Turning Forty as a Recovering Sex and Love Addict
Brianne Davis is a working actress in Hollywood, one of those people you’ve seen in everything – including shows like Six, Casual, Prom Night, Jarhead, and most recently Lucifer. Two years ago she ‘came out’ as a sex and love addict in an article for Huffington Post, after 10 years in recovery. She wrote a bestselling novel called “Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict,” which is fiction, but it’s based on her experience in Hollywood and with a disease that carries stigma and shame, especially for women. She also hosts a podcast called Secret Life on which people share their secrets.
From bringing compelling characters to life on screen as an actor, calling the shots behind the scenes as a director and producer, lending her thoughts and opinions to the podcast airwaves, and even penning her debut literary work, Brianne Davis has emerged in the entertainment industry as a powerhouse female creative.
Brianne’s first break in the business came with a small speaking role in the film “Remember the Titans” opposite Denzel Washington, Hayden Panettiere, Ryan Gosling and Kate Bosworth. From there, Brianne went on to booking a role on the hit television show, “Dawson’s Creek” (CW) and once graduating from high school, she made the decision to move to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. Brianne’s first lead role in film came in 2005 with the blockbuster hit “Jarhead” where she starred opposite Jake Gyllenhaal. She also starred in the horror film “Prom Night,” alongside Brittany Snow, Kellan Lutz and Idris Elba.
Additional TV credits include: Netflix/FOX’s “Lucifer,” Hulu’s “Casual,” FOX’s “Rosewood,” HBO’s “True Blood,” and CBS’ “The Mentalist.”
Thriving behind the camera, as much as in front, under her production company Give & Take Productions Brianne has produced three films, while also directing “The Night Visitor 2: Heather’s Story,” and “Deadly Signal.”
With over a decade of recovery as a sex and love addict, Brianne is the host of the popular mental health podcast “Secret Life.” The podcast launched in August 2020 and features inspiring true confessions from an eclectic group of guests, unpacking a plethora of taboo topics. Brianne’s latest venture in the “Secret Life” brand is her debut novel, “Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict” which released on February 12, 2021, and instantly hit the best-sellers list on Amazon.
On the charity front, Brianne’s undeniable passion is supporting our troops. She can often be found traveling the world on various USO tours and so far, has visited 15 bases. While on tour, she has stayed in such places as Iraq and Afghanistan. Stateside, Brianne champions on behalf of veteran programs, especially in getting the necessary post-traumatic stress relief that many soldiers desperately need.
Brianne currently resides in the Los Angeles area with her husband Mark Gantt and son, Davis.
Brianne Davis is a working actress in Hollywood, one of those people you’ve seen in everything – including shows like Six, Casual, Prom Night, Jarhead, and most recently Lucifer. Two years ago she ‘came out’ as a sex and love addict in an article for Huffington Post, after 10 years in recovery. She wrote a bestselling novel called Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict [affiliate link], which is fiction, but it’s based on her experience in Hollywood and with a disease that carries stigma and shame, especially for women.
She wanted to shed light on how deadly this particular addiction is and how how a society amplifies and glamorizes sex and love addiction. She also started a podcast called Secret Life, which allows other people to share their secrets.
She initially ‘outed’ herself in an article she wrote for Huffington Post two years ago. She says publishing that article “evaporated” the stigma and shame she felt. She now works to educate people on this disease that over 38 million people in the United States suffer from, 38% of whom are women.
Brianne traces her addiction back to an experience in eighth grade where she got her first “hit” – her first high. She got her boyfriend’s friend to kiss her in a closet and says it was like a heroin shot. She felt like she had power and control over another person. This was in contrast to feeling powerless most of the time. She says she’s been chasing that “butterfly,” since then.
Dark Night of the Soul
Brianne had her “dark night of the soul” moment in her late 20s. She was living with her boyfriend of four years. The rush of falling in love had dissipated and it was just everyday life. She found herself across the country shooting a movie and started “intriguing” with someone she didn’t even like as a person. That’s the moment that turned the light bulb on for her. When she compared this person to her boyfriend, he fell short in every category.
She wondered if she’d still be doing this when she was 80. She wondered if she’d always be looking for a person to complete her, to fix her, to save her, to give her a high. She finally realized there wasn’t something wrong with all the men in her life; it was her.
She reached out to a therapist, who said two outrageous things to her. First, she said “you have a secret and I don’t know what it is, but you wear the mask of a high-class prostitute.” And second, she told Brianne she was a sex and love addict.
Until that point, Brianne’s only exposure to that was when celebrities used it as an excuse if they had been caught cheating. But she went through a 40-question diagnostic questionnaire. They say if you answer ‘yes’ to more than five of the questions, you’re probably a sex and love addict. You have to read her book to get her actual number, but Brianne says it was ‘high.’
She went to her first Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting that very night. Of the 30 people in the room, every race, ethnicity, financial background, sexual orientation was represented. And everyone who spoke said something that Brianne felt, did or almost did. She felt like she was home. She was grateful to realize she wasn’t broken, that nothing was wrong with her – she just didn’t have the tools she needed to have healthy relationships. That was the day she surrendered.
Being “Out” and Visible
After 10 years in recovery, she felt like an ‘old timer.’ This addiction is something that most people hide, so there’s not much evidence or modeling of recovery. Brianne started seeing younger and younger people coming to meetings talking about how they couldn’t connect, couldn’t find intimacy. They used social media for attention and validation but they felt empty.
