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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).

Life Gives To The Giver With Joe Polish

 

 

“Life Gives to the Giver” is a conversation with Joe Polish, who created one of the most elite business networking groups in the world for industry transformers. His foundation, Genius Recovery, helps people with addiction recovery. His two groups, Genius Network and 100k, are the most sought after connection networks in the world that are tailored to building a better entrepreneur.

Joe’s mission around recovery is to help change the global conversation around addiction to be viewed with compassion instead of judgment. Check out the trailer for Joe’s award winning documentary at https://www.connectedthemovie.com.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Life Gives To The Giver With Joe Polish

I am here with Joe Polish. The reason why I have him on my show is because I want to find out more about how he went from being a 100-pound crack cocaine addict to being one of the world’s leading connectors, owner, and founder of Genius Network and Genius Recovery. I also want to find out more about his sabbatical that he’s going to be taking. He’s taken a one-year-long sabbatical. What is he going to do to take care of himself during that sabbatical? What does recovery look like?

Joe Polish created one of the most elite business networking groups in the world for industry transformers. His foundation, Genius Recovery, helps people with addiction recovery. There are two groups, Genius Network and 100K. They are the most sought-after connection networks in the world that are tailored to people being a better entrepreneur. Joe’s mission around recovery is to help change the global conversation around addiction to be viewed with compassion instead of judgment. Check out the trailer for Joe’s award-winning documentary at www.ConnectedTheMovie.com.

Joe, it’s so awesome to have you here. Welcome to the show.  

It’s good to be here, Tim. I love the name, I Love Being Sober.

Joe has the I Love Marketing podcast so I Love Being Sober came after Joe. He is a good friend of mine. Life Gives to the Giver is the name of his book.

Let’s talk about whatever you want. You can ask me anything. We can talk about sobriety, throes of addiction, craziness, entrepreneurship, whatever will be helpful. It’s about connection. The opposite of addiction is connection and I find that to be quite true and accurate.

Where are you from?

I was born in El Paso, Texas. In my entire childhood, we moved to different parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. My mother died when I was four years old while we were living in a small town called Kerrville, Texas. My father was very heartbroken and distraught. He never recovered from my mother’s death. We would go to a new town. He was a locksmith so he had to establish himself as a new business and clientele. When things started working a little bit, he would uproot and go somewhere else. He was always a guy that was running away from something. He died in 2002 and I was his primary caretaker in the last year of his life, along with help from my brother and a couple of other people. I was with my father quite a bit. We never had a great relationship. My father was a very disconnected guy but he did the best he could with a lot of challenges and pain.

I lived in Arizona, in Phoenix area. I lived here most of my adult life. The only time I moved away as an adult was when I was a drug addict right out of high school. I went to New Mexico and lived in a trailer with my father to get sober. I moved there in the first six months. I didn’t go to rehab. I just removed myself from the environment. I didn’t have access to the people until the drugs. That was very difficult. I had not dealt with the underlying trauma that causes addiction in the first place. That came later in life. My worst stage of being a drug addict was when I was in high school and right out of high school.

The opposite of addiction is connection. Click To Tweet

How did you start experimenting with drugs?

My brother was smoking pot. It’s weird because as I sit and think about it, my childhood is a blur. There’s so much of it that I don’t remember. The entire periods and years that I have no real memory of. I was introduced to pornography, smoking pot, doing drugs and snorting speed, then in high school, that’s were cocaine, crystal, and LSD. I never shot heroin or anything but I smoked it before. My drug of choice, it’s hard to say, but it was cocaine. It’s because of the dopamine hit that cocaine can give you. It started with pot though, I was getting high almost daily.

Back in those days, I went to Dobson High School in Mesa, Arizona. I kept the bond in my locker. I don’t know if you can get away with that now. When I went back in that high school, they had metal detectors and all kinds of stuff that never existed when I went there. I graduated in 1986 but I didn’t graduate by walking with my class. I was watching the graduation ceremony from the backyard of a friend who had his backyard bordered the football field in high school. I was smoking cocaine with him out of glass pipes, watching my high school graduation during the night of it. I was getting high and I was in a dark place. I was an anti-authority rebellious guy, doing drugs, and dealing drugs to support my habit. It was a bad time. Looking back now, I’m lucky I’m alive.

I weighed 105 pounds, which was my worst state in terms of weight because I had not eaten for about a week other than Chicken McNuggets and horrible food. On average, I weighed about 120 pounds. When you’re a male and you’re 5’10”, in terms of height, you can imagine how skinny and scrawny that is. I looked like a skeleton. I’m going into all kinds of crazy stories that you can make movies off of it, but I’ll leave it up to you how you want to guide and direct it.

You were introduced to drugs or your brother was the reason why you started experimenting with drugs, why did you keep on going?

It made me feel different because reality sucked. I didn’t like and I didn’t feel good about my reality. I think that addiction is a solution to the pain. I never thought about it that way, but getting high, escaping reality when your reality is painful is like a rest stop from angst, anxiety, depression, and nervousness. I was a very shy, introverted, weak kid. I didn’t know how to make friends. I never felt comfortable meeting people. I desperately and badly wanted connection. I wanted to be liked and accepted. I felt rejected and that I didn’t fit in. Growing up, whenever we would establish relationships and friendships, they would get uprooted.

When my mother died, I was abandoned. It’s not her intention. From what I know of her, she was an incredibly amazing woman. She was a former nun and she left the convent because she had gotten ill, and a lot of bad things happened in the church. It’s the story I was told. I had all of these caretakers that abused me, lie to me, and betrayed me. I was thinking about this. My father was a locksmith and he had his little locksmith shop in Kerrville, Texas. We lived in this weird house that had aluminum around the whole building.

My father wanted his ashes buried next to my mother’s grave in Kerrville, Texas. I remember after he had died, I waited for a little over a year, then I took his ashes to Kerrville and personally placed them in the ground right above my mother’s grave. That was in his will and his wishes, so I abided by what he wanted. I remember driving by the place where we used to live. I didn’t quite know where to go but I found it. The building was still there. He had his locksmith shop in the front, then we had our house in the back. It was a weird place to live. I had this reputation as a kid that I would sit on the counter at his locksmith place. People would come in to get their keys made and I would smile, and people would give me money.

It was the weirdest thing because I hadn’t thought about that for years. I learned how to smile even though as a kid, I was in constant terror. I felt so much fear. All I can remember vividly as a child is that I was very scared. The only memories I have with my mother was when I was jumping up and down on a bed. Someone snagged me off the bed because my mother had ovarian cancer. That’s what I believe it was. I’m not 100% sure. It’s hard to read the death certificate. I’m trying to verify that years later. She died in 1972. Someone pulled me off the bed. My mother wanted me to be there but it was hurting her because they cut her from her neck down to the groin area. They open her up across and removed organs. It was terrible. I remember she had stitches and big cuts from the surgery. She was dying.

