Dear Annie: As hard as it is for me to talk about this, my problem is that I suffer from addiction. I envy alcoholics, drug addicts and smokers because they have access to medications to help them stop. But that is not the case for me. I have a sexual addiction and have struggled with pornography addiction. I called a couple of agencies in the Yellow Pages, and they must have thought it was a prank call, because they hung up on me when I disclosed the nature of my addiction.
There was a time when I never thought of myself as an addict. When I was younger, I foolishly, carelessly and recklessly thought it was a harmless recreational thing. If I had known then what I now know, I would have made different decisions. Since then, I've told myself, "This will be the last time." But it never is. I have tried 12-step groups, even though there is no group in my area that addresses my specific problem. I have been in outpatient and inpatient treatment. I have tried pastoral counseling, but I have been told that the nature of my problem is so severe that it requires professional counseling, not pastoral. I found only one therapist in my area who is a sexual addiction therapist, and I couldn't afford his services. The treatment he outlined for me is a three-to-five-year program (he said it would most likely be even longer for me), and it would be all uphill. I have been advised to cultivate real intimacy in relationships, but I'm not sure what that means. I am a 48-year-old lifelong bachelor who has never been in any relationship, never dated and never been in love. So I have no spousal support. I have no family and no friends. There is no university counseling in my area. My insurance doesn't cover behavioral health treatment.
My diagnosis is major depression that is resistant to treatment. I was put on six antidepressants, and none helped. So the doctors and nurses gave up. I understand that some people who become sex addicts, especially porn addicts, even have to go through rehab like alcoholics and drug addicts. I've heard of new studies suggesting that porn addiction affects the part of the brain known as the frontal lobe. I have since learned that viewing porn releases a brain chemical called epinephrine (similar to adrenaline), which locks stimulation into the brain. I wish I had known of all this sooner.
I have never heard of anyone recovering from sex and/or porn addiction. Is it even possible? I feel that I'm too far gone to save. Maybe this could serve as a warning to others making the same choices that I've made. Would you please ask your other readers who have struggled with this to share what helped them and please print their responses? — Ashamed in Kansas
Dear Ashamed: You are not beyond saving. People have recovered from sex addiction (including porn addiction). There are several reputable and relatively affordable websites for remote therapy, such as BetterHelp and Talkspace. Additionally, if you can't find a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting in your area, you can order some of the organization's literature — or even start your own meeting. Visit https://saa-recovery.org for more information.
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