When Jack Rogers first heard media reports of Tiger Woods’ multiple extramarital affairs, the first thing he did was say a little prayer for Woods and his wife. The second thing he did was tally up the number of women who claimed to have had sex with the famous golfer.
“I said to myself, ‘My God, that’s some body count,’ ” Rogers remembers.
Jack Rogers — that’s not his real name — knows a little something about body count because he has one of his own: In the first 20 years of his marriage, he says, he slept with some 50 women. While some view Woods as just an unfaithful louse who was looking for a good time, Rogers sees him as a sex addict.
What’s the difference? Rogers, who works in the high-tech industry in Washington and has two children, says his whole life was geared around how he would have his next orgasm, in the same way a methamphetamine addict is constantly trying to find his next drug hit.
Between women and pornography, “I was having three, four, five orgasms a day,” he says. “As soon as I was done with one I was thinking about how I was going to get the next one. Sex was controlling my life, and I was miserable.”
Confessions of a sex addict
Now 49, Rogers says his addiction began at age 16.
“I would have sex for hours and hours at a time, and then go look at pornography,” he remembers. “Sex was my all-consuming endpoint.”
While some young men might brag about their sexual conquests, Rogers was the opposite. He kept his sex life a secret, seeking out girls who didn’t attend his high school.
He says no one suspected.
“I was elected all-school president,” he says. “I was well thought of. I earned a full scholarship to the University of Washington. If you’d met me, you’d think, ‘Wow, I want to give that kid a scholarship.’ “
He continued to be obsessed with sex in college. “The day Mount Saint Helens blew up, everyone was talking about it. But I didn’t even know it happened because I was having sex all that day,” he remembers.
He was never faithful to a girlfriend, and although he married at age 25, he was never at any point faithful to his wife.
“I was having affairs while we were engaged,” he says.
His quest for sex started at 4 in the morning, when he would wake up to get in touch with the women he was seeing on the East Coast. The rest of the day was spent mapping out his sexual activities. Some of the women he had sex with were colleagues. Others were prostitutes. Some were women he met by chance.
“I could meet a woman on the elevator and be having sex in her apartment two days later,” he says. “I would just get a feeling, from the amount of eye contact or the type of eye contact, that a person would be open to the idea.”
He says he usually had two or three affairs going on at one time, but didn’t actually derive pleasure from them. “I wanted to stop and I couldn’t,” he says. “I was miserable. It was a horrible way to live.”
How do you know if you’re a sex addict?
Jay Parker, a dependency counselor who runs a program for sex addicts in Redmond, Washington, called “No More Secrets,” says an intense interest in sex doesn’t mean someone is a sex addict.
“It’s like with alcohol — everyone who gets a DUI isn’t an alcoholic,” he says. “There are people who have errors in judgment — they’re not addicts.”
So how do you know when someone’s behavior has crossed the line into addiction?
According to the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health, an estimated 3 to 5 percent of Americans could fall in the category of having an addiction to sex.
However, it’s important to note that the official handbook of psychiatric diagnoses, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, doesn’t include a diagnosis for sexual addiction. Some therapists, like Craig Fabrikant, a clinical psychologist at the Hackensack University Medical Center, doubts such a thing even exists.
“I think it’s more of a habit than an addiction,” he says. “I would classify it as OCD — more of an obsession or compulsion than an addiction.”
But professional arguments aside, Fabrikant agrees that people like Rogers who are miserable or dysfunctional because their sex lives are out of control need professional help — and that the first step is to recognize when they have a problem.
Click here to see checklists devised by the Sexual Recovery Institute and the Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health to help you determine whether you have a sexual addiction. If you answer yes to a high number of questions on any checklist, you may have a problem.
Here are some general ways to know you might have crossed the line from healthy sexual interest to sexual addiction or compulsion:
1. You lie
For Parker, the sex addiction counselor, this is the No. 1 way you know you’ve crossed the line: when you make up stories to get sex.
“If you lie with women to get them to have sex with you, you’re a predator and an addict,” he says.
2. Sex consumes you
If your interest in sex runs your life, you have a problem, says Robert Weiss, a social worker and founder of the Sexual Recovery Institute. He says addicts “are always preoccupied with hitting on someone, or picking someone up, or getting home to look at porn before their spouse comes home.”
3. You’re “divorced, dead, fired or arrested”
If you continue your sexual activities even under threat of being “divorced, dead, fired or arrested,” you’re an addict, Parker says.
“They ignore the consequences,” Weiss adds. “They say, ‘I could really screw up myself here, but I’m going to continue to do it.’ “
4. You have an intense interest in pornography
“The pornography piece of this cannot be overstated,” Parker says. “Show me a guy who’s having sex with three women in one week, and I promise you he has a relationship with pornography.”
5. You want to stop and you can’t
Sexual addiction is defined by a loss of control, Weiss says.
“I was totally out of control. I tried to stop and I couldn’t,” Rogers says.
Five years ago, when the misery got to be too much, Rogers confessed his addiction to his wife and checked himself into an inpatient treatment program for a month, which included not having orgasms alone or with anyone else.
After leaving the treatment center, he continued on outpatient treatment, and has not cheated on his wife again.
In treatment, Rogers was not allowed to engage in any type of sexual activity or look at pornography. He also did what he called “psychodrama,” looking at situations from his past that might have led to his addiction, including being sexually abused repeatedly at age 7 by an older boy in his neighborhood. In other sessions, counselors helped him understand the effect he’d had on his wife and children, the women he’d slept with, and their families.
His wife joined him for two days at the program. He read her his “disclosure letter” describing his sexual activities over the past 20 years.
“She knew about the pornography and masturbation, but she didn’t know about the affairs or the prostitutes,” he says. “So it was very difficult to her to receive this information, just in terms of the sheer numbers of women.”
In the last week of treatment, he and his doctors mapped out what his life would look like back home after recovery. He sees a counselor and goes to a 12-step recovery program. “In my first 365 days after treatment, I went to 523 meetings,” he says.
Early on in his recovery he did sometimes look at Internet pornography, but a software program he installed on his computer alerted his wife and sponsor in his support group, and he stopped looking at porn.
Gradually, Rogers says, he learned how to have a healthy sex life with his wife.
“That’s what we aim for,” Parker says. “We’re not trying to turn someone into a monk. He needs to learn how to have sex like a gentleman.”