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Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction [Paperback]

Susan Cheever
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (6 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416537937
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416537939
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.1 x 20.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 459,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Desires and Addiction 16 Nov 2008
By prisrob TOP 50 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover
Susan Cheever is most often mentioned as the daughter of literary great, John Cheever. However, with this book she has entered a new arena of her own. With this book, Susan has presented us with a novel that explains that sex addiction should be treated not as a failure of morality or character but as a disease of brain biochemistry resulting from a combination of genetics and life events. This is a groundbreaking effort and one that is a great read.

In 'Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction' Susan Cheever has given us an entrance into the world of all addicts and what it means to be addicted. In the end, she says," there are no easy answers. A straight look about some crooked feelings. Desire shows us the difference between the addiction that cripples our emotions, and healthy, empowering love that enhances our lives."

In this book, we learn that Susan has been an alcoholic and a sex addict. She has detailed the conversations she had with experts in neuroscience and psychology of addictive behavior. People who are addicted to alcohol, sex and drugs share common traits. Some sort of "otherworldly suspension of will" comes over addicts, and they cannot stop themselves nor do they understand at the moment the will is not there. In fact many addicts are attracted to more than one agent. Many alcoholics smoke. Food addicts who have gained so much weight they need gastric by-pass surgery, find that after losing weight they may turn to gambling, or alcohol or sex. One addiction may lead to another. A person who has a predilection to addiction, may go for years without acting out on that addiction, and then one day, bam, it has started. There is a loss of will from the activation of similar brain pathways no matter what the fix is.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
53 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not a tell-all. A real exploration of addictive 'love' 29 Sep 2008
By Jesse Kornbluth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have known Susan Cheever - not well, but just enough to like her and be glad to see her --- for almost thirty years. We met when I was writing a New York Times Magazine profile of her father. I loved those stories, and, because I was young and naive, I did not grasp that the man who wrote them might also have invented himself. My John Cheever was a recovering alcoholic who lived in the country with a classy wife, dogs, wood fires --- the whole country squire bit.

What I did not know about John Cheever --- and what he very much feared I did --- was that he was bi-sexual, probably leaning more toward gay. Had I known this, I would never have written it, nor would the Times have published it. This was 1979, when gays were beautiful young men in discos.

Secrets run in families. Susan Cheever struck me as a talented young writer; like any number of children of the famous and troubled, she seemed to want nothing more than to do her work and have a quiet life. It seemed absolutely right that she would write a biography of Bill Wilson, the father of Alcoholics Anonymous, the program that saved her father. And I'd admire anyone who could write a book called "American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau".

So it was quite a surprise to open 'Desire'and discover this was more than a smart third-person exploration of sexual addiction. It's also a first-person account of four decades of personal trouble. Susan Cheever's parents had told her she was unattractive and would have a hard time finding a husband. She found three --- and countless lovers. "Whenever there was a crisis," she writes, "I found a man to help me take the edge off the feelings of helplessness and pain."

But if you're looking for a lurid tale of hotel rooms and low times, you'll be disappointed by this brief --- 169-page --- book. Cheever's problem is a launch-point, not an opportunity to bleed on paper. Right at the beginning, she states her goal:

This is a book that explores the boundaries between the kind of love on which a life can be built, and the passionate kind of love that is an addiction.... The most familiar addictions in the world we live in are addictions to alcohol and drugs. Unlike those addictions, the addictions which use people as a substance are often hidden behind our ideas about love.

Addiction to people, she notes, is not like other addictions. No one praises addiction to alcohol and drugs --- but who says love is a bad thing? Especially falling in love, when the world seems fresh and life looks thrilling. But at the end of the day, she says, we must ask ourselves: Is addiction to "love" really different from the chemical addictions?

Cheever has read a lot, and she has the great journalist's ability to find the right quote and telling statistic. In these pages, you'll learn that a study found that "more than half of cocaine users had sexual compulsion problems." That men who abuse substances and women who starve themselves just might have the same addiction. And that Bill Wilson, founder of AA, wasn't free from addictions after he stopped drinking; he was a philanderer.

In form, this book may seem to veer from memoir to academia. The through-line? It's all fascinating. And provocative. It helps that Cheever is a sharp, colorful writer: "Adultery is the drunk driving of sex addiction." And that she has a clear take on the dimensions of the problem: "Many addictions primarily cause pain to the addict. Sex addiction causes a huge amount of collateral damage. In fact, collateral damage sometimes seems to be its primary result."

What makes "Desire" important even for readers who don't think sex addiction is their issue is that it expands it focus to include all addiction. See if this idea resonates. It's from Samuel Johnson, the dictionary maker and essayist: "He who makes a beast of himself at least rids himself of the pain of being a man." Yes, and also the pain of being a woman.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring Desire and Addiction 6 Oct 2008
By prisrob - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Susan Cheever is most often mentioned as the daughter of literary great, John Cheever. However, with this book she has entered a new arena of her own. With this book, Susan has presented us with a novel that explains that sex addiction should be treated not as a failure of morality or character but as a disease of brain biochemistry resulting from a combination of genetics and life events. This is a groundbreaking effort and one that is a great read.

In 'Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction' Susan Cheever has given us an entrance into the world of all addicts and what it means to be addicted. In the end, she says," there are no easy answers. A straight look about some crooked feelings. Desire shows us the difference between the addiction that cripples our emotions, and healthy, empowering love that enhances our lives."

