Sex addict: Confessions of a toxic bachelor

In his youth, Caspar Walsh seduced countless women – then rejected them. He describes the heady thrill of conquest, and the self-loathing that led him to uncover the real reasons for his sex addiction

I met a Parisian woman in London in my early 20s who looked every inch the French film star. She told me she had a boyfriend back home and a lover on the side. She was perfect. There was no doubt in my mind that I would get her into bed. My confidence with women had moved seamlessly from awkwardness to arrogance in a few short, promiscuous years. While lying next to her after sex I went through the well-worn routine of amazement, emptiness and dread. This toxic combination of emotions always led to the eject button.

I watched her walk down the street in the blazing sunshine feeling proud at yet another conquest, bemused that I was letting such an amazing woman walk away and fully committed to the next encounter. I'm sensitive; to people, places, sounds, everything. Discovering how to use this sensitivity to my advantage was key to getting what I wanted with women. I'd walk up to the best-looking woman in the street and nervously start talking. I'd be exactly how I felt: fundamentally shy, sweet and honest. The threat of humiliation and rejection was intoxicating. What truly disturbed me was my ability to use my honesty to get so many women into bed under the guise that I was interested in them long term. Back then it was never going to be anything other than sex.

I got blamed for my behaviour. Blacklisted as a "typical bloke". "You're all the bloody same." I was confronted, shouted at, slapped, punched, threatened with a shotgun, a handgun and an oversized knife. All it did was make the hit of success that much sweeter. I was always clear at the beginning of each encounter: "I'm not available for a relationship, I like you, think you're gorgeous, smart and I want to sleep with you." It never ceased to amaze me how often this worked.

I had a limited number of nights with each woman in which to get commitment-free, adrenalin-fuelled sex without reprisal. After the second night a bond would form. If we were greedy enough to pursue a third, trouble would follow. I'd brace myself for the wrath of the woman who'd entered the affair eyes wide open who nearly always flipped to bitter anger when I chose to stick to our "deal".

There was little or no culpability from the women I slept with. We were consenting adults who'd made a choice. They seemed set on being the innocent victim, marking me the predatory abuser. As long I could keep my emotions shut down I could deal with the fall-out.

Living in Ireland in my early 30s I finally met my match in the guise of a beautiful 19-year-old whose emotional damage and alcoholic Jekyll-and-Hyde personality beat mine hands down. It was the best sex I'd ever had. And with it came more grief and stress than I'd ever experienced. I went insane with lust and obsession. I fled the country lovesick, empty and distraught.

Soon after arriving back in England I met a woman on a train. I watched her sashay down the carriage aisle with her coffee in her hand displaying a dress code that said quite simply, "I'm game". Within five hours she was at my flat. We were together a year. I was convinced I loved her. The foundation of the relationship was good sex. When my initial passion began to wane I found it hard to say no to her advances. When I did she reacted badly and I ended the relationship within a week. I could do this; open up very quickly, an unusual and appealing trait, but I'd also learnt to shut down at the slightest hint of trouble. I realised in retrospect that as long as the sex was regular, my train lover felt loved. I couldn't face the pressure of having to carry on performing like a sex monkey so she could feel that kind of love. The simple and sad fact was at the end of this relationship we both felt the same, unloved.

I re-entered the world of the single man looking for sex at every turn. I objectified women in bed, in magazines and on the screen. There was a lurking sense of the absence of morality and human decency in my behaviour but as long as I kept a constant stream of women in my life, the potentials, actuals and the fantasies, I could keep the creeping demons of guilt and shame at bay.

One evening I was on the phone to a former sex partner whom I'd dumped three months before. She lured me into a bizarre sex texting game that I thought was private. She'd decided to teach me a lesson in front of a group of female friends who were following and advising her every response. When she told me what she'd been doing, how much she detested me and what her friends thought of me, the humiliation burnt deep enough to break through my denial about the effects of my behaviour. Freaked out and desperate, I sought help. I went to therapy and joined a recovery group for people trying to stop addictive sexual behaviours. It was a powerful place to be. Although clearly on my knees with pain and shame, I spent the first few months trying to convince myself there must be some mistake; surely I was in the wrong place? As I listened to the other people talking honestly about their behaviours and got myself some support, I began to gradually thaw out from decades of the emotional anaesthesia brought on by my addiction to sex. I was horrified at how painful the process was. I remember thinking "I can't do this". I was unable to walk to the shops without melting down into an anxiety attack. Behind the white noise of doubt something quieter and stronger told me I could do it.

