I spoke with actress, producer, director and writer Brianne Davis about her lifelong struggle with sex and love addiction, as well as her novel Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict: A Novel — available February 12, 2021.
Yanis: Why did you decide it was important to go public about your addiction? Did you ever fear your reputation getting damaged as a result and how did you overcome that fear?
Brianne: It was a combination of moments that shaped the decision to break my anonymity. As I approached a decade of recovery from sex and love addiction, I realized I wanted to share my experience, strength, and hope on a much larger scale. Many people think it’s not a real disease or that men just use the “I’m a sex addict” card to save their marriage. I wanted to show that it wasn’t just a man’s addiction.
A woman can also be a sex and love addict. Jana Kramer and I were developing and pitching a television show about our experience with sex and love addiction. During that process, something kept pulling me towards telling more of my own stories, from a more personal level. My husband, Mark Gantt, suggested I write a book. At first, I was hesitant, but I kept feeling this pull to write. My hope has always been that by sharing my journey of walking through my deepest, darkest fears, that maybe I could help someone else along the way. When I was in the middle of my addiction, I felt so alone and broken. Now that I’m on the other side, I feel grateful to have my life back. I want to be an advocate for recovery from this addiction and help as many people as possible.
Y: What are the differences between sex addiction and love addiction?
B: The similarities are that underneath all the behavior, it’s about relationships with people, fear of abandonment and fear of intimacy. A love addict can be addicted to unavailable people and unable to get out of those relationships. They can overtly flirt, intrigue, or get high from romance and fantasy. A sex addict can be preoccupied with sexual behaviors — spending their time pursuing sex, being sexual, addicted to porn, masturbation, cheating, or recovering from sexual experiences.
It’s not uncommon to have some combination of both aspects of the disease. There are two main programs, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) and Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA). In a nutshell, we’re usually in very unhealthy relationships, doing unhealthy behaviors, and powerless to stop and get help.
Y: When did you first recognize you had an addiction in these areas?
B: I was around 28 years old. I started to feel like something was wrong with me, but I couldn’t understand what. I felt depleted and nothing that I received in my life was ever enough. I could never get enough money, enough acting jobs, enough attention from my partner or other men. I was completely lost. I was with a man I loved so much, someone I admired and often said that if we weren’t together, I’d want to be his friend because he’s such a great person. But I found myself unintentionally reaching outside for validation from others. I knew I didn’t want to be with another man, but I also didn’t know how to move forward to the next level of commitment with him. I found myself looking to move on when deep down, I didn’t really want to. It was like this constant battle in my mind.
Just as I was about to blow up my life, I started working with a therapist. I had to find out why I was the way I was. Why did I always cheat, run and never fully commit to another person? She informed me on my second session that there was a good chance I might be an addict. It was truly an ah-ha moment. I reluctantly attended my first SLAA meeting and never turned back. I’d found a room full of people that I could identify with. I’m eternally grateful for the program and my sobriety.
Y: Your debut book Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex and Love Addict is set to debut in February 2021. Do the experiences of the main character, Roxanne, draw from your own?
B: Yes and no. It started out as a memoir, but I had so many other journeys I wanted the character to experience as it kept developing. I’d wake up in the middle of the night and write out new scenes in my book until 3 am. I soon realized that even though it is based on my life, it’s much more than just me. It’s bits and pieces of different stories I’ve heard over my 11 years of my sobriety, and then my main character, Roxanne, just took on a life of her own. Plus, it was probably a better idea to make it a roman à clef fiction so no one could sue me or feel that I broke their anonymity.
Because these stories take place in Hollywood, it allowed me to be honest and open, with the walls of fiction protecting everyone from all the secrets I reveal. Because the last thing I want to do is hurt someone. The whole goal in writing this book is to entertain and bring truth and authenticity to this addiction and help others out of their darkness and help educate those who are unaware or dealing with an addict like me.
Y: Why the name “Roxanne?”
B: This is my favorite question. It came to me while I was exploring what my heroine’s name could be. I was writing one of my favorite scenes that took place at the Hotel Bel-Air in chapter eight when the song “Roxanne” by The Police popped up on Pandora.
It was a complete god-shot because what I was physically describing while writing the scene was the lyrics to that song. Bingo, Roxanne was born!
Y: What was it like growing up with dyslexia when your father was a writer?
B: Soooo hard! It was very difficult when you are raised with intelligent family members. My mom is a badass business woman. My father is a great writer. My sister, Stephanie, is a writer and has been an editor and editor-in-chief at several huge magazines. It was daunting to have a learning disability and unable to read and write like everyone around me. I mean, it was so bad that I didn’t learn the alphabet until I was 4 years old. So there were a lot of stigmas I had to personally go through to write this book. The self-doubt voices were screaming.
