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The New Addictions

I check my e-mail 100 times a day - ERIN CLARK, 26, NEW YORK CITY

I'm an actress. These days most casting calls are posted online, so if you want to work, you have to be on the Web. Two years ago, I got an e-mail about an audition that was happening that same day — but I didn't see the message until it was too late. Since then I've lived in fear that I'd miss an opportunity if I didn't check my e-mail.

I began logging on to my account over and over again, sometimes 100 times a day. Now I spend maybe 75 percent of my day online, checking e-mail, casting Websites, MySpace, and Facebook. Then I'll circle back and recheck all of them continuously. On many nights, I've stayed up until 4 a.m. doing this. I've even been late for auditions because I was online. Now, I find it hard to communicate any other way — like when I got a message from a casting director who said to call back immediately, and I e-mailed him instead. Of course, he never got back to me.

It's just easier for me to stay behind a computer screen than deal with small talk. A few months ago, I said I'd attend a friend's performance, but at the last minute I decided to stay home and surf the Web. I barely talk to some of my best friends, and if I do, it's through Facebook. I'm opening up to my therapist about my reliance on the Internet and its effect on my relationships, but I'm not sure cutting back is realistic. There are a lot of breaks during TV and film shoots, so I keep my phone close by so I can check my messages.
—as told to Jihan Thompson


Hooked on CrackBerry?
Some 21 million people stay connected via the BlackBerry. A subset of them compulsively check their in-boxes — in the bathroom, on a date, even during sex. For these folks, an incoming e-mail cues the same dopamine kick as a win at the blackjack table.

"Much of what you get on the BlackBerry isn't great, like spam or calls from the dog groomer," says virtual addiction expert David Greenfield, Ph.D. "But once in a while you get a pleasurable hit, like a note from a big client or from someone you love." Jackpot. The hope that someone truly needs or wants you keeps e-mail fiends coming back for more.

I'm a recovering porn addict - ADELAIDE BROWN, 28, SEATTLE

I had very few friends in college, and guys were completely uninterested in me. It was a lonely period in my life, so I'd log on to the Internet and look at porn now and again. It addressed a lot of the curiosities I had about the human body, and also got me really excited. I'd never had a serious boyfriend, so I pretended the men on-screen wanted me. It gave me an identity — that I was somebody's girlfriend.

I didn't become seriously addicted to porn until last summer. I'm a middle-school teacher, and my boss at the time used to rip me to shreds. He was horrible, always calling me worthless. One night I came home, saw an online ad, and spent the next six hours looking at porn. The next night it was eight hours. Pretty soon I was spending every night watching porn online and experimenting with masturbation. It was the perfect distraction, especially since it's so cheap and easy to find. I'd race home at about 4 in the afternoon, close the blinds, turn off the lights, lie on the couch with my laptop in front of me, and basically go into hiding until the next day.

But I couldn't function at work because I was so exhausted, and I couldn't even look at a man without imagining him naked. I lived in fear that the people at the Christian school where I worked would find out (obviously, this addiction is just completely inappropriate if you're teaching kids). I walked around in a constant state of shame and panic. What kind of woman gets addicted to porn?

Eventually, I worked up the courage to tell the pastor of my church, who connected me with a woman in the congregation who was also dealing with a porn addiction. I never imagined there were other women out there like me. She's my accountability partner — we installed a filter on my computer that only she knows the password to. I'd gone almost a month without porn when I relapsed last November. My grandmother passed away, and I was overcome with grief and desperate for some relief, so I ordered pay-per-view. But I'm learning to be brutally honest with my accountability partner. Now, I'm approaching 40 days since I last looked at porn, and my close friends are planning to celebrate with me. My goal is to go another 100 days, then treat myself to a vacation. That's what keeps me motivated.
as told to Lea Goldman

9.4 million women view adult-entertainment sites each month.

How to tell if your naughty bookmarks signal a bigger problem:

  • You bail out on social events to stay home and watch racy videos.
  • You can't get sexually aroused unless there's porn involved.
  • You've promised yourself you'll never access a triple-X site again.

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