Brianne was called to do something. She felt guided to be bigger in her service. Despite the stigma of the addiction, she knew she had to do something.
Her husband kept encouraging her to take a writing course. He knew she had a story to tell. She resisted. She made excuses: she’s got ADHD; she doesn’t want to write; she’s shooting a show. But he wore her down and she took the course and the first draft of her book poured out of her in 45 days.
She felt like a higher power was working through her. She felt motivated to do more than speak at rehab facilities. And then her business shut down in March 2020, which took away her creative outlet of disappearing into a character. So she said ‘eff it; this is my truth.
She had been doing intensive therapy for eight years. She got to the point where she could say, I’ve done bad things, but I’m not a bad person. I used to be selfish and self-seeking, but I’m not anymore. If she hadn’t done all that work, she knows she’d still be chasing outside validation, instead of being in a place of self-acceptance, which has led to forgiveness of herself and of others.
Sex and Love Addiction in Our Culture
On the very day of our interview, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, came out as a sex and love addict. While it’s a beautiful and iconic story, Brianne says it’s a story filled with fantasy – blowing up your marriage, going to a younger guy; Then seeing it didn’t fix you; traveling the world; overeating in Italy; going to Bali and finding the next guy. Readers came away with the understanding that you had to travel and get out there and meet your person. Brianne acknowledges it’s a beautiful story, but it’s fantasy. She says it’s “dripping in” love addiction, and using sexuality to find your next person
She points to Anthony Bourdain as an example of someone who died of love addiction.
She says we probably all know people who should be in the program. Sex and love addiction is depicted in television shows, movies, and love songs. It’s about unrequited love: getting that ex back, that unavailable person, looking for someone to complete you.
Sex and Love Addiction Defined
According to Brianne, a sex addict is anybody that uses their sexuality to manipulate and control, and uses it as a currency. A love addict goes after unavailable people and gets in toxic relationships. They look for someone to complete them. They go into fantasy and are obsessed with romance. The two can be connected, too.
When someone with this addiction gets hurt, they may turn to ‘sexual anorexia,’ and shut down their sexuality and their availability for relationships. Some people stop dating for years.
Underneath the cycle is a fear of intimacy, fear of being loved, low self-esteem, and fear of abandonment.
Sex and Love Addiction is Not Like Drugs or Alcohol
With chemical addiction, like drugs or alcohol, Brianne calls it ‘black and white.’ You know the substance is the problem so you work to avoid them forever. She calls sex and love addiction a progressive brain disease.
When she got her six-month chip, she went to In and Out Burger and the 16-year-old manning the drive through was visibly and audibly taken with her. She literally took his breath away. And that gave her the same shot up her arm as her first ‘hit’ in eighth grade. She felt tingly and on fire. She felt like she had control over this young boy. That’s when she knew she would be in this program, and working on her addiction, for the rest of her life.
She developed tools to manage her addiction, including meditation, prayer and being of service. She sees her podcast, Secret Life, as being of service. She wrote her book, Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict book [affiliate link] as a way to be of service and make her journey accessible to others. She works on being grateful, even when things aren’t going her way.
She doesn’t ‘numb out’ on social media. She works to be present with anyone she’s with, even though it exhausts her. She knows she has to or, in a matter of months, she will be living in fantasy in her head,
looking for good reviews or bad reviews to ascribe her worth, whether it be her performance in a movie, a book review, a podcast review. She knows she has the capability of losing herself so easily.
There are still movies she can’t watch, including The Notebook and Moulin Rouge. There are songs she can’t listen to because they trigger her.
The Bane of Social Media
Brianne is grateful she grew up before the advent of social media, which fuels so many unrealistic expectations. She thinks, if it were around in her formative years, she might not be here now; it might have tortured her to death.
Sex and love addicts assign ‘magical qualities’ to others. They idealize and pursue people and then blame them for not fulfilling fantasies or expectations. Social media emphasizes all of that.
And while she uses social media professionally, she has very strict rules around it so she doesn’t get lost down a rabbit hole.
She was recently triggered by an unavailable friend on Instagram and she had to use some of her tools to get centered again. Now that she’s forty, she’s less likely to ignore these things anymore, wondering why she keeps going back to an unavailable person. She investigates her own motives, trying to figure out what she’s looking for from that person.
Lessons for Her Son
Brianne’s son is four and she does many things to protect him and his innocence. She doesn’t let him watch anything that’s too adult for him. She knows she saw love stories and porn too young and that affected how she viewed relationships. She sets lots of boundaries for her son.
She also understands that he’s his own person. She gets to teach him right from wrong. She’s begun teaching him about chores and allowance and money. She teaches him that not everyone will like him, and that’s ok. She doesn’t deny him his feelings or his truth, but she sets boundaries around it.
There’s no iPad for her son. She knows how toxic and over stimulating the phone can be for her, so she doesn’t want her son to become dependent on it. She’s trying to protect his mind as long as possible.
She knows she will make mistakes and she admits her mistakes and apologizes to her son, something she wishes her parents had modeled for her. She believes taking accountability teaches accountability.
The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
Stephanie: Hi, Brianne. Thanks so much for joining me today.
Brianne: Hi! Good to be here.
Stephanie: I'm so excited for this conversation. You have really wild and colorful story that I'm very excited to hear about. So why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself.