That was one memory. Another memory I have with her was the tubes up her nose in a hospital. I don’t know if that was the day she died or a few days before she died. I have no memory of that. I was just there with my brother who is four years older than me and my father. After my mother had died, I remember a blurry memory of my father outside of the hospital, leaning against a tree, and bawling his eyes out crying. He lost the love of his life and here he was with these two kids. I was smiling all the time because that’s the only way I learned how to cope with the pain. In my life, I’ve done a lot of that where I put on my game face.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: Any form of escapism is a way to feel an artificial form of connection. Addiction is a solution to pain, but it is a solution that could kill you.

 

I would go out and try to act like everything is okay when it wasn’t, and it never felt okay. The introduction to drugs in any form of escapism was a way to feel an artificial form of connection. It’s like what Bill W said, the Founder of AA. He said that his alcoholics were trying to drink God out of a bottle. You’re trying to drink, snort, smoke, fuck, gamble or eat the pain away. You do something to deal with the pain. I had a lot of pain and when I was getting high, I thought it was entertaining and it was. You can party and have fun.

I’m not one of those people that will say all of it was miserable. Getting high at times felt exhilarating when feeling not okay in the world that doesn’t. However, there are these things called consequences and they can destroy you. I now believe that the worst day sober is better than the best day not sober because of where it can lead you to. It’s a complicated thing but I’m glad I went through it. What I do now with my focus on Genius Recovery, which is a passion project. It’s one of the most important things to me. It’s to help change the global conversation about how people view and treat addicts with compassion instead of judgment, find the best forms of treatment that have efficacy, and share those with the world. There are many ways to treat addiction. I do believe addiction is a solution. It’s a bad solution. It’s a solution that could kill you, hurts other people, and cause addicts to lead a double life. I was a very functional addict.

When did you realize that you had a problem with drugs?  

I was in deep denial. People were pointing out to me that, “You should not get high so much.” There are probably 100 times from close friends. I started to isolate the deeper I got. I remember in Psychology class, I got high to do a talk because I was afraid of public speaking. I got stoned because it helped ease the tension. I ended up giving a talk in Psychology class about the dangers of THC and marijuana. I remember I was in an acting class and we have a little skit where we’re not supposed to talk. It’s supposed to be a silent thing. I had a friend who we hung out and get high together. We go to parties and stuff. She was pretending to be a drug dealer and I was a drug buyer. I gave her a little vial filled with speed in front of the whole class.

I feel terrible that I did these sorts of things. Back in the ‘80s, cocaine and speed had just come onto the scene. The way people do and consume drugs and the way jokes are made about them, there are different stages of life where we respond to things differently. She had given me this little vial, I poured it out in front of this acting class. I had a rolled-up dollar bill, and I snorted speed. That’s a shit that I did in high school. The teacher came up after and I was like, “It was baking soda and some aspirin,” but it was speed. I have snorted it in front of the whole class as part of an acting skit. It was bold, stupid, dangerous, and it shows you where my life was. I was like, “What’s the point of all this?” I felt rejected. I didn’t feel accepted in school.

I was young and wanting to be anti-authority. I was a nice guy though. I wasn’t mean to people. I’ve always been a compassionate person. I wasn’t hurting people. I was just hurting myself and I was taking dangerous risks and stuff like that. I was abused as a kid. I was raped and molested as a kid and I was paid money not to say anything about it. That wired into my head that sex is not an intimate act of love and oneness. It’s something you do to get off. I never saw a model of a healthy relationship. My father never remarried. I never heard I love you until around the age of eighteen.

We moved all the time. Every time I would establish a relationship, it would be uprooted and we go somewhere else. I became very used to losing my relationships and abandonment. I remember going to a summer camp that my father sent me to in Texas. It was a Catholic boys camp and the camp counselors were more like young adults that take care of the kids. They were abusing us. They were making us do sexual stuff to each other. It was terrible and bad. That stuff embeds dark things into you. You feel like a piece of meat. You feel used and abused, and it was dark. The drugs helped those memories that will never go away. It would numb them for a bit. It became a way to do it.

Looking back though, I love this definition of intimacy. I had my first Twelve Steps program in 2003 at SAA, Sex Addicts Anonymous. He had introduced me to a guy who spends his life sponsoring sex addicts. I never met him in person. He was never a sponsor of mine but he said to me a definition of intimacy, which is a mutual exploration of a shared safe place. Abuse is anything that takes away the safe place, and addictions are what we do to make ourselves feel good when we don’t have a safe place. I never felt safe. When I’ve talked to a lot of addicts, you don’t feel safe in the world. You’re going to try to connect with something that either makes you feel safe, it gives a false sense of security, or you’re numbed out, you don’t even know the difference.

It makes sense why if you’re depressed, anxious, lonely, sad, and feeling enormous fear. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to feel those feelings. It’s how you go about scratching the itch. I was using ways to scratch the itch that worked temporarily, but they left me more wounded. You become physically and mentally addicted. You become spiritually distraught if you can feel any connection whatsoever, and then you’re coupled with people that were raised under either strict religion or were gaslighted using God as a way to manipulate them. It’s hard for them to find a spiritual connection.

My friend Don Woods who’s a doctor that helps people with trauma, the way he refers to it is if you understand the atmosphere and conditions of somebody’s life, it would make sense the way that they are. For anyone who’s reading this who are in active addiction, in recovery, an addict or who knows someone that’s an addict, in pain and depressed, look at their lives. My friend Gabor Maté has this great line. He says, “The question is not why the addiction, but why is the pain there.” If there’s enough pain there, you’re going to find coping mechanisms. You’re going to find addiction as a way to deal with the pain. To this day, when I see someone smoking, drinking, or any obsessive out-of-control behavior, instead of saying, “That person is making bad decisions, they are more of degenerate,” it’s like, “Where are they hurt? What pain are they trying to escape from?” That allows me to have more compassion for them and myself.

The worst day sober is better than the best day not sober. Click To Tweet

When you feel resentment, anger, rage, and betrayal, sometimes, you’re angry that you take it out on yourself. If it gets bad, then all of a sudden, your reactions start affecting other people. When people get to the point where they’re doing criminal behavior or they’re hurting other people physically, mentally, emotionally, sexually, you’re usually dealing with people that have out-of-whack biochemistry. Dr. Daniel Amen who’s a brain doctor, he scanned my brain six different times. I was doing an interview with him on my podcast. He said, “If you saw the brains of serial killers, you would rethink the death penalty because these are not normal brains. These are sick brains. If you take a look at what trauma can do to somebody, it alters the way you think, the way you react to life, and the biochemistry.”

