So….You think you are a sex addict (or, you have a spouse or loved one who you believe is).
You do some research and realize that you have the symptoms of sex addiction. For instance:
- Unmanageability via seeking out sexual partners, sex with strangers, escorts, prostitutes, compulsive infidelity, strip clubs, porn, during times when you should be working, at family functions, studying for school, or enjoying time with your partner or children
- Preoccupation: Sex is all you think about all day long. The minute you wake up your trolling porn sites, seeking out people to hook up with, sex chatting
- You feel a high when you go into your ritual phase (i.e., seeking out your “sex drug”) similar to that of a cocaine addict seeking their next fix
- You feel excitement before and complete and utter despair after you act out, so much so that at times you consider killing yourself
- You seek riskier and riskier sexual highs (encounters, porn sites, etc) to achieve the same dopamine hit
- You can’t stop. You have tried, you have white knuckled it, you have prayed about it, you have sworn to yourself, your spouse that you will never do it again. But You. Can’t. Stop. The “sex drug” is too hard to kick
You look at the wealth of research out there nowadays that shows that indeed sex addiction exists, that it is a brain disease that impacts the same pleasure centers in the brain as cocaines and other behavior addictions.
You reach out to a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist who is specifically trained to evaluate and treat sexual addiction, including the underlying issues often associated with sexual addiction (i.e., shame, trauma, attachment issues, intimacy issues, emotional dysregulation).
You attend your first session, are impressed with the evaluative process, and feel a sense of hope that change is possible.
But when you get home, life continues to life, your anxiety is through the roof, and you want to get your “sex fix.” This is normal as your brain will continue to go back to the same coping that you have used until you begin to create new neural networks that embody recovery based tools.
So what is it that you need to fully recover from sex addiction? Better yet, what is the BEST way to actually kick your maladaptive coping via sex so that you can have a fulfilling and satisfying emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and sexual relationship with yourself and your spouse or partner?
Here is how:
1. By committing to yourself that you will embrace the recovery process, no matter how hard, challenging, frustrating, or utterly exhausting it may be at times. This may seem easy-peasy but it is incredibly hard to commit to YOU. Your schedule has to change so that recovery is at the forefront not on the back burner. You can’t keep your schedule the same and half-ass recovery. It doesn’t work that way. You must commit to you healing!
2. By attending weekly individual therapy and weekly group therapy. Research shows that the top three things that individuals with sexual addiction need to achieve lasting recovery is individual therapy, group therapy, and a 12-Step Meeting (see #3). Many people, men especially, cringe at the idea of group therapy. However, of the men who attend consistently they end up saying they absolutely love the support and unconditional positive regard they feel from their male peers. You wold be amazed at the camaraderie, accountability, and positive modeling that occurs in male sexual recovery groups.
3. By attending a 12-Step or Mindfulness Based Recovery Support Group (i.e, Refuge Recovery) I will be honest, as an avid meditator and mindfulness based practitioner, I love Refuge Recovery’s approach. This free group is great for men and women with any addiction who struggle with the traditional 12-Step approach.
4. Being patient with yourself and your partner! Your partner is not going to trust you for awhile. This is something you have earned (I know, hard pill to swallow). In time, however, if you are working your program consistently, she or he will notice the changes and trust will begin to grow). You are going to be frustrated with yourself when you lapse or relapse. This is a normal part of the recovery process. What we are looking for is frequency, intensity and duration. You will start to notice that as you embrace and implement your new recovery skills your acting out will decrease as well as how long your acting out lasts and how “intense” it is.
5. Being open to diving deeper into the issues that ultimately led you to cope via compulsive sexual acting out. With an addiction, it is crucial to learn tools for identifying triggers, cycle, thinking errors so that one can intervene. However, we must tackle the deeper issues for lasting healing. This can be incredibly scary, especially as most individuals with “traditional” sexual addiction (millennials typically present with some different elements associated with sexual addiction–“gen text”) have trauma, attachment issues and problems regulating difficult emotions.
6. Staying involved in recovery in some way shape or form long term. Complacency breeds relapse! Recovery looks different the more recovery time one has. For instance, in the beginning of recovery, attending more treatment is essential to gain traction in one’s recovery along with achieving the structure and support one needs to maintain lasting change. The brain needs time to create new neural networks. As time goes by, one may not need a traditional 12-Step group but they may instead attend weekly yoga class and meditate every day. They may exercise daily, write an intention and gratitude journal every night, and have a schedule that is balanced. They may work with their partner in couples therapy to explore a sexual template that both can agree upon and embrace.
7. Your spouses/partner attends treatment too. Don’t forget that your spouse/partner has experienced immense trauma as a result of your addiction and subsequent consequences. We often hear partners express their frustration at all the support their spouse (addict) receives while they are at home managing both of their lives. Partners have been through the ringer as a result of your betrayal and they too need the support of a CSAT therapist in individual therapy and group so that they too can heal with you (if you choose to stay together). If only one person goes to treatment, the likelihood of the relationship struggling down the road is significant.
If you believe you or your parter has a sex addiction, there is hope for recovery. I have seen some of the most challenging situations with couples where betrayal was through the roof. However, both the addict and partner embarked on the recovery process to where they were able to heal together and enjoy intimacy and sex like never before. Recovery IS possible if both are willing to work to heal!
As always, you are so worth it including long term recovery, healthy and passionate sex and intimacy, and life itself!