Harm Reduction For Sex Addicts!

By Amy Dresner 10/03/14

Let me be clear that I have chosen to give this guy this power and authority and I can withdraw it or break the rules at any time.


I recently started dating somebody. Yes he’s only 30 (I’m 44). Yes he’s only seven months sober. (I know he’s a goddamn newcomer). And yes he’s a singer. (Which means I’ve met my match in terms of another manipulative wordsmith.) The most challenging part has been that he is “open.” He doesn’t believe in monogamy as the natural way of things. He doesn’t believe it’s conducive to most people’s “authentic and full expression of themselves.” My first reaction was “What the fuck?” Followed by “Uhh, hell no.” My first plan of action was to show this guy that “I’m the raddest of them all,” so of course he’d want to be monogamous. That failed so my second plan was to try to make him jealous…..which also didn’t work because he was aroused by my liaisons with other men. My third plan was to fuck “at him” which just repulsed him and he called me “retaliatory” and “reactive," both of which are true. 

Let me back up. We met in my home group, another terrible idea. But he’d sit with his boot propped up on the railing, stroking his beard…exuding machismo but sharing the most introspective deep sensitive things in his ridiculously mellifluous voice. I was intrigued. I soon realized we had what I call “matching childhood wounds” which made the dynamic that much sweeter and more dangerous. “This is a horrible idea and it has to happen,” we agreed. I really thought I’d just fuck him and walk away until I heard him sing and then I was like, “Oh I am sooooo fucked. I’m done.” The first night we were together I cried…..and not because he had a nine inch dick but because I felt vulnerable. But I made him promise not to tell anyone. I had a reputation as a bad ass who was dead inside to preserve.

In the past I have either been monogamous (with some difficulty and to varying degrees of success), fully in my sex addiction or retreating from both into the hibernation of celibacy due to heartbreak or shame/degradation. Here was an opportunity to try something different IF I could overcome my jealousy and insecurity which, I will not lie, has been very challenging. Thanks to Anthony De Mello’s book The Way to Love, I reframed the idea of romantic love for myself and was able to detach somewhat. What non-monogamy has provided for me is a formal structure for my sex addiction. There are certain “rules” that must be followed. I’ve also realized that half of what was exciting about my sex addiction was the secrecy of it all. If you have to tell somebody everything you’re going to do and who you plan to do it with…well, the spotlight gets focused and the cockroaches (and impulsivity) scatter.  

First of all, any potential partners must be “vetted” which means again there is no real opportunity for compulsion. I get questioned: “What do you like about him?  Does he treat you like a real person and respect your boundaries?” Men who have girlfriends who don’t know about me (most of the men I was sleeping with prior) and men who are disrespectful (no comment) are immediately negated. And condoms are required. Always. 

“How can you say you want monogamy when you don’t respect it in other people’s relationships?”  he asked me.


When I’m in my sex addiction, I don’t care if they treat me with respect or have girlfriends or wives or even if I’m that attracted to them. I need my “fix." We all know that when you’re in the grips of your addiction, your morality goes out the window. But this alters all of that. It’s like having a sexual sober companion that you fuck. Sure I’ve had other men aroused by my hypersexuality but only as long as it was focused on them. And he is turned on by it ONLY if I am empowered and respected and share my experience with him to bring us closer. These other lovers must also be made aware of him. I am only allowed to be with them because he says it’s okay and they need to know that. Then they have no fear of me getting attached but they also have no responsibility so... Thereby without any responsibility they have no power. See how that works. I’m allowed to get what I need and leave. It’s for ME. I’m in control. I’ll admit it all sounds a little vampiric when I write it.

When the men know you have a “daddy” and are “DTF," there is no “game." That all falls away. They don’t need to play you because you are already in but they can’t really manipulate you either because there is another man in charge. The upside for me? I don’t get emotionally spun out by my liaisons. Will they call? Will this lead to something? None of that matters. My emotional intimacy is with my “daddy." The rest is just “playing." 

