Help for Sex Addicts:

What is Sexual Addiction?

by Erik Bohlin, M.A.

How do you know if you have sexual addiction? 

The simplest and best answer is. . . when it becomes a problem.  The problem is that we deceive ourselves into thinking that it isn't a problem.  It may be a problem for those around us.  Another way to think about it is that the "disease" itself tricks us into to thinking that it is not a problem and that we can control it.  

Have you hurt someone you love by "acting out" sexually and yet keep on doing it? Have you made promises to stop but have been unable to keep them?   Does there seem to be a need or force "making" you do this?  Compulsion is one of the signs of any addiction whether it is alcohol, substance abuse, gambling, overeating or work.  The compulsion feels so strong because of the needs beneath it.  The stronger the "sense of unmet needs," the stronger the compulsion.  The less strong the needs are, the weaker the compulsion to act out sexually.  Guys sometimes say, I just have a strong sex drive (almost proud of it).  Is this a good thing?  It is like being overweight and saying I have a strong appetite.  It is important to realize that the sex addiction is not about sex.  It is about unmet needs.  When sexaholics start to recover and meet those needs another way, the sex drive goes down.  They are usually amazed.

Has your sexual behavior caused you trouble?  This takes time to discover.  The addiction is so stealth-like that it comes into our lives in such as way, causes problems for us, and it doesn't feel like the depression, anxiety, trouble with money, people is anyway caused by the addiction.  We may be motivated to fix these things, but scratch our heads when the counselor says that we might want to look at the addiction itself as the root of all our troubles.  Sex addicts will will say that their loved ones are upset because "they found out."  Can it be the acting out, lying and broken promise that cause the pain and hurt?  I have heard many times the addict say, "if I tell my wife that I am sleeping with a prostitute, she will be really hurt and it will end the marriage."  We don't understand that it is the sleeping with a prostitute and lying about it that is hurting her and the marriage, not the telling about it.  We think, "what they don't know won't hurt them."

The addiction might be causing you pain, frustration and discomfort.  It may conflict with you moral values or religious beliefs, but you do it anyway.  You may have gone down a path where you have crossed legal lines and have gotten caught.  You might at this point admit that there is a problem.

Perhaps, you spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend is ready to leave you over your looking at pornography or chatting with someone online.  What do you do?  (to read more click here

So, how does one look honestly at all this?  Well, it takes time to discover what the addiction is doing to us.  What I mean by that is that you really don't know whether you have a sex addiction until it becomes a problem where you can't stand it any more.  You can look at check off lists, but one can remain in denial, which stands for "Don't Even kNow I Am Lying."  But if you are open to the truth, you can begin to see things more clearly and start to get well. 

Bottoming Out
Breaking down could be the beginning of a break through.

No one wants to admit defeat.  It seems to go against our natural instinct to give up.  This is a good thing if it is pointed in the right direction.  Giving up smoking.  Giving up bickering and fighting.  Giving up anxiety, fear and panic.  Giving up negative thinking.  Giving up a habit that is destroying us.

Giving up sexual addiction is perhaps the single most important thing you will do.  If you don't, consider the consequences.  The problem is we don't take into account what it does to us.  We want to be in denial and still use. 

"The truth shall set you free."  (John 8:32)

The truth maybe painful to face, but it will set us free.  Addiction is all about "not feeling."  A simple thing it is to take account of what something in our lives is doing for us  - positive or negative.  But we can't do it.  Sometimes we are forced to face the truth.  Maybe it is a loved one confronting us or we may find ourselves in legal or financial trouble because of the sex or porn addiction. 
(to read more click here)

"If you don't want to get burned, don't go near the fire"

" Can a man take fire to his bosom,
      And his clothes not be burned?
       Can one walk on hot coals,
      And his feet not be seared?"    
                                                                    Proverbs 6:27-28

How to Recover from Sexual Addiction without really trying

by Erik Bohlin, M.A.

