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Healing Sex Addiction: Understanding Intimacy And Sexual Issues With Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

 

Addiction is a problem faced by many people, and sex addiction is a common one. In this episode, we talk about sex addiction and how to heal and recover from it. Tim Westbrook interviews Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW. He is the Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity, a unified group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders like compulsive sexual behavior and related drug abuse. Dr. Weiss discusses healing sex addiction and other sexual issues and differentiates it to love addiction. He then talks about the path to recovery and why intimacy is important in healing.

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Healing Sex Addiction: Understanding Intimacy And Sexual Issues With Robert Weiss PhD, LCSW

Welcome back to another episode. My team and I over the course of many years have helped thousands of people on their path to recovery. We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction, treatment, mental illness, and recovery in general. There’s so much more to recovery than going to inpatient treatment, seeing a therapist and going to twelve-step meetings. All of those things are important and AA saved my life. However, define long-term recovery and live happy, joyous, and free, there’s a lot more to it than stopping the drinking, the drugs, the sex addiction, or any addictive behavior for that matter. To live a new life, a person needs new healthy lifestyle habits amongst other things.

Typically, this includes new eating, exercise, sleeping habits, hobbies, interests, friends, self-care becomes a priority, and the list goes on. Those are some of the types of things that we talk about here on this show. Now I’m here with Dr. Robert Weiss, PhD, LCSW. He is the Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity, a unified group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders like compulsive sexual behavior and related drug abuse.

He’s the author of ten books on sexuality, technology, and intimate relationships, including Sex Addiction 101, Out of the Doghouse and Prodependence. His Sex, Love, and Addiction podcast is in the top ten US addiction health podcasts. He also hosts a no-cost weekly sex and intimacy Q and A on Seeking Integrity self-help website, SexAndRelationshipHealing.com. The Sex and Relationship Healing website provides free information for addicts, partners of addicts, and therapists dealing with sex and porn addiction, and substance abuse issues. Dr. Weiss and I will talk about sex and love addiction. Dr. Weiss, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you here.

Thank you, sir. I’m glad to be here. Thanks for reading that whole list of stuff that I’ve been doing. It makes me feel important.

You’ve got lots of stuff going on. I’ve done research on you. You and I met in person back in 2017 briefly. I’m excited to have you here. We’ll start by diving into it. What is an LCSW?

I’m a Clinical Social Worker. I was licensed. There are various forms of therapy licenses and social worker is one of them. I was licensed back in ‘94 or something. I’ve been licensed many years, but it is a licensure to practice psychotherapy.

You are an expert on sex and intimacy disorders. You’ve been in it for many years. What specific incident inspired you to be so passionate about sex addiction and intimacy disorders?

Tim, anybody who knows me knows I’m passionate about anything that I get involved with. Maybe part of being an addict is I’m driven and focused. I used to be on the bad stuff. Now it’s on good stuff. I went through my recovery from sex addiction. I am still a recovering sex addict. I entered the program on 1985, December 10th. Related to that, I went and got my license in early ’96 when I got started.

The pain of addiction is worse than the pain of recovery. Click To Tweet

What made me enter their field, to be honest with you, was HIV AIDS because, in my addiction, I had sex with enough people to populate China. I didn’t get HIV AIDS during the period when everyone else was. I thought, “We have a bit of a spiritual awakening. Maybe I’m here for some reason.” I knew there were people who were getting caught up in sexual behavior because of addiction that was ending up with them dying of HIV AIDS. I wanted to help them because I had been able to stop my behavior. I wanted to help other people stop theirs. That’s how I got here.

Why do you think you were able to stop?

Any person who wants to stop an addiction doesn’t stop because they want to not do what they’re doing. I wanted to stop because there was something I wanted more. On one side we say, “The pain of addiction is worse than the pain of recovery you recover.” For me also, it was like when I can see people getting things that I would like to have that are healthy in life and I can’t get them because of my addiction, then that may be address it. What I wanted was a loving, healthy, committed home and relationship. I wasn’t going to have that as an act of sex addict.

That brings up a good point, which is in my experience, is people that are focused on stopping. If you’re focused on stopping the drinking, the drugs, and the sexual compulsivity, it doesn’t work. If you’re focused on the new life and what you want, that’s when it works.

It’s the same for recovery. In the early stages, I don’t tell people, “Recovery is not about what you don’t do.” It’s good to not drink, use, and gamble depending on your addiction, but recovery is much more about what you do. Where do you take yourself? What do you do to get your support? How do you engage with other people? This is recovery and how do you enjoy your life? That is what recovery is about. I don’t want to recover to sit at home and bake bread.

It’s living the life of your dreams. I was one of them. I couldn’t imagine living life and having fun not drinking, doing drugs, and not acting out. I’ve learned and I know that you’ve learned it as well. Life is amazing on the other side of it once you get past it.

In a different way, life is amazing and a drip of good things and bad things. Not having everything all at once when I was an addict. I wanted it all to be amazing. What a friend of mine said is that, “A life well lived in recovery is one notch above boring.” That’s right. That’s how life should be. A few highs, lows, but generally stable and consistent, and that’s not how I lived as an addict at all.

What is the definition of sex addiction?

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: Any person who wants to stop an addiction doesn’t stop because they want to not do what they’re doing.

 

The definition applies to any addiction, which is a behavior that I’m engaging in, with or without a substance that is significantly affecting the functioning of my life. Despite the fact that it is hurting my family, work, whatever it is that it’s destroying my health, I continue to do it. I continue to obsess about it. Most people make a mistake and they learn and don’t do something again. Addicts make mistakes. We think, “That felt good. I won’t look at the bad part. I’ll do the good part over and over again.” Unfortunately, their families and marriages fail. That’s addiction. Your life fails as a result of it, in my mind.

In sex addiction, what I see is people are losing their relationships, especially marriages in particular, I see a lot of marriages get destroyed. I see people looking at porn in the workplace, they get fired. I see people caught up in prostitution stings. When sexual behavior or relationship with porn is causing significantly negative problems in life and if the behavior doesn’t change, it’s an addiction like any other addiction.

There are a lot of people out there that they look at porn. It’s like, “What’s the problem with looking at porn?”

I don’t think it’s a problem. Lots of people look at porn. I don’t have a problem with people drinking. Having a glass of wine or even getting drunk, and either is fine. If you have certain emotional vulnerabilities, then you’re not going to be able to do casual, pleasurable things in the same way as healthy people. Addicts grab onto intensely arousing, distracting, stimulating behaviors for different reasons than healthy people do. I turned to compulsive sexual behavior, not to have a good time having sex, but to escape a difficult emotional life. Addiction often has a secondary gain, which is other people drink to be social and alcoholic drinks to feel okay. That’s a big difference.

It’s the solution. You have the sex addiction and the love addiction. What’s the difference between sex and love addiction?

Love addiction is a graduate school for sex addicts. Sex addicts, we objectify body parts. When we can have access to those body parts, it empowers us. We feel important and so if I can get that great butt or those amazing arms or that beautiful face to be with me and have sex with me, then I’m important and special and worthwhile. Somehow, we validate ourselves in a way that’s empty through that kind of behavior.

Love addiction is more using people. The whole person is an object to fill the emptiness and loneliness inside of you. You fit that person into you to make yourself feel better, but for love addicts, it isn’t as important who they are. It’s more important that they fill the emptiness in them. When you are with that person a few months and then you realize, “That’s not who I thought they were. They’re not filling this emptiness inside of me.”

You tend to rage at them or leave with them or move on to someone else because you’re not interested in that person. You’re interested in what they do for you. That’s love addiction. I’ve heard some people talk about sex and love addiction. They only have one person that they’ve had an affair with. It’s not like they’re having multiple affairs with multiple people. They’re having one affair with one person.

