Article By Julia Naftulin
~ May 2021 ~
- The actor Brianne Davis wrote a fictional book based on her experiences as a self-described sex addict.
- Davis told Insider she used sex as a way to fulfill her self-worth and need for control.
- She abstained from sex with her partner for a year and attended support groups and therapy.
“Am I going to be doing this for the rest of my life?”
It was the question the actor Brianne Davis kept asking herself as she sat in a dark hotel room halfway across the world from her boyfriend. He was the greatest love she’d ever known, her best friend, and one half of the healthiest relationship she’d ever held. Yet, she wanted to cheat on him.
For as long as Davis could remember, she couldn’t hold a romantic relationship. At first, she wrote off her struggles as typical of her teenage years as she explored what it meant to date.
But once Davis was in her 20s, she said she realized her pattern of infidelity and seeking male attention was a serious problem. When she saw a therapist and explained how she nearly blew up her relationship one fateful night, she got the answer she’d been searching for: She had a compulsion towards sex and used it to feel in control and loved.
Davis calls herself a sex addict, though clinicians don’t consider an addiction to sex an official diagnosis. It doesn’t affect brain chemistry the way substance-abuse disorders do, Insider previously reported.
Instead, people who feel a compulsive need to have sex have an excessive sexual drive or compulsive behavior towards sex, two disorders in the World Health Organization’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems.
After Davis took a diagnostic quiz and realized she had a serious problem, she said, she began a decade-long journey to healing her unhealthy relationship with sex. Along the way, she abstained from sex with her partner for a year, saw a therapist, and attended weekly Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings.
In February, Davis wrote and released a fictional book based on her life, “Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict,” an experience she found nerve-racking but ultimately freeing.
“I was fine in my little bubble of sobriety for 11 years, with my husband and my kid,” Davis told Insider. “And it’s like, why did I [write] this? And then someone reaches out to me and says, ‘That’s my story. Oh, my God, I did that,’ and it makes it all worth it.”
Using sex as a way to ‘fill’ one’s self-worth
Davis said she’d always had a hyperromanticized view of sex and love. As a child, she watched “Romeo and Juliet” on repeat.
“When I thought of real love, I thought one or both people had to die, or be willing to die, for the other person. It had to be that passionate,” Davis said.
She said she didn’t want a relationship that resembled her parents’ marriage, in which they never said “I love you” or showed each other affection.
In response, Davis sought out the other extreme. Whenever she noticed the initial butterflies of a budding romance dissipate, she figured the relationship was doomed and would cheat to end it, she said.
She said she also had sex even with people who showed only remote interest in her. She now recognizes, after attending support groups with other people with sex addiction, it was a way to boost her nonexistent self-worth, she added.
“I’ve not had many sexual partners for my age. It’s not like I was out there screwing everything,” Davis said.
“We use sex as a way to fill our self-worth. For me, being a sex and love addict is about power and control,” she added. “You have power and control of another person, so that makes you get your self-worth.”
Recovery involved no sex or flirting for a year
Right after Davis had her realization at the therapist’s office, she tearfully told her boyfriend.
She feared he’d leave her, but instead he handed her a newspaper in which he’d highlighted all the Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings in their area. Davis’ partner, someone who’d been sober for 32 years, understood her struggle, she said.
So began Davis’ recovery journey.
For the first year, Davis attended support groups four times a week. At the recommendation of her sponsor, she also stopped having sex with her boyfriend for a year.
“We slept in the same bed, but we didn’t sleep together because I realized I’d been giving myself without actually having myself. I was always disconnecting from myself” during sex, Davis said.
And he wasn’t allowed to console Davis when she was upset or crying. Instead, Davis had to learn to care for herself and not outsource her emotional needs, she said.
Davis added that she took steps to avoid flirting with men in public, something she’d do often at the height of her compulsion towards sex.
“I realized I wasn’t connected to my sexuality because I was always putting it on, or using it for my job, or using it to get attention,” Davis said, adding that she would avoid eye contact with male waiters and stopped texting or emailing men while she rebuilt her sense of self.
Davis has now been “sober” for 11 years. Since sex isn’t a substance, everyone with the compulsion defines sobriety differently, Davis said.
For her, it means she has sex only with her husband and masturbates when she wants to get in touch with herself sexually.
“It’s unbelievably empowering,” Davis said, adding: “I thought I would be bored with life. And now I walk down the street or go somewhere, and no one’s trying to flirt with me.
“It’s just such a freeing, beautiful thing to hold my own energy.”