by Micheal Bowen & r & & r & I Am a Sex Addict & r & The cover photo of this DVD isn't very racy, but someone had turned it toward the wall anyway. Happens all the time, according to the Blockbuster clerk: "Anything provocative, they'll try to cover it up," she said.

Lord, save us from self-righteous censors. Because the people who might learn most from watching I Am a Sex Addict (Not Rated) just might be the ones most in denial about their sexual urges.

Why assume that a movie with a title like this glamorizes sex? Filmmaker Caveh Zahedi, by fictionalizing his own life, uncovers the tawdriness of addiction: nervous dickering with bored prostitutes, quick blowjobs in parking lots. Just to get his orgasmic high, Zahedi degrades himself in all kinds of ways. He's like a crackhead who smokes with his penis.

While narrating his own life on camera, he grins and gapes, as if amazed and amused by the risky stupidities of his life. Zahedi -- rather a homely little putz, you wonder what the wives and girlfriends saw in him -- admits that he's not a very good actor, even when re-enacting events he himself lived through. (At one point, he plays an audiotape of himself crying.) He distances himself from his own life (quirky animation, analysis of his own most embarrassing moments). And yet reality has a way of intruding: The actresses he hires to portray his wives and girlfriends themselves turn out, in real life, to be promiscuous, prudish, addicted -- reflections of himself.

Sex Addict has its flaws, of course. Just because Zahedi is honest about his mistreatment of women doesn't make it right. And the DVD's extras -- three making-of sequences -- are self-indulgent, gratuitous, not worth watching.

The final, hopeful sequence, however -- a Steadicam look at an addict's having (mostly) stifled his problem and (mostly) making something constructive out of his life -- has sentimental impact, even for a guy (like Zahedi himself) who can't cry convincingly.

Addicts, essentially, are optimists: They're sure the next high will be the best yet. Zahedi learns to replace hope for a great fix with hope for a better future, free of compulsions.

I Am a Sex Addict is quite funny in spots, sobering in others, and far from being immoral. People shouldn't turn their backs on it.

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