Sex addiction is a term widely used, nowadays, some people think its just an excuse for cheating or risky behaviour. In fact, to me, it is a short-hand term for any unwanted, compulsive sexual behaviour that feels out of control. It doesn’t really matter what we call it. If a client comes to me and wants to change or remove behaviour that has become harmful to their life and they are struggling to stop, I will work with them to do that. We may call it sex addiction, but does that mean the person is an addict?
When we think of the word ‘addict’ – it conjures up images of someone who is not in control of their own actions, whether that’s drinking, taking drugs, gambling or having sex. In 12 step groups we learn that ‘once an addict, always an addict’ – we are faced with a lifetime of recovery and we are told to take it one day at a time. This prospect can reduce hope and seem so daunting that we avoid change. In fact, what’s happening is that we feel out of control and need to reclaim the driving seat in our own lives. I believe that goal has to feel achievable in order to find the courage to seek help and embark on recovery.
The definition of Addiction varies but here are some things to consider about the behaviour you want to eliminate from your life:
Feeling a lack of control
Repeated specific attempts to stop, which fail
Significant amounts of time lost doing and/or recovering
Continuation, despite negative consequences (finances, relationship, health, family)
A need to make the behaviour more intense, more frequent, or more risky
Stopping causes distress, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, or physical discomfort
It’s a very individual situation. Some of us can embark on recovery early on and recover completely and some have to be vigilant for the rest of our lives and gain some control over our behaviour every day. Unless you seek help and support – you will never know where you are on the spectrum of recovery. Throughout our lives we grow and change, find new ways to survive and access new resources to give us the inner strength to thrive and also meet people who support us and inspire us. How can we know whether our struggle will be a lifelong one or not unless we start?
Identifying the behaviour we want to stop will help to define how we want to live our lives in the future. It might be that the behaviour has caused consequences in our lives that harm ourselves or others and we need to salvage and repair the damage. Stopping unwanted behaviour for someone else may seem like a good idea, but ultimately, we must do it for ourselves first. Committing to recovery is a key stage in getting the new life you deserve.
Part of that commitment will be looking forward to a positive future. In order to change patterns of behaviour, it is essential to ensure other areas of our lives are healthy. Having a healthy brain can speed up the creation of new neural pathways and that means looking at your diet and lifestyle too.