Brianne: Yeah, I, well, if you've never met me, I'm Brianne Davis. I'm a Hollywood actress. I'm a working actress I like to say, not like an A-list celebrity. I'm one of those people you've seen in everything. And you're like, Hey, I recognize you. So I've been in shows like Six, Casual, Prom Night, Jarhead, Lucifer recently, and a bunch of other stuff. And I recently, in the last two years came out as a recovered sex and love addict. I have 12 and a half years of recovery in sex and love addiction. I wrote a bestselling novel called "Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict," which is fiction, but it's based on my experience in Hollywood and in this disease that has so much stigma and shame, especially for women. And I just really wanted to open the doors to how deadly this addiction is and how it can take you down, and how a society amplifies it and glamorizes sex and love addiction. And I also started a podcast called Secret Life, which allows other people to share their secrets because the moment I wrote the article for Huff Post two years ago, it's like the last bit of stigma and shame just evaporated, and I was fully myself. And I also get to now educate people on this disease that over 38 million people in the United States have, and that statistic was 2017, I believe. And 38% of them are women, which I have to tell you now it's like blown up, and yeah, I'm so glad to be here and thank you for having me.
Stephanie: As you know, I like to chat with people about the transitions that their lives have seen before and after age 40. Now you just recently turned 40, so happy birthday.
Brianne: Thank you very much.
Stephanie: I was amazed when I listened to your podcast to learn that your addiction had its roots, you could trace them back to eighth grade.
Brianne: Yes, that was the first moment I, I got my hit is what we call it. That high, that experience of, if you talk to any drug addict, they'll tell you the first moment they did drugs, or drank alcohol, or even eating when they had their first sugar. Cause I also am like have a sugar addiction, but I remember specifically, and I write about it in the book about this moment when I cheated for the first time and got my boyfriend's best friend to kiss me in the closet and, I kid you not, it was like heroin shot up my entire body and the power and control I felt over another human being. Because inside I, I was so powerless that it was like, this is on. I have this power over somebody else. Oh, this is the best high in the world. And I've been chasing that butterfly, that living in fantasy, romance, finding my soulmate since that age.
Brianne: But I honestly even tell you, it goes back even earlier, you know, being boy crazy, not wanting to live in my household because my parents fought all the time. I'm a latchkey kid. So I would sit there and watch television and escape and like Dirty Dancing, Romeo and Juliet, any movie I would like, as soon as the love scene would happen, or they were the first kiss, that's the best high in the world. The first kiss. I still look, I sound like an addict. I'm like, ah, back to the kiss, but that's what I've been chasing. And it started really, really early with television and film.
Stephanie: Wow. And so you lived with that until you were in your late twenties, when you finally realized that it was, uh, an issue, it was more than just something you did. It was an addiction. It was something that was, affecting your life negatively.
Brianne: Yes. Yes. I had that dark night of the soul moment is what I call it. And I write about it more in the second book. I mean, listen, I had a lot of moments where I was like, something is wrong here. Like, we call them like, you know, the bottoms, but then your, your lower keeps getting lower.
Brianne: Like you keep, turning up the notch to make it even more sensational or scandalous or, cause I love secrets. Like, I thrive off secrets. Um, having one foot in the door and one foot out at all times. But yeah, I remember my dark night of the soul. I was, I was living with my boyfriend of four years and you know, that butterfly feeling went away.
Brianne: That first falling in love, you know, we were living together, now it's time to pay bills. Now it's time to get real and I was like, okay, this is what it feels like. It doesn't feel like the movies, but I don't know if I like this either. And what happened was a mentor of mine passed away. And two days later I found myself on location across the country, shooting a movie and starting to flirt and intrigue with like someone I didn't even really like as a person.
Brianne: That was the big key. Like when I put that person next to my boyfriend, I was like, wait. My boyfriend is this amazing person. And if we weren't together, I'd want to be his friend, but here I am flirting with this person that's mean to waiters is not even like, not even that great. So that was my first light bulb.
Brianne: And then the second one was I started intriguing, and intriguing means when you're acting more available. So you like give out your number or you DM someone or, you know, it goes further than just flirting. And I remember looking in the mirror going, am I going to be doing this till I'm 80? And I'm am I always going to be looking for this person to complete me, to fix me, to rescue me, to save me, to be my soulmate, to give me that high.
Brianne: I said something, it can't be all of these guys, something is really wrong with me. Because I I've never had a one night stand. Let me just be clear. Like I haven't had a lot of sex. I'm a sex and love addict, but I haven't had a lot of sexual partners, especially for 27 and I've never had a one night stand.
Brianne: That wasn't my thing. It was going from relationship to relationship, to relationship and overlapping them a little bit. Like already intriguing, already acting available while I was getting out of another relationship. So it was, that was my journey. And I just remember that moment, going there's something seriously wrong here.
Brianne: Like, I can't do this when I'm 80. Am I going to be on my death bed never fully connected to another human being on this planet? And that was the moment. And I reached out to a therapist, a friend's therapist, and I went in and saw her when I was back in town. And I told them my story. And I talk about this in the book that she said two things to me.
Brianne: And this is so fascinated and funny. She said, the first thing is like, you have a secret and I don't know what it is, but you wear the mask of a high-class prostitute. And I was like, bitch, like, I don't know if I can cuss, but that's my thought, like, who are you? She said, you wear this mask where it's like this perfective mask.
Brianne: Like, I don't know who you are, but then she said, oh, I know what your problem is, you're a sex and love addict. And I said, what is that? Like, all I heard about sex addiction was Tiger Woods getting caught, cheating, blah, blah, blah. That whole thing. And we went through these 40 questions. So if you're listening, there's these 40 self-diagnosed questionnaire.
