I think I have a Sexual Addiction, now what?

Jan 13, 2014

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It takes a lot of courage to admit to having a sexual addiction. However, before accepting that you are addicted to sex, let’s look at some of the indicator of  addiction. 

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

-Act out sexually, even though you don’t want to?

-Feel an overwhelming compulsive drive that feels like it is beyond your control?

-Take risks that could cost your family, job, or create legal problems?

-Act out in ways that are progressively getting worse (e.g. you need more intense experiences, frequency is increasing, the way you act out is beyond what you thought you would ever do).

If you answered "yes" to these questions, you have symptoms that fit with most addictions.

So now what?

First, please understand that recovery is possible. Over the years, I have discovered that believing change is possible is one of the most important elements of change. Individuals stuck in the belief that they can’t change feel helpless and hopeless and do not put in the effort required for real recovery.

Second, by admitting or acknowledging that you need help is a big first step. This step gives you a chance to change your life and may feel very liberating. Unloading the heavy weight of living a double life is freeing. This step often brings with it a sense of being vulnerable to others. Many people in recovery say, “After all, what if I can’t make it or I keep slipping up, others will judge me.” Fortunately, those who learn about the steps of recovery realize that that fear subsides when they are around people “in” recovery who are making progress. Being vulnerable and admitting mistakes is a huge step towards healing and long-term recovery.

Third, people who truly engage in the recovery process discover the value of doing some internal house cleaning. In other words, they take stock of their life. They look critically at themselves and their history of where they have been and where they want to go. Regarding this idea, Paul Wilkes, author of "The Art of Confession" wrote, “We need honest self-reflection and self-appraisal. We can summon this sort of confession; our deepest self seeks it.” Owning an addiction, sharing fears and concerns with others, talking about a painful history of neglect, loneliness, or abuse all elicit a healing power.  Dr. David Viscott once summed up the healing power of honest self-reflection when he wrote, “If you lived honestly, your life would heal itself.”   

Fourth, true healing almost always includes reaching out and letting others help you. People in recovery learn to reach out to others through attending 12-step groups, getting a sponsor, telling a close friend or family member, and/or discussing their challenges with a spiritual leader. Researchers have found that regular attendance in 12-step groups is one of the primary behaviors of individuals who succeed in recovery. If you genuinely want to change, let others help you through this difficult time.

Fifth, become an expert on your addiction. A wise man once  said, “Knowledge is power.” There is nothing easy about overcoming an addiction, which is why understanding addiction and the recovery process can be empowering. Learning how people recover can be very motivating.  Addiction recovery doesn’t happen by itself, it requires gaining knowledge and applying that information over time. To get started, you might read books on sexual addiction, get involved in your local 12-step program, and attend educational classes on addiction. Once you understand addiction and how people heal, you won’t be as intimidated by the recovery process.

Sixth, you are going to need to develop new habits. If you take addiction out of your life you will need to replace it with something else. In addition, you will need to establish new habits for times when you would generally give in to the addiction. For example, if you view pornography late at night, being in that same environment is a habit that will need to change or you won’t succeed. All places where you relapse are places of risk. If you understand when and where you typically relapse, you can then develop new patterns for each of those contexts. This follows the recovery pattern of alcoholics who can’t drive down A Street because that is where the bar is located. Where’s your A Street? And which street will you drive down instead?

Seventh, as you start down the path toward recovery, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult. It takes time and effort and it can be discouraging. However, remember that many have gone before you and they are succeeding. They have had to pay the price that you are going to pay. Recovery wasn’t easy for them, but they will tell you that as they have worked the process--it was definitely worth the effort.

Best regards as you move towards your healing and recovery.