A life well lived in recovery is just one notch above boring. Click To Tweet

It seems like a problem to me. It seems obvious to me, but can you answer that?

First of all, the question is, is that an addiction? I can’t tell you. Lots of people have affairs. What I call an affair is immature. What I called people in committed relationships, who go out and have sex and hang out with other people romantically is immature because they don’t keep their partner in mind when they go out in the world. They’re all on their own, like some little kid in a candy store and they’re not thinking, “I shouldn’t be eating all this.”

Specifically, I’m thinking of one person and that person was married. They had one pertinent person that they had a relationship with for three years.

The question is, are they sex addicts? The person had an affair. My clients don’t have an affair. They have five affairs. They’re seeing sex workers at the same time. They’re playing with porn every night. For example, I’ve had a lot of men that I work with say, “My big problem is I don’t know which one to pick. Is it the lover? Is it the spouse? I can’t decide.” I’m like, “How about being alone for a while?” That might be the best solution of all, but repetitively using body parts, situations with people as a means to fill yourself and make yourself feel better, that may not happen with someone who has an affair. For example, I might have a wonderful relationship and being completely monogamous.

My spouse has a child and we have a child. All the attention goes to that child. I find this person who’s not heavy and didn’t have a child. I don’t mean heavy, but you gain weight when you’re pregnant. Someone who does want to have sex with me, who’s looking great, who isn’t focused, all of a sudden, I’m getting all this stuff for myself from this other person that I feel I’m not getting in a relationship. Maybe when I’ve got a kid who’s 3 or 4, I returned back to my relationship.

My spouse finds out about the affair and I stop and I don’t enter one again. That’s someone who, for whatever reasons, was vulnerable to leaving their relationship because they’re needy. They weren’t getting what they wanted when they had a baby. They turn to something else to get some needs met. That’s different than someone who’s a sex addict. That’s someone who had an affair.

Would you say that’s more along the lines of codependency?

I don’t believe in codependency. I don’t think it exists. It’s an incredibly pejorative, negative form of, I don’t know, whatever it is. It’s not real therapy that needs to be eliminated. I wrote a book called Prodependence because people who love addicts should not be picked apart when they walk into treatment. They shouldn’t be asked what’s wrong with them and what their childhood is. People who finally get that love, love an addict, and get them into treatment, we should celebrate them and say, “What a great job you did hanging out with that person. How amazing was you stuck by them? How difficult they were and how great love is.” Partners, spouses, and family members need to be validated for having done everything to hang out with that addict.

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: If you have certain emotional vulnerabilities, then you’re not going to be able to do casual, pleasurable things in the same way as healthy people. Addicts grab onto intensely arousing, distracting, stimulating behaviors for different reasons than how others do.

 

The idea of evaluating the mental health or psychological health of a partner, a spouse of an addict, because they’re with a partner or spouse of an addict is cruel at best. At worst, it follows what addicts have always done, which blame their spouses. Everyone blames their spouses, “If she wasn’t this and he wasn’t that, then I wouldn’t drink, I wouldn’t this.” No, you’re going to drink if you wanted to drink. Codependency gave a lot of excuse to say, “If my partner wasn’t so codependent, I wouldn’t keep running.” You drink because you want to. We’ve always blamed spouses in a whole variety of ways over the years. I’ve opened up a completely different avenue or 180-degree turn on codependency and there isn’t going to be any going back, I don’t think.

I’ve seen many alcoholics and drug addicts. I’ve seen them move from substances over to sex addiction, porn addiction, SugarDaddy.com. I’m in an AA meeting and I see these men. It seems like their addiction has moved. Do you see that often?

I can’t judge what any individual is doing, but I do know addiction is a game of whack-a-mole. You hit the food thing and then someone starts gambling and you hit the gambling thing and then they’re getting high every day. Addiction as we know it is the part that shows over the water. It’s the tip of the iceberg. What’s underneath, the unhappiness, the trauma, and the issues that are there, they can drive any addiction. It doesn’t, to me, matter as much about the addiction is what’s going on underneath, even though we need to stop the addiction.

How can a person address it?

There’s no question in my mind. I stand behind that, unless you deal with substances, you can’t deal with anything else because drugs and alcohol are disinhibiting. I say, “I won’t eat. I won’t whatever.” I have a couple drinks and all the bets are off. You have to deal with substances first unless the behaviors are so problematic that you need to deal with both. I run a treatment center called Seeking Integrity. One of the things I wanted to do there was treat people with dual addictions, drugs and sex.

I see a lot of people go to drug and alcohol treatment but they have a lot of sexual issues with sexual acting out. No one mentioned sex. They’re so focused on the drug piece. The person didn’t bring it up. You don’t bring up sex in a group of alcoholics when you’re in treatment. It never gets dealt with, and their abuse or their incest or whatever happened to them, never gets talked about. They end up using again over unresolved issues. My particular interest is in these combined issues of meth-sex, alcohol-sex, opioid-sex because I know they’re not going to stop the drugs until they do with the sex at the same time. That’s how I look at it.

How often is it that you see someone that is in treatment for substance addiction also has sex addiction?

It’s 20% of the time, something like that. Maybe a different question would be how many people go in for one thing and then find out they have other things? How many people go in for alcohol and then find out they also have a spending problem? How many people go into drugs and alcohol, and then realize they’re working 80 hours a week and they’re workaholic. I don’t think it’s unusual at all to have people go into treatment and then to discover other dysfunctional parts of their lives.

Love addiction is graduate school for sex addicts. Click To Tweet

When people go into treatment, and you know this, they go in for the problem like, “My drinking is the problem.” They don’t necessarily think. This is why treatment centers need to broaden their view. They’re in there for alcohol. Nobody’s thinking about gambling and spending. They don’t get those in it. Anyway, it needs a specific focus unless these things are shared.

I’ve heard you say that before where it needs to be part of the intake process or there needs to be something that happens in a treatment center for substances. Part of the process needs to be, “Let’s talk about your other issues,” or some sort of a questionnaire. How does that happen?

If you’re not a sex addiction program, why can’t there be a men’s group twice a week or a women’s group twice a week in the evening where they talk about those kinds of intimacy issues? I could work in a drug and alcohol center and say, “Monday night, we’re going to talk about miscarriages and abortion,” and the women, that’s their topic. With the men, we can talk about having sex when you felt insecure and using a woman when you thought it was consensual, but it wasn’t.

We can set those topics. We can have those conversations. When we do, the person with the issue stands out like, “They sound a little different than the other people when we’re talking about sex or those things.” I believe you have to give people space. We are built to heal. If you and I create a space for people to heal, they will.

If a person gets clean and sober from drugs and alcohol but they have this other addiction, say sex addiction, that has not been addressed, are they more or less likely to relapse back on their drug of choice eventually?

If they are tied together, for example, the person who has a cocaine problem. They’ve worked on it and stopped using the cocaine. When they did cocaine, they were seeing sex workers. They were hiring people to have sex with and that’s where they got the drugs. When they go out in the world and they’ve gotten sober on coke, when they go back to have sex with those sex workers, guess where the drugs are? They’re going to end up relapsing over behavior that had nothing to do with their drug and alcohol treatment, but there it is in front of them. Sex and dating apps are rife with people who are looking to do drugs and have sex.

Many years ago, in order for a person to find a sex worker or porn or anything like that, it was a much bigger ordeal whereas now, it’s open up your iPhone.

We have these three A’s of things that lead people to addiction on the internet. They are, to say them, Accessibility, which we didn’t have in the past. If I wanted an adult magazine, I had to get in my car and go to a bookstore, whatever it was. Anonymity because I’m there on my phone and you don’t know what I’m looking at. Affordability, because porn and all that used to be expensive. Now, even sex workers, to be honest, you can go online and find them for $1.99 a minute.