Brianne: You can go online, print it up. It takes two seconds. It's questions like, do you look for someone to complete you? Have you had an inappropriate sex with inappropriate people at inappropriate times? Do you find yourself going back to toxic relationships, unavailable people? Have you lost track of the number of people you had sex with?
Brianne: Those are the kinds of questions. So I of course was like, yes. Yes. Yes. And I'm not going to tell you my number, cause you got to go read the book because it's a journey, but like it's high. And they say, if you get more than five yeses out of 40, you might have this problem. So let's just say my number was a really high, and I went to my first meeting that night. I called my boyfriend on the way that I live with. And I was like, she says I'm a sex and love addict. Like crying in traffic on the 101. If you've been in Los Angeles, it's like bumper to bumper traffic, hysterically crying in the car, looking like a crazy. And I get home and he prints up all the meetings of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, which is a 12 step program like AA. And he highlights all the meetings I could go to. And I found myself at a meeting that Wednesday night, 7:30 PM sitting in a church, which I'm like, ah. So 30 people all different from me, every ethnicity, race, uh, financial background, everything, sexual orientation, and every single person in that room said something I thought, I felt, I did, I almost did. And it was like, I was home. I was like, oh my God, I'm not broken. Nothing is wrong with me. I just didn't get the tools to have healthy relationships. And that was my journey. And I surrendered that day.
Stephanie: That's so brave and amazing. So, but that's not what I'm interested in talking to you about because that was in your late twenties, right? So when I listened to the first episode of your podcast, you talked about how you launched your podcast in 2020, so it was, you were just in your late thirties and you talked about how your husband wanted you to go take a writing course. And you're like, I'm not a writer I don't want to write.
Stephanie: And then you started writing and a story came pouring out of you. And then you were like, well, wait a minute a podcast, but I don't want to be a part. I don't want to talk out loud. I don't want to talk to other people.
Brianne: You know, I'm an actor and I hate my voice. So I was like, no one needs to listen to my voice and what I have to say. I don't want a podcast. I don't want to write anything. I'm dyslexic. I have ADHD. I've never written. I can't even re write a complete sentence. Like that was my thoughts in my head.
Stephanie: Yeah. So what was it about your late thirties? You've already climbed this mountain. You've already, summited. You're already, in recovery for a long time.
Stephanie: So those are major accomplishments, but something was shifting for you. Something was changing in your late thirties and now you were putting yourself out in a way you hadn't before. So what was it, do you think that changed?
Brianne: It was really a big combination of things. I think becoming a mother in recovery, and looking at my son and having to mirror for him, how to have healthy relationships, how to have boundaries.
Brianne: I think that was one big thing that happened. And at the same time, I got my 10 years in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. So sitting in a room and having that ten-year chip, which in my program that's a long time. I'm an old timer. There's not a lot of recovery in sex and love addiction because our addiction, you walk out the door and you hid it.
Brianne: Like, so bottles of vodka or walking around, I snort and drink people. That's like validation, attention. Get me high. Make me feel worthy. You know, so that's what my addiction is all about. So when I got that 10 years and I was sitting in a room of a hundred people now, because our program has blown up. And sharing my experience, strength and hope.
Brianne: And then seeing 19 year olds, 20 year olds talking about how they cannot connect anymore. They cannot find intimacy. They're on social media, always looking for attention and validation, but they feel so empty. The porn that's available is desensitizing their sexuality. I'm talking young boys and girls. And I was like, oh my God, this, this voice came over me.
Brianne: It was like, you have to be bigger in your service. Because I just do have to say in sex and love addiction and especially the program, you're not supposed to talk about it. Like AA, you can share it. And it's very stigma to talk about it in public. So not a lot of people talk about it. And I was like, that doesn't make any sense to me.
Brianne: Our society is killing themselves. More suicide happens over this addiction. Murder. Just watch a Dateline. It's a love triangle will lower. Right? So I just had that epiphany. And then at the same time, my husband, who was the man that highlighted those meetings, let me just tell you. We've been together 17 years, so it's not.
Brianne: Yeah, it's not like I got recovery in this program and found my perfect person. I got recovery in this program and I found myself. I found I'm my own, I like to say fucking soulmate. I'm the one that completes me. I'm the one that lives and dies with me, not my husband, not my son. So it was that revelation.
Brianne: When my husband's coming at me going, Hey, you have this story. And I was pitching a show around town about female sex and love addicts with Jana Kramer, my really good friend. And they kept changing it. And I was like, that's not the story I want to tell. And he's like, there's this writing course, this writing course.
Brianne: And I'm like, I'm dyslexic. Leave me alone. I'm shooting Lucifer. I'm not a writer. Get off my, like, go away, man. Like, I do enough. Go away. But then it was like, fine. I'll take the writing course after the sixth time. And I kid you not, the first draft of the book, not saying it was good, I wrote it in 45 days. So it was like higher power.
Brianne: God. Help outside of your community. Stop just going to rehab facilities and talking. Like, be more service to the world. It all like collided at one time. And then I think the business shutting down as an actor. So it took away that creativity outlet of me disappearing into a character. So it was like a perfect storm for me to be like, fuck it. This is my truth. This is who I am.
