26 May 2005

'My life as a sex addict'

Joanne Brodie, has been treated for sex addiction, shares her story about addiction, sexual abuse and recovery.

I went into recovery at 38 years old, after having nearly dead from drugs and alcohol. I didn’t care and thought it would be fine to die from an overdose or from a suicide attempt. But at some point then, I realised that I wanted to live – so now I had all this baggage that I never thought I would have to deal with.

At age 12, I went to a cousin's bar mitzvah party(I had gone to an all girl's school and didn’t know about boys). He asked me to dance and while we were dancing he put his hand on my breast. I freaked out but could not ask him to take his hand away. That was my first conscious example of my zoning out (dissociation). It was so humiliating. I remember wanting to say something but the words just would not come out. I remember not understanding this.

Anyway, I kind of put that experience somewhere and shortly afterwards, started using drugs. From the time that I became sexually active, at 16, I found that I was often unable to say no to sex. I would want to, would intend to, but at a certain point, would find myself having sex. I am not sure that I actually agreed to or not, but I really was unable to set boundaries. The other thing that was that I was always out of it when I had sex – never sober.

To feel worthy
This carried on for years. I always looked for affirmation from men – it meant that I was ok, desirable, clever, worthy etc. I didn’t necessarily have to sleep with every man I met but I needed to know that he was attracted to me, otherwise I felt worthless.

Lots of other stuff happened but to cut a very long story short, it culminated in 1993 in me becoming a prostitute. This seemed to me the ultimate affirmation – I mean I could not do “intimate” but I could do “anonymous”. I was 37 years old and I was working with women who were 17 years younger than me at times. I must say that I was very sick and I pulled in other sick people, including professionals.

Looking back, I was dissociating so much and using so much that I can’t really remember everything which is possibly a good thing. The sadness for me is that I was in no state to really judge the danger I might have been in besides the obvious and my judgment was greatly impaired. It is really a miracle that I survived as relatively “unscathed” as I did. This inability of not being able to discern danger is further exacerbated by the body releasing opioids which numb one out even further. This peptide is called phenylethylaline and is very soothing. It is this state of being that gives rise to sex addicts putting themselves in huge danger and not even really realising it. But I digress...

Working as a dominatrix
Ultimately I left the place where I was working (The Ranch) after about two months and carried on working from home for another seven months. I also became a dominatrix because then I did not have to have sex. I learned a lot from one of my clients who had gone through a whole slave scene with his mother. Anyway, that is another story for another time!

And so I ended up in rehab. After rehab I worked on myself and worked and worked and became a counsellor and eventually Head of Counselling at Houghton House. I left there in 2001 to go into private practice and am still in private practice. In 2002, images came up for me that suggested to me that I had been sexually abused and over the next little while it became clear that I had been abused between the ages of two and four by my father.

I walked around in a daze for a long while. By the way, the images first came up in a reiki session. I had started to study reiki in 2002 and to have reiki sessions. For me, I had always wondered and felt that something was missing from my process but didn’t really know what. It came as a piece of the puzzle rather than the puzzle itself.

Things started to make sense – I could understand now what had happened at age 12. My boundaries had been violated. In fact, I had none. I felt obligated to men. Maybe it was love/affection for my father. And the shame that he never felt that I have always felt. I had always felt worthless and a whore (and then I became one).

Saying no
I could not find my voice to say no to men because at age two I had been violated and in those situations I usually felt very little and was pre-verbal. I walked around for weeks saying “Oh, so now I understand” over and over again and since then this is what and where my own journey and healing has taken me. I want to make clear that understanding the link between my abuse and addiction was a huge step in helping me take more responsibility for myself, and less self-blame that I had been walking around with for years.

Well, this is the much shortened version of my story. I am very blessed and privileged not only to have changed my life completely but to be doing the work that I do.

For me, in addiction it was about from the outside in – anything to make to make myself feel better. In recovery, it’s about healing from the inside out. - Joanne Brodie




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