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: Addiction is just the part that shows over the water. It’s the tip of the iceberg. What’s underneath is the unhappiness, the trauma, the issues that are there.

 

It’s a whole different ball game in terms of accessibility, affordability, anonymity, and that seems to be what drives online addiction. To put in a little plug, Intervention, the television show on A&E is going to be doing a brand new series called Digital Intervention. They’re going to look at gaming, gambling, spending, porn and all of that and see the addictive relationships that people have with those behaviors.

When does that come out?

The first episode that they invited me to do is the porn and sex piece, which I’m excited about. I’m excited because I want people to be educated. If I can help people see that someone with an addictive sexual problem has a problem and they’re broken rather than they’re sick perverts, then I’ve done my job. Digital Intervention either air in the fall or in early winter, like January or February 2021. I’m in Hollywood.

Which is where you’re located, or somewhere in LA?

I’m in Santa Monica.

Where is Seeking Integrity located?

Seeking Integrity is here in Los Angeles. We started a few years ago. It’s a very small program, not particularly expensive. I am treating men with intimacy disorders, but in a therapeutic way, what we are talking about is attachment disorders. These men that I work with never felt safe enough to trust intimacy, but they sure trust having affairs, picking people up, looking at porn, all of that controllable behavior is what they do.

You mentioned the other piece, which I do want to mention. It’s not a plug for anything. I’ve worked hard to create venues where people get help for free. We don’t talk about this a lot, but a lot of people are never going to get to a treatment center. They have the money. A lot of people are never going to see therapists. In fact, more people in trouble never get to treatment and therapy because they can’t afford it, time, money, whatever that is.

Partners, spouses, and family members need to be validated for having done everything to hang out with that addict. Click To Tweet

What I’m interested in, especially with the internet, is how can we build communities of supportive people where, for example, in our world, women who’ve been betrayed by male and female sex addicts can meet, couples that have been dealing with betrayal. Not specifically twelve-step, but I’m very interested in communities being developed. I’ve developed one for sex and porn. I would love to see some expert develop an eating disorder site and a drug and alcohol site where experts can answer questions and you can get engaged and support a little bit more sophisticated than twelve-step.

In other words, we have a lot of ways of reaching people. Maybe you don’t have the resources. I had a podcast. We have almost a million downloads, about 850,000 called Sex, Love, and Addiction. It’s free. I’m interested in people getting free resources. That excites me. This is a free resource. Thank you for doing it.

Thank you for being a guest. I’ve seen many men in recovery from sex addiction because they got caught having an affair. They don’t believe they have a problem. Do you see this where people are in treatment because they got caught having an affair, doing something, don’t want to get divorced, and that’s the only reason they’re in treatment?

I have been treating male and female sex addicts for many years. I have probably seen 800 to 1,000 people with this problem. Let’s say I’ve seen 800, 100 females and 700 men. If it was 800, 780 of them came because they were in trouble and over 25 years came because they wanted to be better people. People go to treatment because they’re in trouble. It’s funny when the media says, like, “They just went as an excuse.” They went to get out trouble. I feel sorry for them, but who cares?

My interest is in what happens when they’re in treatment, not what motivates them to go. Generally, what motivates heterosexual men to go is there going to be a wife has had it and she’s not going to take any more. It’s not one thing. It’s affairs, porn, and finding things out over years. By the way, this speaks to the financial issue. If you’re a woman who doesn’t have the resources to leave that man, if you need the money and him around to pay the rent, you’re going to have to put up with it.

Not all sex addicts are male, but nonetheless majority, if a woman doesn’t have the resources to say, “I’m divorcing you or I’m leaving you,” then she’s going to be stuck with it, which is painful and difficult. I wanted to go back to a question you answered that I remembered. You are asking about addicts going into an AA meeting. You were saying how some of them will start flirting with people and are they turning to another addiction is what you were talking about.

Do you see addicts, alcoholics, substance abuse addicts move from the substance over to sex addiction?

First of all, most sex addicts who are substance abusers will say that they had problems with intimacy and sex long before they ever had a drinking or alcohol problem. They realized that when they stopped drinking and using that those issues preexisted before the drinking and the drugs. In other words, I knew I had issues with sexual stuff and compulsivity related to porn when I was fourteen, but I didn’t start drinking until I was nineteen.

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: The internet is a whole different ball game in terms of accessibility, affordability, and anonymity for addicts.

 

The other thing is people who stopped drinking and using is hungry to escape and find an emotionally intense, distracting experience. Do you know how many addicts in their treatment not smoking and leave treatment smoking? Not treatment but certainly go to meetings, all of a sudden, they’re smoking, eating donuts, drinking Coke and hitting on people.

It’s like, “Whatever I can put in me to escape in the way that I used to escape emotionally with drugs and alcohol, I’m going to find.” You and I know also that sometimes people will do a lot of that picking up thirteen-step or whatever you want to call it in their first year. Once they’ve calmed down and more focused, they will stop all that other crazy behavior. Some people have found they have another addiction.

You were talking about intimacy. I have a question on that. A lot of people think that intimacy and sex is the same thing. Before I got clean and sober, I didn’t have intimate relationships. The first real intimate relationship I ever had was with my sponsor. That was when I learned intimacy and it’s not sex. Let me hear you.

It happened. Intimacy has to do with a connection to other people that may or may not involve sex. Sexual intimacy is one form of intimacy, but it’s not the only one. There are a lot more that are just as meaningful. Intimacy is the experience of making yourself vulnerable and being known. Do you mind if I tell a little teeny story? I went to the doctor. I had an elbow problem. I’ve never met the doctor before. He knows I’m a sexologist and a therapist.

He said, “Do you mind if I ask you a question,” while he was working on my elbow. I was like, “Go ahead.” He said, “I’m 60 and my wife’s 45. I’m worried about performance. Do you have any thoughts?” He knew what I did for a living. He wasn’t trying to use me or take advantage of me, get all the information. He was asking question. I thought, “I like this guy. I want to go back and see him again.”

The reason was he had made himself vulnerable to me. He had talked about something that was intimate, sexuality with his wife. He turned to me in a very innocent way, asking for support. I felt closer to him because he had made himself vulnerable. This is the opposite of what most people think. In group therapy like, “What if I say this? They’re all going to hate me.” The reality is, if you say something that’s very meaningful about yourself and even something is hard to say, most people will move towards you. That means you’re building intimacy.

Friends create an intimacy by talking about their shared issues and the person I’m intimate with, don’t abandon me and leave me. They support me and learning more about me even if they don’t like what they’re hearing. Sexual intimacy is one form of intimacy. Intimacy is about being known and the willingness to make yourself vulnerable to risk that another person will support you, let you in, and not judge you. You have to take that risk of opening up to that person. That’s where the intimacy starts.

By the way, this is how you learn if someone’s a friend or someone’s a date, because if they respond with, “Let me tell you about me. I don’t agree with those,” if someone doesn’t bring you in when you’re being all intimate, they’re probably not the right person that you’d be friends with. You want that person to respond to you, “Tell me more about that. I’m sorry that happened to me, too.” They are engaged and that’s how intimacy is built.

Unless you deal with substances, you can't deal with anything else because drugs and alcohol are disinhibiting. Click To Tweet

How can a person learn intimacy?

It’s practice. How do you learn anything? I went to twelve-step meetings because that was a no-cost away for you to walk into a room and practice getting along with people. I mean that because part of what happens in twelve-step meetings is you go out for coffee after, you talk with people. You’re a sponsor. You can become responsible to someone else or someone who sponsors you. You learn how to have a dependent relationship with someone who has authority.