Brianne: I'm a woman in recovery. I'm married for 17 years. You know, I have 12 and a half years of recovery. This is my story. It's in fiction. You can decide which story's mine in, which is not. And here's, here's my voice as a podcast host, trying to help other people and their addictions, mental health, whatever it is.
Brianne: So it was this perfect storm of just like let's get authentic and raw and real. And pandemic, right? So it was just this virus overtaking me of authenticity, I guess.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it's interesting that you say that because as I got curious about age 40 and, how people handle age 40 and, truly it is a time in our lives where we stop putting so much trust in external authorities and really start trusting ourselves more, and our own experience, and our own guidance. And so it sounds like that's really a big part of what you were doing. I mean, trusting in yourself to know what the next step is, and putting yourself out there in the world.
Brianne: Yeah, I think, you know, luckily because of the eight years of intense therapy, twice a week, doing the 12 steps, sponsoring people, doing all that inner child work with trauma and sexual assault and all that stuff that I did, allowed me at this age to be like, here I am, flaws and all. Like, judge me. I've done bad things. I'm not a bad person. I've done the best I could with my life. And I used to be selfish and self seeking and I'm not anymore. So it was like, but I'm afraid if I didn't do that work, I would not be in a place of acceptance because I would still be chasing that outside validation, which I see a lot of people in my business still doing, at 40. You know, all the plastic surgery, all like trying to reinvent ourselves or whatever that is like. I'm just, I'm so grateful I reached this age and I was willing to, to peel that onion. I always say it's like unzipping my skin and crawling out of it and just standing there raw, completely exposed. I'm so grateful I did that because I can't imagine where I would be, and how much damage I would have caused, and how depressed, and who knows? I might not even have been here. Who knows.
Stephanie: Something you just said almost knocked me over because I could be saying the same quote you just said, which is, when I was younger, I may have done bad things, but I'm not a bad person. And I used to be self centered and self seeking and I'm not anymore. I've evolved.
Stephanie: That actually just blew me away because while I like to qualify myself as a party girl, through my twenties and thirties, my, drug of choice was alcohol. And I like to say I did one thing and I did it well. So, there were moments in my, late twenties and thirties where I thought, do I have a problem?
Stephanie: Probably more in my twenties. Do I have a problem? But I could always stop. And so it, uh, it's not a problem. It's just, I like it. And it's the people I hung out with and, and that's fine, right. It, it, they, all these things make us who we are. So I don't have that same, addiction, challenge in my life.
Stephanie: And yet one of those things you just said I mean, I could be saying it about looking back at myself in my twenties. It's, it's just a major amazing how similar we all are, even though we think we are so, unique and different, and yet we go through so many of the same things.
Brianne: I know, I think that's the beautiful thing about self-reflection is that you are not unique and you are not different.
Brianne: You know, like we always tell our children, like you're so unique and special. It's like, no, you're actually just this teeny, teeny on the planet. And I think when we humble ourselves and we ground ourselves in that, we are no different from anybody else. We are no better or less than. And I'm just a worker among workers on this planet trying to make it better.
Brianne: And I think coming from that place is what's really grounded me and given me forgiveness to myself, forgiveness to others. You know, we all do the best we can in this situations because underneath all us humans want the same thing. We want love. We don't want to be abandoned. We want to have intimacy, but most of us are fearful of it. And, you know, that's it, plain and simple.
Stephanie: Before I came across you, I'm not sure that I would have said that I knew anybody who was a sex addict. I had never heard the term love addict before you. We're so more accustomed or, familiar with, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Stephanie: I actually dated a man while I was in my thirties, who was an alcoholic. And it was interesting because I thought, while I was with him - I did a lot of making excuses for him - and I always thought he might've had a problem and it was a little a alcoholic kind of thing, like he got out of hand.
Stephanie: And I got to tell you the craziest story. My mother earlier this year, we were driving somewhere and she said, Hey, whatever happened to him? He's a guy who's not on social media at all. So you know, every couple of years when somebody bubbles into your brain and you go and look for them and see what they're up to, I could never find him.
Stephanie: So we were in the car and she was driving. And I was like, oh, I remember his mom died a few years ago. So I looked up her obituary. And he was a junior. So I said, oh, I wonder if his dad's still alive. So I Googled his name and obituary thinking, I'd find his father's obituary. And I found his obituary.
Stephanie: Okay. It turned out that alcoholism had truly, taken his life. Um, and it's interesting. I think of him more in the last, four or five months than I had in the last number of years, because I just always thought, oh, you know, we'll run into each other someday at an airport and be able to say hello.
Stephanie: It's bizarre. And I think we all have that, that kind of story about someone we know.
Stephanie: But we don't really know many people that talk about a sex addiction or a love addiction. But I think, and maybe thanks to your bravery, it's becoming a little bit more talked about.
Brianne: Yeah. I mean, I, I just, this morning the, the author Elizabeth Gilbert for Eat, Pray, Love, that book that defined so many, like for even me, I was in recovery when it came out and she was talking about this fantasy, like leaving your reality, blowing up your marriage, going to a younger guy.
Brianne: Then seeing it didn't fix you. Then traveling the world, overeating in Italy, going to Bali and like finding the next guy. And that's like the journey. Like you had to travel and get out there and meet your person. And, and it's like, listen, that's her journey. And we all have our journey. I'm not dodging that at all.
Brianne: It's a beautiful story, but it's fantasy. It's dripping in fantasy and love addiction on so many levels and using sexuality to find your next person, is what I say. So she just came out as a sex and love addict. And I was just like, thank you. Because that story defines so many, even me. I went into fantasy when I read it like, oh, maybe I should move.