Addiction is a form of isolation. It’s a shame. Addiction feeds off of shame, guilt, anger, and resentment. You know all of this. You have been in recovery and what you do with sober living homes and whatnot. I had to learn all this stuff. That’s a challenge. Trying to think your way out of something that’s deeply embedded in a cellular level is a difficult thing. I applaud the heroic journey of people that go through recovery because not only is it incredibly difficult, but society still doesn’t accept and embrace addicts. The symptoms of addiction can hurt people. Addicts in their worst state lie, cheat, steal, cause trouble, and can commit crimes. They can be the most difficult people.

To help someone that you love that is suffering from addiction, not only is it suck for the addict but it sucks for the people around the addict. To go through that journey to find that hope and that healing, which is there. That’s where the magic of life is. Addicts that have come out on the other side and they’ve gone through Twelve Steps where they’ve gone through the journey of powerlessness and connection, they are some of the most incredible giving, caring, loving people because they’ve been through hell.

You’ll hear sometimes in Twelve Steps, “Religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for people that have already been there.” I have a lot of friends that are in recovery that do Twelve Steps that are atheists. They don’t even believe in God. You don’t have to have a “strong” belief in religion. You can still connect with the source. You can still find ways to connect. I often say that because a lot of people like myself spent thousands of hours praying to God they can never feel and were betrayed in church. They had God and had religion used to manipulate them to make excuses for doing terrible things to people when they’re children. It’s very complicated. One of my favorite recovery sayings is, “We’re not going to open up the gates of heaven to let me in, but it opened up the gates of hell to let me out.”

One of the things that I hear people say at Twelve Steps meetings is, “I’m a grateful recovering alcoholic or drug addict.” I feel that way too. I’m grateful that I went through the journey that I went through because I wouldn’t be who I am now without all of the wreckage, journey, drinking, drugs, pain, selfishness, and self-centeredness. It was awful. However, I am who I am now because of everything I went through. To your point, alcoholics and drug addicts in recovery are some of the most amazing people. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back that you finally decide to get clean and sober?  

I was first clean and sober from drugs because then the real core addiction was my sexual addiction because of the abuse. It became one of my primary coping mechanisms. When I got sober from drugs, I was living in Mesa. I lived with a couple of roommates and one of them was a bad cocaine addict. He was a dealer. Almost everybody that’s a drug addict is dealing at some point. It may not be their primary occupation. It’s like this funny Chris Rock line from a skit years ago. He’s like, “A crackhead is with another crackhead. They are not married to someone that wakes up in a three-piece suit at 5:00 in the morning and goes to work. They’re hanging out with other crackheads.” I had a belief at that time that everyone got high. I got high to go to bed and I woke up to get high. My whole life revolved around doing drugs and inebriating myself.

This guy was an addict and he had got busted for possession. I came home one night and he was over the sink, smoking freebasing cocaine which is like pure cocaine. I said to this dude, “You need to go to bed.” I knew he had a trial in the morning for cocaine possession. I went to bed and I woke up in the morning and he’s in a three-piece suit smoking, still over the sink while his lawyer is waiting outside to drive him to court for charges of cocaine possession. I’ve thought about that situation a lot since I got going. That is not someone that has control over their life. A lot of people would be like, “What an idiot.” This has even nothing to do with intelligence. No one wants to do that. When people are like, “They want their life to be that way.” No, they don’t. There’s not a single addict that wants to be an addict.

There’s nothing useful about having no control over your life and having a drug or a behavior dominate your every waking moment. It’s terrible. This guy went to this court case. It was probably a week later or a few days later. I’m there at this apartment with a friend of mine watching TV and he comes in the apartment. As soon as he walks in, he’s got a can of lighter fluid and starts squirting the lighter fluid all over the living room, all over me and my friend. I have long hair back then. The lighter fluid is dripping off of my head. This guy got this giant can of lighter fluid. He’s screaming and he holds up a match. “I’m going to fucking touch this place.” I’m sitting there like I’m going to die. I’m like, “Put the lighter down.” He finally puts the lighter down. It was like some shit out of a movie.

At that moment, I was like, “If I don’t get out of this place, I’m going to die.” I packed up all my shit in this piece of a crap pickup truck that I had, the Chevy LUV, and I drove to New Mexico with my possessions, skinny and screwed up. I moved into a trailer that my father was living in and have no friends. I have no access to drugs and cut myself off from it completely in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I spent a few months getting sober. I ended up getting a job, delivering newspapers in the truck. I started going to New Mexico State University. I would never get a degree in anything but I was trying to do something. Along the way, I ended up getting a job selling gym memberships.

That’s when I first started working out because through high school, I was never in sports. Around that same time, I was getting molested as a kid. I had a sadistic little league coach that would force me to hold the baseball bat in a way that I could not hit the ball. It ended up ruining my liking for sports. I ended up quitting the team because I couldn’t play the game the way that this coach forced me to try to hold this baseball bat. I was the only one on the team that he was doing this to that I can remember. Back then I was a shy and scared kid. I didn’t grow up to be this opinionated adult that I am now. I would like to think that I’m a nice person but I have strong views on things. I don’t say stuff if I don’t feel that I can at least back it up and have some knowledge of itself.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: Addiction feeds off of shame, guilt, anger, and resentment.

 

To fast forward, I moved to New Mexico, I got sober, and I ended up getting a job in a gym. That led me up to meeting someone at this gym that I was selling gym memberships at. I became very good at selling. I had never worked out. I started to exercise and lift weights. To try to do recovery without exercises or some physical engagement, a good gym or an exercise routine can be as valuable as an amazing therapist. In many cases, I would argue even better in some cases. You want to have both. It’s not one over the other. That became one of the forms of self-care and one of the ways because I believe the issues are in the tissues. Part of the trauma is in your body.

The exercise helped. I felt better physically. Before going to New Mexico a few months earlier, I would wake up every morning and blow my nose and blood would come out and sometimes small chunks of flesh. I remember riding my bike around the block when I was in my worst stages of addiction and I nearly passed out. That’s how damaged my body was from all the drugs that I was doing. When I started working at this gym and getting in better physical shape, it totally transformed me physically. I put on muscle, not a ton, I’ve always been a skinny guy but I transformed myself. I went from weighing about 120 pounds to about 150 pounds in a matter of a few months which is a huge difference when your body is out-of-whack.

You’d quit cold turkey then.

I had to take aspirin or Tylenol every day to deal with the headaches. It was cold turkey and I didn’t go to a rehab center. I ended up getting a job at a mental hospital because of someone I met at the gym. I would drive the addicts at this mental hospital to AA meetings for Alcoholics Anonymous, NA meetings, Narcotics Anonymous, and CA meetings, Cocaine Anonymous. I would sit in on these Twelve Steps meetings as the driver who drove these patients to this meeting, never realizing how valuable that would be to me later in life. I never even voluntarily went to Twelve Steps groups. I went because it was part of my job but I would sit in there and listen to these stories. I realized I’m an addict and I’m sober.

