"Love Is the Drug:
Memoirs of Sexual Addiction DESIRE and LOVE JUNKIE
Reviewed by Lynn Harris
[Check out the Online Review]
There is plenty of sex in Rachel Resnick's memoir, Love Junkie. It's true intimacy -- to say nothing of actual love -- that's sadly, searingly, lacking. Resnick's bleak childhood rivals the addiction-gothic of Mary Karr. Her ineffectual father, who leaves when she's four, exhibits a sexual attraction to her -- too vague for him ever to act on but clear enough to freak out his second wife. School-age Rachel, protesting that she has homework to do, doodles in bars while her sour, selfish mother drinks and swats her away until settling on that night's thuggish quarry. The three head home to Resnick's even younger brother, who's been left there alone to fend for himself.
Any doubt as to where Resnick gets her addiction? Nature, nurture: whichever. When she confesses her crush to a neighborhood boy, he punches her in the stomach. "Don't you ever come near me again," he hisses. Her reaction, as she recalls it: "The passion in his voice, the intensity, makes me tremble; this boy has feelings for me!" she writes. "Looking back, this was the first time I had a crush where I was able to knit love and pain together in a way I knew so well from my family…even now, I sometimes think about that cruel boy with the long eyelashes and the stars he made me see."
Resnick doesn't just think about that boy; in a manner of speaking, she dates him, has sex with him, falls for him, lets him go, and takes him back, over and over, on into her 40s. But -- though her pattern is unchanging till the end and her men are unrepentant scumbags -- Resnick never asks the reader to sit supportively by like a friend forced to watch, helpless and sickened, while she blindly self-destructs.
That's because Resnick the writer, even after a relatively short time in treatment, has the twin gifts of wise hindsight and wry irony. Combined, they allow her to tell a tale both grim and enlightened, free of the leaden boilerplate of recovery. Given the level of sordid, vivid drama, one is left to wonder exactly who these guys were, and especially given their tempers, how they feel about their names being used in the book -- or whether those (and other?) details are 100 percent accurate in the first place. But even if unacknowledged liberties were taken, so is Resnick's point: yes, this compulsion is real, and yes, its sufferers can heal. None would call her book a "fun" read, but unlike Cheever's -- and unlike sex addiction itself -- it is entirely satisfying.
Lynn Harris is an author, essayist, commentator,
and award-winning journalist. Her most recent book is the satirical novel Death by Chick Lit.
A former stand-up comic, she lives in Brooklyn.