Brianne: Maybe I should go to Italy and then go like. And if that was true. Listen, Anthony Bourdain, too, died of love addiction. He was a recovering heroin addict. He didn't go to a program. If anybody was going to find themselves in traveling, it was him and he hung himself over love that went bad.
Brianne: And it's like, we don't talk about these things. And honestly, you probably know a ton of people that need to be in this program because this disease is killing our society. Sex and love addiction is literally in the claws of everything. If you watch any movie, any television show, any song it's about unrequited love, getting that ex back, that unavailable person, going out there, looking for someone to complete you.
Brianne: That's what sex and love addiction is. Can I define it for you? Can I define it in my words, where it helps people and how I talk about it in the book. And that's why I wrote the book, to make it accessible. And entertaining. So here's how I define it. A sex addict. We look at that and it's someone that has one night stands, on the dating apps swiping, left, and right.
Brianne: But really a sex addict is anybody that uses their sexuality to manipulate and control, and to use it as a currency. So an exchange. So that could even be a husband and wife if a wife or a husband uses their sexuality to manipulate the partner to get what you need. And using masturbation to not feel your feelings, to look at porn and go into fantasy.
Brianne: That's all part of it. And then on the love side, is going after that unavailable person, that toxic relationship. Trying to get someone to complete you. Going into fantasy. Relocating what Elizabeth Gilbert did, relocating. Romance obsession, all of those. And usually you use parts of each, you go from the sex.
Brianne: Oh, I'm in this new relationship. Oh, I, my sex sexuality works. I use that. And then go to the love. Love me, love me. And then on the other side of this addiction, that nobody talks about is sexual anorexia. You then turn anorexic when you're hurt. You shut down your sexuality. You shut down romance. So a lot of people after bad, toxic unavailable relationships, they then like stopped dating for years.
Brianne: So it's this combination that you swing. And underneath it, like I said, is fear of intimacy, fear of being loved, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, all of that is underneath it. So that's the best way to define it. I just needed to share that. Thank you.
Stephanie: Now that you're 40,
Stephanie: How is it different? How are those feelings different for you now? I know that they controlled your life for a very long time, and I'm guessing that they don't go away completely.
Brianne: No, no. It's a progressive brain disease. With chemical addiction, it's black and white.
Brianne: You just don't ever do it again. You don't pick up that drink. You don't snort that cocaine, you know. But this is a progressive brain disease. So if you don't do the work to get the tools to maintain it. Cause I'm always going to be a sex and love addict. And I talk about it in the book, when I got my six months chip.
Brianne: And this is when I really knew I was in this for life. Like I was a lifer. I got my six month chip. It was my first lead share, where you lead a meeting, where you speak for 20 minutes about your story. And I went to an In and Out Burger afterwards at 9:30 at night. And there was this 16 year old working at the drive-through, like pimply kid, you know, just going through puberty. And I pull up at the drive-through. And when I was giving him my money and he saw me, he goes <inhales>. Like, I took his breath away. He found me attractive and I kid you not, it was the same shot up my arm. Tingley. Fire. Up my body. I had power and control over this 16 year old little boy. It was insanity at its finest. God was showing me, here it is, this is going to be forever. Because that first year, and let me just explain my first year of recovery. I didn't have sex. For the first year. With my live in boyfriend. If I was crying, he couldn't fix me. He couldn't come and make sure I was okay. I couldn't reach out to friends when I was crying.
Brianne: I had to sit with myself and feel my feelings and get through them myself, because I was always looking for outside people to fix it. And that even looked like calling a girlfriend. One back to back saying, here's what I'm going through, blah. And then them not fixing me and calling somebody out and using people.
Brianne: So what I did was I raped people of their energy all the time, and I know that about myself. I can still do that to this day, but now I have tools. I have meditation, prayer, being of service. Speaking, you know, with the book as a way of service. The podcast is a way of service. Having sponsees. Speaking at rehab facilities, because the number one reason people lose their recovery and chemical sobriety is over a relationship. That will take you to your knees.
Brianne: So it was a very long journey for me. And I know if I don't show up everyday for my program, which means just so you know, going to a meeting in the morning and a meeting that night. Saying the serenity prayer. Hitting my knees, praying to God that I don't always understand. Being grateful for things in my life, even when shit's not going my way.
Brianne: Over communicating with my husband when I don't want to. Not numbing out on social media. Being present with anybody that's in front of me. That is a choice I have to make and it's exhausting because people exhaust me. Intimacy exhausts me. So it's like I have to do that every day or in a matter of months I will be living in fantasy in my head. I will be numbing out on social media. I will be looking for good reviews or bad reviews to give me my worth, whether it be in the movie, a book review, podcast review, whatever. I have the capability of losing myself so easily and wanting to go into fantasy and romance and then it spirals.
Brianne: And next thing you know, I'm like moving across the country somewhere else for some person I don't even know. And I know that about myself, so I'm forever going to be a lifer. This is a progressive disease. You can learn things to help yourself, but it's forever going to be there.
Brianne: And I'm, I'm aware of that. And to this day, I still can't watch The Notebook. I still can't watch Moulin Rouge. There's some movies and songs I can't listen to because it triggers me too much and I go into fantasy. And I then go, oh, I wonder what my old boyfriend in high school is doing. Let me just do a Google search.
