Like many professionals, my heart sank when the news of the allegations against Russell Brand broke a few weeks ago. Not just because of the damage that’s been done to those who were historically impacted by his behaviour, but also because of the impact it will have on those who are close to him today. Whatever the truth may be, and whatever the final verdict may be, the consequences of this debacle are devastating to many.
Russell has been bravely ‘out’ about his addictions for many years, he perhaps had little choice, as much of it was public, but nonetheless, he had the courage to talk openly and honestly about both his chemical addictions and sex addiction. He has been an ardent supporter of 12-step and has made the fellowships accessible to many through breaking down myths and misunderstandings about the programme. Whether you love him or loathe him, few doubt that he has had a positive influence on the lives of many people struggling with addiction and seeking recovery. Hopefully we won’t lose the message with the messenger.
Addiction and offending
My biggest concern though is how this potentially fuels the negative assumptions about ordinary people who struggle with sex or porn addiction. There are undoubtedly ‘predatory’ men who also struggle with compulsive sexual behaviours, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who struggles with out of control sexual behaviours is predatory. That would be like saying everyone who’s an alcoholic drives under the influence and we know that simply is not the case. When the words ‘predatory’ and ‘sex addiction’ are confused, it makes it even harder for people to reach out for help for fear that they’ll be misjudged. And it adds even more anxiety and pain onto the partners who are desperately trying to find safety and stability in the aftermath of disclosure. There is already so much stigma, shame and misunderstanding around addition, particularly sex addiction, adding any hint that ‘addicts are predatory’ is not only false, it’s hugely damaging.
Addiction is not an excuse
The other thing that can happen when predatory and addiction become intertwined is that those who don’t understand addiction claim that the addiction label is being used as an excuse. Professionals who aren’t trained and experienced in addiction will often claim that people will addiction don’t accept responsibility for their behaviour, claiming that the ‘addiction made them do it’. In all my years of working in this field, I have never, ever heard a client say that. In fact, quite the opposite. The shame of addiction will often leave people taking responsibility for things that weren’t their fault, including things that happened in their childhood that most likely caused the behaviour. Addiction is not the opposite of choice and whilst no-one chooses to be an addict, ultimately, acting out is always within their control. The ability to control may be impaired by craving, the hallmark of addiction, but none-the-less, behaviour is always a choice.
Whatever the truth may be about Russell Brand’s behaviour, whether it was promiscuous or predatory may ultimately be a decision for the courts. But in the meantime, it’s important to maintain perspective. Regrettably addiction can, and does, sometimes lead to offending behaviours, but this represents a tiny percentage of the people who struggle. And at the Laurel Centre we will continue to show care, compassion and respect to anyone who seeks help.
If you’re concerned about your behaviours and believe you’re struggling with sex or porn addiction, you can arrange to speak confidentially to one of our therapists by using this link – Talk to a Therapist.