Remember the movie, "How to Succeed in a Business without really trying?"  J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer climbs his way to the top of a company in a manner of a week using charm, relationships and basically faking his way through.  This 1961 musical of course has a happy ending where the problem is solved with everyone dancing and sing "the Brotherhood of Man."  Well, I am not talking about faking anything, nor am I talking about an easy path.  But I want to talk about the words, "without really trying."  Addicts try really hard not to act out.  The have tried too hard.   It is not that they have too little will power, oftentimes, they have too much.  They just can surrender.  They try to will all kinds of things into being.  They try to make everyone happy at times, try to be near temptation and and try not to act out while they are near it. 

Trying is a function of will power.  Will power doesn't work for addiction.  Trying or struggling is not a program of recovery.  Surrendering one's will is.  So what is the secret?  The secret is that for one to recover from lust, there is work, there are steps, there is a program to follow, but it does not involve trying.  "Trying" is problematic.  It is like "trying" to sit down in a chair.  You either sit in it or you don't.  You can't try, unless you have a capability issue, say like a physical disability.  But here is the scoop.  Even the person who wonders whether they can do something or not, eventually learns that they can or they can't.  If one says they can't stop lusting or acting out in their own strength, they surrender.  They stop trying.  They accept that it is stronger than them.  By doing this we attract God's grace.  By attracting God's grace we not only get sober, but we stay sober.  We learn that by letting go, we are able to hold onto to sobriety.  I apologize if this sounds like mumbo jumbo or word games, but let's consider this.  Have you heard the opposite lately?                  
                     (to read more click here)

"I Slipped Again."
"It is human to fall down, but it is demonic to not get back up again."           - Early Christian Saying

I have fallen and I can't get up

What do you do when you have fallen for the 50th time?  It seems that the harder you try, the worse it gets.  We tend to be creatures of habit, if you haven't noticed.  Just as we get stuck in our addiction, we may get stuck in the process of recovery.  Addicts tend to be stubborn, closed-minded and non compliant.  The problem is not with weak will.  It is a stubborn and strong will.  We can't let go.  We are like the child who is "independent"  and we will not let go and follow the directions given to us.  We are like the man who is caught in the fire in his house, who can hear his neighbors outside yelling to climb out the window.  But "by gosh, we know our own house!"  "Why are they telling me what to do?"  "I know my own house."  "I know how to get to the front door."  We don't heed the fact that we are in danger, there is so much smoke we can't see clearly and we are going to asphyxiate ourselves as we go the long way.  And the long way it is. 

What should we do?  We should listen to those around us who have made it out of the house alive.  The are living proof that there is a recovery plan that works.  It will work for us if, . . if we follow it.  The early Christian church had a saying:

"If you have picked yourself as a spiritual guide,. . . you have picked a fool." 

There is also a 12 step saying that says, is that "your best thinking got you here, and your best thinking can't get you out of this mess."   We need something vastly different to move into recovery and to avoid slipping.

Tenacity helps.  Steadfast.  Stubbornness works if it is channeled into surrender and consistency with the program.   Humility is key.

If we are in a burning house, we must understand that our life depends upon following directions and acting upon them.  This is not the time to make something up.  That is why fire departments for years have encouraged children and adults to learn "fire drills."  We learn where the nearest exit is, how to proceed, staying calm and taking account of everyone.

We must humble ourselves, by getting on our knees, crawling and listening for the voices calling to us from outside.  We are really in a smoky dark place dark and can't see the path ahead, but we can listen for directions.  Follow them immediately and you will get out alive.  Go your own way and you may be dead.

Here is are practical directions given by sponsors to their sponsees in sexual recovery that if followed will help get out.

1.  Go to 12 step meetings.

2.  Call your sponsor.

3.  To avoid a slip, avoid slippery persons, places and things.

4.  To not tempt yourself.

5.  Pray.  Pray.  Pray. 

6.  Work the 12 steps.

7.  Read recovery literature - Alcoholics Anonymous (the Big Book), Sexaholics Anonymous (the "White Book", The 12 steps and 12 traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous (aka "the 12 and 12)."