Brianne: Like you said, like that's fantasy. That's fantasy to go back and do that. So I'm very, um, aware of it. And I now get to help clients. I have a bunch of clients that can't walk into the rooms because they're too well-known and I help them walk through this addiction and get on the other side of it.
Brianne: And I'm really grateful for that.
Stephanie: Wow. It was interesting what you said about social media, because it is so pervasive in our lives. And for those of us of a certain age, we came of age before social media and thank goodness. There was no. Oh my God. Thank goodness. There were no camera phones when I was in my twenties.
Stephanie: I just have to say, I always had a camera with me, but I've always said I own all the negatives. Yeah. So I know where all those pictures are.
Brianne: Well, I can't imagine if I grew up with this social media, I probably would kill myself. I'm not, I'm not kidding. Like it was already so difficult because I talk about in chapter seven, a lot social media and the book and compare and despair.
Brianne: That's my number one character defect. I have to be greater than or less than someone. And I always am 99% less than. I'll make myself less than. If I had social media during those formative years when my parents were getting divorced, things are really bad. You know, I was in my prime of my addiction. I don't know if I'd be here on this planet, honestly, because it would have probably tortured me to death.
Stephanie: Oh, oh, that's terrible.
Stephanie: And I think that that social media is giving young people unrealistic expectations.
Brianne: A hundred percent unrealistic expectations. And that's one of the characteristics in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is, we assign magical qualities to others.
Brianne: We idealize and pursue them and then blame them for not fulfilling our fantasies and expectations. And social media emphasizes that. The filters. They'll only looking at the good. Even people that do those crying pictures when they're having a hard time, you know, they post those crying pictures. It's like, you're taking a picture of you at your lowest moment.
Brianne: You're thinking to do that instead of just being with yourself and experiencing that healing that you have to then put it out into the world. It's just so toxic. And me in recovery literally knows that. And , I can go down the rabbit hole. And to this day, it's the number one thing I have rules around.
Brianne: I don't have rules around, not cheating outside my relationship. I can have guy friends now, but I choose not to. I have a lot of fellows, male fellows in the program that are friends, but I don't go hang out with a bunch of guys or get coffee or whatever. But the one that still plagues me is Instagram, Tik TOK, social media, putting out there. It's like being over sexual, especially for young girls. It's like that still triggers me. And I have to have a lot of rules and boundaries around it.
Stephanie: Well, I know you're on social media and you use it from a business perspective, certainly with your podcast and promoting your book. How challenging is that for you?
Brianne: It's very challenging, especially as first when the book came out and it was like all encompassing in the interviews and everything. And I felt like I had to do it. And it was like this machine that was taking off and I had to jump on it and I had to transition from just being an actor and posting actor stuff.
Brianne: So it was really hard. And then comparing myself to other authors that have been around and then, you know, looking at their reviews, which is toxic and looking at their posts and how they're doing it. And I just had to stop. And my husband's like, you have to stop. Because he's in recovery. The lucky thing he's has 33 years in AA and he's in a lot of recovery, so he could see me spiraling and I just sit down and be like, okay, here are the rules.
Brianne: I can go on and post in the morning and what I need to post. Then I need to stay off. I can check it one more time before I pick up my son. But it's, it's still to this day, it's hard to keep to those rules, but I have to. And he now is telling me, you need a break. You've you promoted the book and the podcast for a year.
Brianne: Like you cannot promote for a month and it will be okay. And I'm still like, but then who's going to promote it? My PR team's not working. I don't got a big machine behind me. I have to do it if no one else is doing it. And it's like, how about letting God do it? How about trusting? And I was like, oh shit. But I still haven't listened to him.
Brianne: Like, I'm still a work in progress.
Brianne: The other day, I had to read chapter eight again, about letting an unavailable friend from Instagram trigger me. And I was like, I know this person's unavailable. Why do I keep expecting them to be available as a friend? And I had to go back and read chapter eight about letting go of people that don't show up for you.
Brianne: So I'm a work in progress, still to this day.
Stephanie: Aren't we all? All of us are. I mean, letting go of people who no longer fit us, no longer suit us is something I think we become brave enough to do in our thirties and forties. And, as we do become more grounded in ourselves, and more trusting of ourselves, it becomes a little bit more obvious who's not filling us up.
Brianne: Yes, it is. It's like a mirror. Finally, you can't ignore it anymore. You keep looking around it and you're like, wait, this person's ghosting me. Wait, I keep going back to this unavailable person.
Brianne: And what I say with that, is where are you unavailable? Why are you picking those people to be in your life? Look at that. What are you looking for? Are you looking to like win them over? Are you looking for them to validate you in some way? Even family members, I had to do a deep dive deep clearing out of family members that didn't show up for me, that didn't respect my boundaries.
Brianne: And I even had a year and a half off my father. We stopped talking for a year and a half because he was unavailable. He didn't show up for me. Sometimes he abandoned me in his own self and, you know, and then setting up new boundaries and hoping the relationship comes back. But most of the time they don't and you have to go through a grieving period.
Brianne: And I think in your forties, you are finally like, Wait, I'm halfway through my life. I better do it now. Or I'm going to spend another 15 years. They say you go through another one at 55 or something like that. You do like another re-evaluation.
Stephanie: Yup. As a parent, how are, how are you raising your, is it, I think it's a son, right?
Brianne: Yes. Four, yeah.
Stephanie: Four. Oh my God. That's amazing. What are you bringing from your journey, from what you've learned to your interactions with him?
