by Joshua Hoe
Two days ago in my home state of Michigan, a man flipped his car while he was trying to simultaneously drive while masturbating and watching porn.
Thank God he did not take anyone else down with him.
But it saddened me a great deal to hear the tenor of most of the press commentary.
As usual, it was all a big joke.
It wasn’t and ins’t a joke to me.
Been there myself, I suspect I know the surreal helplessness he was likely feeling.
What I Felt – Empathy
I know how low you can get, how sadly and desperately compulsive addictive behaviors can become.
I have been there, wondering (always after the fact) how I could have done something so against my beliefs, so gross, and so not what I wanted to do at all.
I would be willing to bet the farm that, at the time, this person was close to 100% miserable.
To normal folks, his “accident” probably sounds like a joy ride, but very little joy was happening before or during that fateful car ride.
What I mostly feel is empathy:
* I remember everything seeming normal and healthy and gradually progressing farther and farther from whatever “normal” is.
* I remember acting out after 8 hour sessions with no idea how or why it all happened
* I remember knowing something was “wrong” but not really knowing what to do about it and feeling powerful compulsions to continue
The good news, there are answers, people can find recovery – faith – and a community of people that care.
But, I also know that but for the grace of God, I could have been this person.
What I Felt – Shame
Virtually every story I saw about this made a joke out of what happened.
I get that when, as a society, we have a hard time trying to process information we often use humor as a coping mechanism. But far too often, we make jokes just because we are cruel.
The same people that laugh when someone trips over their own feet, or the people who make fun of people in pain tend to dominate the humor when things like this happen.
I certainly remember the reaction in junior high school when someone had the audacity to drop something loudly in the cafeteria.
Our first reactions are too often not very compassionate.
We probably look at virtual all sexual dysfunction as evidence of socio-pathology (and therefore fair game), but this is rarely the case, only a very small percentage of people struggling with sex are sociopaths.
And, even when it turns out that someone is a sociopath, by definition – sociopaths are “built that way” – not doing it from a sense of cruelty per se.
And even in these cases, we should look at what happens as truly tragic for everyone involved, especially the victims. We should try to find our place in the problem, and do our best to try to auto-correct to try to prevent problems in the future.
But I sincerely doubt that, in this example, we were dealing with a sexual sociopath.
And in this case, the perpetrator was luckily (but sadly) the only victim.
This was a real human being struggling with a terrible problem who is now dead.
His epitaph will always be a punchline. Who knows what potential he offered the world but for his struggle? Who knows the good things he did in his life outside of his addiction.
Millions of people in this country struggle with sexual dysfunction. Most studies that I have seen suggest that the number is increasing rapidly as the internet helps fuel access to the worst forms of human sexual behavior.
Whitney Cummings was not wrong on her recent HBO special by calling out the excesses of contemporary male sexual desire.
However, we do ourselves few favors by responding to our own basest nature to respond to sexual problems.
One of the problems with how we, as a society, treat sexual “problems” is we almost make it a catch-22 for anyone struggling with compulsive or unhealthy sexuality to get help.
You are told your whole life that there is nothing worse than sexual problems.
When someone gets caught or found out, they are socially shamed so completely that they are often erased as social human beings.
When people with these problems are depicted in the media, they are either shown as monsters or as the biggest jokes in the world.
* If you are confused by what I am saying, odds are you have never been on the phone trying to figure out how to ask for a sexual addiction specialist through your insurance without letting your whole HR system become alerted to what you are struggling with.
* If you are confused by what I am saying, odds are you have never been watching a movie mocking a fictional character struggling with exactly what you are struggling with.
* If you are confused by what I am saying, odds are you have never been shocked, amazed, and confounded by the terrible advise non-specialist therapists give to people struggling with sexual problems.
What I feel, and felt, every time I saw another social performance of sexual dysfunction was shame.
* Shame that pushed my deeper and deeper into isolation
* Shame that made me less and less likely to ask for help for fear that people would find out – that people would know my secret shame.
When you watch a story like this one unfold and wonder how someone could have done something so absurd, so dangerous, or so immoral you might look to how long the person has been trying to deal with the issues on their own.
In almost every instance, I would make a bet that it was for a long time.
Social shame is often where sexual dysfunction starts and the continuation of shame (in all addicts) protects the addictive cycle from proper healing and care.
By pushing dysfunctions underground we make them worse.
The worst thing we can do is create no safe spaces for people to exist comfortably in. A close second is making even getting help so frought with risk that nobody wants to get help.
What I Felt – Concern
Now, all of that said, I also feel concern.
We sex addicts, and all addicts, need to remember that what we are fighting is a life and death struggle. Not just a life and death struggle for us, but also for others.
Drunk drivers who are alcoholics kill people, people whacked-out on drugs are often involved in violence, gamblers lose money families counted on, and this person could have killed anyone who was driving on that same road with him.
Getting help matters.
No matter what social stigma you face, if you are struggling, getting help is a moral imperative.
Survival often depends on it.
When I was in prison, I would estimate that 80% of the people I met (no matter what crime they were actually doing time for) struggled with addiction.
Old AA veterans say addicts are looking forward to the Asylum, Prison, or the Grave without recovery. They are most likely correct, that certainly applies to me.
I send my condolences to his family.
I hope we find a way to have a more mature discussion of sex as a society. I am not hopeful, but I hope.
Until then, I know some things do work, if you are struggling, get to a S-12 Step Meeting, take the risk and find a therapist who specializes, and read whatever you can from reputable sources on the subject of sex addiction!
I know that for me, just walking into that first meeting and sharing my story for the first time made all the difference in the world.
Thanks for reading my rant, if you have any constructive experiences to add to this discussion, please feel free to leave a comment!