Dr. David Ley’s recent article called the “The Comforting Fiction of Sex Addiction” reads like, well, . . . fiction. In it he talks about what he calls “the myth of sex addiction” which to me is, well, . . . a myth.
In fact, little in Dr. Ley’s sex addict bashing tome reflects my reality as a counselor for sex addicts and former sex addict myself. Dr. Ley and I must live in some parallel opposite universes or one of us is dead wrong . . . and it ain’t me.
My universe, my practice, and my life is filled with hundreds of brave men and women (mostly men) who realize that compulsive pornography and sex is ruining their lives. Many who see me have either lost their spouses, jobs, children, obscene amounts of money. Some are near suicide. Many have been sexually molested physically or emotionally or both. Most have suffered some profound trauma that would make a grown man cry. I know because I do.
I wrote my book, Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame to treat what a clear majority of physicians, psychologists, addiction specialists, and therapists are calling a public health epidemic. Extremely graphic and hardcore pornography has never in the history of mankind been more available to more people, including children.
The average age of exposure to pornography is 11, so it’s no surprise that the number of children seeking treatment for sexual compulsions is skyrocketing. Studies say porn is a major factor in almost two-thirds of all U.S. divorces. Urologists in Italy recently proved that the desensitizing effect of porn is actually causing erectile dysfunction. And the physician group called the American Society for Addictive Medicine just unequivocally declared that yes, porn and sex addiction exist, and do in fact have a profound impact on the brain, despite Dr. Ley’s stale claim that they do not.
I want to highlight some critical areas where we diverge. By claiming that sex addiction is a myth, I respectfully submit that Dr. Ley is actually perpetrating a harmful myth of his own for the following reasons.
Compulsions for Porn
Dr. Ley wrote: “Most in vogue is the theory that people can become addicted to pornography and, in particular, Internet pornography. Men are supposedly lost to the powers of the Internet, ‘clicking’ themselves out of jobs, marriages and finances.” Again, Dr. Ley cannot or does not see my reality, the reality in which these men believe they are powerless to not watch porn, not spend too much money on porn, and not “click” themselves out of jobs, marriages, and finances. These feelings of powerlessness are common to all addictions.
Dr. Ley counters that we all have a choice, and that is true. However, if someone lacks the conscious awareness of choice, he or she does not experience choice – to them it’s a “myth.” Of course we all have choice, the choice to use drugs, drink, gamble, or have sex with a prostitute, or not. My clients, honorable successful men, good men, have made choices that bring them great shame, deep depression, and some closer to death’s door. Dismissing their poor choices to character defects and weakness, as Dr. Ley does, is easy. What I do is hard. I help my clients understand why they are stuck in a cycle of choices that cause them to hurt themselves and others. I help them make better ones. As noted earlier, severe traumas, both physical and emotional, are overwhelmingly at the root of shameful and harmful sexual behavior.
Sexually Compulsive Behavior is Not Addictive Like Drugs or Alcohol
Dr. Ley writes “unlike those who’ve become dependent on alcohol or drugs, an individual who has been labeled a sex addict faces no serious physical consequences if he or she suddenly goes ‘cold turkey’.”
Dr. Ley must never have met a real sex addict. Well, he has now. “Hi, my name is George.” During my years as a sex addict, I suffered physical pain when my drug of choice was unavailable, and the emotional withdrawal was crippling. Many clients report similar experiences over and over again when abstaining. With no sex or porn some of them turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of withdrawal, these are called cross-addictions. I see physical and emotional pain every day.
By Claiming Sex Addiction is a Myth, Dr. Ley is Actually Perpetrating a Harmful Myth of His Own
By claiming that sex addiction does not exist, except as a poor excuse for aberrant behavior, Dr. Ley trivializes the suffering of millions for whom this simple two-word phrase provides critical support for learning more about themselves, their behavior, and how to make better choices.
For someone in the throes of any addiction, this is exactly what they want to hear, and sex addicts are no different. And instead of helping them, this dismissive, “get over it” language hurts. I wonder how many defaulted to their coping compulsive behavior and acted out after reading Dr. Ley’s article or seeing him on TV.
Dr. Ley’s “myth” theory, reminds me of a scene in the funny movie Naked Gun. Lt. Frank Drebin played by Leslie Neilson is standing in front of a building engulfed in flames and explosions, and in his classic deadpan style, tells passerbys “alright, move on, nothing to see here” as if he was clearing the road after a fender bender. Dr. Ley’s misguided theory would be funny as well if not for so many suffering people. In this real world it’s not funny. I work with my clients to quell the inferno, to douse the fire, not to pretend and tell people it doesn’t exist.
I do agree with Dr. Ley when he said that science does not have all the answers. I will leave the academic debate over what to “officially” call the sex addiction crisis to the academics. I’m too busy helping men put their lives back together. My wife Paldrom, also a counselor with Compulsion Solutions, is too busy empowering spouses. I know this problem exists, I’ve lived it and I see it every day. “It,” whatever “it” is, is ruining lives in record numbers. I, along with the overwhelming numbers of doctors, therapists, and addiction scientists, call “it” sex addiction.The real myth here is Dr. Ley’s suggestion that millions of leaders, hard workers, executives, community advocates, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and religious leaders use the label “sex addiction” as an excuse. No Dr. Ley, they use it to get help.
George Collins is the author of the best seller on sex addiction, “Breaking the Cycle: Free Yourself from Sex Addiction, Porn Obsession, and Shame” and is the founder and director of Compulsion Solutions. As a recovering sex addict, he didn’t just go to college and read about sexually compulsive behavior. He lived “the life” and got over it.
George and his team practice from their offices in Walnut Creek, California in person and via phone with men and women from all over the world who are suffering from the results of sexually compulsive behavior. They also offer counseling and support for wives and partners. As a recognized expert, he’s appeared as a guest on local, national, and international radio and television shows.
Follow George on Twitter @porndoc