That seems almost impossible to decide to pick up and drive to a different part of the country. You completely isolated yourself. I’ve seen this happen before. Geographic is a good temporary solution. You cut yourself off but then you’re working at a gym. What was the withdrawal like? How were you able to stay sober? You’re thinking about drinking, drugs, alcohol, and other things to stay sober. What did you do?  

I worked out and stayed busy working. I got a job. I hated life and I was depressed. It was miserable but being high all the time and messed up physically was also miserable. Here I was in the prime of my youth, I think I had sex one time in two years during that period of my life. That’s how messed up I got my body into that state of being. It was a form of sexual anorexia which is another form of addiction because all the addiction is binging or purging. It’s either excess or deprivation. On one level, I quit doing drugs but I was deprived of human touch.

That’s always been something that is part of my recovery. It’s excess or deprivation. There are a lot of similarities with process addictions, behavior addictions, with people that are over-eaters, food addict, bingers, purgers, anorexics. It’s the same thing. It’s a form of the inability to do anything in moderation. Addiction is doing something you want to do or that you don’t want to do, and not being able to stop that has negative consequences attached to it. I ended up coming back to Arizona. I was in better physical shape. The sexual addiction, which I didn’t even know what that meant or what that was, is an intimacy disorder.

It’s not fair to all people with sexual addictions to say sex addict because people immediately conjure up, “They want to sleep with everybody. They’re perverts.” There are a lot of sex addicts that aren’t able to have any form of healthy sex and are not able to be sexual at all that is very lonely and deprived. There are others that are exhibitionists or porn addicts. You name it. There’s a whole gamut of forms and behavior. That stem from every human has an arousal template. When they’re first introduced to sexuality, if it’s done in a dysfunctional way, they’re probably not going to have a healthy sex life. My introduction to sex and intimacy was toxic and abusive. One thing I’m thankful for is I never became an abuser. I just abused myself and it was hard. This sounds crazy. Anyone that’s not in that place yet won’t take this in the best of ways. It’s a gift if you can get out of it. If you can’t, it’s a nightmare.

When did you first realize that you had an intimacy disorder or sex addiction? The drugs are gone. You’re able to stay clean and sober, but now you’ve got this other thing that crops up, which I see a lot quite often. People are recovering from alcohol. They’ve got this other thing that crops up, and they don’t realize it. Tell me about that.

Years ago, I did an interview with my friend, Pat Carnes. He’s known to be the top sex addiction doctor in the world. He’s the first one that wrote books on it, Out of the Shadows, which was his first book. I did an interview with him, which everyone can watch on YouTube. Type in my name and Pat Carnes. We talked for about 1 hour and 45 minutes on sex addiction. The first time it occurred to me was the craving was always there. This is one of the hardest things even to this day to talk about. For years, I’d never publicly talked about sex addiction. I’m like, “What is anyone going to think about me in the business world?” In the small space that I’m in, I’m well-known. You can talk about being an alcoholic and drug addict but talk about being molested, sleeping with escorts, hookers, and that sort of shit. There’s a lot of shame attached to that.

Addiction is looking for love in all the wrong places. Click To Tweet

I didn’t know even how to think about it. I knew that I have a craving that is not normal here. There’s sex addiction and love addiction. You’ll see a lot of women in love addiction. I know many that are sex addicts but love sounds like a softer thing. It doesn’t sound aggressive or shameful sex. There’s a lot of shame attached to all forms of addiction. Sex addiction has a lot of judgment compared to other ones because you’re a sex addict. When you’re young, a lot of men and women, their hormones are out of balance. If you find a way to satiate an angst and it works, you start building these neuropathways that you keep going towards that behavior.

I quit doing cocaine but I got drunk with a friend and he wanted to pick up prostitutes. I have never done that before. I never would do it sober. I’m drunk and he’s like, “Let’s drive.” I get into this guy’s car, we drive, we go to an area of town, and we picked up a prostitute. It was the weirdest thing. It was tons of shame, fear and stuff but it was exhilarating. At the same time, it was dangerous and then I did it again. It was always when there was alcohol involved, then it was driving in this area and having this insane craving to do this. I had this insane pain in my body. After being sexual with this woman, it went away.

I had a great interview with Gabor Maté. I consider him one of the top addiction minds in the world. He’s a friend and he talks about a heroin addict. When they’re talking about their first shot of heroin into their veins, it felt like a warm, soft blanket engulfing them. That’s what the seductiveness of addiction is. You can have those moments where it makes the world feel okay. It makes you feel safe and good. The crazy thing is you can get those feelings in the middle of the most dangerous places with the worst of people that you can be hanging out with where it’s illegal and you can die. That feeling of you will risk your life, safety, and health to not feel that angst, and it’s the craving brain. That’s when I knew like, “There’s something not right here.”

I don’t want to take this whole time going through all the horror stories of it but that lasted on and off for many years. Once I made money and I became a millionaire, I was a functional addict. I created a business that helped other people and it truly helped other people. Here I was, going on stage and doing seminars. I do these events and it would change people’s lives. People would come up to the mic. I didn’t do self-help personal development stuff. I was teaching people marketing. I taught them how to run and grow their businesses, and then I leave these events with a massive adrenaline rush, I’d go back to a hotel room alone, and I’d want to hire an escort. It felt good. What I didn’t realize is I was trying to connect.

It wasn’t like I’m trying to use women. Every woman that I can think of, I was cordial and nice, no matter what the situation was. Maybe there is some woman that would be like, “You’re a total asshole.” I’m certain there have been times in relationships that I’ve been a jerk and I’ve been an asshole. I’m not trying to pretend I’m some angel here. I never wanted to hurt anyone. I wanted to connect and it didn’t feel safe because I didn’t have a relationship. I was a trusted servant at a Twelve Steps meeting. I was doing very active in the Twelve Steps. I was doing well in my recovery. I had a new child with a girlfriend that I was going to leave, but I found out she was pregnant so I stayed with her.

This was in my late twenties when I was with her. I ended up staying with her because she had gotten pregnant. The baby was born and I love this child twenty times more than any woman I’d ever been with before since. She wanted to move out of state. I joined a Father’s Rights group and pursuing sole custody to try to keep her from leaving the state because I wanted us to raise a child together. I found out five days before the child’s first birthday while pursuing sole custody that I was not the biological father. It was the most painful thing I’ve experienced up to that point in my life. I didn’t know what to do and who to trust.