8.  Read the Bible.

9.  Let go of resentments and fears.

10.  Focus on your own recovery and not your spouse's.

"Wired for Sex"
How Understanding Neurophysiology can help you Recover from Sex Addiction

Do you feel like the no matter what you do, you still fail at keeping sexually sober?  There is some information that may be really important for you to know.  Consider the notion that there are times when you are doing really well and others where you seem to have little control.  What made the difference?  This question is not a rhetorical as it sounds.  This means for you to recover, you have to think about what keeps you sober. . . and what doesn't. 

Let us have simple lesson in how our nervous system works.  There is something called the Autonomic Nervous System.  This system is always functioning and helps us survive the stresses of life.  There are three divisions among the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS):  Sympathetic Nervous System (NS),  Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS),  and Enteric Nervous System (EN).

The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is activated when we experience danger.  It kicks in automatically to help us survive by raising our heartrate, our breathing, and our adrenaline.  It stops digestion, stops elimination, the blood leaves our extremities and goes to our core.  Hence, the term "break out into a cold sweat."    Our pupils dilate, the blood leaves our pre-frontal cortex (higher thinking) and goes to our survival center, the limbic system which is pretty binary.  It is "this"  or it is "that."  It is "fight" or it is "flight."  There is no continuum.   Our speech stops, "we are speechless." I remember the term "sympathetic" and what happens here by thinking I am sympathetic to someone running from a bear.  Parasympathetic Nervous System is like a "paramedic" to the rescue.  When we are rescued we calm down.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) is the "rest and digest" system.  We are calm, our blood goes to our extremities, arms and legs so that we can really relax and enjoy the warm sensation.  This is how the "mood ring" measures temperature to determine our mood, by how our circulation is in our body and how warm we are.  This is why we relax so well in a hot tub, a nice bath or enjoying the warmth of the sun.  In the PNS, we can digest our food properly, our sphincter muscles are relaxed we can eliminate waste.  Why is is so comforting to release urine.  Is it not just the emptying our our bladder. It is because our Parasympathetic Nervous System is activated.  Our pupils constrict and we have more blood flow to our cortex.  We can think better.  Our speech is engaged.  This is why we like to eat so much because it relaxes us.  Now think about acting out and how it relates to the PNS.

So how does this information help with sex addiction recovery?  Click here to continue the rest of the article. 

"This is not about achievement."
Understanding the pitfall of achievement, pride and trying to control the outcome. 

"Working the program" or "completing a step" or "taking a step"  can be misleading.  We experience the steps.  It is a good idea to "complete" the steps as thoroughly and completely as possible.  But the steps are not necessarily cut and dried.   In Step 1 you can complete the writing and read to a sponsor, therapist, or to a group. (you've done the step at least on the outside)  But, you might find that you really don't believe on the inside that you are powerless.  Anyone who goes back to acting out again obviously thinks that they can do just a little and it won't hurt them as they "can control it."  They can use it and not get harmed.  This is what a person needs to believe to allow them to go back.  Having a written a First Step is helpful to remind us of the damage it has caused.  I do not believe in the ritual of burning one's First Step in a fire, or shredding it or "giving it away" by reading it to a group.  It is something that one must keep close to remember what the addiction has done to them.  There is also no magic in burning anything.  

Steps Two and Three is about an belief (Step 2) and a decision (Step 3).  What are the practical steps in doing this?

I have people read these readings:  

1.  The AA big book (look for the step in the Chapter 5 or 6)
2.  12 steps and 12 traditions (the 12 X12) 
3.  Read the correspond step in this book The Little Red Book (if they have it)
4.  The White book from Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) (corresponding step)
5.  Step into Action (corresponding step) (yellow book)  

It looks like a lot of reading, but really it isn't.  It may be a few sentences in the "Big Book" (AA) and a chapter in the 12 X12 and White book.   After they read it, sometimes it is appropriate to do some writing.  There are writing guides.  But all these actions while they are good, may not constitute taking the step.  Yet, without them, it is hardly possible to get the information about step into the sponsee's thinking as they are not going to understand the attitude, nuance and spiritual action.   

Cancer is a great metaphor for recovering from addiction. 

