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Those who know me were very much surprised to hear that I had gone to a discussion and book signing by the infamous purveyor of porn, Larry Flynt. I surprised myself, actually, but I was interested in his new book, One Nation Under Sex, and I also admire him for his continuing work to defend our First Amendment.

Mr. Flynt was entertaining during much of his talk about how the sex lives of our presidents and their first ladies have influenced our politics and I applaud his derision of the hypocrisy in our country. What I found disappointing was his response to a question I posed.

Only that morning, I had been on a panel discussion before a class of medical students and the other panel members, all sex therapists and educators, had denigrated the concept of sex addiction. I respectfully listened to them but they rolled their eyes and made faces indicating their repudiation of my foolish (in their eyes) position on the subject – responses that I personally found juvenile and unprofessional – and I thought it would be interesting to hear what Mr. Flynt’s thoughts might be.

Unfortunately, he only made the well-worn, supposed-to-be-amusing remark that if someone had to have an addiction, sex is the one to have.

Sex addiction, like any addiction, is painful, shameful, and negatively affects not only the addict, but the significant people in the addict’s life and even those who are objectified by the addict’s behavior. It’s not about having joyous, unrestrained orgasms and sex play and it’s not about loving relationships. Labeling sexual behavior as addictive is not about imposing morals or limiting freedom of sexual expression. It’s about behavior that is obsessive, compulsive, and out of control and leads to negative consequences to self and others. Addiction is a barrier to intimacy and Connection, while recovery from addiction leads to true joy in life.

I hope that before anyone argues with me about whether or not sex addiction exists, you will read my book, Addict America: The Lost Connection. You will get to know me and hopefully understand how I conceptualize addiction.

I don’t know you, Larry, but I’m glad we met, and I thank you sincerely for fighting for our right to have these discussions.

Do Not Fear

I was recently talking with someone who is experiencing quite a bit of fear right now.  She is on a fixed income and worried about a time when she will lose some independence, her health, and her home, and not be able to afford the care she will need.  In response to her fear, she is looking to blame someone and it is very easy these days to fall prey to the fear-mongering and blame that is prevalent in our media and politics.  While fear and blame do not change anyone’s situation, they do serve to Connect people, albeit in an unhealthy way.  Just as the early cavemen huddled together around the fire for warmth and security, so do we now band together in groups to feel safe against the terrors of the unknown future. 

The reason I say it is unhealthy is because in our need to belong to a group that shares our fears, we end up intensifying and heightening the perceived threat.  In our attempt to feel in control of our lives, we end up filling our hearts with hate and aggression.  In the enlightened words of Theodore Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

As Andrew Sullivan recently wrote in a Newsweek article ( Andrew Sullivan: Christianity in Crisis, Apr 2, 2012, read the article) Jesus advocated giving up control and trying to have power over others.  Certainly He modeled this throughout His life.  There are many groups today who are feeding our fears and most of them incorporate an espousal of Christianity in their rants, but what they are promoting is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.  (I am most knowledgeable about Christianity, having been raised in that faith, and I have also studied some Kabbalah and Buddhism and found them to all be related in their basic philosophies.  I plan to read up on the Quran next.)

When we can live by the simple philosophy of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Love your enemies,” and “Forgive others,” we can step out of fear and into a place of true faith and belief that we will be cared for.  In our openness, we will attract others who embrace life simply and lovingly.  We will find new groups to which we may belong.

“Do not fear” was one of the first messages I received when I consciously opened myself up to the Universe on that bridge in Phoenicia that I describe in the first pages of Addict America: The Lost Connection.  Since that time, whenever I have felt fear about the future – losing my husband, losing my home, losing my income, or losing my health (note how fear is always about loss!) I consciously turn it over to God, open my mind to the Light, and the message is always the same – “Do not fear.”  I bring myself back to the moment, this place right here, right now, where I am fine and my fears melt away.  Since that time, I have found that I am daily engaging with others who are on this path.  In my work, I pass on this message and it resonates with so many people, especially those on the journey of Recovery. 

I am Connected.

Dare To Be Stupid

Addiction is about stimulation, and fighting is stimulating. That includes fighting with ourselves. How many times a day do you get into an argument with yourself about something you sort of want to do but don’t really? Or argue with yourself about something you think you “should do” but would rather not?

“Should” is a bad word, by the way. It puts the responsibility for our decisions and behavior on an external entity, such as society, a parent, a religion or just “them.” I “should” exercise, I “should” pray on Sunday, I “should” be nice to my Aunt Sally.  We use “should” to control other people, which then alleviates our own insecurities, as in “You should bring me flowers,” “You should call me every day,” or “You should want to have sex with me five times a week.” “Should” leads to guilt or resentment and who says? Change it to “want” or “would like” and you can change your mood
and attitude.

When we argue with ourselves, there is a “should” involved, which leads to increased stimulation for the addict brain. When we really dig deeper to find the meaning underneath the surface “shoulds,” we find that special button that gets
pushed so easily and leads to anger, resentment, and overall disconnection. That button is whatever message you have taken in about yourself that is not rational but was ingrained at a young age when you weren’t even aware of it. That button is the one that says “I’m a failure,” “I’m not important,” “I’m worthless,” or “I’m stupid.” You argue with yourself because you know, cognitively, that it’s not true, but deep inside your limbic system, you fear that it is.