I tried to adopt the child. I offered her a lot of money to let me adopt the child because I didn’t even care about that anymore. I wanted to raise this child that I loved and I didn’t have the mental abilities. I didn’t know what to do. Here I was running a successful company but my personal life became a Jerry Springer Show. I went off the deep end. I lived a double life. I continue to run my company. I had a relationship that was a massive form of betrayal. In the middle of doing a good recovery program, I had this massive life event in betrayal and it caused me to act out and relapse. That took about fifteen years of my life, on and off. I’d get sober for six months or a year and relapsed. I was sober with sex, not with drugs.

It’s like drugs and alcohol, you’re seeking fulfillment. You’re empty. The human connection in your life is lacking. When you pick up an escort, you were feeling the human connection even for a brief period of time.

I have this little sign on my wall that says, “Addiction is looking for love in all the wrong places.” That’s what all addicts are trying to do. They’re trying to find love, they’re just finding it in the wrong places. You’re not going to find true love on a porn site, at the bottom of the paddle, or smoking a cigarette. You may feel like it. You’re gambling in Las Vegas, and you’ve got the adrenaline that feels like woo. What humans want is more woo and less ahh.

If you feel like sleeping with a hooker, snorting cocaine, drinking alcohol, eating a hot fudge sundae, all of those things are going to give you some pleasure. You’re pleasure-seeking and you’re trying to reduce pain. Here’s the weirdest thing, Tim. In some addicts, in the same way that a recovering person can walk into a Twelve Steps group and they don’t have rapport or respect from anyone in their family because in many cases, they burned all their bridges. They can walk into a meeting and they can find acceptance because they’ve been in the trenches. It’s the same way with how prisoners of war during Vietnam would sometimes go to therapists and they wouldn’t get better. You stick them in a group with other veterans that had been in the trenches and been in war, they have an instant rapport because they’ve been in the same circumstances.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: There’s a lot of shame attached to all forms of addiction, but sex addiction has a lot more compared to other ones.

 

Addicts can bond in the same way but we also find people whose dense match our depth. How the drug addicts find each other. They’re on this frequency. They are magnetically attracting themselves to other people like that. If you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, you’re either massively co-dependent which is attached to all forms of addiction or you’re in a place where your level of consciousness is meeting someone with another level of consciousness. My goal is to hopefully keep increasing my level of consciousness. Years from now, if I was to look back at this conversation, I hope I’ve evolved quite a bit. I’m not thinking a lot of the same stupid things that I think now. I’m much better now than I was years ago.

You talk about drinking, drug use, hot fudge sundae, and excessively looking at Facebook. They’re all the alcoholic behaviors. I was talking with Tommy Rosen and it’s not just about drinking and doing drugs. There’s way more to it. I’ve gone to lots of AA meetings and I know lots of people in recovery that they have all these other behaviors. It’s a setup for disaster and relapse. It’s doing the work. For you, what did it mean to do the work? How were you able to get to a place where you felt good without having to seek fulfillment in alcoholic ways?

I’ve spent probably $500,000 in my recovery. Here’s what worked and here’s what didn’t work. It’s not that it works or doesn’t work, it’s the person doing the work. Everyone is going to experience life in a different way. To get sober and stay sober requires four different things. Tommy Rosen who’s a dear friend has been very helpful in the formulation of this thinking. My first interview I did with Tommy was years ago. I wrote a book with Anna David and Hal Elrod called The Miracle Morning for Addiction Recovery. I’ve been writing about it. There are four areas. There’s community. I don’t know a single addict that’s a true addict that recovers in isolation.

You have to find other people. The most successful way to do that is Twelve Steps. I’ve done a lot of Twelve Steps. Could I’ve got sober without Twelve Steps? Absolutely not. It was incredibly beneficial. What didn’t work is when I was attending the meetings. What works is getting a sponsor doing the steps. Twelve Steps is not about attendance. It’s about steps. You attend to learn about the step but you’re ultimately doing the twelve steps. That’s the magic of it. You don’t go to Twelve Steps because of where you’ve met. Everyone that’s an addict has been through shit. There’s shame, guilt, and all sorts of crap. It’s just different levels and how you interpret it. You go to Twelve Steps because of where you want to go. Recovery is not about where you’ve been, it’s about where you want to go.

The second is it’s biochemical. It’s food, nutrition, serotonin, dopamine, it’s eating well. If you have a damaged gut, 70% of serotonin is made in the stomach. If you have digestive issues and you’re eating foods that aren’t good for you that’s causing inflammation, you’re not going to feel good. The number one killer in America or the world from a substance is sugar first, tobacco second, alcohol third, and opiates fourth.

There are a lot of consumables that we consume that are very damaging. Look at how many caffeine addicts there are. Me acting out sexually in someone’s thing is I’m going to watch porn, I’m going to sleep with an escort, I’m going to gamble my kids’ college fund away, I’m going to gorge myself with food. I’m going to eat, purge and cause myself to throw up, I’m going to be a cutter, or I’m going to shoot heroin or snort cocaine. Take morality out of it, the same driver is the same thing.

If you’re looking at your phone, you can’t put your phone away at night, and you’re addicted to Facebook, you’re an addict if you can’t stop. There are different depths. Some people are completely out of control, some are functional addicts, and some don’t even know it. It’s very sneaky. There are different layers of it. A lot of that has to do with the trauma and the biochemistry. That’s why you’ll see a lot of people will get sober from drugs and alcohol. They’ll go to AA meetings and guzzle coffee, eat donuts, and drink sodas. They’ve still got these obsessive behaviors. I would argue I’d rather see someone eat a donut than shoot heroin. Nonetheless, they’re still in that pain state.

Being in recovery versus being recovered, different people have different views on it. It’s when the pain stops. It’s when the white-knuckling subsides. That feels better. I never thought the white-knuckling would ever stop. Workaholism is a sneaky one. I have workaholic challenges. I’m taking a one-year sabbatical so I can immerse myself in recovery, music, art, and more health stuff because I want to have my form of identity debt. How much of my life is built around this persona that I’ve created in my business world? I want to be able to look at that thing.

I do want to talk about your sabbatical.

The biggest thing is the trauma work. That’s where the issues are in the tissues. That’s where the yoga, breathing and meditation. You know the book Breath by James Nestor. It’s an incredible book. I’d recommend it to everybody. He becomes a friend of mine. The proper use of plant medicines. This is where it gets tricky when you’re dealing with people that are drug addicts and they’ve gotten high, and they consume chemicals. There are a lot of people that go to Burning Man and go to different places. They call it their spiritual journeys, getting high in a camper when they’re just like, “Let’s get high in a conscious state.”