Let me be clear that I have chosen to give this guy this power and authority and I can withdraw it or break the rules at any time. It is a game but it’s also a construct about trust. Like most alcoholics, I’m undisciplined. I need structure. Without it I go crazy. AA provides that structure for my alcoholism. I have not found what I needed in SLAA. I find it too restrictive and shaming and I see more sexual anorexia than I do recovery. I’ve recently started checking out SAA. It’s odd to be one of only 3 women in a 20 plus person meeting however SAA feels more like the real deal…for me. I went to the one women’s only meeting in Los Angeles and it seems it’s…ummm…frowned upon to use the word “bone” as a verb. Live and learn. I’ve never been totally comfortable in women’s stag meetings anyway as I am, really, a man inside. I don’t want to be celibate. I don’t even necessarily want to be monogamous. I just don’t want to engage in ways where I feel shitty and empty and disrespected after. And with this guy on the scene, I can’t and don’t.

Interestingly, this guy I’m dating is much less slutty and promiscuous than I am. “I did all that, as you’d call it, 'sport fucking', and it’s boring. I want something more, something deeper, more intimate.” Maybe I’m less evolved or hornier. He’s more into the emotional intrigue and the mental stimulation. Although I like that part as well, I can detach from sex with certain people and view it as a release or recreational. As Pink says in “Slut like you”: “You say you're looking for a fool and I'm just like, ‘Me too.'  I'm gonna let you know the truth. I'm a slut like you." However what I have noticed lately is that if you really want to be with somebody specific, fucking somebody else doesn’t really help. It makes it worse. So your motives have to be pure.  

Did my sponsor say this was a terrible idea and that I would probably get loaded over it? You bet your sweet ass he did. But he also said I get to make my own choices as long as I’m willing to take the consequences.  

Aside from the fact that I’m a love addict and once hooked have difficulty walking away, aside from the fact that the sexual chemistry with this person is the strongest I’ve experienced since I can remember, what am I getting out of this you wonder? Well I’m going to tell you. He’s very affectionate, loving, tender and complimentary. Do I worry that he’s this way with everybody? Of course I do. Do I think we have a special bond? I know we do. He has requested that I look him in the eyes and be honest. And I will tell you that as a sex/love addict I am innately fearful of real intimacy. So that alone has been terrifying and dare I say life changing. I have cried and tantrumed and raged and he has not said, “Fuck this. I’m out of here.” Have I done those things to push him away and test him and see if I would get abandoned? Possibly but not consciously. It is a rare man who sees your crazy and doesn’t immediately walk out the door. And he’s the only man I’ve met who texts back, right away and is genuinely interested in how I’m FEELING. And who doesn’t like to be carried down the street like a blushing bride or thrown against the wall and kissed passionately? I should just clone him for all my friends over 40. 

“Yes you’re a total pain in the ass, Amy. But you are irreplaceable and the sweet side of you makes all the rest worth it,” he has said. 

Sweet side? I thought I’d killed that long ago. But as I witness myself stroke this man’s hair while his head is resting on my chest in the moonlight in a park; or I watch myself say “I love you” first with no attachment to his reply; when I realize that once you stop demanding something of somebody, that that is when they want to give it to you……All of this is very valuable to me, no matter the longevity or outcome of this connection. I have allowed myself to be really vulnerable with this person. I’m learning not to be passive aggressive and to let somebody share something with me without having to tell them how what they said makes ME feel. And what I’ve realized is that there is no “safety” in relationships, no guarantees in love…whether you’re an official couple or even married. There can still be betrayal. There can still be a horrific heartbreaking end. Isn’t everything in life temporary? Isn’t that what the program urges us to understand and accept: the good, the bad, the joy, the grief, the fleeting urges and cravings to use. It’s all temporary and will pass. All you have is today, the present, and today I feel loved and empowered, beautiful and safe in a way I would have never imagined. Now I only need my own hard cover autographed version of The Ethical Slut

Amy Dresner is a columnist at The Fix.

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