There are various ways to heal from the traumas that caused you to create that button and there are many interventions to change your responses to events that push the button, but meanwhile, how do you not engage in the mental conflict that is so stimulating to your addict brain?

You say “So what?” So what if I’m worthless, so what if I’m not important, so what if I’m a failure, so what if I’m stupid?

So what? Float above it like you float above the rip tide.

Dare to be stupid
(Weird Al Yankovic,)

Disconnection In America

During the years when I was writing Addict America: The Lost Connection, my focus was on how we, as Americans, are so caught up in our "more is better," "over-the-top" lifestyles, that we live in a state of addiction and disconnection.  In our current times, when our country is so extremely divided, it is more apparent than ever that we are living in a state of addiction that is driven by fears created by groups who wish to control us.  This is nothing new.  Religions, political groups, and any other special interest group - including any company or individual trying to sell us something - will first create a fear and then tell us how they can relieve that fear.

For instance, by creating the fear of Hell, various religions have gathered and kept members by promising that if the members just do what they are told, they will escape Hell and go to Heaven.  In essence, they sell their religion.  In a more mundane way, think of the commercials on TV.  The advertisers create a fear - if you have bad breath, you will be alone; if you drive a competitor´s car, you will die in an accident.  Then they tell you what to do: Use this product, buy this car, and you will be safe.

We also have the need to belong to a group, whether it is our family, our religion, our country, or our political party.  Belonging to the group is the strongest motivator of human behavior, because we are already Connected to all life.  It is just difficult to take in the concept of Connection of such magnitude when our Enlightened Brains are still evolving, so we grab on to smaller, more manageable groups.
Unfortunately, this leaves us open to manipulation by fear.  Of course, then, our greatest fear is rejection from the group, so we sublimate our own inner sense of Connection to our Higher Power for the security of the group.

At this time in America, we are experiencing this phenomenon to an incredible degree.  We have lost our sense of being part of the larger group that is America and are being divided to an extreme degree by political groups.  Political parties and large corporations are made up of people who are part of their own groups within those entities.  They, too, are acting on their personal fears of inadequacy and rejection and they personify the concept of addiction as put forth in Addict America: The Lost Connection.  In their need to escape their own existential pain, they attempt to control the external world and so no amount of money or power will ever be enough because that pain can only be resolved from within.  Meanwhile, unless and until the rest of us free ourselves of fear, we will be manipulated into a deeper state of disconnection from our spiritual selves and from each other.

Even in these divisive times, we can choose to live in recovery.  We can bring ourselves into the present, accept that we cannot control anything outside of ourselves and only our inner thoughts and feelings, and we can give to God that which we fear.

Fear is about loss of control, but when we accept that the only thing we can control is our own minds, we realize that nothing external can ever control us.  When we live by the Serenity Prayer, we have nothing to fear.

God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.

Another paradox of recovery:  Connect with your inner self to Connect with all life in the Universe.

Be In Light

Corporate Addict America

The U.S. Supreme Court decided last year that corporations are people and so, to some extent, they are.

Corporations are certainly run by people and those people often think and behave addictively, as defined in my book Addict America: The Lost Connection.

“Obsessive, compulsive, out of control behavior done in spite of negative consequences to self and others” is the simple definition of addiction. At its heart, addictive behavior is driven by the need to feel good about oneself and to overcome those messages from early childhood which we have internalized – “I’m not good enough,” “I’m worthless,” “I’m a failure,” and “I’m not important” to name a few. When parents are critical, when we are compared to our siblings and found lacking, or when we are simply ignored, we take in these messages and carry them into adulthood and all subsequent events are filtered through them.
So it’s no wonder that corporate CEOs, presidents, and board members continually need more and more external validation to prove their worth. They reach their positions of authority because of their continual striving for self worth, but nothing is ever enough because they are trying to fill an internal emptiness with external gratification. Therein lies the addiction.

When we see a corporation that is already making billions yet refuses to pay its workers a decent wage, we ask what is that all about? In terms of addiction, though, it makes perfect sense, because the people in charge are trying to drive their profits high enough to make the world see that they are important, good enough, worthwhile and successful. The problem is, that doesn’t work and so the negative consequences are that these people still carry their negative messages and everyone around them and under them suffers.

We do have some heroes in the corporate world – Bill Gates and Warren Buffet quickly come to mind. These are men who built their worlds by doing something they enjoy and at which they naturally excel, not from a compulsion to beat everyone else and prove their own worth.

We need to personally define success as it relates to our own quality of life, which is an internal value, rather than success as defined by what we think others admire. When we enjoy what we are doing and we are being creative or helping others, we will not be focused on what we don’t have. We can be in recovery, be in the moment, and feel fulfilled.

Let’s pray for that light to come into those corporate souls and shine on everyone whose lives they effect.

Be In Light



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