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by Sue William Silverman
W W Norton, 2001
Review by April Chase on Nov 22nd 2002

Love Sick

Addiction is by its very nature a tricky thing, as most people realize. It is, psychologically speaking, extremely difficult to identify a true need (air) versus a perceived need (alcohol), because to the addict, it all feels about the same. No air/die. No alcohol/die? When the perceived need is sex, which is after all a biological urge programmed into our very DNA, the situation is compounded.

Sue William Silverman learned this lesson only too well. Following a childhood of molestation by her father, she equated sex with love. She figured that if her father loved her and her father demanded sex from her, the only way anyone else would love her would be if she gave them sex, and so, following this scenario to its logical conclusion, anyone she was having sex with must love her. Those enraptured, intense feelings she felt during sexual intercourse – that was love. Right?

To her immense credit, Silverman eventually figured out that there was something wrong with the whole set-up. She began to see a therapist – largely, it seems, because of the eating disorders she also suffered from – and gradually, opened up to him.  And although she understood his words ("For months, like a mantra, my therapist has told me, "These men are killing you." I don't know if he means emotionally, spiritually of physically.") and understood that she had a problem, she was unable to stop herself from the repeating pattern of her sickness.

"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…" she writes. She simply cannot resist sex, "a sweet amnesiac." Therefore, at her therapist's urging, she checks herself into a treatment facility.

Love Sick is an account of her twenty-eight day stay. The first chapter of the book is titled "Last Day Out," and each subsequent chapter is a day, through the final installment, "First Day Out." She chronicles the high points and black moments of her treatment with absolute candor and disarming humor. With the other women in her unit, she attends counseling sessions and groups based on AA's 12-Step approach, and she writes it all down. Some of them are resistant – one patient who refuses to eat is a macabre presence, strolling the halls in silence with her IV pole – and some are downright rebellious, like Sue's roommate Jill, who checks herself out on Day Two. Their pain and resistance to change is not easy reading by any means, but anyone who has ever experienced the power of an addiction, whether to sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, adrenaline or whatever, will understand.

In "First Day Out," she rehashes what she learned from the program, and considers the many challenges ahead of her. For a woman who has never known normality, thinking about what her normal life will be like is not easy. But her time in the program and the one-on-one sessions with her therapist has given her hope for the future. She recognizes the danger of relapse will be ever present. But with the help of her new support network, she vows to keep trying. She sets her new goals: "I must find comfort in these ordinary messages, normal people, everyday things. I must accept that the ordinary isn't boring, that the everyday can be spiritual."

Your readers are with you, too, Sue. Good luck, and thank you for your most moving memoir.

 

© 2002 April Chase

 April Chase is a freelance journalist and book reviewer who lives in Western Colorado. She is a regular contributor to a number of publications, including The Business Times of Western Colorado and Dream Network Journal.