Depending on Addiction

After a fine lunch at the Dutch Treat Club in New York, attending members put down their wine glasses and turned to listen to the writer Susan Cheever tell us about her new book Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction, a human feeling she finds overwhelming and sees as an addiction.

“All humans are addicts,” she claimed without any explanation as to how this characteristic could possible promote human survival, or without offering much of a definition of a supposed universal human condition.

Cheever explored her own “addictions,” especially her tendency to fall passionately in love with unsuitable men. Sadly, despite the blurb for her talk that advertised a crowd-attracting “sex addiction,” the addicts in her audience were turned on in anticipation only to be let down as she teased but did not perform. She did not even mention it.
Seriously, she confuses dependence and addiction. Dependence on a substance is seen in a habit of using drugs, alcohol, tobacco, et al., in an attempt to manage painful feelings—usually anxiety, anger, guilt and shame, alone or in some cocktail.
Dependence on a person—“love junkies”—rely on the constant attention and admiration from the loved figure to manage the aforementioned feelings. This burdensome need for reassurance and attention puts pressure on the beloved. As a result, these relations tend to be transient.
The common misuse of the term addiction is best illustrated by the press and talking TV heads who claim that we proud Americans are addicted to oil, and must “wean” ourselves from it. We are dependent on oil, not addicted. Simply stated, they blame us for current global climate issues by labeling us as addicts.

Thinking that maybe I am in denial, I did some research. I decided to repair to the cellar of my building and take a big sniff of the fumes from my oil burner. It made me feel green and a little sexy.

Named one of New York’s most popular psychotherapists by the New York Times Magazine, Sheenah Hankin, Ph.D., is codeveloper of Cognitive Appraisal Therapy and coauthor of Succeeding with Difficult Clients. She has conducted workshops throughout North America and Europe and lives with her husband in New York City. She is the author of Complete Confidence (HarperCollins, 2008).

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