Spinning Out of Control

The numbers are sobering.  Between three and six percent of men and women in Kootenai County suffer from sexual addiction, according to Ed Dudding, a certifi ed sexual addiction therapist in Coeur d’Alene.  “Sexual addiction is defined as any sexually related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment,” said Dudding.

“The pain it causes is very real.”  Just mentioning sexual addiction can cause some to roll their eyes or snicker. But this controversial disease has real consequences. For example, a 40-something North Idaho man who holds a high profile, high paying job nearly lost everything — including his marriage and children.  “I’m sure some people may not believe sex can be an addiction. But people used to think the world was fl at, too,” he said. “When you are so consumed by sex that it’s literally all you think about, and you have created a life of focusing on sex, eventually you lose your job, your marriage, alienate your friends and family.  “Eventually when you hit rock bottom you look around you and realize what a monster you are – how you have hurt in some way everyone you care about, including yourself. That’s an addiction.”

He should know. His sexual addiction manifested itself in high-risk behaviors including unprotected sex with strangers, sex at work, group sex and using drugs to enhance his sexual experiences, which are common sexual addiction behaviors, said Dudding.  “It’s very much like other addictions that people suffer from and many times other addictions go hand in hand with sexual addiction,” Dudding said. “There is denial and delusion — even eroticized rage. For example, if a spouse has a fight with their partner, they will go out and act out in an inappropriate way instead of dealing with their anger.”  Sexual addiction is not the same thing as sexual offenders, such as predators who harm children, Dudding notes.  “It’s an important distinction: I don’t treat sex offenders,” he said. “Sexual addiction is a process disease in which repeated behaviors have actually re-written the wiring in the brain’s neural pathways. The root cause is that their sexual template has been distorted at some point during their lives. I treat the pain that causes the behavior.”  Dudding, who is certified in treating sexual addiction, counsels people holding prominent positions in the community. He said their guilt and shame ultimately cause them to seek help.  “They want to stop,” Dudding said. “They’re desperate to stop because they don’t want to have their lives destroyed.”

The inability to stop harmful behavior regardless of the consequences is a hallmark of the disease, he said. The 40-something’s description of his sexually addicted life
is as riveting as it is heart wrenching:

“My life was taken over by sex. Sex was my drug of choice. When I was having sex, nothing else in the world mattered and I was willing to risk it all to have it. I didn’t care about the repercussions; I just had to have my fix. So, I built my world to have sex. Even good things I did were sex based – like working out and staying healthy (eating right).”

Thanks to Dudding’s counseling, the North Idaho man is on the road to recovery. He has identified the underlying pain that caused his addiction and has made tremendous strides in improving his life — including repairing relationships with his wife and children.   “After two years of work with Ed I feel for the fi rst time in my life that I am starting to value myself without having sex to falsely build myself up,” he said. “ I am focused on my wife and her needs, my family and my business for the first time in a long time. I feel more freedom. I am starting to even trust myself in situations where before I would not trust my actions. My mental state is clear. My wife is telling me that she is seeing the real me for the first time and she is falling in love with me all over again. My kids are telling me that I seem so different to them in a good way. I am on the path to building real friendships with people for the first time in a long while. Since I hit rock bottom and started this work, my adult life has never been better or more secure.”  For more information: (208) 755-7114 or go online https://coeurdalenecounseling.com

Written by MARC STEWART, Director of Sponsored Content, Coeur d’Alene Press.