You bring a coffee every week, which means you learn accountability and structure. People think twelve-step programs are about following those steps and going to those meetings. To me, it’s a much more sophisticated social and relationship learning experience. What I love about twelve-step meetings is I can walk up to you and say, “I’d like to be your friend. Screw you. I don’t like you.” I can go onto the next person. In other words, there’s endless numbers of people to practice getting close to and getting to know. Those kinds of environments for addicts who tend to isolate is a good place to practice.

My experience was the same. I learned intimacy in twelve-step meetings. I learned real human connection. I talk about how I moved to Arizona in 2006. From 2006 to 2011, I was in my addiction and I had a bunch of surface level relationships. Once I got clean and sober from 2011 until now, my world has completely opened up because I’ve learned to truly connect with people. That’s at meetings with a sponsor, with sponsees, that’s even with people at the coffee shop. It’s people in passing. Before getting clean and sober, it’s all about Tim.

I wasn’t interested in you because it was about me.

It’s learning to pay attention, be aware, listen, be of service, and be vulnerable.

Some people say, “Do I need to spend my life in meetings?” You might be going for a long period of time on a regular basis, but your life shouldn’t be about that after the first year or so. You should be having those social intimate experiences in recreation, hobbies, or with friends. The goal of recovery is not to go to meetings every day. It’s to get out in the world and practice the lessons that you learn. If I learned to make more friends, be more at peace and be less reactive in a twelve-step meeting, I need to then go out in the world and join a hiking group and start playing tennis with people, getting engaged with people and using those skills in the real world.

That’s been my experience as well. There was a study done and I don’t know where this study was done. The study showed that people that had multiple communities were happier.

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: Intimacy has to do with a connection to other people that may or may not involve sexual intimacy. Sexual intimacy is one form of intimacy, but it’s not the only one.

 

They live longer, healthier, all of it.

To your point, it’s like yoga, CrossFit, a hiking club, reading club, or a baking club.

I hate to tell you this, but human beings were never meant to live in an apartment on the 38th floor by themselves and not know their neighbors. For all of humanity, we’ve grown up in communities. It’s auntie across the street and grandma who’s upstairs. We thrive in community, but our lifestyle and way of living forces us more into being separate, isolated, and individual, especially in car driving cities.

I feel like in New York, you engage more people than you might in Atlanta, where you’re more driving around. The environments we live in also set us up for that, but addicts actively avoid connection. I’d rather use by myself at home. We also devalue healthy engaged, like, “Who would want to go play softball at my age? I’d rather get high.” We devalue the fun if we even know what fun is.

It’s Dr. Gabor Maté that said, “Addiction is the opposite of human connection.” Do you agree with that?

Yes. I remember I said and you said that we’re dealing with intimacy and attachment disorders. I believe that addicts are desperately seeking either to shut up their loneliness, longing for connection, drink it away or they’re using it as a form of trying to make a connection. Either way, it doesn’t work. Drugs and alcohol, these are substitutes. Sex, for example, I can feel known and important. I’m in bed with this person. We’re all over each other, but they’re a stranger to me. I’ve never met them before. I’ve only known them a short time. I cannot be intimate with that person. I can have sex with them, but they don’t know me. They don’t know who I am. I’m only doing a physical act. I’m not doing an emotionally engaged physical act.

One of the challenges, by the way, for sex addicts is when they put down all of that behavior, the porn, the acting out, the affairs, whatever and they try to be intimate with a real person. The challenge is they know how to do things. They don’t drink, use, or have sex with strangers, but being with real people and being close and intimate, we avoid that. We don’t move toward it. We move away. We don’t get fed by the very thing that we need, which is emotional support, connection.

Relationships are about giving as opposed to taking. That’s what I think about. When someone’s with a sex worker or looking at porn or whatever, they’re taking.

It's not unusual at all to have people go into treatment and then discover other dysfunctional parts of their lives. Click To Tweet

It’s more like putting yourself in a bubble. You’re in this little world of your creation. It’s controllable. If I see sex workers, rather than being deeply intimate with my spouse, no sex worker is going to let me down. No prostitute is going to abandon me or hurt me. I have complete control over that relationship. I’m paying for it. With a partner, someone I’m close to, they can hurt me. Turning to these more casual, I don’t think I know, porn, sex workers, affairs, intensity, stripper, all that stuff, it’s much easier for us to do that, sex addicts, than be close and vulnerable with someone that we care about. We often set up two lives. We have home, love, and connection over here. We have this crazy sexual behavior here, and it’s all compartmentalized. It’s not connected. We live multiple lives.

It’s believed that once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Is that the same thing that’s true of a sex addict?

All the addictions are the same. They all come from the same place. Addictions are longing for connection without the ability to do it or the fear of doing it. By the way, when you go to twelve-step programs, you are forced to connect. Think about it. What do we do with the most mentally ill or addicted when they are home going crazy? We take them out of there. We bring them into community where we put them in a hospital. We take them to meetings and we put them in a group. We bring them to connect with people. We’re literally saying, “This will replace that if you work it, if you engage here, you’ll have less of a need for that.”

What is the meeting do that the alcohol doesn’t do? It connects you. It makes you feel a part of something. We are human. We long for that. Addiction tells us to stay separate and to do it on our own. All the addictions have the common thread of, “I’m fearful of intimacy. I’d rather take care of everything by myself because I don’t trust that other people will help. I’m isolated in my own little box. When my deeper needs come up for connection or support, I don’t turn to the people who’ve been supporting me. I turn into the situations where I feel a sense of control and no one can let me down.”

I want to mention something more about your last question. All addicts have an intimacy and an attachment disorder, which is my belief system. We talked about Gabor Maté talking about that. A lot of people talking about the opposite of addiction is connection. I assume that I have a brain problem. Addicts, many of us who should have grown up with a lot of focus on us, support for us, consistency, and nurturing, we didn’t get that for whatever reason.

I had crazy parents. They were not available to me. Some people have alcoholic parents or parents would fight all the time, whatever their caregivers do, that person does not learn to trust. They do not learn to rely on their caregivers. They learn maybe to reach out for help means, “I’m going to get abandoned.” Later in life, they don’t turn to people for intimate love and support. They turn to something they can control. They can control alcohol, drugs, and gambling. They can completely control in situations, by the way, where you and I would fall out a control. Trolling the street for sex workers would not make me feel safe, but a sex addict feels powerful and great when they’re out there doing that. They’re feeling a sense of control and excitement.

They say that an alcoholic can never go back to drinking like a gentleman. Can a sex addict ever go back to having sex like a regular person?

This is one of the challenges of having an addiction in an area that is a naturally occurring issue. Eating’s a naturally occurring thing and we need to do it. Sex is a naturally occurring experience. I don’t want people to stop having sex. I want them to have healthy sex. When you come to eating food, abstinence is not stopping altogether. You wouldn’t say to someone with an eating disorder, “Stop eating and you’ll be fine the rest of your life.”

ILBS 29 | Sex Addiction

Sex Addiction: The idea of evaluating the mental health or psychological health of a partner of an addict just because they’re with them is cruel at best and, at worst, follows what addicts have always done—blame their spouses.

 

These are what we call process addictions. They have to deal with behaviors, not drinking and using. You can stop gambling and have a happy life without any fantasy football, casinos, and any stock market. You can stop spending, but sex you want to keep having. Eating you want to keep doing. We create a plan for sobriety, which is we write out what are the unhealthy behaviors that you need to stop, like seeing sex workers, calling exes, patrolling out at night and not having a plan.