Recovery is not about where you've been. It's about where you want to go. Click To Tweet

We can do a whole episode on that and I’ve had conversations with Dr. Andrew Weil and the different people I know. There are organizations like Maps.org that have some of the best information on plant medicines and psychedelics that are out there. There are smart people like Gabor Maté. Ayahuasca and ibogaine are effective for opiate addictions with the right set and setting which is an old Timothy Leary line where, “It’s the mindset you’re in, your intentions in the setting.” There are a lot of incredible people that are working with these new ways to treat trauma. I believe addiction is a response to trauma. I used to believe it was a brain disease. I don’t believe that. EMDR and books like The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk or Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine, Gabor Maté’s In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.  

Tommy Rosen has a lot of great stuff. I know you’ve interviewed people that are real experts on trauma. The fourth is the environment. Based on the studies by Bruce Alexander with Rat Park, if you put a rat in a cage and all they have is drugs, they’re going to take drugs over food, over sex, over sleep until they die. You put them in a more conducive like rat paradise and give them the choice of drug water and regular water. They won’t do the drug water. The ones that do are the ones that are severely traumatized. If you’re in a new environment that’s triggering, you’re going to have to. You look at those four areas which are community, biochemical, trauma work, and environment.

As an addict, you want to deal with all four of those areas. That will give you the highest possibility with recovery. That’s what I’ve done. It wasn’t until I started incorporating all of those things where I finally had long periods of time. At the time that we’re doing this interview, it’s been a little over four years since I did any bottom line, what I would consider acting out behavior sexually and/or otherwise. I’ve been at this for many years. If I could have gone back, I would have taken Twelve Steps more seriously. I wouldn’t have tried to buy my way to the best experts in the world because I had money. I thought, “If I just hire the right therapist.” It was my weird way of avoiding doing the work. Go to a Twelve Step meeting and do the steps. I have found the smarter the addict is, sometimes the more difficult it is for them to get recovery because they think they can intellectualize their way out of it.

It’s like, “My best thinking got me where I am now.” That’s the old saying. It’s the people that are not willing to take suggestions. That’s the thing. Twelve Steps were written a long time ago where people take suggestions and listen to what other people have to say. It’s like, “My best thinking got me where I am, so let me listen to somebody else even if I don’t agree with it.” It’s not going to kill me, regardless. It’s like, “Let me give this a shot.”  

One of the best ways to do recovery is based on Life Gives to the Giver. It’s when you start helping other people, you give up yourself, and you become a contributor. When I started helping other addicts at a much deeper level, my recovery got better. When I set up my foundation and I started putting energy and resources, trying to help reduce human suffering and expose people to great minds and methodologies, it all gets better. I started feeling such a much deeper connection. If you’re disconnected from yourself, you’re not going to be able to connect with other people. The more connected you are with yourself, the better you’re going to be connected. Going to my sabbatical, I want to have as much deep of a connection I can make with earth and my life, and what matters.

2019 was a real pain in the ass for me. It was difficult. I got Valley Fever, which people may not know what that is but it’s something that people in Arizona, New Mexico, and California get, mostly in Arizona. I never got it before but I got it. I had a breakup of a relationship that was painful. My best friend, Sean Stephenson, died when I was with him in the hospital because he had an accident. I had a big business betrayal. Thank God for recovery though because through one of the worst years in my entire adult life, I still managed to stay sober. I immersed myself in work which you can argue well that it’s a fine line.

I feel love and I feel proud of myself for sticking with it. If there’s any message I want to convey, no matter where you’re at, if you’re falling down and you may feel hopeless, there are people that believe in you more than you believe in yourself. We wouldn’t even be having this conversation if we didn’t want some pain, lonely, scared, desperate voice to hear it that feels like giving up and they’re never going to be able to make it. I cannot tell you how many times I thought to myself, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this?” One thing that I will say is that I never gave up though.

I kept showing up even when I didn’t want to. There were periods of time where I didn’t show up for a few weeks or a few months. I’d go to meetings and I’d quit. I quit calling people and I wouldn’t use the tools. The sun is always there during daylight. The moon is always there during nighttime when the moon is out. It’s the clouds that’s get in the way. Whenever you feel like, “Where’s the sunlight?” It’s there. Sometimes, it’s stormy and there are clouds and it will pass. That’s why it says, “This too shall pass,” in the same way that a storm will pass. If you’re having a storm or having a shit show with this pandemic and the loss of whatever, it will pass. Don’t destroy yourself in the process.

How did you decide to take the sabbatical?

I had a friend who was worth about $300 million that I’ve known for many years that originally gave me the term that I used in the business part of my world, which is Easy, Lucrative and Fun. I teach people how to develop an ELF business. 2019 was not very ELF for me. It’s the other acronym which is hard, annoying, lame, and frustrating. I had this friend who had given me the term ELF many years ago and his son, who was a musician, ended up reaching out to me. I had talked to this guy. We were talking every other week. His son reached out to me on Instagram, of all things, and asked if I was on WhatsApp and if he could call me. I’m going to get rid of my social media during my sabbatical. If people try to find me, I don’t know if I’ll be there.

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Genius Recovery: The goal is not happiness; it’s to be connected.

 

He let me know that his father who’s 59 years old, they found him in bed that morning dead. This guy was worth about $300 million, smart guy, cool guy, talented, and skilled. It wasn’t an addiction, it was a health thing. Something popped into my mind saying there are many people in pain, angst, and depressed. You’ll get different stats but depression has increased by four times since the pandemic, anxiety disorders have tripled. Depending on the stat you get, addiction has increased 40% to 60% or in some cases, I’ve heard some stats of 500%.

Suicide rates have increased by 600%. It’s crazy.

Depending on what studies you look at, they are ten times increased in alcohol consumption. During painful times of humanity, people’s addiction goes through the roof. I want to take the time to think, ponder, and remove myself from so much of the opportunities because I’m at a stage in my life where I have opportunity poisoning. I have more opportunities thrown at me than I could ever do in a thousand years that are thrown at me on a monthly basis. Entrepreneurs that are too tightly scheduled cannot transform themselves.

I have something on the wall in my office that says, “Be willing to destroy anything in your life that’s not excellent.” I want to change my phone number. I’m only going to talk to a handful of people and I’m going to think. I’m going to think about what the game is. In some games in life, the only way you win is if you don’t play. I want to play a game that I enjoy playing and I’m winning. Most of my clients are rich. They’re millionaires. They run multimillion-dollar businesses. A lot of them, with all the money and all the resources are still in pain.

My clients do better than most people. I run one of the most narcissistic groups of givers that are successful entrepreneurs that I know. It’s an incredible group of people so much so that I’m going to trust my clients to run my company for me. My members are going to run my group. My other friend, Dave Kekich, and he’s paralyzed from the chest down, has been in a wheelchair half his life. He says, “Things are seldom as great as they seem when they’re going well or seldom as bleak as they seem when they’re going wrong. Lighten up and you’ll live longer.”

