For those who know me well, you are more than welcome to laugh hysterically with what I am about to say –
As of last week, I completed a 3-month, sex addiction, rehab program.
(insert hysterical laughs here)
Okay… now that the jokes are over… sex addiction is no joke. Yes, I’m more than willing to write comedically about it, but sex addiction is a problem that, if not confronted, will destroy your life. The reason I’m writing about it is because –
1. I want to contribute to the notion that sex addiction truly is something that needs to be taken seriously.
2. I want to add my voice to the many others that have documented their struggles with addiction (whether it be drugs, alcohol, or other vices) because in doing so, I hope I can help others.
Living with a toxic addiction is like living in vortex where you’re never rewarded. The gratifications are so fleeting and so terribly short-term, that eventually, one finds oneself continually chasing that same ‘short-term’ gratification, to the point that those gratifications become more important than family, relationships, work, and even, yourself.
In early January of 2012, my girlfriend, Jennie, looked at my cell phone and discovered a plethora of awful sins I had committed, represented in the form of emails and text messages. What Jennie did, upon discovering this, will blow the minds of most, because it was the ultimate form of love –
She told me to get help.
In her paraphrased voice, she literally said, “Baby, I love you and I want to continue, but you need to get help.” Not only did she tell me to get help, she offered to ‘help’ me get help.
Declining this invitation was the dumbest mistake of my life. Maybe some of you know this already, but rehab has taught me that there are two precious entities in the world –
1. Time. You can’t get it back.
2. People. There are people out there who will love you unconditionally. Spending your time with those people will lead to the most fulfilling life possible.
Jennie and I broke up last January and I proceeded to go on a ‘womanizing binge.’ The result? The worst rock-bottom of my life.
From January to February, I got little work done, I had little focus, and more importantly, I had the biggest health scare of my life. Again, I don’t mean to ‘cheapen’ the narrative, but nothing represents a rock-bottom more than sitting in a Walgreens parking lot of Huntington Beach, with a bottle of antibiotics in hand and tears in your eyes, wondering, “What the hell did I just do with my life???”
(and of note, I’m lucky as hell that I didn’t contract HIV/AIDS or something similar – my current health report is excellent, but that’s pure LUCK)
Nonetheless, as I sat in that parking lot, I could look back on my addiction, almost like a bad Dr. Seuss book – “Oh The Places I’ve Been” or “What I Would Do For Green Eggs & Ham.” In this case, the “Green Eggs & Ham” were far different from food, but the places I was willing to go for this addiction – seedy motel rooms, strip clubs, or genuinely, dangerous places where I may not be heard from again – boggles the mind and makes one wonder whether I had a death-wish in conjunction with this awful addiction? I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie, especially as an expert snowboarder. But these positions I was putting myself in, not just medically, but also geographically and personally, were truly precarious. When I could finally look back at “where I had been” with a clearer mindset, I became repulsed. I didn’t want to go back.
So, as I sat in that repulsive haze, in mid-February, searching for an answer, I reached out to the two people who loved me most –
I called Jennie first, in tears. She immediately told me (paraphrased), “Baby, I love you and you need to get help.” She continued to tell me that I shouldn’t get help to please her, but get it because I deserved better. She told me that she loved me so much and it pained her to see me struggle with this addiction. This was Jennie’s opportunity to kick dirt in my eyes and hurt me in return for the cheating I did against her, but she didn’t. She told me she loved me and wanted to see me get better. This was the day that I learned what unconditional love truly is.
I called my mother second and she agreed with everything Jennie had said. I had dealt with this addiction for about 7 years and now the two people who loved me most were telling me to get help – I knew I hit a rock-bottom and whether this rehab worked or not, I knew that I never, ever, wanted to find myself crying in a Walgreens parking lot again. Like I said above, I didn’t want to go back.
I eventually enrolled into an individualized program with a great counselor, Dorrie Robles of Orange County. Dorrie created a 3-month program for me, with the following goals –
1. Withdrawal Symptoms – We would spend Month 1 overcoming the withdrawal symptoms (I know, you’re laughing at this point, because the idea that you can have ‘withdrawal’ symptoms from not having sex sounds hilarious, but believe me, they exist!), while also spending that time coming up with new ‘coping mechanisms’ that I could employ to handle stress.