Whatever the behaviors, we’re going to set it down. We’re going to establish sobriety, almost always sexual behaviors. I might look at someone a little too long. That’s a warning sign. If I go over to them, start talking to them and get them in bed, bottom line, I might eat a lovely meal, but if I go back for seconds or take a huge dessert, then it’s not. With naturally occurring things, we set boundaries around the problem behavior. We encourage the healthy ones.

I can have sex with my partner, we have a little saying, which I love that sex or sex addicts has to come from willingness, not from horniness with an intimate partner. What that means is as a sex addict, I went out looking for the hottest, most exciting, and then it was intense and I want to do, and you wanted me and heart-pounding. There’s a new bod and there’s a new one. It’s all exciting. When you live with someone for fifteen years, that’s not what sex is.

You’ve seen that butt before, so how do you make intimate sexuality exciting and connected? You don’t do it by saying, “You’re so hot. I can’t wait to get in bed with you.” You have to find other ways. Be willing to find your way into sexual intimacy in ways that you haven’t as a sex addict. That takes working on your fear of intimacy, which most addicts I know have. You can have sex, but not all sex.

It’s learning intimacy and connection, and it’s not the high. That could be a rule of thumb. If you’re chasing the high, you’re going into territory that could be a slippery slope.

It’s more like we’re looking at the behaviors have already caused problems. When I work with someone, I ask them what they want in life. Do they want a family? Do they want their marriage to work? What sexual behaviors are not supporting that? “I’m looking at porn three hours a day. It’s hard to get through school. I’m having sex with strangers, but I want to have sex with a partner.” How do we get you from here to there and not have you go back to the old behaviors?

Is sex addiction genetic?

The capacity and vulnerability for addiction are genetic. What I mean by that is some people come out of the womb and they’re calm. They don’t make a lot of noise when they’re babies. Their parents love them and fairly common patient people. That’s how they came out of the womb. That’s their genetic piece. Other people come out anxious, more fearful, and less connected. People are all different and we’re all different at the moment of birth all the way through. The person who had a depressed mother might have genetic issues, issues going through their family, like uncle was an alcoholic. When you’re going to see those genetic predispositions, you’re going to see a predisposed predisposition toward either psychological disorders or addiction or both.

Is there a question that you’ve always wanted to be asked, but the interviewer never got around to it?

People who just stopped drinking and using are hungry to escape. They are hungry to find an emotionally intense, distracting experience. Click To Tweet

One of them is, can women be sex addicts? We often talk about men, but we don’t talk about women.

Can women be sex addicts?

Yes. I opened one of the first treatment centers just for women with these issues. Interestingly, by the way, women will often bounce back and forth between food and sex. They’ll gain a whole bunch of weight when they’re in a relationship, literally push a person away. When they’re single, they’ll lose all the weight and run out there, and pick whatever they can find, and back and forth. I see everything from very compulsive behavior repetitively with strangers in women, which we see in men more often all the way to affair after affair, but I’m also sleeping with sex workers. You don’t see as many. We don’t see as many women getting in trouble for sexual problems as we do in men. There is a good reason for that.

What’s the reason?

I knew you were going to ask that, testosterone. We are much more highly sexual, aggressive, competitive, and physical in those ways because we have testosterone and women don’t. Why are 90% of the people with sexual problems rape offending in prison who are male? Women don’t have testosterone. They’re not driven in the same ways as men are around sexuality. Why don’t we have a huge #MeToo Movement for men?

We have a small one because men are aggressive and we are more of the aggressors. We are programmed that way and then the chemicals. Do you ever noticed how a 65-year-old man, most of them, are a little bit less apt to go, “It’s you baby going down the street?” That’s not just aging. That’s the hormonal situation has changed and I’m not so driven to look, touch, and talk to that. It’s not that important to me in the same way it did when I was 23.

My experience is that women are more likely to have eating disorders and men are more likely to have sex addiction. Why do you think men are less likely to have an eating disorder?

This is not research-based, it’s just how I would put it, men tend to act out. Men act out with sexual behavior, violence, stealing, and outside of what’s healthy for them out there in the world. Women tend to more act in, so they get depressed. They stopped being functional. They eat and do things that make their life more insular, not so much habit. Women more tend to have problems here. Men tend to have problems out there.

Intimacy is the experience of making yourself vulnerable and being known. Click To Tweet

Not that it can’t be different, but women are soothing themselves and regulating their mood with food. They’re not rushing out there for intensity with sex for the most part. That simply has to do with how we’re built as men and women. Women are out there struggling. Especially with porn, I don’t know if you know this, I have been running a support group for many years. I do it as service online, volunteer.

For years, I have seen 50% of the people in that group, women. Now I go to a twelve-step meeting for sex addicts, it’s 90% men. When you go online, you find that women feel safer in community online. Women don’t necessarily want to go to a church basement on a rainy night and sit with nine guys who have sex problems, but they go online and I find a lot of women. We are going to see all kinds of addicts showing up for help because they don’t have to walk into a church basement at 9:00 at night. The internet has offered women a lot more opportunities to heal than they have before, in my opinion.

There’s a treatment center in Tucson. They have a program called Intimacy Disorders. It’s used to be Sex Addiction, but now it’s Intimacy Disorders. My understanding is that women felt safer once it was called an Intimacy Disorder.

Think about this, if I’m a guy and I’m having a lot of sex, and I don’t tell people about the bad parts, I tell people about sex I’m having, I’m going to be called a stud. People are like, “That guy’s cool. He gets laid all the time.” If I’m a woman and I’m out there had a lot of sex, I’m going to be called a slut or a whore. Women already intuitively know what people think about them if they’re out there having a lot of sex. It’s much harder for a woman to come out and talk about it because she’s not going to be the player, she’s going to be the bad girl. Our culture already knows that and acknowledges that and accepts. There is an important reason why we look at women and men differently or have these issues, for sure.

I know you already mentioned this. How can people find support if they are struggling or if a loved one is struggling with sex addiction?

There are endless support groups online. Sex and Relationship Healing is one of them, but every twelve-step program is online, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. There are programs for people with porn problems or Sex and Porn Addicts Anonymous and Porn Addicts Anonymous. There’s all of that. I wanted to say something else about porn. Let’s go back to your question.

Educate yourself. It’s true that there’s a lot of fake news online, but if you look for experts, and this is where you need to look, look for the person who has the PhD, who has the educational customers, the drug and alcohol counselor, and the people who know what they’re doing and read and learn. Also, YouTube is a great place to have professionals talk to you and learn from you and all that stuff. We offer online courses where people can learn how to work on this stuff. The internet now, there are so many opportunities. There are whole communities for men with porn problems, with thousands of people going every week trying to change their behaviors.

The gift of the internet, in part, is that there are so many places you can go and learn. It’s funny. I want to say this silly little thing, and it’s so silly, but you and I often recommend a book for someone to read. This would be helpful if you read this book, Addicts and Partners. I was talking to someone and I realized, “I can tell them to get it right this minute.” By the time we’re done with this conversation, they’ll have the book in their hand. Little things like that have changed my world in ways that help people. I’m a huge fan of accessing things online. Education is the best way to start.

Addictions are longing for connection without the ability to do it, or the fear of doing it. Click To Tweet

Where can people find you? How can they find you?

I’m not hard to find. If you type in Dr. Rob Weiss and sex, you don’t need to go much further than that. If you want to write me a note, I’m Rob@SeekingIntegrity.com. The podcast is SexAndRelationshipHealing.com. The treatment center is Seeking Integrity and our free website for support is SexAndRelationshipHealing.com. There are lots of ways to find me. You will find me on Digital Intervention. I’m excited about that. For parents out there who have kids who are struggling with social media and the internet, Digital Intervention is going to be very helpful.

Dr. Rob, thank you so much for being on the show. I appreciate you. I learned a lot. I hope our readers learned a lot as well.