Brianne: Well, first, number one, I don't let him see anything that is too adult for him. I don't let him watch certain movies. I don't let them see visuals.
Brianne: Um, I really protect his innocence because I definitely saw a porn, love stories way too young, and it affected my like, oh, that's what a relationship looks like. Well, somebody's got to drink some poison or stab themselves for love. Like, that's what I thought. So I protect him in that and I have a lot of boundaries with him as a mother.
Brianne: You know, he, he's not mine. I don't own him and with my family and especially my parents, God bless them. They came from really turbulent backgrounds, but. I don't blame my parents, just so you know, but it's interesting to look at the lineage of, of families and how it's very emotionally incestuous is what I like to say.
Brianne: It's very like the parents' energy is always supposed to be coming down to the kid. And for my childhood, my energy was to the parents. Like I completed them. I gave them their worth. So with my son, he's his own person. He has his own God. I get to teach him right from wrong. I get to have boundaries with him.
Brianne: If mom's meditating, mom is meditating. This is her self care. If we're speaking, this is, you know how to do your chores. You earn allowance. You know how to manage money. I'm teaching him all those things at age four. Also saying not everybody's going to like you Davis. Not everybody's going to, you're going to be friends with, and that's okay.
Brianne: And you're not going to like everybody. And teaching them those things. And teaching him how to be his own person. He brushes his teeth, he vacuums the house. He does all these things. And I'm hoping that when he grows up, he's self-sufficient. He doesn't look for anyone else to complete him. You know, I let him have his feelings, even when they seem unrealistic.
Brianne: Let's be honest, he's a toddler. But I do, you know, the other day he had a meltdown and I looked at him and I was like, sometimes I want to have a meltdown like that. You know, like sometimes. Throw my hand.
Stephanie: Like, ooooh, that looks like, it feels good.
Brianne: Not right. But then I also get to say, you can have your feelings, but you can't like shout at me. That's manipulative.
Brianne: I said that to him the other day, you are being manipulative right now. And I don't appreciate it and I'm going to walk away. And when you're done crying and having your feelings, then we can talk about it. So I'm not denying him his truth, whatever it is. But there has to be boundaries around it. And I also don't give him everything he wants.
Brianne: I don't allow him to be on the iPad playing because it's so toxic for me just looking at a phone and it's overstimulated. They made it as a drug. So I'm not going to do that to my son where he gets dependant on that. I'm not going to let him play video games. I know tons of parents disagree, but it's fantasy.
Brianne: It's not living in reality. So I'm really trying to protect his mind as long as possible. And then just, realize I'm going to fuck up. I'm a human, I'm a flawed human and I'm going to make mistakes. But here's the number one thing I do that I think has made the biggest difference. And I wish I had as a child, that the parent admits to making a mistake. The other day I said, You know what mom shouldn't have said that, I'm sorry. I apologize. Do forgive me? And he's like, thank you, mama. And it was just like, there's something about a parent taking accountability that then teaches them to take accountability.
Brianne: So I don't know that that's been really great for me because I have to tell you the moment my mom said to me, I'm sorry. I wasn't a great mom. I did the best I could because of my background, but I I'm really sorry. And it was just this moment of, like, thank you. Thank you for saying that because as a child, you just want your parents to love you. And there's something when they say, sorry, it just like lets all that resentment go. And I just want to give my son that. So hopefully we're doing a good job. And being a parent is hard. It triggers you. It triggers everything you ever thought, and I can't imagine not being in recovery. I couldn't imagine. I, I have so much, uh, grace for my parents that weren't in recovery.
Stephanie: Right, right. They did it with the handicap.
Brianne: Yes. Yes. Because even I sometimes want to lose my shit.
Brianne: I want to be like, just eat the chicken, like stop! Chew your food. Like you need a bath soon. You're driving me crazy. Like I get it. It's hard.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it sounds like you're doing an amazing job of, just being thoughtful and present and intentional.
Brianne: Yeah. I'm and I'm really lucky to have a good partner that does the same thing.
Brianne: If I was doing it myself, it wouldn't be as effective, but, and we call each other on it. We over-communicate, you know. If my husband has a work call and he's been taking the phone, I'm like, can you please go on the other room? Cause we don't want to be on our phones in front of him. Check each other in a, in a very loving way, not in a get off your phone way.
Brianne: So we're really present with trying to bring that into our lives as much as possible.
Stephanie: That's amazing, Brianne. I am so grateful for you joining me here today. Before I let you go, please, share with me where you can be found online.
Brianne: Yes. So please, if anything, I said resonates and if you need resources or anything, or a friend, you know, who might have a sex and love addiction, please reach out to me at @theBrianneDavis on Instagram. I try to answer all my DMs and send you to the right place. Have zoom meetings. You can go. If you're not in an area that has meetings. You can get my book right now on Amazon, Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict. The audible, I read it, which was absolute torture to act out that story of Roxanne, which is AKA me.
Brianne: And it's really fun. And I wrote it like a television show or a movie. And then you can find Secret Life podcast everywhere you listen to podcasts. And there's all kinds of secrets from all walks of life. You know, well-known people, but most of the people are anonymous and I changed their names and we just released our hundredth episode. And I'm so grateful.
Stephanie: Congratulations. That's amazing.
Brianne: Thank you.
Stephanie: All right. Thank you so much for joining us today. I can't wait to read the book.
Brianne: Yes. Thank you for having me.