2. Employing New Coping Mechanisms & Talking – Month 2 would be spent exercising the new coping mechanisms that worked best. In addition, Month 2 would be time spent talking about my past and figuring out what led my addictions towards sex.
3. Finalization – It takes 30 days to change a habit, but in this case, we were going to give it 90. Month 3 was going to be spent making sure that my new coping mechanisms were working, built on a foundation that had discussed past psychological issues, in an effort to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid it.
One thing I loved about Dorrie is that she ascribed to the theory that addiction is a genetic problem. I recall when my mother sent me to boarding school, at the age of 14, giving me a bold warning before the first day of high school (paraphrased):
“Baby, I have a very addictive personality and you are just like me. Please don’t use drugs or alcohol.”
I took my mother’s warning very seriously, and throughout college and high school, I avoided drugs and alcohol, as much as possible. Fortunately, it was about 2 years ago that I discovered that I was actually allergic to alcohol (and believe me, I did everything I could to become an alcoholic – I never succeeded).
When I smell red wine, my mind goes bonkers. Whether that wine is in a glass, a bottle, or even a box, I want to find a straw, stick it inside, and slurp out every last drop. The last time that I can recall drinking red wine was a few years ago. I drank two straight bottles of red wine, and would’ve continued, if my friends hadn’t stopped me.
Imbibing one cup of alcohol basically turns me into the Incredible Hulk, but the evil version, not the altruistic, nice version, who looks to ‘save’ people. I become terribly angry, my stomach churns, my head aches, and I basically exercise aggression over the most basic things – seriously, if I ate a cheeseburger while drunk, I’d look like a werewolf devouring a lamb – it’s not pretty.
And the hangovers from drinking, in my case, are not one-day, they are week-long. For as badly as I wanted to be an alcoholic, my body simply wouldn’t allow it.
Drugs? It just never made sense to me. Few studies have ever shown a positive effect of drugs. More importantly, I was never quite impressed with the high. I tried weed once, about five years ago, but frankly, I got a bigger high off of drinking a cup of Earl Grey black tea, with steamed milk (and quick note – loose leaf tea is one of my many new and ‘healthy’ addictions). And I just wasn’t going to delve into cocaine or other drugs – there’s just no medical benefit. Oddly, the medical evidence, along with my mother’s warning, kept me away from hard drugs.
I loved sex.
(again, insert laughs here)
Part of what made sex work so well to is that, I was terribly commitment-phobic (something I learned in ‘talking’ about the addiction with Dorrie). I never wanted to get married or have any kids. In turn, I could take the toxic addiction of sex and womanizing, and turn it into a “plus.” I could look ‘cool.’ And ‘suave.’ Everyone loves a womanizer.
(but believe me, this image really hits the wall when you’re crying like an idiot in a Walgreens parking lot)
Again, what I loved about Dorrie is that she told me, from day one, that my struggle was a genetic one. In turn, my mission was to embrace my ‘addict’ side, and turn my addiction onto positive habits – good film work, exercising, wellness, relationships, etc – because I would never get rid of the ‘addict monster’ inside me, but I could unleash it in positive ways (kind of like an altruistic Incredible Hulk).
Here are my thoughts on rehab –
The first month is ‘withdrawal’ month. Many call this the toughest month, but I disagree. Nonetheless, this month is NOT easy.
When Dorrie and I first met, she set the parameters of my program – I was not to have sex, look at pornography, drink alcohol, do drugs, eat junk food or gamble. I was also to exercise regularly.
I remember the first day when I left Dorrie’s office, thinking “Okay, this is going to be easy. No sex? I can do that.”
The next day, I had a stressful event hit. I don’t remember what it was? It was probably something silly, like the local Ralph’s Supermarket ran out of my favorite type of guacamole. Anyways, the stress hit and I… I started to shake. First, my hand started to shake. I found that interesting. Then my other hand started to shake. I found that scary. For the next 3 days straight, my entire body shook.