I love being sober. Thank you for naming it that. Thank you for inviting me in.

Important Links:

About Robert Weiss Ph.D., LCSW

ILBS 29 | Sex AddictionRobert Weiss Ph.D., LCSW is Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity LLC, a unified group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders like compulsive sexual behavior and related drug abuse. As Chief Clinical Officer, Dr. Rob led the development and implementation of Seeking Integrity’s residential treatment programming and serves as an integral part of the treatment team.

He is the author of ten books on sexuality,  technology, and intimate relationships, including Sex Addiction 101Out of the Doghouse, and Prodependence. His Sex, Love, and Addiction Podcast is currently in the Top 10 of US Addiction-Health Podcasts. Dr. Rob hosts a no-cost weekly Sex and Intimacy Q&A on Seeking Integrity’s self-help website, SexandRelationshipHealing.com (@SexandHealing). The Sex and Relationship Healing website provides free information for addicts, partners of addicts, and therapists dealing with sex addiction, porn addiction, and substance abuse issues.

Dr. Rob can be contacted via Seeking Integrity.com and SexandRelationshipHealing.com. All his writing is available on Amazon, while he can also be found on Twitter (@RobWeissMSW), on LinkedIn (Robert Weiss LCSW), and on Facebook (Rob Weiss MSW).

Propelled By Purpose: A Journey Of Recovery With David Hill

ILBS 26 | Recovery Propelled by Purpose

 

Recovery from addiction takes many paths, and one path is recovery propelled by purpose. You have to be prepared to change and find your purpose in life. In this episode, Tim Westbrook interviews lead generation expert and recovering alcoholic David Hill about his journey towards sobriety. David talks about what pushed him towards alcoholism and the spiral of abuse that pushed him towards alcohol. He talks about what brought him to the path of recovery and shares insights on what you need to do and keep doing to continue walking on the road of sobriety.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Propelled By Purpose: A Journey Of Recovery With David Hill

We started this show because there’s so much misinformation about addiction, treatment, mental illness and recovery, in general. There’s so much more to recovery than just going to inpatient treatment, going to twelve-step meetings and seeing a therapist. All those things are important and AA saved my life. However, to find long-term recovery and live happy, joyous and free, there’s a lot more to it than just stopping the drinking, the drugs, the sex addiction or any addictive behavior for that matter. To live a new life, a person needs new healthy lifestyle habits amongst other things.

Typically, this includes new eating habits, exercise, sleeping habits, new hobbies, interests and friends. Self-care becomes a priority and the list goes on. Those are the types of things that we talk about here on the show. I’m here with David Hill. David has been a lead generation expert for many years. He’s a real estate entrepreneur, podcast host of Path to Mastery, husband and father of three amazing daughters, triathlete and he’s been clean and sober for many years. His purpose in life is spreading his message of hope and prosperity from where he came from to where he is going. David, welcome to the show. I’m so glad to have you here.

Thanks. I appreciate it, Tim. It’s good to be here.

How did you end up as an alcoholic or an addict? First off, what was your drug of choice?

I was lucky that I never graduated above cocaine or any of that. I never did crack, anything with needles or any of that stuff. I’m blessed that I never went there. In the end, I did a lot of cocaine. Drinking was always my drug of choice but in the end, I thought I figured out that if I could do enough cocaine, I could keep myself level enough so that I wouldn’t get in trouble, blackout and do crazy stuff. Even in the end that even failed me. It was a mess.

How did it happen to you? How did you become an alcoholic?

Just because you grew up a certain way does not mean that has to be your trajectory in life. Click To Tweet

I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. I have friends that say, “You’re born an alcoholic. It’s a product of your upbringing sometimes.” I think that might’ve played into it with me because my father was an alcoholic and he drank a lot. He was very abusive, beat me and my mother. He puts marijuana around the house and alcohol. My mother drank a lot as well. It was around me. I was shy as a kid. I wasn’t a good communicator what I went through with my dad. The first time I drank, it was like I came outside of my shell. I was this shy, introverted kid that didn’t have any self-confidence and didn’t know how to communicate the right way.

When I drank, it did something to me. This new person came out. I could now talk, dance and do all this stuff. I absolutely loved it. I remember my first drink. I went to a football game with a bunch of guys and girls. I didn’t start drinking until I was older. My first drink was around close to sixteen so I didn’t start young. I started at a later age. I blacked out. I fractured my ankle. The next day I had a girlfriend. The whole thing was crazy. I know it seems all over the place but I don’t know. My dad created a mess and that’s what I was. I was a frigging mess. To my mom, to an extent, created this messy kid who couldn’t communicate the right way and didn’t have any self-confidence. Once I got that alcohol in me, I was a different person. I loved it. I had fun. I could talk and I wanted more. That’s it. It’s a sickness. It’s more drug.

Are you familiar with The Four Agreements? I got done reading that book again for the twentieth time. I think about being domesticated. We’re all domesticated. You were domesticated in your household by your parents and by the people that you’re around. You learn how to live a certain way and that’s how you lived. Clearly, it didn’t prepare you for life is what I’m hearing. Would you agree with that?

I was not prepared for anything. I was prepared for jail. I found myself locked up. I didn’t think I was a bad person but I found myself in a county jail in the house of correction at nineteen years old, surprised and probably scared for the first time in my life because I couldn’t go home. There was no leaving and the reason being is I didn’t have coping skills. I didn’t have ways of communicating, telling people, “I don’t like the way that makes me feel.” Instead, I became very abusive. My father taught me kickboxing at a young age. That’s what he taught me.

This is crazy but you got a kid that is being taught when you’re being beaten and you cry, you’re beaten harder. Clearly, I’m not able to communicate because, as I’m being beaten, if I’m going to cry then I’m beaten harder. That tells you my level of ability to share my feelings and then teaching me kickboxing. I’m half black. My father is black. My mother’s white. This is back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. I’m not fitting in anywhere because there’s racism everywhere. We lived in primarily white neighborhoods most of my life, which was a blessing in the end because my mother got us away from my father. I dealt with a lot of that. I didn’t know how to deal with it except for, “You’re not going to talk to me like that.” I became very aggressive and I knew how to fight.

If you can imagine the combination of this kid and just everything I shared. It wasn’t a good, effective combination for creating productive human beings. I ended up in court multiple times. The last time I went to court at nineteen, I didn’t leave the courthouse. I was surprised. I ended up spending eleven months in county jail. I’m blessed that happened because it was the beginning of a wake-up call for me. I didn’t kill anybody. I didn’t kill myself. I didn’t end up in state prison, which is the real deal for people that have been locked up. There’s a big difference between being in county jail to being in state prison.

Usually when people are in the system, when they end up in jail, typically they end up back in jail for the rest of their lives, in and out. Is that accurate?

ILBS 26 | Recovery Propelled by Purpose

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)

It depends on the person. I know people like me that did time. When they got done, they changed their life and didn’t have to do it again. They use that as an opportunity to grow and be a better person. A lot of people I grew up with, Tim, frankly are dead. They’re in jail or live completely mediocre lives like I growing up, frankly.

How were you able to turn your life around?

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I know that’s cliché AA term. I got out in 2001 when I got out. I wanted to change but I couldn’t. I want it to but then I went back to my old buddies. I shared this with you before I went to a cake party. I brought twelve-pack of O’Doul’s with me. That was my mindset. Before long I was drinking the O’Doul’s and I was filling O’Doul’s from the keg and not realizing how people knew that the next morning. I got in trouble again. This time around, they wanted to give me some real-time. I got lucky. I don’t know if it was maybe my 90-year-old grandmother who came to court with me and my mother used to go into court with me.

