This is a problem that has probably existed as long as humankind but that is only recently gaining attention. Myrtle Beach’s own Maurita Corcoran is gaining national fame for her boldness in revealing her own experience as a survivor of an experience with a sex-addicted spouse in her book “A House Interrupted: A Wife’s Story of Recovering from Her Husband’s Sex Addiction.” (Gentle Path Press, May, 2011)
Corcoran, a graduate of Coastal Carolina University, has appeared on television and radio programs in the Washington, D.C., and Boston areas, among others. She will appear in person (with her spouse) in the Myrtle Beach area at a series of seminars in February sponsored by Horry- Georgetown Technical College.
Dr. James Graham of Coastal Recovery Center in Myrtle Beach said that the book is “wonderful because its lessons can be applied to any addiction and this book brings into the open an addiction that is rarely spoken about. Sex addiction is still the elephant in the room.”
What makes “A House Interrupted” stand out in the survivor book genre is that it offers hope. Corcoran details her road to survival and how she rebuilt her relationship with her husband. (They just celebrated their 28th anniversary.)
“My purpose in writing this book is to help others who may be suffering – either from the addiction or as family of the addicted person. I want spouses and family members to know that they can get through this,” she said.
The book also tells how their four children dealt with the anger, loss of respect and then gradually rebuilt relationships with their father.
A horrifying discover
Corcoran first became aware of sex addiction 15 years ago when her husband entered an in-patient rehabilitation program for sex addiction. He called her from the program, told her that he had been looking at pornography and having affairs, and recommended that she “should be tested.” He had in-patient care for three and a half months. Her road to recovery was longer.“I was petrified and horrified for six months after finding out about my husband’s sex addiction problem. I felt fear and shame,” she said.
Looking back over the time before her husband admitted his addiction, Corcoran said she realized that he had large blocks of unstructured time that he did not talk about. It turns out that he had a secret life that she, her family, his friends and colleagues were not aware of.
She speaks of her path to rebuilding her life like this: “I had to learn to forgive him and myself. I met with a spiritual mentor who helped me realize that my recovery was not about him and what he did, but about learning how to live with myself. My own self-esteem was very important for my own recovery.”
Massachusetts-born Corcoran considers herself a Myrtle Beach native, not just because she has lived here since 1984.
“We love it here. All of our children were born and raised here. My friends say that this allows me to call myself a native now.”
Corcoran met her husband, Brian, when she was 19 and studying at the University of Colorado. She dropped out of college to marry him. When he finished his medical school training and they were looking for some place for him to practice as an internist and for them to raise a family, these two northern-born beach lovers selected Myrtle Beach.
“We came to live in Myrtle Beach in 1984. Both of us were beach lovers, having vacationed at beaches most of our lives growing up. Florida was too hot, the West Coast too far from our New Jersey and Massachusetts families. Myrtle Beach was just right. Actually, Myrtle Beach was recruiting internists for the south end of the beach at the time.”
After moving to Surfside Beach and starting a family, Corcoran decided to finish her own college degree. She enrolled at Coastal Carolina University, majoring in political science, and graduated from CCU in 1994.
While living here she has participated in a number of volunteer activities but the one that is her primary involvement at present is the Women’s Life Recovery Network, which she founded. “The group allows women from across the Grand Strand the opportunity to hear one women’s life story. One of the biggest issues we is grief — both grief over losing children and over losing spouses.” Corcoran adds that the Life Recovery holds monthly meetings at the Surfside Beach Bonefish Grill and that all are welcome. The lunch is from 11:30 a.m.-noon and a short program with a speaker follows.
Corcoran also helped found a local chapter of S-ANON, (www.sanon.org) a national group similar to AL-ANON for spouses of sex addicts.
A Friend In A Time of Need
Since publishing the book, Corcoran is often sought out by spouses of sex addicts and those who suspect a problem.
“One of the first things I now tell spouses of sex addicts is that not every time a person looks at porn on the Internet it means that the person has a problem; sometimes it is progressive and sometimes it is not,” she said.
It was not until years after the discovery of the problem in her own family that Corcoran decided to write the book, which took several years to compile. “Actually, my husband is the one who suggested that I write it,” she said.
Her journals, research and input from area professionals helped her with the book. To protect her family’s privacy, she published the book under her maiden name.
She notes that sex addiction in society today is a bigger problem than one might think and that viewing pornography is a large part of the problem. News and medical journals estimate that the number of Americans with a sex addiction problem is between 3 percent and 5 percent. Corcoran and Graham both attribute this enlarging pool of addicts to the availability of pornography through the Internet (and the relative privacy with which it can be viewed) and the ability to connect with potential partners through the Internet.
Sexual addiction, like other types of addiction, has three stages. The first stage of the problem is looking at pornography and having affairs. Stage two encompasses behaviors like voyeurism and groping unwilling victims. The third stage includes behaviors such as pedophilia, incest and rape.
Corcoran notes that while the media seem to tolerate and sometimes even promote the “harmlessness” of stage one markers, everyone recognizes that stages two and three are profoundly more serious. Some people stay in stage one but for others it can be a gateway to the other levels.
Resources For Those Seeking Help
There are many resources in this area to help, but the first step for sex addicts, as with those who have other addictions, is the need to admit to the problem and seek help. Graham said that when he treats patients for any addiction, he asks about sex addiction behavior as well.
“Rarely does someone have just one addiction,” he said. Graham recommends Corcoran’s book as a valuable resource for families of an addicted person. He said that “A House Interrupted” gets the message across that this problem exists and it needs to be treated — and reveals the extent to which an entire family suffers when one person is an addict; often the addicted person becomes the focus of the family.
Although S-ANON no longer has an active chapter on the Grand Strand, its website www.sanon.org is available as a resource.
“There is a wonderful recovery presence in Myrtle Beach,” Corcoran said. In addition to the many therapists and clinics for addiction treatment, she noted that Celebrate Recovery, a free church-based program, has chapters in many area churches.
Anyone interested in learning more about sex addiction can find Corcoran’s book at the local Barnes and Noble bookstore, on amazon.com and/or learn directly from her by attending the free lecture series at Horry-Georgetown’s Conway Campus in February.
This Article was written for the Sun News by Joan Leotta.