In this book, we learn that Susan has been an alcoholic and a sex addict. She has detailed the conversations she had with experts in neuroscience and psychology of addictive behavior. People who are addicted to alcohol, sex and drugs share common traits. Some sort of "otherworldly suspension of will" comes over addicts, and they cannot stop themselves nor do they understand at the moment the will is not there. In fact many addicts are attracted to more than one agent. Many alcoholics smoke. Food addicts who have gained so much weight they need gastric by-pass surgery, find that after losing weight they may turn to gambling, or alcohol or sex. One addiction may lead to another. A person who has a predilection to addiction, may go for years without acting out on that addiction, and then one day, bam, it has started. There is a loss of will from the activation of similar brain pathways no matter what the fix is.

Susan Cheever shares her own story of alcoholism and sex addiction. Her three marriages, her affairs, the stories behind the stories. She also shares many stories of friends or acquaintances to provide us with a basic understanding of the humans inside these behaviors. She interviews many behavioral scientists and psychologists. Some have conflicting views and several disagree with Cheever. She dissects the scientists opinions and forms one of her own. Addicts do not have control over their behaviors. They try, but always fail. One addiction may and usually does lead to another. This may be a combination of genetic and life experiences. It leaves me with a feeling of deja vous. These wonderful people in my life have no real control over some of their behaviors and it is not until they come to an understanding and want to change these behaviors that their life may change. No amount of nagging in the world will affect this kind of change. Good to know, is it not? We all hate nags, don't we?

I found this book to be forcefully written. Susan Cheever shares her belief that sex addiction is much more accepted than alcoholism or drugs. "She says, and this is a central theme of the book, that "in our world, addiction to other people -- especially addiction to a sex partner -- is the only addiction that is applauded and embraced." But the havoc it causes to self and family is tremendous, just as it is with alcoholism and drug addiction. A thoughtful and insightful look into the area of addiction.

Highly recommended. prisrob 10-05-08

My Name Is Bill: Bill Wilson--His Life and the Creation of Alcoholics Anonymous

Home before dark / Susan Cheever
21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reflections on infidelity and addiction 8 Nov 2008
By J. Grattan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The author has written a very personal account concerning the not-well-understood subject of sexual addiction and how it compares with other addictions, namely alcohol, drugs, food, and gambling. The book consists largely of brief interviews with noted addiction scholars, many specializing in sexual addiction, personal accounts of those who destroyed their lives through sexual obsession, and a personal look at various periods of the author's life involving promiscuity, infidelity, and alcohol abuse.

The author amply demonstrates that sexual addicts are given to the behaviors of lying, secretiveness, broken promises, obsessiveness, self-destructiveness, remorse, and the like, much as do other addicts. Likewise, there is evidence that there are genetic predispositions to most addictions, as well as similarities in brain reactions to addictive behaviors and withdrawals across the spectrum of addictions. Though not elaborated, sexual addiction is somewhat unique in that a substance is not involved and the behavior, even copious amounts, is considered normal and essential for life. The propagation of species depends on strong sex drives.

Another factor in naming activities "addictions" is the changing social environment and tolerance for behaviors. At one time in our history, excessive use of tobacco, overeating, and drinking were hardly viewed in the same manner as today. Furthermore, the sting is taken out of the word by its use to describe intense interest in all types of activities.

Sexual addiction is extremely difficult to determine. Multiple sex partners, open marriages, and the like are hardly atypical in modern society. The anonymity of urban life, professions that provide intense contact with numerous patients, clients, etc, access to significant resources, and an open-minded orientation - all of these facilitate an increased variety of sexual experiences. The author, a distinguished writer and mover among high social circles, had far more opportunities for sexual liaisons than the average person. She was unfaithful and undoubtedly was remorseful; however her claims of sexual addiction seem well overstated. She did not target potential victims at every turn - not even close. Perhaps under different marital arrangements, her behavior may well have been tolerated.

The book is an interesting and personal take on sexual addiction. Clearly, sexual addiction does exist with predatory behavior being a large component. Yet it remains an elusive concept. Infatuation, even obsession, is a typical response in many, if not most, courtships. Perhaps it is unrealistic to expect that intensity of feeling to never arise again. And, if so, is a labeling of sexual addiction that informative? There is much more to be said about the subject than is found in this short book. The book is perhaps best read for the author's journey through many marriages and lovers, though all covered in a rather subdued sense.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent but not exceptional 13 Nov 2012
By William C. Sain - Published on Amazon.com
Susan Cheever gives a lot of good information about addiction in general while focusing specifically on sexual addiction, but nothing she says is earth shattering or unique. It can all be found in other's books. That being said, it is useful as a compendium mixed with personal anecdotes that gives the issue a face behind a theoretical construct.

The worst part about the book was her writing style. Several sections seemed disjointed from the others. There were times I was left wondering what a particular paragraph had to do with the rest of the chapter. It was almost as if some section were placed in as filler, or were originally part of a larger section that was removed during the editing process.

It's short book and you won't spend much of your life reading it, but I'd recommend anything by Patrick Carnes over Cheever.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Musings 27 Jan 2009
By Stephen T. Hopkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Susan Cheever muses about her own life and shares personal stories and insight in her new book, Desire: Where Sex Meets Addiction. I finished the book drawing the conclusion that anything can be addictive, and that we don't know the cause of addiction. Cheever doesn't pretend to be an expert on addiction, but addiction has been a constant companion throughout her life. By the end of the book, I was thinking that Cheever might be addicted to addiction, and has come to see it everywhere. Her musings are interesting to read, and I felt a bit of a voyeur as she disclosed some of the embarrassments of her life.

Rating: Two-star (Mildly Recommended)
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