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Jacob grew up devoutly Christian in a remote part of a midwestern state.His father worked the late shift in a factory and typically wasn’t home before eleven at night. He dreamed of being an astronaut and walking on Mars, of his toys coming to life and being perfect friends to him.This much is certain: More and more people are seeking treatment. In each year over the past decade, the number of groups registered with Sex Addicts Anonymous, one of the nation’s largest twelve-step organizations for sex addiction, has grown by 10 percent.Hollywood is just the latest market to capitalize on this phenomenon, even if filmmakers’ depictions tend to do more harm than good.The number of certified sex-addiction therapists has more than doubled since 2008, according to the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals.Hookup apps like Tinder (26 million matches per day) and Grindr (1.6 million active daily users) are growing wildly and multiplying, like real-life manifestations of the futuristic smartphone imagined by Gary Shteyngart in which rates the "Fuckability" of everyone around you.On-screen, sex addiction tends to be portrayed as glamorous, even fleetingly aspirational—either posey, broody, and existential or chaotically fun in a Warren Beatty-in-the-’70s kind of way.But no two-hour movie can communicate the relentless patterns of thought that persecute sex addicts.
Research has yet to confirm that extreme sexual behavior really is addictive in the same neuroscientific sense that, for instance, habitual heroin use appears to be.
If sex is ordinarily a way of dealing with another person, then sex addiction is a way of dealing with yourself.
You act out—you can’t act out—in order to escape from unbearable feelings: depression, severe ADD, bipolar disorders, the scars of family trauma, profound despair.
Most addictions require you to extend yourself in some way—go to a particular place, spend a certain amount of money. The fuel for your disease is all around you, invading your senses. But when I ask him if he’s tired, he says no, just the opposite: "I sleep In a wedding photograph on the wall, Jacob holds hands with his wife, Ashley, on a country lane.
The poet and professor Michael Ryan captures this experience in his unsettling, mesmerizing autobiography, JACOB* IS A COMPUTER PROGRAMMER, and on the morning he greets me at the door of his and his wife’s Seattle-area apartment, he looks as though he’s been up all night wrestling with code. He smiles hesitantly, his eyes skittering off to one side.
They have been together for nearly half their lives.