Spotlight: Interview with a Sex Addict named Leslie
The following is an interview with a 36-year-old “happily” married mother of three. She requested to remain anonymous for the sake of her privacy; she used the pseudonym "Leslie." I asked her about her addiction, being married, her children, and her sexual addiction. I began by asking Leslie some questions about her childhood, her parents, her thoughts on her parent’s relationship, i.e., were they affectionate towards each other, was she aware if there were any infidelity issues in their marriage, Leslie’s romantic past, etc.
Dr. T.: Tell me a little bit about you, where did you grow up?
Leslie: I grew up in Indiana, I was raised my mother after my father left. My father walked out on my mother when I was 4 years old. I have a younger sister but we don’t really talk anymore, we no longer have a relationship.
Dr. T.: Why don’t you have a relationship with your sister?
Leslie: Well, after my mom died we sort of drifted apart. She thinks I have this great life, a life I don’t deserve because I cheat on my husband. I mean, I don’t plan on cheating on my husband, it just happens. I try to stop but I can’t, I just can’t.
Dr. T.: How would you describe your sex addiction?
Leslie: It seems like masturbation, sexual fantasies, sexually acting out has always been a significant part of my life. Most of the issues I have encountered in my life has stemmed from sex, i.e., STD’s, overly fantasizing about sex at work leading to missed or late assignments, getting physically assaulted by other women because of sex with their boyfriends or husbands, losing my job because I had sex with my boss, telling my husband I got the bruises from being robbed, and the list goes on. I want to stop, I hate the way the men that I have sex with treat me, the way they look at me makes me sick. My addiction started in early childhood, even when I was in school I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom to masturbate.
Dr. T.: How did you know it was an addiction?
Leslie: I was unable to stop my behaviors on my own, even when bad things kept happening to me I just couldn’t seem to stop. I would make promises to myself to stop cheating on my husband, stop having one-night stands, unprotected sex and pursing men that when we were both in committed relationships. I would look at my husband and my children and see the pain I would be causing if they ever found out about what I was doing with these men. I don’t want to lose my family, but it seems like I am powerless to stop acting out sexually. I knew I had a problem with sexual addiction when I became pregnant. I never even told my husband about the pregnancy. I didn’t know if the baby was my husbands or the other men I had been sleeping, to be honest that was a risk I was willing to take. I was not going to have a child that probably was not my husband’s child.
Dr. T.: Have you ever sought Treatment for problematic sexual behaviors?
Leslie: I sought treatment in the past, it always started out well, but it never seemed to work in the run. I always seemed to fall back into the same old pattern.
Dr. T.: Have any of your Relationships been damaged or disturbed as a result of your sexual behavior?
Leslie: Yes. I was in a long term relationship before I met my husband. I was in a relationship with a guy that had been my high school sweetheart. We had been in a relationship for 5 years, I loved him dearly. Although, I loved him I had been cheating on him during the entire time of our relationship. I cheated with his friend, his enemies, his brother, and even his uncle. When he found out he was heartbroken, he said I was filthy, disgusting and dead to him.
Dr. T.: So I gather based upon your last comment you felt the need to keep your sexual behavior a secret?
Leslie: Yes, I didn’t want anyone to know, or judge me. When my sister found out about my sexual behavior she called me nasty names. She said I was stupid, and would lose all of the good things I have gained in my life. She even said I was just like mom.
Dr. T.: What do you think your sister meant when she said you would be just like your mother?
Leslie: I found out when I was a teenager my father left my mother because she was promiscuous. I loved my mother, but I knew she had sex with just about everyone. It wasn’t my mother’s fault, she loved hard. Mother needed to be loved and love back with fierce intensity, it seemed like she wanted to feel wanted and sexy. As she got older and her looks started to fade she became more and more desperate to find love, to feel desired.
Dr. T.: Do you think your mother’s sexual behavior impacted your own behavior?
Leslie: Yes, and no. I have never been sexually abused or molested but my first sexual experience happened with one of my mother’s boyfriends when I was almost 14 years old. He didn’t rape me, I wanted to be with him. I wanted to feel loved by him. After that experience it seemed like I just couldn’t get enough.
Dr. T.: What made you accept that you were powerless over it/that it was an addiction?
Leslie: Accepting my powerlessness to control my sexual urges and behavior has come in different stages of my sexual addiction recovery. I gained a better understanding of myself and why I act out sexually in individual therapy. I am also learning more about myself and controlling my urges in group. I attend a weekly group for sex addicts, which I didn’t think would help me as much as it does. I didn’t realize sex addiction affected as many women as it does, whenever I thought about sex addicts I would think of men.
Dr. T.: What made you feel like you needed recovery? What did you do for recovery?
Leslie: I felt I needed recovery because I realized I could not do it alone, I was powerless over my addiction. I want to preserve my family, my marriage. I realized I didn’t want my daughter to grow up thinking sex was the only way to achieve true happiness. I also didn’t want her to grow up being objectified by men.
Dr. T.: What made your recovery different as a woman than it would be for a man? Why do you think more women don't get help for their sex addiction?
Leslie: I think when you consider sexual addiction, the actions of males and females are weighed differently. Women will always be cast and seen in a negative light when it comes to multiple sexual partners and promiscuity whereas these behaviors are typically acceptable for men. I think a lot of women are in hiding, having sex with multiple men or married men is shameful. Most women do not want to be thought of as a whore or slut, so they suffer in silence.
Dr. T.: Have you had any relapses? How do you think about relapse?
Leslie: When I first started therapy, I continued to sleep with multiple men. I can say after being in therapy for more than 3 months I recommitted myself to staying faithful in my marriage. I have not slept with anyone but my husband in 2 years. It may seem like a small act but believe me it is significant for me.