I want to get rid of any parts of my ego that don’t serve me well. Not that I’m going to be able to fully do that because I’m human. I’m dysfunctional, weird, eccentric and all that shit. What I want to do is have an ego death and I want to come up with new perspectives. I will never do that in the way that I want to unless I completely shift my activities and the responsibilities that I have. I want to figure out how I can make a far greater impact on addiction recovery. Fortunately, unless I lose my money, I don’t need to work for money. I’ve built a relatively successful company. If I had all the money in the world, I would put it into addiction recovery. I want to figure out how I can do the most.

I think addiction is the greatest global problem in the world even the pandemic or pain. I could make a case of how that is a culture that is addicted to the adrenaline of fighting and raging. If someone wants a better perspective on that, read the book called War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. That’ll explain how some of what we’re witnessing with all the political bullshit in all of the fighting that’s happening in the world right now is a response to a heightened state of fear and angst. It’s addictive.

How are you going to take care of yourself for the next year?  

I’m not going to plan the sabbatical until I take it which does two things. One, it gives me a lot of time to not have to think about exactly what I’m going to do. It’s an easy way to avoid when someone asks me what I’m going to do during the sabbatical. I don’t have to tell him anything. I’m going to do a lot of art. I’ll go back and start throwing pottery because when I was in high school, the only thing that allowed my brain to escape, without doing drugs, was throwing pots on a pottery wheel. There was something about it that allowed me to feel connected. I’ll immerse myself in music. I may learn how to play an instrument. It’s a couple of that I’m thinking about but I’ll decide on that.

I’ll do my Twelve Steps again. I’m going to go through another round of doing step work which would be very helpful. I’ll do a lot of addiction-related recovery stuff and I’ll try different things that I’ve not yet done for trauma. I’m going to learn more about that. I’m going to do physical activities and immerse myself in exercise. I do a lot of yoga. I have a friend who I do a lot of yoga with. I may have her take me through 200 hours of teacher training and not that I’ll ever teach yoga. If I don’t do the teacher training, I’m still going to do a boatload of yoga with her. As far as travel, it depends on the ability to travel. With travel bans and everything, I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to travel.

Seek help. There are people who believe in you more than you believe in yourself. Click To Tweet

A video I watched about breathing, the speaker was great. He said at the very end, “Some doors, the only way you can open them is from the inside.” There’s not a lot of external stuff that I need to do. It’s more internal stuff. I want to open up doors. I want to eliminate a lot of possessions. I want to be more of a minimalist. I want to look at the relationships in my life and see who matters. What’s the difference between important and most important, and the people that are most important?

My friend, Ken Glickman said, “If you’re on the Titanic, you have only three life jackets, and you have 100 of your friends that are in the water. If they don’t get a life jacket within 60 seconds, they’ll freeze to death, they’ll drown. You’ll immediately learn the difference between important and most important.” Hopefully, I’ll never be put in that situation because that would seem horrendous. However, I’m going to try to force that upon myself to say, “Out of all the shit that I could do and all the people in my life who cares about me, who do I care about?”

I care about a lot of people. I have a hard time saying no and I want to build my spidey senses to attract the best people and to be the best person that I can. I have a lot of growth I need to do in myself. I’m happy with myself. The goal is not happiness. The goal is connected. I want to look a lot at death. How do you come to grips with death? Look at how many people are terrified of extinction and live their lives in ways that they’re dying every day. In a lot of ways, addiction and death are very similar. You’re killing yourself versus life taking its course if that makes sense. I don’t know if it does.

One of your favorite view is to connect people. You’re a connector. How is that going to be? Are you still going to connect people? Are you going to be in Phoenix or are you going to pull a Dave Chappelle and go to Africa or somewhere else?  

I don’t know yet. When it starts, I’m going to have deeper connections and less shallow connections. I’m going to write a lot. When I say write, I mean handwriting on paper with a pen. I’ll type some things up on a computer and whatnot but it’s mostly going to be writing. It’s easy to look at screens and have your whole reality altered because marketing now is around algorithms. I need to have long periods of pondering without obligations. I want obligation elimination. I want to have fewer but better relationships. On my phone, I have over 6,000 contacts of people that I know personally.

There’s this thing called the Dunbar Law where you can only have 150 relationships at a certain level. There’s probably some validity to that. I am the exception because I manage hundreds of relationships and connect people. I have a connection network. That’s what Genius Network is. I have people that will continue to connect the people that I have put together. I started the process, I’ve been a catalyst for that. Some things will fall apart, of course. There’s going to be mess. My staff at times want to reach out and want Joe to fix it. We have to figure out the parameters on that because a lot of it, I’m going to let shit fall apart, and they’ll have to figure it out on their own.

That’s how you know if your team has it together. If they don’t, how do they handle upsets if you’re not there? If you never give them a chance to do that, how do you know how well they can do? I think everyone is going to step up and I’m going to have to step back. In the stepping back, I will go deep versus shallow because we live in a world of shallow. Think about likes and followers. People you don’t even know are calling them friends on Facebook and you’ve never even had a conversation with them. It’s not a friend. That’s an artificial friend, that’s a manufactured, technological thing to make you have the illusion that you’re somehow connected. We’re more connected electronically than we’ve ever been in human history, but we’re more disconnected as humans. I want to dance. I want to do tribal shit like crazy stuff that even as I say that I’m like, “Let’s see if Joe does that.”

You’ve got to go about a ten-day silent meditation, that Vipassana way.  

I’ve had probably 100 people tell me that. I have friends that run it in Hawaii. They’ve been inviting me for years to come to Hawaii and stay there. The beauty is I’ll be able to do whatever I want.

We’re sitting here, what needs to have happened for you to feel satisfied with your sabbatical?  

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

Life Gives to the Giver: Musings on Wellness, Success, Marketing and Being an Entrepreneur

I don’t know if any of these will happen and I can only say this for interview purposes, for entertainment purposes because the things that I’m going to get out of this, I’m leaving myself open to all the things. No matter how much goal setting or what I think I want, I want it to happen to me, not to me try to say, “This is what I have to have happened.” What I hope in my current state of consciousness, which I hope in 2022 of January, I’m in a completely different frame of reference and have a different worldview. I have a great partner in my life that is an intimate, loving, and caring relationship that I’m aligned with. Better physical health and feeling much better physically. I learned through James Nestor that I never breathed effectively in my entire adult life.

I want to be more effective at breathing. I’ve got a deviated septum and I want to retrain my body without surgery as much as possible to eliminate inflammation within sinuses and stuff. I want to be able to sleep. I’m not a terrible sleeper, but I’m not a good sleeper. I want to be able to have a good night rest. I want to have a lot of an abundance of energy. I have a book that will be finished before I go on sabbatical. It’s the goal and when I come out, I want my book to go out into the world, put it out to the wild and I’ve already written three books, but I want this particular one to be incredibly beneficial. I want to come back to a whole new business model, and a team that feels empowered and has stepped up.

