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Chris Rock has been relatively silent for the past few years. This comedy powerhouse who became famous for his standup routines, sitcoms, and his movie roles suddenly seemed to fall off the map.
About a week ago, he reemerged with a new one-hour comedy special, and thousands of people sat down and tuned in to hear what he had to say after being gone for so long.
About halfway through his routine, his mood changes entirely. He gets quiet, he stops joking, and he very plainly and simply admits that he is a porn addict, that he had been cheating on his wife of 20 years, that this activity cost him his marriage, and that he had to face down a lengthy and expensive custody battle for his two daughters.
What's funny about that? Nothing. Why does it have any place in a comedy routine? I think Chris, like many other men who have come to terms with their addiction, feels compelled to talk about it. To open up. I think he's trying to send us a message.
Typically, when stand-up comedians talk about divorce, they try to make it funny. They take all of the pain, frustration, anger, and resentment that has built up over the lengthy process, and turn it into a few hilarious one-liners, or a witty monologue.
Chris doesn't do that.
You can tell by watching him that these emotions and feelings are still very raw for him—still very much at the surface. Here's a guy who makes a living turning difficult situations into comedy, but he can't quite bring himself to laugh about this one.
If you keep up with the news at all, you probably see references to celebrity rehab clinics here and there. Whether a celebrity is addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or porn, it tends to become headline news when they check into their 30-day inpatient facility, then come out "cured." That's all we ever really hear about their struggles with addiction.
I heard Chris use words like "intimacy," and "communication" when he talked about his marriage. These concepts are central to a healthy recovery, and I was glad to see him talking about their importance to his audience. I always tell my clients that sex is the byproduct of a healthy, committed, and intimate relationship. Sex is not some sort of prize to be fought for and won, but rather a natural result of two people expressing their affection and respect for one another in a very special way.
During his routine, Chris admits that he cheated on his wife with three different women. He then reveals the reason he now understands about why he cheated, saying that he was "looking for something new." But what he didn't count on was the fact that cheating also essentially turned his wife into a new person too, and not in a good way.
He had to face that reality that so many other addicts faced too, and it takes time to work through that.
Chris makes a joke in his routine about how a porn addiction might start out as the kind of thing where any video or image will “work.” Then, before he knew it, he said he needed videos of a certain kind of woman, with certain physical attributes, and that she needed to be speaking a certain language. It may sound like he's making light of the escalation so many porn addicts experience, but I don't think he was. I think he was being very honest.
He also talks about how a porn addiction creates distance both mentally and emotionally between you and your partner. He points out the issues this can cause in the bedroom. Men who are overly dependent on porn can't be physically and emotionally present with their partners. They often have trouble performing too.
This, of course, led him to more porn, more cheating, and less focus on the relationship which actually mattered to him—the one with his wife of 20 years, the one with the mother of his children. He knows he messed up. He knows he can't go back and that hurts.
In taking this gamble of placing a decidedly serious segment in the middle of his comedy routine, Chris helps other people who might also be struggling. I don't know if anyone ever reached out to Chris early on in his addiction, or if he could have heard what they had to say if they did.
Here's what I do know...
It doesn't matter if you are pushing a broom at high school, or playing rock concerts to sold-out arenas, a sex or porn addiction will ruin your life. It ruined Chris's marriage. I've treated men who have lost their jobs, custody of their kids, their social status, friends, and the love of their life to this disease. I know how much I lost to a porn addiction, and I don't want that for you. Chris Rock doesn't want that for you either, and I think that's what he's trying to say.
If you watched Chris's special "Tambourine,” and any part of his talk about porn addiction or cheating resonated with you, take the hint. He's reaching out to you, and now so am I. I can help you. Together, we can rewire your brain and get rid of the corrupted software that is causing you to act this way. You don't want to act this way anymore. You just need to be shown how to make that change.
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