They hired the best attorney they could and the court system gave me a break. They said, “We’re going to let you do this six-month alcohol rehabilitation program as an alternative to go into jail because clearly you have all these people here that care about you. We’re going to give you this break but after that, you’re on probation for 3.5 years. If you get in trouble for 3.5 years, you’re going to do 2.5 years with two years on and after, which means now you have some real time to do.” They didn’t expect me to stay out of trouble.

I didn’t expect myself to stay out of trouble for 3.5 years. I couldn’t stay out of trouble. I was getting arrested almost once a month for something whether trespassing, assault and battery, drunk, all kinds of stupid stuff. For whatever reason, I went to that rehab center in Western Mass. It was called Howard Street. There was this little black lady out there. The corrections officer’s name is Clinton. He took me into an outside meeting in downtown Springfield. I had a bad attitude back then but I was in a place where I didn’t like my life anymore.

I wasn’t feeling good about my life and where I was. I did want to change. When I went out, Tim, I wanted to go out and have a good time. The intention was not to go out and get in a fight, not to get arrested, not to crash my car and not all that stuff. It was to go out and have a good time. For whatever reason, the good times were further and fewer in between than the bad time. I knew something was up. I was starting not to like my life. I ended up in Howard Street. This little black lady on an outside meeting convinced me to get on my knees. She grabbed me by my arm and asked me if I wanted to get sober. I said, “I didn’t.” She said, “You need to humble yourself. You need to get on your knees.”

I was like, “Sure. Whatever.” She said, “No.” She held on. She was like, “I want you to understand what humbling yourself means is it means you’re lowering yourself to something greater than yourself. Are you willing to do that?” There’s nobody in the world that could have delivered that message to me at the time. I was angry. I weigh 170 now. I weighed about 195 then all muscle, a nutcase. Nobody in the world could have delivered that message to me except that little old black lady. I went back that night to Howard Street and I put my knee on the floor. That was the beginning. When I first did it, I wanted to make sure no one saw me either. I didn’t want anybody to see me doing it. I put my knee on the floor, quick, jumped back up and that’s where it all started. I’ve been doing that. That’s the one thing I’ve done every single day now.

The first step is the awareness that you want to do something. Click To Tweet

What specific incident inspired you to be so passionate about spreading your message of hope and prosperity from where you came from, where you are and where you’re going? You’ve been sobered for many years. Your life wasn’t what it is now. You have so many amazing things going on. You’re a triathlete. You’re a podcast host. You’re married. You’re successful in business. You own a business and your life now looks a lot different than how it looked when you first got clean and sober. Now you’re spreading your message of hope and prosperity. What made you decide that you wanted to start doing that?

When I got sober and once I got out of Howard Street, I did that six months then I had to stay out of trouble for 3.5 years.

Howard Street was the rehab that you went to?

Yeah. Howard Street was the rehab in Western Mass. It’s a casino now, by the way. They knocked the whole place down and now that’s where the casino is in Western Mass. I got home. It wasn’t right away. I wanted to change my career. I’ve always been in sales. I went into real estate. I got my real estate license. I wanted to change. I wanted to be a different person. I changed the people I hung out with. I forget who it was but somebody found out I was sober. They asked me to come. There were a bunch of us talking to a group of kids at an elementary school.

That’s where it all started. We went in. We talked to the kids and it was fun. I had kids come up to me after. Back then she was the superintendent but she came and said, “Would you be willing to do that at this school? Would you be able to do that at North High School?” I ended up being this guy that went to the schools and it was amazing. I honestly should still be doing that. I don’t know how I got away from it but that’s ultimately where I started. I started talking to some kids at the schools and then it led to other things.

I became successful in my business. I had to learn how to become a better leader. I had a focus on leadership skills and on becoming a better communicator. I had to educate myself so I started taking different college courses, Dale Carnegie Effective Communication and all these other things. I had to start working on this. I was sober but I was still a broken person on the inside. I think that’s one of the things we struggle with in life. When you look at my message, I’m propelled by purpose, meaning I have a purpose. Other kids, young adults should not have to go through what I went through.

I have three daughters. They will never see anything like that. As a matter of fact, the life they have to them, it’s normal to have a nice big house and pool, the whole deal. We lived in a car growing up. That’s what I did. They go to the schools they want. It’s amazing that I can do that. I want to get out there and share the message that I can of hope. One of the things I’ve always said is, “Because this is the way you grew up does not mean that has to be your trajectory in life. That does not have to be where you stay.” I think that’s one of the biggest struggles is most people I know weren’t able to break out of that.

ILBS 26 | Recovery Propelled by Purpose

Recovery Propelled by Purpose: We just have to get out there and be positive and let people know that just because this is what you came from doesn’t mean that’s how we have to stay.

 

I don’t live in Worcester anymore. I grew up in Worcester. Worcester is the city where I am. We’re about 30 miles West of Boston. It’s a city in the North side of the city. It’s where I grew up as a kid. That’s where we lived and I can drive through it. I’ll see people that I knew that they look like they’re 65, 70-year-old men without teeth and stuff because they haven’t taken care of themselves. Half the other ones are locked up or in prison. I want to let people know that doesn’t have to be you. You can put a productive life together. You can do big things in the world. I’m getting started, in my opinion. It took me 17, 18 years to clean up the mess in here so that I can get started now. That’s truly what I believe. I’m just getting started.

They grow up in a certain environment. Going back to The Four Agreements, you’re domesticated and programmed to live life a certain way. You’re raised around these people. For most people, it’s impossible to get out of that. What suggestion do you have for the person that wants to get out of it? How do you level up your life?

It comes down to being sick and tired and to a place where I was very disappointed in my life. I remember sitting in that little room at Howard Street and saying, “This is where my life is right now. I’m in this room. I’m in a six-month alcohol rehabilitation center as an alternative to being locked up. If I make any mistakes, I’m being locked up for 3.5 years.” That was as good as it got for me. That was when I woke up like, “My life’s a mess.” I think the first step, Tim, is the awareness that you want to do something. The courts couldn’t make me do anything. My mom cared about me and couldn’t make me do anything. All the women I dated when I was younger couldn’t make me do anything.

It had to come to the point where I was ready to do something and that was when it started. Once I opened my mind, “I want better for myself.” I got involved in a program. I got a sponsor. I went through that whole program but when I got out was the most important part. When you’re in there, there’s nothing you can do. You’re stuck. There’s a guard. There are people that if you leave, they’re going to grab you and throw you in jail. It’s when you get out that is the critical part. You got to change the people, places and things. That’s the most important part.

I don’t know if I shared this story with you. I think I may have where I was telling my sponsor, Fred, he’s still my sponsor several years later. I found him in about 1.5 years sober and he’s many years in sobriety now. I used to drink at a place called On The Rocks. I don’t know if I shared this story with you. Whenever I drive by On The Rocks, I’m feeling weird, getting anxiety and like, “I want to stop in.” He’s like, “Stop freaking driving by On The Rocks, find another route. That’s it.” Simplify my life. How simple is that? I’m like, “Shit, it’s that simple.” I’m oversimplifying things but the reality is you have to change the people, places and things. You know this. You’ve been sober a lot of years.

If you don’t change those then we’re never going to change. We can’t. The first thing is desire. I know my life’s crap. I’m done. You have to humble yourself, give up and then you have to change the people, places and things. I would encourage everybody to get involved in some type of program, a twelve-step program. I chose AA. It has been my program. I still go to three meetings a week. Several years later, still three meetings a week like clockwork, two retreats a year. That’s what I do. It’s my routine.