My team that has been running my company has evolved. My clients are still getting tremendous value out of Genius Network and they’re better. Those are some of the things. Having said all of that, I’m trying to go into it without any expectations because I might have to crawl up like a little baby crying and deal with traumas that I didn’t even address yet. It’s the Joseph Campbell thing, “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure that you seek.” I’m going to have to go into some places that are scary as fuck that I’ve never done before and I’m going to do my best to walk through it.

You’re not going to have anything to keep you occupied. Work, people, and all of the things that are thrown at you constantly every single day, that’s not going to be there.  

Recovery work builds you for this shit, doesn’t it? Learning powerlessness is a good setup. If I can get sober from addiction and have periods where I’ve gone through some of the stuff I’ve gone through, I think I can make it through a sabbatical. I may go to bad places where they need volunteers and they need people to help. When I say, “Do no work,” it’s not like I won’t help other people. I’m just not going to do business activities that are trying to make me money and stuff. I’ll think about it, of course. It’s a silly notion. We’ve been talking about genius waffles. I’m going to figure out how to create the healthiest waffle. It’s for shits and giggles because it’s going to be ridiculous and funny.

Thank you for being here. Is there anything else that you want to share with anybody about getting sober, any suggestions, or how people can find you?

Go to JoesFreeBook.com and get Life Gives to the Giver. We have two different covers of it. You can get that book for free. I talk about my philosophies on life, recovery and business. People tend to love that book. If anyone is struggling with addiction, I Love Being Sober, The Miracle Morning For Addiction Recovery. I did it with Hal Elrod and Anna David. You can go to GeniusRecovery.org. I’d love for people to read and share the letter that I wrote if it resonates with them. You click on the Open letter. I wrote a letter about my views on addiction and people tend to resonate with that letter. There are all kinds of free resources there that help people with addiction recovery.

I wish everyone the best. No matter where you’re at with recovery, there will be days that are very difficult and hell and you feel like giving up, don’t. Reach out the tools of recovery. The sun is always there. If I had $1 for every time I felt like giving up, I’d be very wealthy without ever running a company. Whenever you feel like your life sucks, help somebody who is in pain and you will immediately feel better. Go volunteer to an animal shelter, burn unit, recovery clinic, or a homeless shelter. Show up to meetings and be diligent. It will come. The gifts of recovery are there. You just have to stick with it.

Thanks again.

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About Joe Polish

ILBS 14 | Genius Recovery

 

Why Do Sex Addicts Need a Supportive Community at the Start of Treatment?

Like any other addiction, starting treatment for sex addiction can be a challenging yet hopeful experience. Having a supportive community around you can mean the difference between relapse and long-term recovery.

The Definition of Sex Addiction

Sex addiction can be characterized by a multitude of different damaging actions with oneself or with others that are caused by a compulsive sexual desire. Common actions of those with sex addictions include:

  • Not being able to set limits on their sexual urges
  • Having guilt and shame because of their sexual behavior, but they cannot stop
  • Having negative consequences because of their sexual behavior (i.e. losing a job, breaking off a relationship, financial troubles, legal problems, etc.)
  • Ignoring personal obligations and responsibilities so they can take part in more sex or sexual fantasies
  • Using resources such as porn, prostitution, and cybersex to fulfill their desires
  • Needing to escalate their sexual behavior to get the same high
  • Spending an unprecedented amount of time chasing after or engaging in sex
  • Trying to stop their sexual behavior but relapsing when they are confronted with stress

Sex addiction is often accompanied by other mental health concerns. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Substance abuse
  • Eating disorders (especially binge eating)
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorders (such as panic disorder or OCD)
  • Other behavioral addictions (i.e. gambling, shopping)

Treatment for Sex Addiction

There are various types of treatment for sex addiction. Medication, therapy, 12-Step programs, support groups, treatment centers, and other research-based models are used to treat those in need. Treatment is mainly focused on having a community of support to lean on as you learn to cope with your addiction.

Support Groups

 

Individuals going through recovery for sex addiction need a strong support network. This is important because everyone in the support group holds themselves and each other accountable in their journey to recovery.

Therapy

Various therapies can be used to treat different aspects of sex addiction. Sex addiction can be extremely damaging not just to the individual, but to their loved ones, their family, and many other aspects of their life.

Therapies commonly used for sex addiction include:

  • Individual/group therapy
  • Couples therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (and other evidence-based therapies)
  • Experiential and alternative therapies
  • 12-Step programs (i.e. Sex Addicts Anonymous)

Treatment Centers

Treatment centers combine a number of tools to help someone heal from sex addiction. The different programs and services offered are primarily focused on building a community of support for the individual to lean on as they go through the different steps to recovery.

Community Support

Community support is crucial in healing. Treatment centers focus on this to make you more comfortable with sharing your struggles and concerns openly and honestly. With a supportive network of other past sex addicts, you can support each other through your shared desire for healing.

Therapies

Treatment centers offer a number of therapies, including the ones listed above. These help the addict learn to open up, trust again, and explore their feelings towards their addiction. Learning the causes of their addiction and how to cope in healthy ways can be transformative in the healing process.

Relationship Rebuilding

Support from your loved ones is everything and can often help prevent a relapse. At a treatment center, you can work on skills to rebuild your relationships with loved ones to help regain their trust and understanding.

It Takes A Village

Since the dawn of mankind, humans have been drawn to living and working amongst other humans. The core of this is the feeling of belonging. Humans want to feel as though they are a part of something bigger. This is why community support is vital in recovery for sex addiction.

Leaning on others in a time of need can help with feelings of isolation and depression. Being around other people with the same goals as you can also help your mindset. You help drive each other to the common goal. This way, you aren’t surrounded by those who could tempt you into bad habits. Socializing with others in recovery can help them empathize with you and help you learn how to have healthy, lasting relationships with like-minded people. Remember, “sober relationships support sober lifestyles.”

Your best bet in recovery is to seek out others who are also getting sober to create a support network. This way, people can empathize and give advice when you have bad days because they have lived through the experience. By cultivating these relationships with other sober individuals, you are encouraging open and honest communication. A sense of fellowship will create a deep bond between you, creating a stable foundation for your recovery.

Giving Back

Giving back to the community can give you a sense of purpose. It can also keep you bonded to these individuals who constantly encourage your healing. You can give back by mentoring others, educating those in need, and sharing your story. This can be incredibly validating for those just starting recovery, so they can see there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Finding a support community can be difficult if you are unsure where to look. Sober living homes are a great option to learn how to cope with your addiction so you can lead a happier, more fulfilling life. You can also learn new techniques that have worked for others to help maintain your abstinence from harmful sexual behaviors. Your supportive community is waiting for you! Call Camelback Recovery today at (602) 466-9880.