Finally, I stopped shaking.
I immediately called Dorrie and proudly said, “Dorrie! I’ve stopped shaking! I’m cured!” She chuckled. Little did I know what Withdrawal 2 would be…
A day later, I stopped breathing. Yep. I just stopped breathing. I now found myself sucking for air, like someone who is under water, feeling like their lungs are collapsing upon themselves.
For five straight days, I struggled to breathe and just kept sucking in air, as aggressively as possible.
Enter Coping Mechanism 1.
I’ve always thought yoga is one of the dumbest things in the world. Breathing? Really? We really need to learn to ‘breathe’ and become one? How stupid.
Nonetheless, I called my good friend, Amy, an owner of a Pilates Plus franchise. Amy has become a sister to me. Previous to my rock-bottom, I had already started doing pilates, but as I went through the rehab program, I found myself doing pilates frequently, cultivating a new, healthy addiction. I knew that Amy was also a yoga instructor, and she agreed to privately teach me yoga, in an effort to re-learn how to breathe.
Working with Amy on breathing was like being Patrick Swayze in Ghost – you know the scene – where Patrick Swayze is in the subway and wants to figure out how to be like the ‘crazy ass’ ghost, who can make objects move, despite being a ghost? Patrick begs and begs the crazy-ass-ghost to help him and finally, the crazy-ass-ghost teaches him how to move stuff in the real world from the spiritual one. While she is far from crazy (she’s actually immensely intelligent), Amy taught me how to breathe.
Previous to yoga, I always breathed through my mouth, both during sleep and wake. The result was that I was constantly congested, because my nasal passages basically became storage space for mucus. Working with Amy caused me to start breathing through my nose, with my mornings now finding me waking up without mucus and feeling more refreshed.
Going through rehab, truly, is like karma. I went in to get rid of a bad, sexual habit, and now, I was getting the reward of much less sinus congestion and a clearer head. I started to realize what Dorrie meant about new coping mechanisms.
After Month 1, I had cultivated two wonderful, new, coping mechanisms –
1. Pilates and exercise. It just gets the stress out.
2. Yoga. When I get stressed now, I literally take time to do my breathing exercises, and honestly, 90% of the hurt goes away.
Most of all, I started taking my work more seriously. Finishing my filmmaking work left me so much more fulfilled than it ever did before, to the point, that I started getting addicted to the ‘rushes’ that came from getting good work done. On good days, I’ll start my day with a yoga meditation, move onto a great pilates session, and end with getting great filmmaking work done – nothing puts me on a bigger high now than days like that (well, except for kisses from Jennie).
Now, many say Month 1 and overcoming withdrawals are the hardest thing, but I politely disagree. Month 2 is spent in repulsion. You look back on your life and your toxic habits and you become repulsed at the person you were. Such reflection makes you want to apologize to some (which isn’t a bad thing) or at least resolve to be a better person and move forward. One tough part of this was thinking about all the women I hurt and the relationships I failed (especially Jennie) – I have genuinely been involved with great women, who adored me, and I treated them terribly.
However, the killer in Month 2 is that you start to lose people. Anyone who was in your life, primarily because you were an addict (whether it’s a drinking buddy, a drug buddy, a sex partner, or in the case of womanizers, people who lived vicariously through you) will now depart your life. And they just won’t depart – no – they’ll usually criticize you upon their departure and kick dirt in your eyes. This is a painful process because losing anyone can make you feel worthless. But that’s not the part that crushes you. The part that crushes?
In reliving the aspects of your life that were repulsive, in conjunction with negotiating with past friends and family members who want you to stay addicted, you find yourself CRUSHED in exhaustion. You can’t please anyone. You are embarrassed with where you’re at… and you start to say, “Sheesh, I had more energy when I was an addict. I had more friends. And I wasn’t repulsed at myself” – and to me, this is the dark moment where most recovering addicts revert back to their former selves and go back to their toxic addictions, but this time, with even more resolve.
What kept me from going back to my toxic addictions were my true friends, who didn’t leave me, but rather, gravitated more towards me, the healthier I became.
