Continuing with Tiger Woods, sex therapy, and David Peters, a marriage and family therapist working out of Mission Valley. Peters was born in Peoria, Illinois, raised in California. His dad worked in broadcasting, mom was a mom. Young Peters earned his master’s in clinical psychology from SDSU in 1986.
Last week’s column was mostly about sex addiction. This week’s effort is mostly about Tiger, starting with, “I wonder what he’s going through?”
Peters says, “The most likely explanation is, he still loves his wife, he feels horribly guilty about what he’s done to her, and he wishes everybody would stay out of it so the family can heal. The family goes into destruction mode with this much attention. The damage to the family is just beginning.
“There are a lot of people with addictive behavior and it doesn’t hurt their life too much. It’s a gray area; there is a lot of dispute. If you quoted me on that, there would be therapists who would call and say I was out of my mind. We’d have to have a long talk about what I meant.
“But, there are people with compulsive behavior who keep it in check and don’t let it get too far out of hand. They know they’re aroused, they know they have the inclination, but they hold back and don’t hurt anybody with it. It really becomes critical when it’s out of control and it’s destroying your life or somebody else’s life or it’s putting at risk someone else’s health or well-being. Then, it must be treated because it will just get worse and worse and worse.
“But, it’s a lifetime of therapy. Even though you might have gone ten years without acting out, you should be with your therapist every month or two to keep track, to make sure all the other areas of your life are being taken care of. If those other areas get ignored and stress increases and you’re isolated and not talking with someone, then you’re at high risk of a relapse.
“I’ll say, in general, the fact that someone had a whole lot of affairs doesn’t make them a sexual addict. You could have many, many, many affairs, many sexual encounters and not be a sexual addict because the thing is, you might be encouraged by a lot of people. A lot of our basketball pros are having sex with people right and left. Famous people — usually it’s famous men — get a lineup of women who want to have sex with them.
“So, here’s Tiger Woods, this good-looking, athletic guy…and there are others, be it a politician, be it an athlete, and every city they go into someone is hitting on them. It’s a bit intoxicating. You give in to your inclinations.
“But, in the case of some celebrities, it doesn’t necessarily mean addiction. Addiction is a wonderful cover because everybody can say, ‘Well, he’s getting treatment for it. It’s not a character issue — it’s not that he believed he could get away with something.’ There are people with hundreds of partners who are not addicted, they’re just getting reinforced all the time.”
Peters laughs, “If this gets me a flurry of people with sex addictions, I’ll be sorry. It is difficult to treat. With alcoholism they can go to all their friends and family and say, ‘You know, I’m an alcoholic.’ You see movie stars go on Jay Leno and say, ‘I’m an alcoholic. I’m six months in recovery,’ and the audience applauds. But you’re never going to see someone go on Jay Leno and say, ‘I’m a sex addict. I’m six months in recovery.’ You can’t keep your job if you’re a sex addict. People like to hate you, like to be disgusted by you. You’re isolated.”
* * *
It was a cruel and perfect moment. There was Tiger Woods, reciting his privacy needs on World TV and apologizing to wife, business partners, sponsors, employees, fans, boys and girls the world ’round for the way he’s lived. He’d come to PGA Tour headquarters from a Mississippi clinic that treated his sex addiction and was reportedly on the way to an Arizona clinic to deal with his addiction to prescription drugs.
Woods won 71 PGA Tour tournaments, 14 major golf tournaments, 38 European Tour tournaments, and blah, blah, blah. He won those tournaments while, apparently, living a private life of… I’ll put it this way…living a lurid private life tied together with a zillion lies.
Let’s say he gets this sorted out. Completely. He’s sober, he’s happy, and his wife is happy. One wonders, how much better is his golf game going to get?
Now, that’s a frightening thought.