You don't have to have slept with thousands of people to be a sex addict

Up until this year, the only thing I knew about sex and love obsessives was that Russell Brand was one. 

And given that he’s apparently slept with over a thousand women, it felt like to be classified as a sex addict, you probably had to be getting some. 

I thought that being a sex and, ultimately, love addict was a cop-out. The kind of thing you say when your partner catches you cheating. 

Until I realised I was one.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. As a recovering alcoholic with an addictive personality, I’ve been hooked to everything from booze, to work, even to mince pies. That was embarrassing. 

So when I hit rock bottom again in March – this time because of romance – it was painful to admit that, once again, I needed help.

I won’t lie, developing intense, deep emotions has always been an issue for me.

From when I was in primary school and fell head-over-heels in love with a girl in my class, aged six; to when I was 32 and convinced that I should meet up with a girl I barely knew in South America because she’d shown me some interest – my emotions always felt as if they’d been cranked up to IMAX levels.

There were times in my life where I legitimately felt like I was falling head over heels with different women every week  without even meeting them first. 

After becoming addicted to Hinge, I spoke to a few close friends and realised I needed help

And because I felt so strongly for people, I perpetually found myself believing that, this time, they must be the ‘one’. Forgetting almost simultaneously that I’d felt like this about someone the week before.

When things didn’t go to plan, my emotions would be of absolute heartbreak and devastation. 

My lowest moment came when I realised I was obsessively using dating apps day-in, day-out, for hours at a time. I knew then that I had a problem.

I felt like I couldn’t stop. 

At one point on this particular carousel, I was speaking to eight different women at a time, and obsessively changing my Hinge questions and pictures as though I was trying to crack a secret algorithm.

For me, addiction is the disease of more. That imperious urge to keep ramping up the pressure. The disease which tells you that, if in doubt, up the intensity.

So, after becoming addicted to Hinge (more embarrassing than the mince pies) and, at one point, dating nine women in one week, I spoke to a few close friends and realised I needed help. 

I understood that, for me, fantasy was one of the most insidious parts to my illness, perfectly complemented by my fear of rejection.

For example, if I met someone for the first time, my head would immediately start throwing out incessant vivid fantasies about ‘our future’. 

Getting married. Us driving in a camper van off on our travels. Smiling at each other warmly across a table during dinner. Even having children. And whatever I tried to do, I couldn’t get the obsessive thoughts to stop.

And then, when the relationship didn’t manifest in the way my head was telling me, I mourned for what never was. 

So, I sought a recovery programme, and a therapist – the combination of which has helped me hugely. I’ve also worked with a life coach on articulating what I’m looking for in a partner, and what my red flags are – it helps me reassess when that initial emotional spark is in danger of becoming a wildfire. And making a concerted effort not to paint the red flags green. 

This has meant rooting out a lot of outdated beliefs, like the fact I ‘needed’ someone to complete me. 

It also helped me recognise my patterns with dating, and that, often, I wasn’t putting my own interests first or articulating what I wanted. Only to then put myself in a place to be hurt, albeit silently, because I never wanted to cause any conflict by expressing my desires. A real sign of low self-confidence. 

I discovered that my deep-rooted terror of rejection came from the fact that, for so many years, I was relying on other people for validation. 

Today, I know that someone’s opinion of me is none of my business – as much as it pains me to say that. 

I’ve learned that, just because I cross paths with someone, it doesn’t mean we’re on the same one

And by practicing that acceptance, I’ve found a lot of peace and serenity, rather than trying to make every single one of the 7.9billion people in the world love me.

The dark and insidious nature of being an addict for me is that, if you don’t shine a light on it, that urge can control your life, guiding you in decision-making, and big life choices.

But, by knowing my factory settings today, it’s not like that. I know now that having obsessive thoughts is part of me  and I’ve accepted it.

I also know that when I do meet people, unfortunately, I need to ride through a slightly excruciating period where my head and emotions react like I’m the lead in a Disney film, with a full string orchestra playing whenever that person walks in the room.  

Except, I now understand that, if I’m patient, wait and breathe – I start to get clarity about how I actually feel. My new sense of self starts to come back and I refer to my values or goals to see if this is me, or my inner addict running the show.  

Now, I’m comfortable enough to start dating again. I’m looking for someone to join me on this next chapter of my life – someone who wants to travel the world with me; who isn’t afraid to show up emotionally, who’s optimistic, and understands the importance of gratitude. 

And someone, ideally, who can quote Gladiator. 

While it doesn’t always go my way, I’ve learned that, just because I cross paths with someone, it doesn’t mean we’re on the same one.  

So, I apologise Russell – I misjudged you.

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