By Steve Blow, Dallas Morning News • October 12, 1997
March 1998 – Hey, have you heard about Marv Albert?
See, one day he’s a rich and respected sports broadcaster. And then the next, he’s a pathetic national joke, fired from his job and convicted of a crime.
Yeah boy, it’s pretty hilarious all right.
Look, I hate to ruin all the fun. I laughed at the jokes,too. But now maybe it’s time to scratch a little deeper. Beyond the tawdry testimony and talk show tittering, the story seems awfully sad.
“You just said the magic word. It is sad,’’ Jim told me. “Everybody makes jokes about it, but they don’t see that underneath is a man who is deeply troubled.”
I asked Jim what he thought as he watched the Albert story unfold. “My first thought? ‘Another addict exposed.’”
I guess it takes one to know one. Jim is a sex addict. He leads one of the eight Sex Addicts Anonymous groups in the Dallas area. And he has no doubt that Marv Albert shares his addiction. The symptoms are classic – the irrational risk taking, the escalating activity, the secrecy.
Jim is a middle-aged man who lives in a middle-class neighborhood and works in a middle-management job. “I’m your next-door neighbor,” he says.
When his marriage hit a flat spot, sexual fantasies began to occupy his mind. They grew until they flooded his mind. Gradually, against his will, he began to act on those fantasies.
And his world collapsed six years ago when he was arrested for indecency with a child after fondling a teen.
Gene is a lawyer in the Dallas area. He has no question about Marv Albert. “Oh, yeah. He’s one of the brotherhood. There’s no doubt about that.”
For a long time, Gene didn’t think he had a problem. He just thought he was living the swinging life Hugh Hefner and Playboy had taught him. “I had this delusion during my marriage that my sex drive was just too strong to be confined within a mere marriage.’’
He was proud of his sexual prowess, which led him to prostitutes and other partners on a weekly basis. Along with lots of porn.
“If anybody thinks pornography is any less dangerous than cocaine, they don’t understand how it works. That stuff is strong,” Gene said. “And it is absolutely poisonous to the mind.”
The comparison to cocaine is quite appropriate. Dr. M. Deborah Corley is clinical director of an addiction treatment center near Denton, the Sante Center for Healing. And she said neurochemical research shows that sexual stimulation works in the brain just like a drug.
Everyone knows the “rush” that can come from the most superficial sexual encounter – the momentary flirtation that leaves you short of breath and your heart beating faster. That’s the high some get addicted to – whether it comes from browsing through porn on the Internet or cruising for partners in a park.
“Then, once they have had that hit, they drop off into shame and despair.” Dr. Corley said. “They swear they will never do it again. But they do. That’s the cycle of addiction.”
Many, like Jim,will not break the cycle before disaster strikes. He will spend the rest of his life branded as a child molester, with public notification laws putting him in constant fear of humiliation and retaliation.
Gene was more fortunate. His addiction cost him two marriages, but he was spared public exposure.
He happened to be reading a Dear Abby or Ann Landers column nine years ago. Few had heard of sexual addiction then, but he said: “I knew something was wrong with my sex life. I knew it controlled me, that I didn’t control it.
“The column described someone with sexual addiction, and one phrase just jumped out at me – ‘secret sex life.’ That rang a bell in my head. I said, ‘That’s what I am.’”
Jim and Gene said they are so much happier now. They don’t carry that secrecy or shame any longer.
Gene said he wished he lived up the street from Marv Albert. “I’d walk down and say, ‘Marv, I think you’ve got a problem. It’s a problem I’ve got, too. Let me tell you about the help I found…"