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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

O'Reilly: Anthony Weiner and the destruction of addiction

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner leaves

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner leaves his apartment building in New York. (July 24, 2013) Credit: AP

A UCLA study reported last week that sex addiction may not be a real disorder.

Then the other shoe dropped for Anthony Weiner.

The California university says brain scans in self-described sex addicts don't light up the right way to meet the addiction model. Well, Weiner sure seemed lit up during his online chats, although he's never claimed to be an addict and the screen shots exposed on were not of his hypothalamus.

But what else but addiction can explain Weiner's behavior? After all he went through two years ago -- excruciating public humiliation and the loss of his congressional career -- he went back and did the exact same thing. It's beyond understanding . . . unless you've known an addict.

I've spent a fair amount of time around addicts, because I'm a long recovering one myself. Not a sex addict -- I lack the energy for that -- but a substance one. Drugs sidelined me as a teen in the 1970s, and booze when I was in my 20s and 30s.

It's a baffling thing, addiction. It makes otherwise rational people -- people who have will power in other areas of their lives -- do the most self-destructive things again and again. They often don't even enjoy their behaviors.

Scientists like those at UCLA may need to measure each compulsion independently, but anyone who's addressed an addiction of any kind has to feel empathy for Wiener, as unlikable as he can be politically.

Sure it's titillating to see an arrogant politician twist in the wind -- between Weiner and former-governor current-comptroller-candidate Eliot Spitzer, the German word schadenfreude is having a busy year -- but there's a tragedy unfolding before all of our eyes and it would be inhumane to ignore it.

I think it's safe to say that Weiner's political comeback is over for now, but that doesn't mean it's been pointless. It's demonstrated to millions of people the insane power of compulsion, and maybe some good can come of that.

What Weiner needs to decide now is when to call it quits as a candidate. He clearly needs more help before resuming his professional ambitions, and the sooner he gets it the better.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.