Hello, I’m Tiger Woods and I’m a sex addict.
Those might be the toughest words Woods ever had to say, assuming, ofcourse, he stood up and said them at a clinic in Mississippi.
That’s also assuming Woods is currently residing at the Pine GroveBehavioral Health and Addiction Services clinic in Hattiesburg, though photostaken by a certain tabloid suggest it to be true. If so, the world’s greatestgolfer is under the care of a superstar in his own field, sexual addictiontreatment pioneer Patrick Carnes.
Unfortunately for Woods, greatness on the greens doesn’t count in grouptherapy. Unlike golf, he has hardly any way of controlling what goes on.
It begins the same way for all. You can’t be treated until you acknowledgethere’s a problem.
“I don’t know if he can stand up and say it,” said celebrity shrink Dr.Drew Pinsky, who hosted a TV sexual addiction reality show. “But it’s a keycomponent of these things.”
For now, the frantic hype over where Woods is has begun to subside, if onlybecause the consensus is that he indeed is behind guarded gates. The paparazzihave, for the most part, left Hattiesburg, driven out by a new fence encirclingthe clinic and the fact the money shot has already been taken.
Desperate times reportedly drove Woods to a place he never would haveimagined.
It’s easy to see why. There’s no driving range, no chipping green to work onthe short game. So far, no one has spotted Woods at the nearby athletic clubwhere patients sometimes pump a little iron.
And if Woods thought preparing for the Masters was tough, he’s likely nowspending long days filled with lectures, group sessions and the ever-present12-step program every patient must conquer. Patients must dress a certain way,address each other a certain way and, most importantly, can never touch anotherpatient without permission.
Cell phones are left at home.
“These kind of programs are very structured,” said Maureen Canning, aclinical consultant for sexual compulsive programs at the Meadows treatmentfacility in Arizona. “It’s basically a 12-hour day every day, plus homework.”
Treatment centers like the Meadows and Pine Grove are places where peopleend up only when the consequences are so painful they have no choice. For someit’s divorce, while for others it’s a lost job, jail or even disease.
International scorn? Well, that, too.
Indeed, for Woods the pain has to be magnified by the fact he’s such apublic figure. People cheered his every move, dreamed of what it would be liketo be him.
Behind it all, though, may have lurked a very different person.
“Most sex addicts are extremely lonely emotionally,” Canning said. “Theylook really good. They’re intelligent, bright and personable. But emotionally,they’re lonely because they don’t know how to feel feelings or allow anyoneclose. They confuse the intensity of sex with that of intimacy.”
Canning says the best part of her job is helping a patient sift through hisor her life to find the underlying reasons behind the addiction. For almost all,she says, there was a traumatic incident in childhood, anything from beingspanked to more extreme things.
Often, it has something to do with the parent of the opposite sex.
That, at least, is Carnes’ theory and that of his followers in a relativelynew field. There are other skeptics who believe the whole thing is a bunch ofpsycho babble and that some people, mostly men, are inclined to want to have sexwith reasonably attractive people of the opposite sex because it’s in their DNAto do so.
The American Psychiatric Association does not list sex addiction as adiagnosable mental disorder, and there are no real statistics on how many peopleit might affect or the cure rate.
“It is what alcohol was 25 or 30 years ago,” Canning said. “People don’twant to talk about it and, because of the shame, people don’t have a lot ofplaces to go. They stay isolated in their pain and behavior.”
If Woods is to change that behavior, his wife, Elin, likely will need toplay a role. Spouses are encouraged to join some of the therapy because they areconsidered part of the overall problem.
“There’s a reason that person chose to be with that identified addict andthat tells you that person needs to do a bit of work, too,” said Pinsky, anaddiction specialist and longtime radio advice show host. “It’s often difficultto get them to do so because they’re thinking ‘Why should I be doing anythingwhen I’m so betrayed?’ But you do hope in Tiger’s case that his wife commits tothe relationship and appreciates the effort.”
The six weeks of inpatient therapy is just the beginning for a program thatcan stretch up to five years.
This long-term program is much like one for alcohol or drug addiction, whichmeans making sure Woods’ environment is structured so he doesn’t have the urgeor opportunity for sex outside his marriage. Usually that involves havingsomeone around to make sure he stays out of trouble and keeps up with his12-step meetings.
That can be tricky for someone who travels around the world to make aliving, especially if his wife and kids aren’t along. Woods will have to abideby new rules, and his Las Vegas haunts will surely be out.
He may find it particularly difficult to adjust to a confining lifestylewhile trying to regain his dominance on the golf course.
The reward is that it may be the only thing that can save his marriage.
The bonus is that it may some day also help salvage his reputation.
Tim Dahlberg is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him attdahlberg(at)ap.org