Friday, April 9, 2010

On Tiger Woods, Sex Addiction, Fatherloss, and the New Nike Commercial

I posted this yesterday over at Elephant Journal, but I think it's an important topic that needs some exposure, so I am posting it here as well.
On Tiger Woods, Sex Addiction, Fatherloss, and the New Nike Commercial

http://i.thisislondon.co.uk/i/pix/2010/04/tigerfather415.jpg

Admittedly, I have poked fun at Tiger Woods and his series of affairs, which many are assuming is sex addiction and further supposing that this is why he admitted himself into in-patient therapy for 45 days.

Many others just think he is an over-privileged athlete and celebrity who thought he was untouchable and exempt from the rules of being a decent human being. These people tend to not believe sex addiction or sexual compulsive disorder (take your pick – the DSM-5 will likely call it hypersexuality) is a “real” disorder or disease. However, as noted sex addiction expert Patrick Carnes (and Woods’ initial therapist in the in-patient treatment facility) has pointed out in his work, sex addiction impacts the same dopaminergic pathways in the brain as every other substance addiction (Carnes, Handbook of Addictive Disorders, 2004, p. 6).

I think there is an addiction element in Woods’ behavior, and I believe that ALL addictions are masking deeper psychological issues and pains. So allow me a minute to explicate addiction theory.

Many people use substances or engage in behaviors that become addictions. However, people who are happy do not generally tend toward addictive behaviors (either through substance use, or process addictions such as sex, gambling, eating, spending, and so on). Based on this fairly well-supported assumption (read the literature on addiction) it’s fair to assume that people who use substances/behaviors to the point where they feel a compulsion to use more and more often, lose control over that compulsion, and begin to experience personal, health, or legal consequences (the 3 Cs of addiction), are not happy and healthy people.

Some of the many forms of unhappiness that can lead people to addictions include depression, anxiety, more serious variations of mental illness, and lesser issues such as loss and grief. In fact, for me, it was the death of my father and the resulting grief, for which I had no tools to cope, that led me into substance use and abuse. I struggled with substance use for many years before Buddhism and psychotherapy saved my life.

My father and I were not close for most of my life with him. In fact, I feared him more than anything else. However, during the final year of his life we began to get to know each other more and spend more time together. This made his death (I was 13) even more difficult.

Within a year of his death I was using marijuana daily, drinking often and a lot, committing petty crimes, and engaging in sexual acting out (a lot of one night stands). This was my immature and uneducated way of dealing with the grief I did not know how to feel or express. I was using these chemicals and behaviors to numb myself – and to an extent it worked. For a while.

In one way or another, addicts experience consequences. I had legal consequences (incarceration) and school consequences (suspended in high school, flunked out of college after one term), but it wasn’t until I was in college and in a serious relationship that the consequences got my attention (she kicked me to the curb).

My story is not too different from most other addicts. And in a sense, it is not much different than Tiger Woods’ story.

Read the rest of this article at Elephant Journal, where I take a deeper look at Tiger Woods and the issue of fatherloss and its relation to addiction -but here is the new commercial, for those who want to see it.



4 comments:

Shawn Phillips said...

William,

Great story... thanks for sharing. I soo, soo, so get this. Not all that unfamiliar to me, trust me.

I'll share ya a link I wrote on my father's death a few years ago some time... interesting.

Have witnessed a lot of this sort of struggle in my family as well...

I agree that many people who have no experience with addiction and/or no knowledge of the mechanisms of the mind-body have dismissed Tiger and his challenge... too bad for them. It's only serving to keep their story alive and help themselves feel better.

In Strength,
Shawn

Shawn Phillips said...

William,

Great story... thanks for sharing. I soo, soo, so get this. Not all that unfamiliar to me, trust me.

I'll share ya a link I wrote on my father's death a few years ago some time... interesting.

Have witnessed a lot of this sort of struggle in my family as well...

I agree that many people who have no experience with addiction and/or no knowledge of the mechanisms of the mind-body have dismissed Tiger and his challenge... too bad for them. It's only serving to keep their story alive and help themselves feel better.

In Strength,
Shawn

WH said...

Thanks Shawn!

It's funny in some ways that even after working through a lot of stuff in therapy, I didn't really "get it" in some ways about how much the loss of a father impacts men until I started talking to other men and reading about other men's experience.

We all deal with in in different ways, but none of us get through that experience without a lot of feelings to sit with (and maybe work through).

Peace,
Bill

Anonymous said...

I don't really think Tiger did learn anything. He is probably sorry now for what he did but only because he got caught. He has a gorgeous wife and baby and just kept on plowing through women like crazy. I think his mentality was that he is a celebrity and he was entitled to these women even though the consequences of his actions have been far greater than the pleasure. He's messed up in the head I think.