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Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction Hardcover – October 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
We are a nation of puritanical love junkies, proclaims Cheever (My Name Is Bill) in her inquiry into the growing scientific and psychological evidence that suggests a chemical basis for sex addiction. Drawing on a hodge-podge of addiction literature, neurobiological studies and her more informal (but most persuasive) role as a seasoned battler of her own obsessions, Cheever believes that American idealism taints our expectations of relationships: In our world, addiction to other people... is the only addiction that is applauded and embraced.... But for Cheever, a lover's destructive behavior can be just as traumatizing as that of an alcoholic, a bulimic or a compulsive gambler. Cheever is best when writing personally; her candid memories of emotionally abusive parents, repeated adultery and consuming love drive an otherwise meandering text. Her cultural subjects are titillating enough and range from the voyeurism of To Catch a Predator to speculation that Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, struggled to hide a sex addiction. But the reader strains to connect slim narrative threads of this unstructured meditation on obsession. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
There is a thin line between intense passion for one’s beloved and a frantic desire to sexually possess a casual acquaintance, Cheever argues between animated exuberance that is enthusiastically encouraged and excessive behavior that lies at the outer limits of what society deems acceptable. In a provocative and deeply personal look at the least acknowledged of all addictions, Cheever examines the ways in which sexually obsessed people confuse lust with love and the damage they do to themselves and those around them as they distort affection and desire with abuse and deception. Through interviews with scholars, behaviorists, physicians, and psychiatrists, Cheever endeavors to uncover the underlying similarities between those who are sexually promiscuous and others who are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Such clinical investigation, however, is secondary to the intimate revelations Cheever shares about her own troubled past and addictive behavior. She candidly chronicles her irrational love affair with a man she would ultimately marry, and addresses the subject readers will be most curious about, the overwhelming influence of her famous father’s complex sexuality and her mother’s response. --Carol Haggas
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In 'Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction' Susan Cheever has given us an entrance into the world of all addicts and what it means to be addicted. In the end, she says," there are no easy answers. A straight look about some crooked feelings. Desire shows us the difference between the addiction that cripples our emotions, and healthy, empowering love that enhances our lives."
In this book, we learn that Susan has been an alcoholic and a sex addict. She has detailed the conversations she had with experts in neuroscience and psychology of addictive behavior. People who are addicted to alcohol, sex and drugs share common traits. Some sort of "otherworldly suspension of will" comes over addicts, and they cannot stop themselves nor do they understand at the moment the will is not there. In fact many addicts are attracted to more than one agent. Many alcoholics smoke. Food addicts who have gained so much weight they need gastric by-pass surgery, find that after losing weight they may turn to gambling, or alcohol or sex. One addiction may lead to another. A person who has a predilection to addiction, may go for years without acting out on that addiction, and then one day, bam, it has started. There is a loss of will from the activation of similar brain pathways no matter what the fix is.
Susan Cheever shares her own story of alcoholism and sex addiction. Her three marriages, her affairs, the stories behind the stories. She also shares many stories of friends or acquaintances to provide us with a basic understanding of the humans inside these behaviors. She interviews many behavioral scientists and psychologists. Some have conflicting views and several disagree with Cheever. She dissects the scientists opinions and forms one of her own. Addicts do not have control over their behaviors. They try, but always fail. One addiction may and usually does lead to another. This may be a combination of genetic and life experiences. It leaves me with a feeling of deja vous. These wonderful people in my life have no real control over some of their behaviors and it is not until they come to an understanding and want to change these behaviors that their life may change. No amount of nagging in the world will affect this kind of change. Good to know, is it not? We all hate nags, don't we?
I found this book to be forcefully written. Susan Cheever shares her belief that sex addiction is much more accepted than alcoholism or drugs. "She says, and this is a central theme of the book, that "in our world, addiction to other people -- especially addiction to a sex partner -- is the only addiction that is applauded and embraced." But the havoc it causes to self and family is tremendous, just as it is with alcoholism and drug addiction. A thoughtful and insightful look into the area of addiction.
Highly recommended. prisrob 10-05-08
My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous
Home before dark / Susan Cheever
The author amply demonstrates that sexual addicts are given to the behaviors of lying, secretiveness, broken promises, obsessiveness, self-destructiveness, remorse, and the like, much as do other addicts. Likewise, there is evidence that there are genetic predispositions to most addictions, as well as similarities in brain reactions to addictive behaviors and withdrawals across the spectrum of addictions. Though not elaborated, sexual addiction is somewhat unique in that a substance is not involved and the behavior, even copious amounts, is considered normal and essential for life. The propagation of species depends on strong sex drives.
Another factor in naming activities "addictions" is the changing social environment and tolerance for behaviors. At one time in our history, excessive use of tobacco, overeating, and drinking were hardly viewed in the same manner as today. Furthermore, the sting is taken out of the word by its use to describe intense interest in all types of activities.
Sexual addiction is extremely difficult to determine. Multiple sex partners, open marriages, and the like are hardly atypical in modern society. The anonymity of urban life, professions that provide intense contact with numerous patients, clients, etc, access to significant resources, and an open-minded orientation - all of these facilitate an increased variety of sexual experiences. The author, a distinguished writer and mover among high social circles, had far more opportunities for sexual liaisons than the average person. She was unfaithful and undoubtedly was remorseful; however her claims of sexual addiction seem well overstated. She did not target potential victims at every turn - not even close. Perhaps under different marital arrangements, her behavior may well have been tolerated.
The book is an interesting and personal take on sexual addiction. Clearly, sexual addiction does exist with predatory behavior being a large component. Yet it remains an elusive concept. Infatuation, even obsession, is a typical response in many, if not most, courtships. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect that intensity of feeling to never arise again. And, if so, is a labeling of sexual addiction that informative? There is much more to be said about the subject than is found in this short book. The book is perhaps best read for the author's journey through many marriages and lovers, though all covered in a rather subdued sense.