You might know Jace Downey from her project, Suddenly Celibate, where she makes videos talking about what it’s like to be a female sex addict in recovery and updates viewers on her upcoming documentary to raise awareness of a topic that’s both taboo and for the most part, uncovered. Editor-in-Chief Amanda Van Slyke caught up with her over email to talk about her addiction, her upcoming documentary and how other sex/love addicts can go into recovery to learn to have healthy relationships.
Amanda: For those who aren’t aware, how would you describe sex/love addiction and how it negatively affected your life?
Jace: Not having gotten pregnant, contracted any STDs, lost a job or spouse, I originally thought there were no consequences for my addiction. After being in recovery and moving away from active addiction I realized that I had experienced one of the deepest consequences of all I lost my soul to this addiction. My respect. My spirit. My integrity.
Many people think sex addiction consists of loving sex or having too much of it. That is wildly untrue. Most sex addicts will tell you that sex addiction has very little to do with actual sex, and that was true for me as well. Like most people who suffer with sex addiction, my introduction to sexual activity came during childhood and from a person my family trusted. It is important for me to note that I come from a very loving family, with an incredibly attentive mom who never put herself before us. We lived in a good neighborhood. I had nice friends and always made honor role. I was an average kid who always seemed to be doing fine. I never told a soul about my abuse and didn’t recall it myself until being in recovery for over two years. This is not uncommon.
As with a huge majority of addicts, trauma was a significant catalyst for self medicating, and combined with addiction passed down through genetics, my story was not unique. The difference between me and someone who likes to have sex a lot is that I didn’t want to be engaging in my sexual behavior but couldn’t stop. It genuinely felt like it was life or death, which makes sense when you understand how addiction interacts with the limbic system in the brain. Everything felt like a lower priority than finding my next hit my family, friends, work, school, dignity, even my safety.
After years of recovery and therapy, I can now see that my sexual acting out had far more to do with trying to regain power, reliving my sexual abuse, believing my worth came from my sexual availability, not understanding how to interact with people in a healthy way and blocking out deep pain in the only way I knew how. Sex addicts aren’t degenerates lacking will power, and we aren’t sex-crazed fiends with insatiable libidos. We aren’t perverts, sluts or criminals. We are abuse survivors functioning to the best of our capacity in a society that refuses to widely address abuse and addiction a culture that shames people not only in their addiction but in their recovery.
A: Can you talk a bit about how you came to a place of recovery and how you’d describe what it means to stay sober for you?
J: I came into recovery by what can only be described as divine intervention. I was planning my suicide. The only thing that had been numbing my pain was no longer working, I deeply hated myself, had no real connections after years of living a double life and I thought I was inherently broken and entirely alone. It was not a life worth living. At the time, it seemed logical to kill myself. As I began my preparation, a question poured into my head and repeated until I gave it attention: “If sex engages the same chemicals in the brain as drugs, can it also be destructive?” A quick Google search revealed a shocking world to me, one that gave me hope for the first time since I was a small child. There it was my story written in so many different voices by so many different people. There was a chance I wasn’t alone. One chance was enough for me to postpone my plans for suicide and look into this thing called sex addiction and the recovery that was possible around it.
I only needed one meeting to know I had finally come home. A home I never knew existed. A home my heart cried out for my entire life. Tears begin to well up in my eyes even now as I recall this first encounter with recovery. I didn’t become sober right away. In fact, I discovered an even lower “rock bottom” as I fought the idea of being powerless over my addictive behavior. I’ve heard the phrase “the gift of desperation,” and it is a gift I am so grateful for. Hitting bottom showed me I was not an exception; addiction was a reality my reality. I began taking this issue and my recovery around it seriously and have been experiencing the unbelievable benefits ever since. The work is hard but the rewards are vast. I could tell you about how I now run my own company, am in the best physical shape of my life and am financially stable, but that is only the tip of the iceberg the stuff that people passing by on the street could see. I’ll share with you, instead, what is going on behind this smile that is regularly plastered on my face now.
My life is full of people who truly know me and accept me anyway. My life is full of fun. My life is full of possibilities. My life is full of love and support. My life is full of honesty and integrity.
My life is full.
There is no situation or feeling that exists in active addiction that comes close to the joy and freedom which is open to me now. I didn’t choose what happened to me as a scared five year old girl or the genes that were passed down to me. I do, however, choose to work my program and stay sober. It is a choice I have to make repeatedly every day and one I refuse to feel shame about.
A: What kinds of stigmatized beliefs about sex addiction and sexuality in general do you hope to change through your documentary?
J: There is a lot of stigma around sex addiction and sexuality, and it affects all of us addicts and non addicts alike. It is crucial to get rid of this stigma because it keeps information in the dark and hinders people from getting the help they need. I almost killed myself because I didn’t know sex addiction existed or that there was a way to recover from the pain I was in. I am not alone in this. Sadly, many do not find out about sex addiction or the numerous ways to recover from it in time and go unknown except to their loved ones who now miss them.
Some inaccurate beliefs around sex addiction that we’ll be highlighting in Suddenly Celibate are:
With regard to sexuality we’ll be exploring:
A: Where are you in the process of filming Suddenly Celibate and when do you think it’ll be ready to view?
J: I began development for the film in February 2015. Production began in October 2015 and has been moving along steadily since. We are a very low budget film at this point. Everyone who has worked on the project has volunteered their time, skills and equipment, which is so amazing! We have shot nearly two dozen interviews of experts in addiction, sexuality and relationships and have several more to go. Next we will be heading to NYC, Philadelphia and DC to capture some stellar interviews from top experts! We plan to wrap up production by the middle of 2017 and will move fully into post production. This film will undoubtedly be packed with information presented in a fun, personal way!
The final completion date is not currently known, but anyone who is interested in following the film’s progress can do so on our website www.suddenlycelibate.com or the Suddenly Celibate YouTube channel and Facebook Page. If people are eager to see it out sooner, we can always use more help and happily accept donations that are, indeed, tax deductible!
A: What advice do you have for young women who think they might have a sex/love addiction and want to seek help?
J: Do it! We don’t have to keep suffering day in and day out. Not a minute more!
We were all born beautiful and precious and wonderful, and that is the life we deserve. You are not alone in this addiction, and you will not be alone in recovery. I won’t lie and say it’s all rainbows and puppies and free frozen yogurt. Recovery is hard work. But if you’re like me constantly seeking your next high, stuck in endless lies, covering up a pain you can’t explain you know active addiction is hard work, too. The big difference is that recovery produces overwhelming rewards and a life so amazing no one will ever believe you (not even yourself sometimes!).
It is worth it. You are worth it!
A: Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?
J: One idea that really helps me is an understanding that the moment something begins, it has already begun to end. I know how difficult addiction, trauma, abuse and uncertainty are. But I also know that nothing lasts forever. The quickest way to end the suffering that comes from these things is to start working through them today. The resources are already out there and have been proven successful countless times over.
I discovered that once I was ready to do anything it takes to claim the amazing life I was born to live, everything I needed to get there was already waiting for me.
Find out more about Jace and her documentary at www.suddenlycelibate.com
Read the rest of the summer 2017 issue and order it in print here.