- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

Golf legend-in-his-own-time Tiger Woods is wisely taking “an indefinite break” from his career to try to repair his marriage and family, but public conversations about the woes of sex addiction should continue. Too many families are being drawn into this morass.

A big question is why Woods - or any husband - would cheat on a loving wife, especially one who is as undeniably beautiful as former swimsuit model Elin Woods.

The short answer is that sex addiction is “total insanity,” says psychologist Douglas Weiss, executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado and author of a new book, “Addicted to Adultery.”

“Insanity is when you have the option of having sex with someone who cares about you, and you choose to have self-sex behavior with pornography, with [images of] someone you don’t know and don’t connect to,” Mr. Weiss told me last year, when we were talking about supermodel Christie Brinkley’s public divorce from Peter Cook. (Testimony revolved around Mr. Cook’s extramarital activity and his enormous monthly purchases of online pornography.)

In our recent conversation about Tiger Woods, Mr. Weiss talked about sex addiction as essentially a brain-chemical-reinforced compulsion to act upon favorite sexual fantasies. It’s like becoming “glued to whatever you are looking at,” he said.

For instance, based on press reports, Tiger Woods did not pursue affairs with jet-setters or celebrities, even though these kinds of women were in his social circles.

Instead, his apparent sex-addiction preference (or “profile”) was young (white) women who were neither wealthy nor socially “powerful” but who had a particular body type and were “willing to have sex and not cost him anything. Until now, of course,” Mr. Weiss said.

Mr. Weiss, who grew up with two sex-addicted parents and became one himself (he is now 22 years “sober,” which means no masturbation, pornography or extramarital affairs), says it’s not uncommon for people to develop a sex addiction today.

The Internet has unleashed virtually unfettered opportunities to locate sex partners; both Mr. Weiss and “Porn Nation” author Michael Leahy have told me that online dating sites are major hunting grounds for sex addicts.

In Mr. Weiss’ new “Addicted to Adultery” book, he discusses people who are sexual predators, i.e., searching for sex partners who fit a certain profile. Other categories include spouses who are opportunistic (sex any time with anyone is OK); those who compulsively seek anonymous (or paid) sex; those who have a fetish to satisfy, such as sadomasochism; and those who lure in sex partners by pretending to be wounded and in need of rescue, or a hero seeking to save.

People can heal from all kinds of sexual addictions, but it takes work, said Mr. Weiss. With a married couple, both spouses need counseling to address the overwhelming feelings of shame, grief and anger. The first year of recovery is especially hard, as the addict must essentially rewire neurological pathways in the brain - shut down the wrong pathways and open up healthy new ones.

Other common recovery techniques are changing one’s behavior with counseling; attending support groups, including 12-step programs; and establishing an ongoing “accountability” relationship with someone to avoid relapses.

As hard as it sounds, “it’s amazing” what committed couples can get through, Mr. Weiss said. “I’ve seen people who have had 150 or more sex partners” turn their lives around.

People love Tiger Woods, he added. His sex scandal is probably the biggest challenge he’s ever faced, but countless fans are rooting for him to get better and “be our hero again.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at cwetzstein@washingtontimes.com.

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