"Californication" to VH1's
"Sex Rehab With Dr. Drew," sex addiction is all over the place. Because their drug is a natural, human desire, sex addicts are often portrayed as dapper dudes or luscious ladies living fun, exciting lives.
But there's nothing glamorous about sex addiction, said to affect 22 million Americans. Lemondrop spoke with two sex addicts about their experiences and recovery.
Marnie Ferree, 53, (pictured at right )is a Christian and a preacher's daughter. In her faith community, the idea of a woman being a sex addict was just unfathomable.
But Ferree, a licensed marriage and family therapist knew better: She was having sexual affairs outside her marriage -- she remains married and has two grown children -- and couldn't stop. What initially ushered her to rehab for sex addiction was a diagnosis of cervical cancer caused by HPV in 1991, at a time when few women were in treatment for the disease. But even that wasn't enough to make Ferree quit cold turkey.
"Despite the scary consequence, I was still acting out," admits the Nashville, Tenn., resident. "Even through treatment, I never stopped acting out. It took me a year to get sober and stay sober after beginning counseling."
Ferree eventually entered a 12-step program that helped her work through the root of her problem -- sexual abuse by a family friend from age 5 to 20.
In 2002, she self-published a book about her struggles called "No Stones: Women Redeemed From Sexual Shame
," and later appeared on the Discovery Health program "Hypersexual Behavior
" and a subsequent "Dateline" special.
Ferree said since sex is everywhere and easily accessible, sex addiction can be very anonymous. The sign to watch for in yourself and others who may be struggling is loss of control over behavior and compulsive behavior.
"This really is not funny," Ferree said. "This is a desperately devastating disease. It absolutely destroys families and lives."Jennie's Story
Sex addiction is defined as
"the behavior of a person who has an unusually intense sex drive or an obsession with sex." The addict can't stop the behavior despite negative consequences.
But the disease has more to do with intimacy avoidance than horniness -- sex is used as a substitute for real closeness, as "Sex Rehab"
cast member Jennie Ketcham, 26, can attest. Also known as former adult film star Penny Flame, Ketcham always struggled with intimacy. She points to several events -- a traumatic childhood, preteen promiscuity, infidelity, a divorce -- as possible causes.
"I don't think there's any particular event," said Ketcham, who also battles alcohol and drug addiction. "I think it was more just circumstances in my life which led me to use [sex] to protect myself from being hurt and from feeling anything, whether it's pain or joy."
Because she'd walled off so much of herself, entering rehab left Ketcham raw and exposed, "like the first time I'd fallen off my bike."
"I had a tendency to intellectualize my feelings when something started to bubble up. Instead of allowing myself to grieve it, I shut down and said, 'This is why it happened.' Dr. Drew said, 'It's OK, you're just having a feeling. Feelings aren't facts. They pass.'" (Click here
to watch a clip of Ketcham on "Oprah.")
Ketcham has been sober for months and is blogging about her recovery at BecomingJennie
and writing a memoir. She no longer works in adult film, though she doesn't regret the experience.
"Just because I am a sex addict in recovery doesn't mean that I'm not going to be wild in bed," she explained. "I'm confident in what I want in bed. The part that's significant for me is intimacy."
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