I am so lucky to have men in my life like Matt Pena, Tim Schaaf, and Alexander Brody. These men were my friends before the process and now they’re my brothers. I am so lucky to have a godfather like Gary Quick. I am very lucky to have a mother, Seeme Gull Hasan, who told me to get help at a very critical time. I am so lucky to have a lawyer like Julia Guzek Haye, who has always supported me. Julia, especially, became a sister to me during this process. I was so lucky to have the support of the trainers at Pilates Plus in Orange County, many of whom knew what I was going through and were always full of love. I was so lucky to have Bogart’s Coffee Shop of Seal Beach, where the barristas would frequently ask how I was doing, making sure I was happy. Second most of all, I was lucky to have everyone at the Harbor House in Sunset Beach, where I ate many meals – the entire staff there was cheering for me and rooting for me – their encouragement made recovery incredibly fun and inspiring. And most of all, I was lucky to have Jennie.
No one loves me more than Jennie and this entire process brought us so much closer. Having her in my life now is my biggest reward for getting help.
People will leave your life during your rehab and you must place faith in those who want you to heal, because the people who want you to heal will always be in your life, whether you’re healthy or toxic – they just love you that much – but truly, it fulfills them to see you healthy. Place your faith in them and see them as your salvation. Their friendship and love is the reward for getting healthy.
Month 3 will come (longer for some, shorter for others) and you’ll notice that the exhaustion has gone away. What you’re left with is like being a mermaid that has just crawled out of the ocean and grown legs. The world is VERY different now. Your reactions are different, your coping skills are different, and your best guides are the people who love you. Don’t be hard on yourself – you will lose your temper, you’ll be tempted by vices, but trust your new coping skills. Now that the exhaustion is gone, living well truly, truly, truly feels amazing.
Since healing, I can honestly say that my vision is better, my sense of smell is better, my taste is better – everything – everything is better. It’s amazing!
Lastly, a major part of addiction is the refusal to live present. As addicts, we are constantly living in the future, because we’re always looking for the next ‘fix.’ We never live in the past – we have no use for it – and if we actually slow down and live in the present, we find ourselves quickly repulsed by our own actions.
Living presently is not easy. It is easy to drown in the stresses of tomorrow or regrets of yesterday, but no one explained living presently better than Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha himself, who explains in the Pali Canon (paraphrased):
The best way to cultivate a great future is to not live in the future, but rather, live in the present. By living in the present, all of your faculties are 100% dedicated to the present moment, meaning you will make the best decisions now. And by making good decisions now, you will cultivate a future full of prosperity and a past without regret.
I must say, as an Interfaith practitioner, I have found the Buddhist Pali Canon and the Islamic Holy Quran to have some wonderful chapters on addiction. I also became a fan of the Hindu Bhagavad Gita, particularly Lord Shiva, who serves as the “destroyer” and “creator.” According to Lord Shiva, sometimes things have to be destroyed first, in order to create. For me, reflecting on such passages made it easier for me to destroy my past, toxic self, and in its place, create a new, healthy self.
Lastly, in terms of faith, I have relied tremendously on the love the Christian Church, as my own Pastor, Pastor Thad King of Huntington Beach, has quoted much Christian gospel in putting me on the path towards healing. Faith is a wonderful vehicle to rely on during a healing process, and while it should never be forced, the great books of faith really do have some wonderful wisdom to contribute towards overcoming addiction.
Going through rehab is a wonderful process. If you are an addict, please get help. If you love an addict, tell them to get help. And never, ever, become a slave to the exhaustion.
For all those who are recovering now or struggling with it, please read this sentence –
You will get through it. You will recover from the exhaustion and you will become better. Most of all, and the Holy Quran especially mentions this, by confronting your toxic habits and doing something about them, you are automatically bringing the best out of yourself. Never forget that – getting past a toxic addiction will bring the best out of you.
You will get through it. Lastly, there is a comment section open below – if you have questions or comments, please feel free to leave them.
For the first time in my life, I know what it’s like to be a complete soul. I wrote this post because I wish this feeling upon everyone.
With love and peace to you all –
NOTE: Revised to protect identities, as well as to update based on media response.