An Interview with Sue William Silverman
Tell me about Love Sick
Love Sick: One Woman's Journey Through Sexual Addiction recounts my search for sobriety from sexual obsession and dangerous men.
This memoir is structured around twenty-eight days I spent in a rehab facility, with flashbacks to my college years in Boston, an early marriage in Galveston, and a life of sex and self-destructive behavior, until, finally, addicted to danger itself, I hit an emotional and spiritual bottom. At this point, with the help of a trusted therapist, I enter rehab. During this tumultuous month, I overcome my addictive belief that sex is love, a belief I trace back to my father's sexual abuse of me as a child. Now, forced to interact with my therapist and the other women on the rehab unit, I break the emotional isolation in which I've lived. Finally, I begin to discover the difference between the high of dangerous encounters and the more reliable promise of love.
What motivated you to write it?
In my first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, I focus on my incestuous childhood. While I introduce the adult healing process, I don't fully explore it, because at the time I wrote "Terror, Father" I felt too much shame about my sexual addiction. After all, it's one thing to write about childhood, when "bad" things were done to meand quite another to admit to adulterous and dangerous affairs as an adult. Ultimately, however, in the way I came to better understand the dynamics of my incestuous family by writing about it, I now wanted, in Love Sick, to understand sexual addiction on a linguistic and metaphoric level. Writing memoirs allows me to organize my life, see connections, reflect upon events, discover the metaphors that guide me.
In addition, I wrote Love Sick with the hope that my personal quest to become an emotionally authentic and sober woman might lessen the shame around this addiction. I believe sexual addiction is far more prevalent than other addictions. Yet it is written about, talked about, and understood far less, thus breeding lack of information, misinformation, and clinical misdiagnosis. Writing this memoir played an important part in my decision to become sexually sober in a culture that uses sex to sell love, movies, alcohol, carseven children's clothing. I hope that my journey in a society that celebrates its addictions might help others to know that recovery from the misuse of sex, food, drugs, work, alcohol, is possible.
How long did you spend writing it?
While my first memoir, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You, took a scant three months to write, Love Sick was a far bigger challenge and took about five years.
What was the most challenging aspect of the research/writing?
Finding a sober voice with which to guide the reader through the quagmire of my addicted life.
Love Sick is told, in effect, in two voices. There is the voice of myself as an addict that leads the reader into the shadowy, secretive, obsessive world of self-destructive encounters with dangerous men. This voice, I'm embarrassed to admit, was very easy for me to discover. However, I also needed a reliable (sober) voice to act as a guide, so the reader would be able to understand the out-of-control behavior of the "addict" me. I needed this sober voice to show my struggle to get healthy.
Frankly, discovering this sober voice would have been easy if my intent had been to write a "pop psych, how-to-recover-from-sexual addiction" treatise. However, my goal was to write literary memoir. It took me several years to discover this literary, sober voice.
What other books would you recommend to someone who likes this one, or who is interested in its subject matter?
Love Sick is the only memoir on sexual addiction written by a woman. For more clinical information on sexual addiction, however, I recommend Women, Sex, and Addiction by Charlotte Kasl. She provides case studies, history, and a social context for this addiction.
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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