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|Dr. Ley, stop trivializing the pain and suffering of sex addicts to promote your book. It's irresponsible and demonstrates how little you actually know about how sex addicts suffer and the stranglehold their compulsion has on them, let alone the increasing weight of science supporting a sex addiction diagnosis. Sex addiction, or whatever you want to call it, Doctor, is ruining lives. Either join the fight or be quiet.
The label sex addiction isn't about morality or imposing society's view on anyone's sexual behavior. It's about pain, about compulsion, about uncontrollable behavior that grows from a variety of past experiences, and sometimes childhood traumas and abuse. In mocking celebrities like Tiger Woods, David Duchovny and Michael Douglas (cited by name in your article) you make fun of the men I've dedicated my life to helping. While you know nothing about the private lives and personal motivations of these celebrities or what caused them to hurt themselves and the one's they love, you conclude that they are abusing the label "sex addiction" as some sort of publicity stunt to direct public attention away from their irresponsible behavior. You intimate that their bravery in seeking treatment for sex addiction is somehow an excuse contrived so that their spouses or significant others will forgive them. Did you talk to these spouses?
I haven’t spoken to these spouses and I did not treat these men for sex addiction but I have spoken with hundreds of spouses. These spouses, I can assure you, did not simply forgive and forget because their husband said they had an addiction. However, the diagnosis did help them understand how someone could act so contrary to what they really want, which in the majority of cases I see, is true intimacy with the one they love.
Sex addiction is not a myth and I'm living proof. If you asked me before writing your book mocking sex addiction, I would have told you these things: how I suffered; how I lost two marriages to sex addiction; and how I tried to commit suicide before getting help. I would have told you about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.
I would have told you about my clients from all walks of life, rich and poor, celebrities and not . . . men who lost control. Good men whose sex addiction caused them to wreck their marriages, hurt loved ones, get arrested, lose their children, and/or amounts of money that would make your head spin.
I would have told you how the label of sex addiction is not used as an excuse in my office but as a first step towards recovery. I'm a no bullshit kind of guy and as a former sex addict I can see it a mile away. I know my clients would agree.
I would have told you how my unique brand of sex addiction treatment keeps families together and how it restores sanity to those who reach out to me, often when they hit rock bottom. It's no excuse -- that's for sure and frankly it doesn't excuse anything, it explains.
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.
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George - thanks for writing this, so that it gives me a chance to explain something. I recognize that people are in pain, and I'm not denying that, nor am I mocking anyone. But, I think that it is not therapeutic or helpful to tell patients that they have a medical disorder, for which there is no scientific evidence that it exists. This is tantamount to lying or deception - it's like if I told a patient that the reason they are miserable is because their mother was a horrible person - it might have a grain of truth, but it takes away from a person's ability to be in control of their life, and to accept responsibility for their choices, past and present. Both you and I acknowledge that sex addiction is wildly overdiagnosed, particularly in the media. And as a result, I think that there are are some very serious social "corrections" that need to happen, to steer this concept back to a place of grounded reality, where the label of sex addiction is not thrown around so casually and harmfully. I'm ruffling feathers - but I think those feathers need to be shaken out.
Finally - I'm not discounting the personal experiences of people like you, who self-identify as sex addicts. But, that personal experience, and anecdotes, are not proof, in a scientific or medical world. Insurance companies don't pay for treatment, just because the patient says "this is what's wrong with me." Your own personal experience, and that of others, has been shaped by the culture in which we live, which has adopted the sex addiction concept - had you lived in another culture, your experience, and self-perception, would be very different. This is a key point, that undermines the validity of sex addiction - as it does not occur in other cultures, it reflects our social issues, not primarily a medical one.
Although Dr. David Ley asserts that labeling a non-medical behavior issue as sex addiction “takes away from a person’s ability to be in control of their life, and to accept responsibility for their choices, past and present,” my view is just the opposite. When an individual acknowledges that they have a problem with sexually compulsive behaviors, he or she is, in fact, taking responsibility which is the first step in taking control of one’s life. In fact, by not telling a patient that he or she has what Dr. Ley has termed a medical disorder for which there is no scientific proof, a therapist or counselor could be limiting that patient’s viable options. Sex addiction is, in my opinion, a coping strategy and it needs to be termed that, just as smoking is an addiction. And, just as in smoking, or alcohol, or drug addiction, with sex addiction there are proven measurable physiological reactions.
To put it another way, while Dr. Ley asserts that calling sexually compulsive behaviors sex addiction limits a person in accepting responsibility for their choices, precisely the reverse is true. We might lessen the emotional charge on this issue by considering the following example:
A corporate attorney fights against a second corporate attorney. If we take them individually, the first corporate attorney has choices. He could surrender to the other side. He could be ill prepared and hope for the best. He could be well-prepared and fight back with all the information he can muster. To put it another way, our corporate attorney warrior has a choice of how he can “behave” or “react” in this “triggering” situation. In effect, attorneys are trained to “cope” with attack by defending their clients or attacking back. Similarly, for those who I consider to be sex addicts, they also in live in an emotional “war zone.” When their particular triggering circumstances occur, such as seeing cleavage or porn or a woman bending over in a supermarket, they are similarly “trained” to react, but by their previous life circumstances, most often beginning in childhood. They do, as Dr. Ley claims, have a choice. However, it is not a conscious choice, and that is the difference that Dr. Ley apparently chooses to ignore. People who feel powerless about drugs, or gambling, or food, or alcohol, or sex do not experience that they have a choice. They only experience that they have a need to cope and usually just “surrender” to their sexually compulsive urges. However, once they acknowledge their behavior as the addiction it is, my clients can begin to consciously choose a new way of responding. They can, as the warriors they become, fight back.
In my practice, I teach clients to actually dialogue with their “addict.” When they do that, they begin to disengage and see that they are more than their addict. As a result, their addict loses power. Although Dr. Ley appears to believes that the label of sex addiction takes away from the ability to control one’s life, my experience is different. I don’t let anyone hide behind the label of sex addiction as an excuse. Instead, when my clients see their behavior as sex addiction, they can start a process in which they gain more control over their lives and are finally able to break free.