Does anyone say they have achieved anything by taking the chemotherapy that is necessary to recover from cancer?  When people clap for the recovering cancer patient when they are free  from it for 5 years is it because they achieved anything?  The clapping is out of gratitude.   Pride is insidious and addicts mistakenly think that there is something to be proud of when they acquire sobriety and they should feel extreme shame when they "fail."  They should take responsibility for not taking the medicine.  This is the problem.  Procrastination, a major character flaw keeps many people from recovery and causes spiritual death.  Procrastination could be identified in Step 4, confessed in Step 5, released in Steps 6 and 7 and replaced by diligence.  The disease is a powerful one in that it make you not think you have it, and when you think you have it, you will be delayed in doing anything about.   Some early Christian saints declared "sloth" or procrastination as the head over other passions or sins.  Without diligence (the opposing virtue of sloth) you couldn't be saved because you would not be doing anything to save yourselves through seeking God.  You would have no urgency, no sense of need to repent.  

So keep on moving through the steps.  When you have done a "Step" whether it be Step 1, 4, 6 or 12, there is sense you now have a tool to help you cope with whatever comes your way.  This is why moving them without delay but thoroughly is important.  You can always return to revisit the.    The steps are a means to an ends.  While a good sponsor or therapist is going to cheer a person on in working their steps, we do realize that this is steps that attracts the Grace of God and it is the Grace of God that gets and keeps us sober.  

"Working Out vs. Acting Out"
Dealing with the physical side of addiction

We act out often because of the "physical release."  This is a whole body/mind experience.  We are self medicating through the use or rather misuse of our neuro-endocrine system of testosterone, endorphins, encephalins, adrenaline, oxytocin and vasopressin.  We are incredibly complex human beings, but out needs are pretty simple and the solutions to some complex problems are simple as well.  Exercise of the body has incredible effects on the nervous system and mood.  It benefits are numerous and many studies have help us really gain a great understanding to what is happening. 

Have you ever thought that your "acting out" was a form of exercise.  My goal isn't to get graphic or trigger anyone, but consider the experience of having exercised, just the right amount and how good you feel.  Now consider the experience of having acted out, (minus the guilt/shame/fear) and you might find that the experience is similar.  There are endorphins and encephalin that are released after these activities.  But acting out produces such problems it really doesn't work so well.  In fact, you might be linking or pairing feeling "bad" or "shame" with feeling good.  Not something you want to do.  Is it any wonder that people act out many times when they are lonely.  The bonding chemicals of "natural opiates," oxytocin and vasopressin are associated with sexuality.  So, there you have it.  We try to get to the chemicals by acting out.  But. . . couldn't we try to exercise a little.  It is not by accident that the ancient Christian church recommended physical labors and fasting at times to conquer lust.  These were not meant to be excessive as you might expect in some twisted Roman Catholic version by just a few people in the Middle Ages.  It was balanced, but Christian writers warned against too much fasting and labors could be harmful. 

Is going to the gym the best place to go?  Well, it depends on the situation.  This could be a trigger from some people.  Looking "too" good and being in too great of shape is probably part of the problem, but probably unlikely for most of us.  If you are not triggered by the gym or can work out at home, you can receive benefits from working out as little as three times a week for 20 minutes on a treadmill.  Check with you doctor about this and make sure it is okay to do this.  (What a silly thing that we all have to say to folks who might injure themselves.  It is a disclaimer--it is like saying exercise is dangerous to one's health).  It is more likely that acting out or sitting on a couch is more harmful to us than exercise. 

If you get the right amount of exercise of you, aerobic, weight bearing, stretching, etc, the proper nutrition and rest, you will find a good combination that will help you feel much better.  I know a gentleman who felt that he was getting a high from working out-that it replaced his "high" from his addiction.   He had gotten sober and stayed sober by the Grace of God in the 12 step program.  Funny thing, he really didn't feel that good until he got into nutrition and exercise.  He said if kind of triggered him in the sense it was like his old acting out days.  The afterglow of working out would last hours -- with no guilt.  This is probably not going to solve the whole addiction itself, but it is typically an essential part.