"Hi my name is Joe and i'm a love and sex addict" I have said these words many times in a small church room to other people that have similar issues.
For a long time I have been very unhealthy in my relationships with other people, all the way from my parents to friends, probably even as far people on social media that I haven't actually met.
There are a couple of reasons I want to talk about this;
1) I think it is pretty common but doesn't get openly discussed much for fear of embarrassment.
2) the Harvey Weinsteins of the words using "sex addiction" to justify their awful behavior.
So lets talk a bit about what it actually is, or in fact lets start off with what it is not. It is not an addiction to the physical act of sex, there are no cravings that get so bad that you lose control and just have to grab someone to get a fix. So when that is claimed by someone looking for an out from assaulting someone be aware they are lying.
What it is, is the use of sex or flirting or romance as a crutch to make you feel better about yourself. It has taken many forms for me.
I have had relationships where my whole self esteem has depended on a relationship. If the girl in question was happy with me all was right with the world and I was as happy as can be, if they seemed somewhat uncertain about the relationship or unhappy with me I was crushed. I depended utterly on this relationship for my happiness. I think we can all agree that this isn't healthy.
Likewise I used to compulsively use dating apps, looking for a new person to give me attention or want me it was never really about finding the right person, more stockpiling people that could and would give me some sort of attention when i wanted or needed it.
I have been in many relationships with people that weren't nice to me at all with the clouded thoughts of not being worth being nice too, and that having someone who is nasty to me is better than having no one at all.
To be honest it doesn't even need to be romantic. On many occasions I have had unhealthy friendships where I have been used, just because I was such a walkover because i wanted so badly to feel liked.
As far as actual sex was concerned it took away a lot of that from me too, it was just about making me feel wanted and not about sharing something with another person. In fact it was not about my pleasure at all, it was about making it good for the other person so that they would keep wanting me (there is absolutely something to that idea of emotionally damaged people being great in bed).
Basically things had happened earlier in my life that had left me with a crushing fear of abandonment and with regards to relationships and sex was one of the few things that i could have some control over to try and make sure I wouldn't be abandoned again or at least thats what i told myself.
It took some time and some work on myself to realize and deal with these things before I felt really able to get back into dating and look for someone for the right reasons, but i'm getting there now.
It's easy to overlook this one, because its not like alcohol or drugs you don't have to deal with it in that way you don't wake up unable to go to work from a hangover or comedown, and it's not like you can go cold turkey if your addiction is other people (for that reason i don't think it should be referred to as an addiction at all, but I understand why it is) but its important and it can ruin some really important things for you if left unchecked.
If the things I have talked about have struck a chord with you and you want to reach out. Feel free too talk to me about it. If not there is an organisation called SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) and they have a website with lots more information here.
But also please don't mistake just enjoying sex for a problem, if you are in a place in your life where you are having a lot of sex there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. This is about the reasons why you do something. If you need the flirting or sex to feel good about yourself that can be an issue and its worth thinking about.