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Am I a sex addict?

A letter writer has worked hard to overcome a difficult background, but still seeks solace in casual sex.

Can our elder help her break the habit?

Dear EWC

I’m turning 18 soon and going to college. I’ve recently made some big steps in recovery and personal growth/healing. Just to provide some background information, I have been through quite some obstacles in my life. In short, my family is dysfunctional and toxic (I am the oldest of four with a single mother since last year), and I have been sexually assaulted and abused multiple times in my teen years. I was also alienated by my entire religious community for being different for most of my childhood. I switched to public school from a religious school in the tenth grade and made some bad friends. They used me for money, my car, etc.

For a long time, I was numb and codependent. I shut out all my goals in life and threw myself at other people and their issues, namely boys I wanted to “fix.” This caused another trauma — I let a nineteen-year-old guy live with me (in my room!) for seven months because I didn’t know how to say no to him, and I did not want to in a way. When I hit rock bottom I went out of state and worked on myself. I now have higher self-esteem (and live alone, thankfully) and a clear focused plan on what I want to do with my future. I’m taking steps to make that plan happen but here’s the fishy part.

Every time I leave a guy, I feel the need to talk to someone new. Not in a boyfriend sense because I strongly tell myself I’m not looking for a relationship. I tell myself I want no strings attached hookups, but that’s not me and I know it. Sometimes I feel like I’m a sex addict or something. If I am alone with no one to talk to for too long I make a dating app profile or go out to the mall to flirt. It ends up making me feel horrible about myself. I feel like I can’t be happy unless I’m having casual sex even though truthfully casual sex isn’t something I want. I’ve gotten pretty good at blocking negative self-talk but when it comes to this area it comes back. Thoughts like “Wow, are you really that desperate for sex?” and “You can’t control yourself” come up. I just deleted the latest round of dating apps and blocked a bunch of numbers but I feel like it’s inevitable that I will soon make a new one. Why am I like this? I feel so desperate. Sorry, this is really long but I’m at the end of my rope. I think I underestimated this problem and I can’t afford to have this affect my future. Thank you

Hildegard replies

First of all, congratulations on all that you have done to fix your life. It sounds like you were handed a lot of troubles that were not of your own making. I applaud you for working through these things. Given what all you have been through, I am not at all surprised that you have a need for intimacy in your life. That’s not strange at all. However, if you are doing things that are not good for yourself or are engaging in dangerous behaviors, then you must resolve this problem.

In light of your past, with the abuse and broken family, I think you would benefit by having someone to talk to. Not a relative or a boyfriend, but someone who could be objective with you. Please look into seeing a counselor or a therapist of some sort. You need this interaction with someone who has your best interests at heart. It needn’t be an expensive undertaking. There are all kinds of counselors available on a sliding scale or income-based. Maybe just a few visits would be enough to pull you back from that need to make intimate connections with strangers. Perhaps your school has a personal counseling service that you could utilize.

You are wise to realize that what you’ve been doing is not good for you. Ideally, you would have learned how to manage your feelings within your family and through your religious community but, as you’ve explained, that has not happened. While you are good at caring for others, you’ve never learned to take care of yourself. Believe me, a counselor could help.

Be kind to yourself. You need some additional healing. And that’s not an insurmountable problem. Continue with your school and life plans and keep moving forward. You can get through this and learn not to have to engage in destructive behavior. This is not an approach to intimacy that you can change overnight — but you can change it by working hard in that direction. Be brave. You’re definitely on the right track.

Letter #: 432292
Category: Self-Improvement

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