Today, we have a guest post from Sex & Intimacy Coach Sophia Treyger. She is one of the 5 Experts for the Permission to Pamper Series beginning Monday, February 29, 2016. Grab your seat --->Permission to Pamper
It wasn’t something I was advertising years ago when I realized I had a sex addiction. It wasn’t something I could admit to myself. I thought I had everything under control. Men are not the only ones who suffer from sex addiction and it’s not only about porn. I’m no longer ashamed and I understand what addiction means to me. More women are coming out as sex addicts yet the definitions vary widely. It’s challenging to know what the incidence is for female sex addiction since, according to one survey, 60% of the female respondents never sought help. Over the years, I’ve met, spoken with, and worked with many women who suffer. I’m not alone in this struggle.
It’s when I reflect on my life that I see how it crept up on me over 16 years of serial monogamous relationships. I didn’t know really what I was doing and thought I had it together. The truth was: I was terrified to be alone. There was hardly time to myself between relationships – I was always on to the next guy, the next sexual experiment, the next “high”.
It’s complicated, honestly. There are a lot of reasons or causes I can think of to explain the addiction. One stands out and encompasses the core of it: I didn’t know how to handle pain, anxiety, fear, and discomfort. Sound familiar? I felt a lot of pressure over the years to achieve something – a career, a relationship that would lead to marriage and kids by a certain age. I compared my life to everyone else’s and it always fell short. Mostly, I couldn’t handle how much pain I felt daily and I believed for a long time that I was chronically depressed. I was adept at assigning myself diagnoses from the omniscient and highly pathologizing DSM-IV.
Yet here I was: a budding sex therapist working daily with women experiencing the same kind of addiction, trauma, and low self-worth. I was working with powerful, alpha, Type-A women who were stunning, intelligent, creative, and talented. I heard the same stories over and over again: fear of failure, fear of success, “I’m not like this or that or her or them”. What I didn’t understand back then was that it was all a cover for the greatest fear: intimacy. I had the same fear myself but I didn’t have words for it yet. Very soon into my career, I reached a ceiling and couldn’t help these women (or anyone) any more. I had nothing to give. I would constantly be triggered by their stories and become frustrated with their lack of progress. Worse, I would become triggered by their successes because I desperately wanted a partner. After 12 years of working as a therapist, I reached a crossroads and it was either become licensed or leave. In 2012, I left the field of sex and couples therapy never to look back…until now. This story has a happy ending but before I conclude, here is a look into my world of addiction.
It looked like this: I’d be voluntarily celibate for awhile swearing off men. This time I’ll do it differently, I’d think. I’d work on personal development: spiritual seeking, self-help books, meditation, yoga; you name it. After awhile I’d start to feel lonely and bored. Looking at other couples being happy would produce intense cravings inside me for a relationship and sex. On top of this, I was being told by family members (and popular media) that time was running out. The biological clock was ticking and my eggs were running dry. I had no idea how much this message was affecting me. I thought I was an independent woman, a feminist saying “Fuck you” to society, but it turns out I wasn’t immune. The messages became lodged in my cells like fossils. I would cry almost daily wishing for a man. I’d meet someone and pounce on him. I was very assertive and used sex as bait to lock a man into a relationship. My strategy was if I could please him, he’ll love me. Friendship was never part of the equation even though I longed for a genuine one with a man. I wasn’t discerning – I just wanted someone. I’d be with a man, have sex soon after meeting, and instantly we’d be in a relationship. He’d be “the one”. I’d be “in love” and we were in bliss for 3 weeks to a month. The red flags didn’t matter; I effectively ignored them. The relationship would last up to a year at which time I’d evaluate whether I liked him. Upon evaluation, I’d decide we were not compatible and I’d leave him. Repeat over and over and over again. That has been the past 16 years of addiction.
It was never about the man; it was about the craving and eventually the aversion of pain.
I didn’t see men as human beings. I saw them as sperm machines and objects that could make everything better. Men were my drugs of choice. I didn’t appreciate a man’s unique qualities or see a man for who he was - a special and deserving being. All I cared about was what they could give me and what pain they could take away.
For a long time, I didn’t think very highly of myself and what I was worth. I pretended to be strong and liberated. I didn’t need anyone until the craving reared it’s ugly head to overtake my senses. For the duration of my addiction, I accepted what I could get and over the years this led to several counts of trauma. In 2013, I hit rock bottom and I experienced the most painful trauma of my life. After starting a grieving process that has lasted until today, I vowed to never betray myself again.
I am still in the process of emotional healing and have learned powerful ways to invite love into my life. I understand my addiction and feel the craving daily. I acknowledge that the cravings may never go away yet I can live with them knowing they don’t have to overtake me. I choose what I think, believe, say, and do in relation to my cravings. I am not in a romantic relationship currently because I choose to get to know myself better. I’m also showing up differently with men and inviting friendship with men into my life. I’m enjoying spending time with men and listening to them deeply. I’m discovering new ways of being intimate with men and sharing joy with them through uplifting conversation and fun activities. I’m experiencing appreciation of their amazing qualities without diving into habitual fantasy patterns that remove me from being present with men. It’s a fulfilling process and I feel close to so many people now.
Professionally, I’m back in the saddle serving women and couples and loving it. I’m excited to coach and teach women and couples how to be genuinely intimate. I feel solid and now use discomfort, fear, and anxiety as keys to access deep layers of vulnerability and intimacy for myself and those I serve. I recite affirmations daily to remind me of who I am and I leave you with an affirmation that honors who you are, your struggles, and your divine strengths.
I vow to check in with my core, my womb, my deep feminine essence so that I know where I end and others begin. I will honor my boundaries and those of others. I am skilled at expanding them to include love and warmth from others. I am also skilled at contracting them when others’ energy is negative. I will honor myself always and speak, be, and do from love and integrity.
How are your addictions serving you? What feelings are you experiencing and/or avoiding through your addictions? What practices can you develop that will help you sit with your painful feelings?
Sophia has always been fascinated by the mind, how people come together, relationships, sexuality, and how they are all connected. She studied psychology in college, has a Master’s degree in couple and family therapy with a specialty in sex therapy, and is a certified yoga teacher.
Sophia has been a therapist for over 15 years and has worked with children, families, individuals, groups, and couples. She has taught psychology, human sexuality, adult sex education, yoga, and she has facilitated workshops for individuals and couples. She's a published author of 100s of articles and a national speaker. Creating a world-wide community of women and men who lead from pleasure is her true passion and calling. She is now the Chief Pleasure Operator of her own Sex & Intimacy Coaching company.
Everything Sophia gives to her clients, she has experienced with profound success and has joy in sharing with her community. She creates a safe space for self-expression and discovery and teaches practices that break relationship-sabotaging patterns. She is a conduit for people to put out their great bodies of work into the world. Her clients have experienced profound success as well and thanks to knowing and trusting themselves, they make huge ripples in the world as change-makers.