By Sophia Rahman
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VIDEOGRAPHER / DIRECTOR: MARC SUAREZ
PRODUCER: SOPHIA RAHMAN, RUBY COOTE
EDITOR: MARCUS COOPER
Jace Downey, from Austin, Texas, said her addiction began with sexual fantasies when she was aged just five, eventually escalating to frequent encounters with men she could not now pick out of a line-up.
The 30-year-old said that before she sought help, the sex she was having was becoming increasingly dangerous, risky and painful.
Jace said: “For me, sex almost never felt good. The worse it was, or the less I wanted to be there, the more I would numb out.
“I would be driving out to meet someone and would just be like, ‘Turn around, I don’t wish to be around this person’, and yet I would show up and go through with it.”
Jace’s addiction affected every aspect of her life.
She said: “I could have been introducing myself to disease.
“I was meeting strangers in all sorts of different places, and of course not telling anyone where I was going, because then I would have to tell them what I was doing.
“Engaging in things in public - illegal activities that could have taken away my job.
“I was watching porn at work and my office had windows everywhere. How would I have explained that to anyone had they walked by my office and saw that?
“It’s just madness to me now, it seems insane… loss of job, loss of income, loss of health.
“I’ve realised now, for me, the biggest danger that I put myself in was that I had no spiritual connection of any kind. I lost my soul in addiction.”
In 2014, Jace began working through a ‘suicide check list’.
She said: “I thought, ‘If I make it look like I just died, okay, that might look unfortunate, but nobody is left with any of the guilt or burden’.
“So I was honestly checking off a to-do list when it was like a voice outside of me said, ‘If sex interacts with brain chemicals like drugs do, can it be addictive and damaging?’
“I looked it up, and holy heck! A world popped up where, yes, absolutely - there is no sex addiction, food addiction, gambling addiction, there is just addiction, and it shows up in different forms.”
Two days later, Jace stepped into a local recovery meeting, beginning her path to recovery, and uncovering repressed memories of what triggered her addiction at such an early age.
Jace said: “My dad was also an addict. He wasn’t a great dad, especially when he started drinking again.
“My parents have been divorced my whole life and I wasn’t really in my dad’s care until I was about four, when we started going on vacation and staying at his house.”
Jace’s dad sexually abused her for two years from the age of five, suddenly stopping one day without explanation. Memories of the trauma resurfaced while Jace was meditating, leaving her devastated, but focused on healing.
She embarked on a year of sobriety, and began a documentary project called Suddenly Celibate, spending the following two years travelling round the US talking to experts in sex addiction, relationships and sexuality.
While planning to stay celibate for the foreseeable future, Jace met the man who was to become her boyfriend at a comedy show.
She said: “I had started seeing sex as a bad thing and I was like, ‘Oh nope, that’s not healthy either’ - our sexuality is part of who we are as people.
“It’s a beautiful and individual thing that’s part of who we are and I didn’t want to be losing that, so I decided to end my celibacy and I’m really glad I did.”
Jace now works as a self-development coach, helping people looking for assistance with addiction and other personal struggles.
She said: “I’ve recognised that my real passion lies in helping other people get through any type of adversity.
“I help really amazing people who are ready to say, ‘Yes, these things have happened, but I don’t want that life. I want more, I want better, I can be more,’ and I’m like, ‘Heck yeah you can', and I will help you get there.”