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Self portrait by the author writing as Jillian Marks

I woke this morning feeling emotionally flat. The lack of spiritual and physical energy that accompanies the absence of that precious attention. I loop through the usual  entry points: Facebook, WordPress, email– several times before giving up, surrendering to the silence of the empty room. No one is talking to me. No one is interested in me. No one sees me. I am invisible. I am nothing.

The stories I am writing don’t interest me. I clear my queue of scheduled posts. Fuck it. Coffee, breakfast, journal. My internal dialogue  doesn’t engage me. Even I don’t want to talk to me. My muscles ache and I can’t sit anymore.

I get up and wander around the house. What to do. I find a carton of epson salts in the garage and decide to take my own advice–drawing a hot bath and following the directions on the box, dumping two cups of crunchy white granules into the running water.

I sink into the tub, tucking a rolled hand towel between my head and the tile wall. I don’t want to think anymore. I don’t want to do anything. It’s only nine, but I consider going back to bed. Maybe I just need a nap.

I dry off and crawl back under the soft white comforter, sinking into the feeling of nothingness. I want to disappear. To be relieved, somehow, of the burden of having to make a choice. And there are so many.

I click on the TV, thinking an old black and white movie might comfort my restlessness. I wonder if I still have any of those pain killers left from my surgery last year. I could just take one and become very, very soft for a few hours. I crave oblivion. Escape.

I come across a documentary titled “Women Addicted To Sex”. I almost skip it, because I think to myself…what don’t I know about the subject? The runtime is only 44 minutes, so I decide to watch it.

It appears to be, as it turns out, a balanced, intelligent presentation of addicts in recovery and addicts still committed to their addiction. I already know a couple of the women interviewed– Sue Silverman, whose memoir “Lovesick” is on my bookshelf, the pages marked up with yellow highlighter– and I’ve also read “Loose Girl” by Kerry Cohen.

I never dug into my sexual issues with Dr. Susan, although I knew, even fifteen years ago, I should have. She always wanted to concentrate on behavior modification therapy, but there were so many underlying motivations I just swept under the rug in order to “get better” in the moment.

Today, I hover somewhere between addiction and recovery. I try to minimize the existence of my “problem”. I try to channel the energy in different directions, fashioning my own version of recovery therapy from what I know is a gnawing hunger that has plagued me for half my life.

Because I don’t feel a compulsive urge to actually have sex I assume I am okay. But, it’s not true. I am not okay. My addiction is to sexual attention, as demonstrated by the women in this documentary. A not-so-obvious form of sex addiction, but it is real. I am prone to obsessive thoughts toward the source of the attention and the fixation is as pernicious as any drug for me.

One of the featured women is living her dream–within her marriage, enabled by her husband. Her amateur exhibitionism has grown into a porn site where she showcases her explicit photos and even videos she shoots having sex with other men, sometimes multiple men. Her husband is a photographer and participates with her in the whole deal.

I think to myself…this is not healthy. And although it’s an extreme example, I know this is the kind of thing that could happen with me. My husband supports me in any venture that I believe will make me happy. If I wanted to do some version of that, I believe he would go along with it, quite innocently. His sheltered upbringing never prepared him for the likes of me.

And I would hate him for enabling my dysfunction. I would know he was feeding the addiction. I would accuse him of devaluing me, exploiting me. Not really loving me. Just like my first husband.

So, I hide my addiction. I protect him from my darkness.  I pen these erotic memoirs and I can’t deny the emerging pathology I see. Is that why I am drawn back to these memories? The opportunity to relive the behavior? Or is it meant to educate me in some way?

So many years spent looking for love, or my version of love–complete and utter devotion, ceaseless admiration. Miracle of miracles, I am with someone who loves me for myself, no matter what, with or without the sex. I am so very fortunate, which only compounds my guilt and shame that it’s not enough.

For the addict–it’s never enough.