“Thanks for Sharing”: Dramedy About Sex Addiction Recovery

About the new film Thanks for Sharing, from sex addiction expert Robert Weiss, LCSW, founder of The Sexual Recovery Institute (on The Huffington Post):

Thanks for Sharing is a meaningful and important film in three key ways. First, it is a well-written, well-acted, entertaining movie. Second, it is an accurate portrayal of the trials, tribulations, and joys of sex addiction recovery. Third, it is a film that can and hopefully will educate both active sex addicts and the general public about the nature (and recovery path) of a heretofore mostly misunderstood disease. Perhaps the most telling thought in this regard comes from an associate of mine — a recovering sex addict with more than a decade of sobriety. He saw the movie with a non-addicted friend who has long questioned the existence of sex addiction, despite knowledge of my associate’s troublesome sexual history. After the movie the non-addict friend said two things:

  1. I think I finally get it. Sex really can be an addiction.
  2. Is there a 12-step program for non-addicts? Because if there is, I’d really like to go.

In Thanks for Sharing the three main characters—Adam (Mark Ruffalo), Mike (Tim Robbins), and Neil (Josh Gad)—are in three different phases of participation in Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). Five years into recovery, Adam has Mike as a sponsor, a guy who’s quick with an SAA aphorism but has conflicted relationships with his wife (Joely Richardson) and son Danny (Patrick Fugit), whose own addiction has been drugs. Adam sponsors the resistant, legally mandated Neil.

It is in fact much more common for men to attend SAA than women, so the fact that there’s only one female group member rings true. Like Neil, Dede (Alecia Moore) is a relative newcomer to SAA. And, by the way, Moore is otherwise known as the singer Pink, and she’s received positive reviews for her role.

Each addict has his/her struggles, but critics seem to focus the most on the emerging romantic relationship between Adam and Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), who’s already had a bad experience with an addict, an alcoholic partner. Adam thus fails initially to admit his addiction, a dishonest and unhealthy way for a member of SAA to go.

In addition to Adam and Phoebe, another interpersonal thread is the friendship that emerges between Neil and Dede, who’s previously only been able to relate to men via sex. The opinion of Linda Holmes, NPR, echoes that of several other reviewers as well:

…I think the most pleasant surprise is the friendship between the characters played by Josh Gad and Pink. This is the story that underscores the importance of giving a rip about someone besides yourself if you’re ever going to recover from anything. At first, the Gad character is so sketchy…that it seems like he might be irredeemable, but there’s a lot of ground to cover — as there is for all these characters.

What Are Some of the Things We Learn About Sex Addiction?

It’s a real condition for many, not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

In the film the guys call recovery the daily struggle to “quit [the proverbial] crack while the pipe’s attached to your body.”

Robert Weiss, The Huffington Post, reports that two key sexual recovery books are seen in the film, Patrick Carnes‘s Out of the Shadows and A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps.

Although generally giving a favorable critique, Weiss adds:

My sole gripe, and it’s a very small gripe, is that the concept of ‘sexual sobriety’ is not adequately explained. I worry that viewers potentially interested in sexual recovery for themselves will walk away thinking that being sexually sober means they can never have sex again, with themselves or anyone else. And in reality that is not the case. Sexual sobriety differs for every person, and it does not equate to an elimination of sexuality. Instead, sexual sobriety is about finding ways to be sexual that are life and relationship affirming. Yes, compulsive and problematic sexual behaviors must be eliminated, but the remainder of the wide-open sexual universe remains in play. Sexual recovery is not a death-knell for sex, just as recovery from compulsive eating does not involve starving oneself to death.

Andrew Schenker, Slant: “The film shrewdly expands its scope by linking sex addiction with other forms of addiction, understanding the addictive personality to be not easily compartmentalized into a single category. Thus Mike is also an alcoholic, Neil a compulsive eater, and Dede is simultaneously attending a meeting for drug addicts.”

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