For many women, the potential for addiction begins in childhood following abuse or a lack of caregiver attachment, thus planting the idea into the woman's mind that she is bad or unworthy of love.
Thus in order to get any sort of attention or love, or as a way to block out negative feelings, she becomes obsessed with sex and relationships (or eating, gambling, viewing pornography, shoplifting) — and addicted to the subsequent high following the release of pleasurable brain chemicals.
In the first chapter of "Making Advances," a new book aimed at clinicians who treat female sex addicts, edited by Ferree, the group of authors write, "Women use sex or romance for power, energy or medicine, and lose themselves in the process. For addicts they unwittingly substitute the high of addictive love and sex for real intimacy and connection."
Even after Hope got married to Jason (not his real name), a kind, preacher-in-training who loved her deeply, she continued to act out through pornography and masturbation, erotica and chat rooms — shamefully hiding all of it.
When Jason caught her in a torrential online affair with a former boyfriend, Hope realized her life was out of control, became suicidal and finally agreed to treatment.
"Dating my husband, having kids, I always felt like they deserved somebody better, and if I got out of the way they could have that, because I could never be what they wanted me to be because of the addiction," Hope said. "It never occurred to me, until I was halfway through rehab, that maybe I could be somebody better."
And today she is.
Following inpatient therapy, counseling and years of 12-step meetings, Hope has dealt with her past, set boundaries and rediscovered herself and her marriage, which she says is stronger now than it's ever been.
She's also working to educate other women through her blog and, hopefully, someday a book. She knows what it's like to go through this alone, and she doesn't want others to have to do the same thing.
"I want to make available for someone else what wasn't available for me," she says. "This is a real disease, it's a real thing that requires real treatment and real understanding."
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