Why "Naked in Public"?
Excerpt from Book Preface
Naked in Public is a memoir about sex addiction and recovery. It’s also my story of healing from sexual neglect and abuse, through experiences of emotional and sexual awakening. For a big part of this journey, I didn’t even know I was asleep.
Today I work as a licensed therapist, helping people who feel powerless over sex addiction. I’m a recovered sex addict, and I use what I learned, along with my training, to support my clients on their own quests for healing. Though I don’t claim to be perfect, I’m grateful to say that fourteen years after walking into my first 12-Step support meeting for sex addiction, I have over eleven years of continuous sexual sobriety. I no longer struggle with the obsessions or compulsive behaviors I wrote about in this memoir. Although revisiting them to create it was painful at times, it was also profoundly healing.
This memoir is my response to the question “What does recovery from sex addiction look like?” In Naked in Public I share the good, the bad, and some of the ugly of my story. I’ve done my best not to be overly graphic, but I’ve tried to put the same raw candor that has been so transformative for me onto every page. Because sex in various forms is a part of the story, some content may be intense and objectionable to some people. I’m willing to risk it, because sexual secrecy and shame contribute to the toxicity of sex addiction, and I believe honesty and openness are a big part of its antidote.
Sex addiction is not an easy topic to face, and can be deeply upsetting for many people. In the book I describe how even the words “sex addiction” were overwhelming to me when I first heard them, though I was addicted to sex at the time, and didn’t know it!
If you think you or someone you love might have a problem with sex addiction, I included a ten-question self-assessment in the Appendices. I also provide contact information for multiple 12-Step fellowships, finding a specialty therapist, and more in the Resources section at the end of the book. There are many ways to get in trouble sexually in today’s world, but I believe it is the best time in human history to find effective help to get out of it. As Brené Brown, one of my favorite paradigm-shifters, says, “Vulnerability is not weakness.” It is a sign of strength to ask for help!
I wrote the book to reach people who are dying from sex addiction, or whose sexual innocence is dying a slow, needless death. I wanted to tell them there is a way out, available right now. I believe there are as many paths to healing as there are individuals on the planet, and the book describes just one: mine. If you’re addicted to sex, I urge you, find your way out! Healing is your responsibility, and no one else can do it for you. Get started now, you deserve it. Don’t waste a minute of the incredible life that awaits you!
I also wrote my story to offer the families and loved ones of sex addicts an idea about what they might be dealing with, with the hope that they could navigate the journey more easily than we did in my family. In my experience, being close to a sex addict can be the best relationship of your life, or the worst. In another Appendix, I list questions you can ask to help you better understand if a sex addict you know is at an early, middle, or well-established stage of their recovery.
Even if you are not sexually addicted and you don’t think you’ve ever known anyone who is, I invite you to think again. What about that girl your whole school, or maybe even your whole town, called a slew of horrible names to describe her promiscuity? Or the kid in your neighborhood who had the world’s largest porn collection? Or the person from work who couldn’t stop talking or joking about sex, beyond curiosity or fascination; they seemed obsessed with it. Perhaps they were addicted to sex and no one knew what to call it, or that help was even needed, let alone desperately.
To me, sexual recovery has meant using a variety of resources to heal from the pain of sex addiction, including 12-Step program support, psychotherapy, bodywork, and many other forms of personal and spiritual growth. As the popular 12-Step slogan highlights, it means doing “whatever it takes” to get and stay sober from compulsive sex. People of all genders can become addicted to sex, and for thoughts about whether it’s safe for female sex addicts to attend 12-Step sexual recovery meetings, I wrote an Appendix titled, “Are Women Safe in 12-Step Sexual Recovery Meetings?”
I believe almost everyone has been negatively impacted by untreated sex addiction in some way. I think that in order to bring resolution to the problem, almost everyone will need to be educated and become part of the solution. And to do this, I believe we will all have to join in the conversation, and, in safe settings, risk revealing more about our painful inner truths. Nudity is everywhere in modern society. Individuals expose their bodies in public media, but few expose themselves emotionally. I want to see that trend reversed. I’d like to see more emotional nakedness in the public sphere, especially when it comes to sex. I’d like to see us all get “naked in public” through vulnerable conversations about what sex really means, and what happens when we use it, or see it used, in deceptive and harmful ways.
One quote from addictions expert and author Gabor Maté resonates deeply with me: “If you leave a young child in a dark room long enough, she will go blind.” My childhood neglect and abuse left me blind to the true beauty of sex and love in myself and others, but sexual recovery taught me to see.
Most of all, I wrote the book to share a message of hope, and it is this: neglect and abuse hurts, but healing is possible. If it happened to you, it was not your fault. You are beautiful. Your sexuality is precious and sacred. It always has been. You are not to blame. Even if your body enjoyed sexual abuse, you are still not to blame! Our bodies are designed to respond to sexual stimulation, even if our minds are not developed enough to make sense of whether or not something is ultimately good for us.
Because of the transformative effect of sexual recovery, I was able to create a new vision about sex, different from the one offered to me, my parents, and my grandparents before them. I believe that paved the way for me to eventually meet and marry my husband, the love of my life, who (spoiler alert) makes a brief appearance at the end of the book. My story is intense, but it has a happy ending that was really a new beginning to a beautiful life—an experience that is so radically different from where I started, sometimes I can hardly believe it. But don’t take my word for it: get the book and see for yourself!
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