people deny they need help? There are many reasons for denial in addiction. One reason is that most users don’t like to feel helpless and out of control and ironically, to observers, this is exactly what addicts are portraying. Bob Mandel of the Loving Relationship Training said ” the only guru you need are the results in your life “, but any addict or compulsive user often refuses to face facts, relying instead on the expectation that it will all end with a wave of a magic wand. It won’t. The addict will blame everything and everyone except their own substance abuse for their problems.  One of the reason why chems are the lifeboat of the scene is that the chemical dependent may be using drugs or alcohol to cover up numb or unpleasant feelings and by stripping away the denial, the unpleasant feelings will come to the surface. That’s why fear of detox keeps the compulsive user using. The last few weeks will have sorted the men from the boys, top this with office parties and extra socialising in December it’s no wonder we crave a detox, a rest or show the white flag for the New Year. It’s expected now that we slow down and the majority will, but many will be living with a nightmare partner, flatmate or family member with the party still in full swing. If you are – seek help. You may not help the addict but you can stop yourself getting drawn into manipulated guilts, codependency and the false expectation they will wake up and come out of their coma of justification.

While not all substance abusers have suffered past traumas in their lives, an inordinate amount have. Child, sexual & physical abuse is common in the addicted population. For gayers add secrets, withheld emotions, homophobia and shame to the mix. But, no matter what the cause is of the denial, the important part is that the addict ( or anyone close to the addictive person ) confront the defense mechanism head on. This may be by what some addicts describe as “hitting bottom” , job loss, health scare or can come from confrontation with family, friends or through the court systems for possession or drunk driving.

Many times an addict will lose a job, friends or family relationships because of the addiction but still find enablers to supply. Denial in addiction is not a linear course, either. The addict may be in denial at some times, and facing reality at others, so addiction in denial may be fluid especially in the beginning stages of looking at themselves or in recovery. Even for those who are far along the recovery path, falling off the wagon and denial can strike at any time and will need to be overcome once again to get back on track. Linkin Park talked about confronting denial best in their song “Breaking the Habit” when they said, “I’ll paint it on the walls, ’cause I’m the one at fault” in acknowledgement that a habit is indeed a personal disease for which one needs to take responsibility in order to break free.

More people consider REHAB in January than at any other time of year but the real test of whether you are in an addictive compulsive spiral is to stop and see how far you get without your poison be it alcohol, chems, escorts, food, internet or procrastination. Expect nothing and allow yourself to feel anything, even a feeling of surrender and freedom. Bare in mind that there are more compulsive dependents than addicts, but addiction will always grab you by the balls when it goes unobserved – as any crack head or meth abuser will confirm. Best if you observe now, take stock, tell the truth to someone and seek help in the areas that control you.

It’s not about stopping the party it’s about knowing when to leave. Look at your life, check the evidence, own it and then decide what needs changing. Don’t expect someone else to do it for you.

Contact me for specialised 3 hour Coaching Sessions or other support services can be found at http://www.theswarmite.com/urban-addictions  Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have regular LGBT meetings in London – check Google for information.

Antidote in London is a free LGBT Drug & Alcohol advisory service : http://www.antidote-lgbt.com/howwecanhelp.htm

Sacrifice

Before chems became the main course and not the starter, GAY MEN’S HEALTH was all about not catching the lurgee, the gay plague bestowed upon us by an unknown force and according to Donna Summer in the ’80’s, it was the Lord himself shouting down from above – no more bum fun for you lot. Sacrifice your pleasures. While we are on the subject of anal temptation, ask any straight boy how they like it and it’s up the botty every time. Not their own of course, that’s for late night net chat fantasies, no it’s how they like to feel the force with a lady, so it’s not just prime homo territory as people assume. In the 1930’s anal penetration was grounds for hetero divorce in the courts and I gather was more popular than adultery when it came to sealing the deal.

You would think by the amount of HIV related material rammed down our throats for over 20 years, that it’s the only disease we suffer from. All government funding around HIV/AIDS began to dry up in the mid-nineties from the HIV pot when combos came in in 1996, it was combos or support services, not both, so fundees hunted around and found excess cash in the Mental Health budget to continue filling the AIDS industry coffers. PACE popped up, other agencies appeared but still the main focus remains HIV/AIDS. Even PACE’s strapline still says . . . sex, relationships & HIV. This serves to collude with the notion that HIV is the main issue for gayers when in fact (as any prison or hospital will tell you) alcohol and drug abuse is the REAL issue for individuals. So in order to serve the PC world of funding, we put the cart before the horse. No one dare speak of the elephant in the room, the love that dare not speak it’s name: we take too many drugs.

The amount of gay addicts around is very small compared to a majority who know they do “too much”, and it’s this grouping that maybe needs to consider a more purposeful approach to getting trashed.

No one wants to stop the party – just leave earlier, it’s an easy sacrifice to make. Many Doctors remain frustrated that recreational drug use is compromising the work of combos, that gay mental health is only brought up when a G overdose is mentioned, that Hep C amongst gay men is rising fast within those with positive status. Places like PACE can attract those already interested in the healing process, and it’s good that they exist but that big majority who do “too much” would rather eat a snakes cock that present themselves at those hallowed doors, or enter a support group.  If this was not true, PACE would not need a big ad budget to promote and sign people up for FREE workshops – the queue would already be there.

The reality is that groups are just not AD FAB enough, nor is the concept of self observation of any kind. The scene is being dominated by induced emotions via chems, unsafe sex is being acted out via alcohol, dry cleaning fluid, horse tranquilliser and home made meth factories : not really what Oscar Wilde had in mind is it?. Doesn’t it make sense to reduce the stuff we put in our bodies before we stuff someones brain out?

Just because I haven’t used chems or alcohol since the early ’80’s, does not delete me from debate. In order to stay alive I needed to sacrifice, let go, wake up and create my own place in the gay arena without chemical support.

It was hard at first, living with Chronic Active Hep B, a virus 100 times more infectious than HIV, as an unknown supercarrier infecting other gay men for 12 years without any symptoms myself. When I finally stopped using and drinking, my cirrhosis scarred liver worsened into liver failure again and again. My eventual recovery without medication of any kind, plus a lot of personal development and breathwork therapy, released the Hep B virus in 1996 from my body, the same year combos arrived for those suffering with the impact of the HIV virus.

So I know it’s possible to change lifestyle, thought patterns and habits.

The keyword is SACRIFICE. Now I know that sounds a bit religious but the truth is that if we reduced our intake of chems, became consciously responsible enough to wear condoms and drank less, the HIV figures would tumble. Yet the services available and the funding required for drug & alcohol support agencies, especially gay ones, is a piss in the ocean compared to the HIV gravy train.

The cart before the horse is not going to win the race. No one is suggesting stopping the booze or avoiding coke but jesus, look at yourselves. Without checking out yourself and taking action, denial will remain a constant companion and its a difficult friend to drop, but without the concept of sacrifice we will not survive the turmoil. The credit crunch has woken us up to debt and if banks carry out the threat of hiking up the minimum payment for credit cards then many gayers are going to have to change address, gone away, address not known.

If each gayer reduced intake of substances, relationships would change, depression and comedowns would be lessened and people could stand a chance of finding themselves again. I can’t safely use again, I crossed that magic line into addiction, but you can check out your habits and reduce party pleasure before the future need to checkin to a rehab. It just takes a little sacrifice on your part, a little practice each day to create a big result. Start making a list now of where to begin this worthwhile journey of consciousness and personal responsibility.