I think it took my husband at least six times to persuade me to take this writing workshop by Alan Watt. I begrudgingly agreed, really just to shut him up. As I began that 90-day writing class, I found the words and stories just flowing out of me. It took me 45 days to write the first draft of the book. And umpteen drafts and a year to finally publish it.
Y: You say you spent a lot of your younger years weaving webs of lies, saying it felt good to know things no one else knows. Do you know where that desire comes from?
B: I think the attraction to being an enigma has always been desirable to me. That idea that a woman should be mysterious and hard to get. I grew up watching Shakespeare plays, so the more dramatic the situation became, the more I felt alive. I just always loved having secrets and lies. It made me feel separate from the world. That I could never be genuinely hurt because a part of me was always withdrawn and detached. Looking back now, after all the work I’ve done in the program and with my therapist, I missed out on so much connection while I tried to protect myself.
When you lie and have secrets, you deaden your reality. It keeps you apart from the bad feelings but also the good. You don’t get to choose which emotions you don’t want to experience. It erases them all. I can’t afford to live like that anymore. I want to feel all my feelings even though they can be challenging.
Y: You’ve talked about having an emotional/spiritual hole. Where does the hole come from?
B: I think many things can contribute to that hole that sits inside any addict. I believe several factors, like your family of origin, trauma, and childhood early development. Plus, I believe addiction runs in my family. When I looked back on my family tree, there were a lot of addictions. Maybe not all alcoholics or sex and love addicts, but many isms run in my family.
It’s not an excuse for me to act out in my disease, but it might have been a factor. That’s why I’m determined to fill that emptiness with self-love, authenticity, transparency, and my God, Higher Power, Universe, or whatever I chose to call it on any given day.
Y: How has motherhood changed you?
B: Haha, that’s a funny question…. a lot! First of all, I could never imagine being a mother. I never wanted to have any children. I was too selfish and self-seeking. As I got sober in SLAA and really started to look at my life, several things occurred. My sister had my nephew, and I instantly fell madly in love with him. I had never felt that raw unconditional love for another human being. It made me realize I did want to be a mother and experience that beautiful connection with my own child.
My son, Davis, has been the best thing I’ve ever done. Every day he teaches me patience, boundaries, and being present at all times. I am such a fantasy addict that I can get caught up in future tripping or failures from my past. He forces me to stay present with him. It is the biggest blessing to be a mother. Also, I get the opportunity to break the cycle of the addict that runs in my family. I get to be the best parent I know how to be with the tools I’ve learned in SLAA.
Y: If someone were to meet a Sex and Love Addict, how can they be sure they can trust them?
B: The first thing I would ask them is if they were working on themselves. I’ve met many former acting-out sex and love addicts who have changed and become entirely different people. I’m pretty much living proof that someone can change if they do the work. But, if they aren’t doing therapy or a 12-step program, it might be the best thing to move on.
I have just found over the years that if an addict is not getting help and learning new skills to be different, then they don’t have the proper tools and will probably never change. Take it with a grain of salt, but that’s just my experience.
Y: Where can folks read your book once it’s out in February? What’s next for you? Where can we follow you on social media?
B: Yes, my book will be published on February 12th on Amazon. I wanted to release it on Valentine’s weekend because Roxanne and I both hate Valentine’s Day. I think it’s a pretty humorous juxtaposition that a sex and love addict hates Valentine’s Day. (You’ll have to read to find out why.)
I’m currently on the second draft of the follow-up book, Secret Life of a Recovering Hollywood Sex and Love Addict. It’s part of a trilogy. As an actor, I’m on the good ole actor’s audition train since completing Lucifer and a couple feature films. In August, I started a personal journey’s podcast called Secret Life. I interview everyone from total strangers to well-known folks, and we share our deepest darkest secrets. Everything from stories of addiction, suicide, molestation, hating motherhood, fertility issues to funnier secrets like reality tv obsession, stealing from Jeff Bezos and lying about skills to book acting jobs.
My husband Mark and I are currently pitching three television pilots through our company, Give & Take Productions. We’ve teamed up with some great producers. It’s all very exciting and overwhelming as we balance our creative and personal life with a toddler. But I feel like it’s truly my coming out year. I’m open to whatever God has in store for me.
Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict is available for pre-order here: Amazon.com: Secret Life of a Hollywood Sex & Love Addict: A Novel eBook: Davis, Brianne: Kindle Store
You can get more info about the book, podcast and Brianne at:
Websites: briannedavis.com, secretlifenovel.com, secretlifepodcast.com
Facebook & Instagram: @thebriannedavis @secretlifepodcast @secretlifenovel