Congressman Anthony Weiner is taking a leave from his duties to “get help” (no doubt by way of treatment for sexual addiction, though this has not been clearly stated.) This is a wise and necessary decision, and whether we agree or disagree with his political positions, our hearts and prayers are with him and his family during this excruciating time.
The tawdry scenario’s been played out over every media outlet – the salacious e-mails, the photos of the Congressman’s privates, the initial denial followed by the inevitable admission, and the predictable media frenzy. Nothing of real interest in any of this, except for his recent statement that he’s seeking treatment. Well, good and amen. Too many public figures get busted, weep for the cameras, then do little or nothing to correct the problem, so kudos to the man for admitting it will take more than a “My Bad” to rectify this. He has credibility to rebuild; soul searching to do over his sexual/emotional/spiritual state; and treatment to receive which will hopefully enable him to better understand his problem, address the damage he’s done, and take the necessary steps to prevent relapse.
So what does treatment for sexual addiction look like? Let’s first remember the difference between sexual sin and sexual addiction. When a man sexually sins, he commits a transgression. When a man is sexually addicted, he’s developed a literal dependency on a certain form of sexual transgression, usually the impersonal, hyper-stimulating sort like porn, strip clubs or “sexting.” It’s like the difference between a man getting drunk versus a man becoming alcoholic. Not everyone who gets drunk is alcoholic, serious as drunkenness is. And not everyone who sexually sins is addicted to the sin, serious though it is. But in many cases, Weiner’s included, the pattern of sexual transgressions increases in frequency, begins to interrupt the primary parts of his life, and is accompanied by appalling lapses in judgment. The sin has become a pattern; the pattern’s become an addiction.
Treatment for sexual addiction will hopefully induce a realization that this is a self-inflicted condition that can and must be managed. Self-inflicted, because the man’s decisions created the problem. And manageable, because while the desire to repeat the behavior will no doubt return, one can and must learn how to manage the desire, no matter how vehement.
Problems of the soul need to be addressed as well, because when a man gives himself permission to commit acts that he knows could crush his family and derail his life, something’s happened in his heart and mind. He’s either gone into enormous denial, or become monstrously selfish, or cruelly indifferent, or all three and more. Whatever the case, when a man’s behaviors wildly contradict his beliefs and goals, he has to ask himself, “What happened?”
And certainly relapse prevention tools need to be developed. When the cravings return (and they will) he needs to know how to respond differently. Traditionally, he’s said ‘yes’ to urges he now has to resist, which is no small challenge. To meet it, he’ll need tools, insight and support. All of this should be provided through whichever resource he turns to.
His story is painfully common; a public, inflated example and warning to millions of everyday men who have the same problem. Weiner has clearly let down everyone of importance to him (and everyone else, for that matter) so restitution is called for. Now’s his chance to make it, with an example of humility, teachabelness, and due patience with a process of restoration that begins now and continues always. Should he accept the responsibility to do so, this tawdry story may just have an ending that’s not only happy, but instructive.