A.D. Burks is a renaissance man with many talents and a diverse background that includes singing at Carnegie Hall and a career in business. That was the public persona that he was proud to showcase. The face he didn’t show to the world was that of a sex addict. The powerful allure of high-risk sexual behaviors that threatened to capsize his ship of dreams was too much to bear. He tells the story of his dive into addiction, his surfacing from it, and his recovery through it in his book Sex and Surrender: An Addict’s Journey.
Q: How would you define addiction?
A: I believe my definition can be understood by most laypeople. My definition centers around one of the two main themes in my memoir, which is addiction = pain. Addiction is the use of something or someone to handle, manage or escape pain.
Q: How would you categorize sex addiction? What is it not?
A: Sex Addiction is the utilization of sex (in whatever form) to handle, manage or escape pain. I placed “in whatever form” in parenthesis because sex has multiple forms besides the act of sexual intercourse. Someone who just watches porn can be a sex addict. At the root of any addiction is pain. When pain reaches the point where an individual’s number-one priority, consciously or unconsciously, becomes acting out sexually (in whatever form), with little or no regard to the consequences the thought or act(s) has on his/her or others’ lives, that person is a sex addict in my opinion. Sex addiction is not the same as just having a “high sex drive.”
Q: What are the factors involved?
A: I am not a licensed professional counselor, nor do I hold any certification in the fields of psychology or psychiatry. Therefore, I can’t begin to give an exhaustive list of factors involved in sex addiction. However, as a former sex addict who was diagnosed by a certified sex addiction therapist (CSAT), I can discuss the factors involved in my addiction. Similar to any addiction, I went through the addictive cycle. My level of pain would reach a point where I would gravitate towards my triggers, which would ultimately result in me acting out sexually. After engaging in unhealthy sex, I would feel guilty and promise not to engage in that behavior again. The guilt would then lead me back to a level of pain that made me gravitate towards my triggers again. And the cycle would keep going and going and going. Another factor that characterized my sex addiction was the increased intensity of the sexual acts. The more sex I had, the more inclined I was to seek out sexual experiences I hadn’t tried before; some of which were dangerous from a health standpoint and/or potentially violent.
Q: Does sex addiction differ from other forms of addiction since it is not about substances?
A: Sex addiction, unlike other addictions such as alcohol and drugs, doesn’t typically leave visual indications. There aren’t the obvious signs like track marks on a person’s arm or breath that reeks with whiskey or vodka proliferating through one’s pores. Unfortunately, when indicators of sex addiction are finally visible, it is usually too late. Thus, most sex addicts are forced to suffer in silence, which makes this addiction one of, if not the, worst. While there are differences, there are also similarities. The brain activity in sex addicts while being stimulated sexually has been shown to mimic that of drug addicts.
Q: What were the seeds that were planted that developed into the addiction you faced?
A: The primary seed that was planted initially was watching porn in middle school. My childhood friends and I would sneak their parents’ porn during the summer and watch it. At times, I was able to borrow a few VHS tapes from my neighborhood friends and watch them late at night when my mom was sleep. Thus, a less obvious seed that was planted was deception.
Q: How did you fly under the radar, since many who knew you would not have known of your activities?
A: I was able to fly under the radar because I had learned to utilize both manipulation and deception at an early age. I’m an only child and my parents got divorced when I was 4 years old. While my mom demanded honesty and was rewarding of it, my dad punished me for being honest one time. Therefore, I chose to operate differently at times to keep them happy and not get into trouble. When it came to my addiction, I would keep my sex addict friends away from my church-going friends. The key was to keep the addiction separate from other areas of my life. As my mom said, “You were living a double life this whole time and I didn’t know it.” The shame associated with sex addiction kept me cognizant of the ever-present need to fly under the radar.
Q: Is it about sex or the thrill that comes along with it?
A: It was both. Sex is a spiritual act. It not only involves physical aspects, but more importantly, emotional ones. Emotionally, I was in severe pain and engaging in sex gave me a temporary respite. Since I was trying to avoid the emotional pain I was concealing, I got validation in being able to have sex with what I and others considered the most attractive people available. It continued to feed my ego which, in turn, elevated my desire to keep engaging in my addiction.
Q: Did you reach a “bottom” that some addicts talk about before realizing what a serious problem this was for you?
A: Thankfully, my “bottom” experience was different than most addicts. I didn’t get caught watching porn at work, acquire HIV/AIDS through unprotected sex, or almost get shot having sex with another person’s mate. My “bottom” came when I realized I would never be able to have my own family, which I had desired since I was a child.
Q: In recovery from sex addiction, is abstinence a requirement? For how long?
A: For anyone struggling with sex addiction, I believe a period of abstinence is essential. By continuing to engage in sexual behaviors, sex addicts aren’t allowed the opportunity to break the addictive cycle. It was during my abstinence period that I was able to truly see the effect engaging in sex was having on my life, as well as others. That realization was instrumental in me making the decision that I couldn’t go back to engaging in sex as an addict. After addicts have gotten to the root cause(s) of their addiction and understand the manner in which sex affects their lives and others, they can begin to engage in a healthy sex life.
Q: How did you find your way out of the darkness of sex addiction?
A: The 4-STEPS, and the right therapist who was able to get to the root of my addiction. Step 1: Re/Establish a Relationship with God Step 2: Abstain from Sex Step 3: Change Your Environment/Walk Away from Your Triggers Step 3: Establish a Support Network
Q: How did you come to write the book?
A: The book came from a dream I had. In the book I go into extensive detail about the dream, but basically in the dream I was asked, “What is your plan to get out of this addiction?”
Q: What message would you most like people to receive about sex addiction?
A: Addiction = Pain And Sex ≠ Love