I know a lot of people want to hold on to their friends. They want to hold on to certain pieces of their old life. You can’t. My experience is that everything has to change, new friends, new hobbies, new interests, new eating habits, new sleeping habits, new exercise habits. Everything has to change in order for someone to get clean and sober. I think it’s scary because it’s outside of a comfort zone. It’s not what they’re used to doing. It’s not how programmed to live life. Getting involved with a recovery program, like a twelve-step program and then surrounding yourself with different people that have what you want. You find people that have what you want, you spend time with them and you do the things that they do. It’s very simple. If you go back and you do the things that you used to do, you’re going to wind up drunk or high because that’s what happened before and that’s what’s going to happen again. Your biggest suggestion for the newcomer, if I’m hearing you correctly, is to change the people, places and things.

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You have to. It’s impossible to do it without doing that. I had to break a relationship. This was one of the toughest things I did in my life. I’ve been with my wife for several years. We’ve been married for a few years now. Before that I was with Jessica, my drinking buddy. She was fun. We had a lot of fun together. We were together for a lot of years. When I got sober, she decided she was going to get sober. Around two years into sobriety, she decided she didn’t want to get sober. She took off. She was gone. I found out she went to the casino with a guy. I was out of my mind. I was such a codependent person too. If I would’ve found her, I probably wouldn’t be in this car because I would have probably killed her and killed the guy she was with. That’s how I felt I was even at two years of sobriety, to be honest with you but I didn’t. Thank God.

I was driving around. I had no license back then. Looking for them everywhere. I couldn’t find them. My sponsor, Franny, I finally called him. I told him what was happening. He said, “Go home. I’m going to come to pick you up in the morning. We’re going to have coffee.” He said, “Promise me you go home and we’ll have coffee in the morning.” I said, “All right.” I did. Going home and having coffee with him in the morning probably saved my life. I went home. He picked me up in the morning and we went out to coffee.

One thing he said to me, I never forget. He said, “She’s going to pull you out of the boat before you can pull her in the boat. I want you to think you’re in a canoe or a kayak. You never going to be able to pull her in the boat. She’s going to pull you out in a boat before you can pull her in the boat.” That was the message that you were right. I contemplated I’m going to start drinking again so I could stay with her. I didn’t do it because I had a good sponsor and a good support system. The reason I bring that up is that it was first off. It’s one of the toughest things I dealt with in sobriety, that relationship.

I was with her eight years before I even got sober. We had a lot of fun together. We were drinking buddies. We had done a lot of things together but once she decided to go out, I had to separate myself. I had to remove myself from that relationship or she was going to pull me out of the boat into the water with her. If you think you’re going to go back and hang out with your old buddies, you are mistaken. I’m letting you know that now. If you think you’re going to go back and hang out at the bars and drink a soda, you got to change everything, people, places and things.

Is there a question that you’ve always wanted to be asked but the interviewer never got around to it? If so, what would that question be?

I’ve never gone as deep into an interview, by the way since the first time I’ve shared at the level I have. I’ve never shared about being locked up before because I don’t know. I’ve been ashamed of it but the reality is its part of my past. People want to hold it against me and then hold it against me. It doesn’t matter at this point. I don’t mean people in sobriety. People in sobriety now are going to hold it against me. It’s going to be other people that maybe can’t relate to some of the stuff I shared. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think you covered it well. My message for the people reading, there’s so much more out there than we give ourselves credit for and then the only way we can ever receive that is to be open to it.

You elaborated on being conditioned as a kid to be a certain way. I don’t want anybody else to ever have to go through anything like that. That’s my mission in life is to get out there and touch as many kids. Even if you have gone through it then you don’t have to continue going through it and your kids don’t have to go through it. I broke generational chains in my family regardless of what I went through. With my daughters, it’s different. We got to get out there, be positive and let people know, “Just because this is what you came from, it doesn’t mean that’s how we have to stay.” It takes hard work sometimes. It’s not easy. It’s a daily thing showing up every freaking day, every day like a business.

It’s like going to the gym. If you go to the gym and you get in shape, you’re in shape but you have to keep on going to the gym in order to stay in shape. That’s the same thing with recovery because recovery is not stopping the drinking, the drug, the addictive behavior. That’s the first step but after that, it’s learning how to live life differently. It’s continuous. Recovery is a lifelong journey. Sometimes we slip back into our old behaviors and our old thinking. That’s why we stay connected and continue going to meetings. I stay connected to my sponsor and to people in recovery. I continue to go to meetings and I need that. That’s how I’m going to stay spiritually fit, which is you go to the gym to stay physically fit. I stay connected to recovery to stay spiritually fit.

ILBS 26 | Recovery Propelled by Purpose

Recovery Propelled by Purpose: The reality is you have to change the people, places, and things. If we don’t change those, then we’re never going to change.

 

It’s an inside thing. When I got home, I was lucky. Ironically, if you go to my Instagram, you’ll see I had my shirt on that says, “TSDD, Tough Shit Don’t Drink.” That wasn’t even a meeting. It was 130 guys. Half the guys were bikers. It was a men’s meeting. The other half were guys that got out of jail combined with guys in halfway houses. It was chaotic. I fit right in. I loved it. It was a bunch of lunatics but they all had in common is no one was drinking. The guys are going on camping trips, to NASCAR, to dinner on Fridays and to bowling. I did all that stuff in the beginning. That was what helped me stay sober in the beginning. Being part of that. I’m not a big part of that group anymore but that’s what I needed at that point in my life. I didn’t have anything else. I needed that network. I think connecting yourself with a network like that is going to be super important as well.

We’re coming up on the end of the show, David. How can people find you? Where can they find you?

I’d say find me on Instagram or Facebook is probably the best way. If you go to Instagram, it’s @DavidIHill and on Facebook, same thing or you can find me on Facebook.com/pathtomastery. Path to Mastery is how I live my life. It’s always evolving. I’m on a path to mastery. I don’t believe I achieved mastery. Some people would look at me now and say, “Dude, compared to where you come from, you’re probably like Elon Musk or something.” I’m always evolving, getting better. How do I get better? That’s it. That’s my podcast. I’ve had Gary Vee on my podcast. I’ve had Mel Robbins and Grant Cardone. I’ve been able to seek out these people that are doing things at such a high level. I’ve had Tim Westbrook on my podcast. I’m always evolving. I know I keep probably rambling on but check out my podcast too. That’s Path to Mastery. On the Path to Mastery, that’s what it’s all about.

David, thank you so much for coming to the show. If you want to follow David, Path to Mastery is his podcast. David I. Hill on Facebook. Instagram is @DavidIHill. If you want to find out more about Camelback Recovery, it’s on Facebook or Instagram. We also launched a new social media platform on TikTok. I’m @KickAssSoberLife on TikTok and Instagram. Thanks so much. I hope everyone has a great rest of your day.

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About David Hill

ILBS 26 | Recovery Propelled by PurposeOver the past 34 years, he has worked as a salesperson in numerous industries and depended primarily on the phone to make sales.

David had a rough childhood and endured the kind of family struggles that stop many people in their tracks.

David however turned those challenges into opportunities by finding strength through his hard work, resilience and perseverance, and uses the same skills as a father, business owner, coach and husband.

David’s passion for helping others extends beyond sales.

Over the years he’s worked hard to not only shape his life into something fulfilling and positive, but to show others they can do the same, regardless of their circumstances.

In his free time, David speaks at schools and graduations to share his story and inspire both children and adults.

David founded Hill Team Associates, a division under Keller Williams Realty, where he currently serves as CEO. This is where he realized his passion for helping salespeople improve their skills to advance their careers. #1 Ranked Team in the entire MLS in 2016. Sold over 1000 homes.

David’s drive and talent enabled him to rise through the ranks of KW and qualify as a member of the “Gary Keller Private Mastermind”, which is comprised of the top 100 agents at the firm, who get to mastermind with Gary, the founder of Keller Williams, four times per year.