Summary and book reviews of Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction by Sue William Silverman

Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction

by Sue William Silverman

Love Sick: One Woman's Journey through Sexual Addiction
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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 288 pages
    Feb 2008, 288 pages

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Book Summary

A powerful, deeply personal and often lyrical memoir of a woman learning to value herself as a person rather than a sex object, after years of sexual abuse by her father.  Silverman's message is relevant to anyone suffering from addictions.

A deeply personal story of a woman's addiction to and recovery from the high of dangerous encounters. In this powerful, often lyrical memoir, a woman learns to value herself---as a whole person rather than as a sexual object.

Recounting her past experiences as part of her journey toward recovery, Sue William Silverman explores her skewed belief that sex is love, a belief that began with her father's sexual abuse from early childhood into adolescence. She tells of college years in Boston, an early marriage in Galveston, and a roller-coaster life of sex and self-destructive behavior.

Finally, having become addicted to danger itself, she hits bottom emotionally and spiritually. At this point, with the help of a trusted therapist, Silverman begins to discover the difference between the high of dangerous encounters and the more reliable promise of love.

This utterly candid account may be the first book by a woman to examine sexual addiction. But the misguided search that became Silverman's life has resonance for other addictions, whether to food, drugs, alcohol, or work---anyone whose only satisfaction is now.

Last Day Out

Every Thursday at noon I have sex with Rick in room #213 of the Rainbow Motel. Today, even though I promised my therapist I wouldn't come here again, I pull into the lot and park beside Rick's black Ford Bronco. I cut the engine and air conditioner and listen to stillness, to nothing, to heat. Sunrays splinter the windshield. Heat from the pavement rises, stifling, around the car, around me. No insects flutter in the brittle grass next to the lot. Trees don't rustle with bird wings. A neon rainbow, mute and colorless by day, arcs over a sign switched to vacancy. Only the little girl from India, daughter of the motel owner, invigorates the stasis. Holding a string tied to a green balloon, she races down the diving board and leaps into the swimming pool. With the windows closed, I can't hear the splash. If she laughs, I can't hear this, either. For a moment she disappears. The balloon gaily sways above the water. The girl pops to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Compare Sue William Silverman to other contemporary women memoirists (such as Susanna Kaysen, Kathryn Harrison, and Caroline Knapp) who write about addiction, incest, or emotional issues.

  2. How are the "dangerous men" with whom Silverman "acts out" representative of her father? How does Silverman's past affect the events presented in Love Sick?

  3. What role does the Workbook play in telling Silverman's story?

  4. Silverman uses such concrete items as a maroon scarf, photographs, and a turquoise earring as metaphors. Discuss the kinds of emotional states these items represent.

  5. Compare sex addiction to other addictions. What role does food play on this rehab unit? In what ways is sex addiction about more than just sex?

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Media Reviews

Book News

Silverman, associate editor of the literary journal Fourth Genre, recounts her journey of recovery from sex addiction. Her memories of her childhood, her college years, and her self-destructive behavior are interspersed with her day-to-day discoveries in therapy. This is one of the few candid accounts by a woman to examine sexual addiction. Silverman is a professional speaker on topics of child abuse and addiction. An earlier memoir won the Associated Writing Programs Award in Creative Nonfiction.

Elle Magazine - Francine Prose

An honest, deeply chilling account of what it's like to suffer from a compulsion...look for love in...all the wrong places.

O. Magazine

A self-proclaimed addict looks unflinchingly at the source of her sickness and her road to recovery.


Silverman's stark story of struggle and recovery, told without jargon or psychobabble, creates a wrenching portrait many women will relate to--a portrait of someone who is looking for love, but finds sex instead.

Booklist - Bonnie Johnston

This compelling story of recovery takes us through 28 days in an inpatient clinic for female sex addicts. Silverman explores the psychology of addiction on a deeply personal level, sharing her struggles with self-destructive tendencies and her desperate desire to be loved, no matter what the cost. Molested repeatedly by her father during her childhood, she realizes the connection between her sexual abuse and her desire to be loved by dangerous, inaccessible men. She finds she must come to terms with anger at her mother, who refused to recognize the sexual abuse of her daughters and intervene on their behalf. Candid, emotionally raw, often frightening, Silverman's account is never sugarcoated, and there are no happy platitudes or breezy success stories in it. It is deeply moving, however, and should inspire anyone going through a 12-step program, whether for sexual addiction or other conditions, and help addicts' friends and family members understand the journey their loved ones must travel in order to heal.

Author Blurb Deborah Tannen
Silverman shows how real [sexual addiction] is, how it really works, and how she was able to overcome it.

Author Blurb Molly Peacock
Sue William Silverman shines a bold light on sexual addiction in her riveting memoir.

Author Blurb
An important literary accomplishment, one that will move anyone who reads it.

Reader Reviews


Most homosexuals are addicted to sex also. But true homosexuals are rare anyway.

Anonymous - Davina
Silverman's memoir explores with unflinching detail how, as an adult, she came to equate sex with love, in a desperate and unconscious attempt to rationalize the fact that the only 'love' that she had ever received from the ...   Read More

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