Over months, I began to discover ways to forgive myself. It began by looking at my face in the mirror every day for two years. I would look into my eyes and tell myself I was OK; I deserved to be alive. I held the daily gaze despite the voice that beamed doubt and hatred back at me. Then the grinding, repetitive affirmations about being a decent, loving human being with something to give back to the world. I grew to believe it.

I then began the slow, painful process of making amends to the women I'd harmed. This was a scary part of my recovery involving hard, broken-glass honesty. I was screamed at to 'fuck off' by one woman. Approaching a former sex partner with an apology had to be clean and free from any childish desire to let her know "I was good, now better". It had to be about her, not me. If there was any doubt about my motivation or that they didn't want to have anything more to do with me, I wouldn't approach them. The times I was able to make clear and real amends were powerful healing experiences I cherish.

I carried on going to the support groups; made friends with people I would normally cross the road to avoid and began to look deeper into why I'd been running so hard for so long. My addiction to sex was, in part, my way of dealing with the abuse I experienced when I was 12 by a man old enough to be my father when my real father was in prison. I'd buried this under the sincere belief that because I was consenting I had no justifiable complaint – another barrier of denial. I contacted the police and went through excruciating interviews in a bid to track down my abuser. We never found him. The process was enough to lay the ghost to rest.

I write and run writing workshops for a living. I've found a way to use my experiences in sex addiction and ongoing recovery to work with others in the same situation. Three years after I got into recovery meetings I was approached to run a writing workshop in a sex offender prison. I wondered if I'd see my abuser. Standing in the main wing waiting to be taken to the classroom was a turning point in my life. I realised something had come full circle; something had healed. If I could do that, I could do anything.

My slow sexual healing led to genuine confidence and self-esteem. I began to feel brave enough to start looking for a long-term relationship. I got into progressively healthier, much more honest sexual relationships with women. In my sixth year of sex addiction recovery I met the woman who would become my wife. It was no fairy-tale ending. I'd learnt to stop my sexual acting out but embarking on a long term relationship was a terrifying prospect. This straight-talking northern lass was able to spot and deal with the remaining fragments of my old ways. There was no way I was going to get her into bed until it was clear to her, and me, that I genuinely loved her. Normally I'd have been off in search of greener, easier pastures. With my new-found sexual sobriety I decided to stick with this street-smart, blindingly honest woman.

What my wife helped me realise was that the women I'd been with had chosen to accept my passionate advances as a sign of love, as a sign they were loveable. When I cut the affairs short it said they weren't. My wife understood this, held a firm boundary and loved me clean and clear. It was the making of our relationship.

I read that women seek sex through intimacy and men seek intimacy through sex. We're looking for the same thing, but have different ways of finding it. Myself and the women I'd slept with had settled for a lot less than we were worth.

Today, I put as much energy into my recovery as I did my addictive sexual behaviour. I go to my recovery meetings weekly. I attend a men's group, have mentors and mentor others. I work with sex offenders and help lead the recovery meetings that, in a nutshell, saved my life. It is still very hard work at times. But most of the time, I love it.

Sex was a separate, dark and destructive part of me, set up as a child to keep me safe and separate from a world I saw as dangerous. At last, I'm integrating my sexuality into my life in a way that is boundaried, healthy and genuinely loving.



Caspar Walsh's memoir "Criminal" is published by Headline. www.casparwalsh.co.uk

Sex Addicts Anonymous Saa-recovery.org

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous Slaafws.org

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Sales, London

    £70 - 95K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

    Head of Sales, Milton Keynes

    £70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

    Head of Sales, Bristol

    £70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

    Head of Sales, Birmingham

    £70 - 90K OTE £125K. Plus Car,Private Healthcare and Pension: Charter Selectio...

    Day In a Page

    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
    Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

    Take a good look while you can

    How climate change could wipe out this seal
    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

    Farewell, my lovely

    Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
    Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

    Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

    Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

    Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

    John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

    A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
    Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

    Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

    The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
    The 10 best pedicure products

    Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

    Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

    Commonwealth Games 2014

    Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
    Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

    Jack Pitt-Brooke

    Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
    How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

    Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game