From prosecutors to presidents, the trap of sexual misconduct seems hard to avoid. President Bill Clinton's indiscretion with White House intern Monica Lewinsky made international headlines. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's penchant for high-end call girls led to his resignation from office.
Brigitte Lank, founder of the Lank Institute for Sexual Addiction and Recovery, works in Marin County, Calif., with patients battling the addiction.
"We are viewing sex addiction in the same way as we do other addictive disorders, like alcoholism," she told ABC News. "They have a craving for the substance."
But sexual addiction is not unique to the world of celebrity. It's also the story of ordinary people like Jonathan Daugherty of San Antonio.
"The whole paradigm of sexual addiction is me," he admitted. "It's about getting what I want. It's very self-centered and self-serving."
"What I liked about him on our first date, he prayed before the meal," she said. "I thought I had found a really godly man."
Daugherty was equally taken with his collegiate coed. "Here was this incredibly virtuous, pure, wonderful woman," he said.
Sex Addict's 'Secret Life'
They exchanged vows in church a year later, in the winter of 1995, pledging to keep their marriage bed pure. But, at that point, Daugherty was already leading a secret life.
"The first year we were married, he came to me and said he wanted to confess something," Elaine Daugherty said. "He had taken a J.C. Penney catalogue and had masturbated to it. This is how naive I thought I was. I thought, 'Look at what a godly man he is. He is admitting this struggle to me.'"
What she didn't know was that her husband was amassing an entire catalogue of pornography. It was a costly and time-consuming obsession.
"If you started adding up all of the hours at work that I was thinking about what I was going to do, or trying to scheme to get pornography, and multiply that by the wage I was making," Daugherty said, "then all of a sudden it becomes a lot of money being wasted."
Internet Provides Portal to Porn
Then, Daugherty bought a computer. Like many emerging sex addicts, access to the Internet propelled his obsession to an entirely new level.
"Seventy percent of sex addicts report online porn as the strongest feature of their addiction," Lank of the Institute for Sexual Addiction and Recovery said. "We speak about this in sex addictions as the 3 A's: accessibility, anonymity and affordability. I would add a fourth to that. The arousal system is quite amazing."
Daugherty progressed from looking at Web sites to meeting women in chat rooms. And then, his online flirtations with one woman crossed a line.
"Two little words came across, 'Wanna meet?'" Daugherty replied that he did. They arranged a meeting where they had sex.
"That kind of started a whole other downward spiral of me starting to use the Internet regularly to set up anonymous sexual encounters with people that I found online," he told ABC News.
Feeding a Growing Addiction
Daugherty's appetite for illicit sex only increased. If he had a sexual encounter Monday, he was ready for another by Thursday.
"If I couldn't set something up that quickly, the next logical progression was get whatever you can right now," Daugherty said. "And prostitutes are always available for a price."
A year into their marriage, the cost of Daugherty's addiction helped bring his total debt to almost $20,000. Burdened by guilt and drowning in debt, Daugherty was at a breaking point.
"I got to a point where I wanted to kill myself," he said. "Several times when Elaine was out of the house, I had a loaded gun pointed at my head, wanting to end it. I just was tired of being this double person."
Instead, he put the gun down and decided to tell his wife. She was devastated by her husband's confession.
"It was horrible," she said. "I prayed that I would die in my sleep because it hurt so badly. I really thought that the sun wouldn't come up anymore."
Coming Clean: A Husband's Confession
After hearing her husband's confession, she walked out; she believed her Christian husband had become possessed by evil. Meanwhile, Daugherty underwent an intensive period of counseling. And he sold his television and computer, both portals to his temptation.
"The rates of people entering treatment are 75 percent men and 25 percent women," Lank said. "But we are actually seeing a rise of women, particularly in relationship chat rooms, in dating, and in initiating infidelity."
It has been a painful recovery, but the Daughertys eventually restored their marriage. Six years ago, they launched Be Broken Ministry, an agency designed to help the growing number of sex addicts.
They host seminars where their own experience serves as proof that such as addiction can be beaten. Daugherty also produces a weekly podcast where anything to do with sex is open for discussion. With 30,000 downloads a week, they believe the numbers speak for themselves.
"There is such a stigma associated with sex addiction and sexual compulsivity," Lank said. "We call it a disease of shame and a disease of secrecy."
With the rate of sexual addiction growing, the disease is more widespread than originally believed.
"The rate of people coming in the door that have lost their ability to control this are just through the roof," Lank said.
Daugherty now recognizes that the key to his recovery has been a new sense of accountability. He relies on a strong network of supporters to make sure he doesn't relapse to an addiction that plagued him for 13 years.
"I have at the very least, a dozen people every week that are purposely looking in on my life from different angles, whether it be from work, whether it be from my church," Daugherty said. "I just ask people to look in on my life."