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 11-16-08
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