Sexual Sobriety vs. Sexual Abstinence

I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

Sexual addicts in the early stages of recovery and healing typically have little to no idea what the term “sexual sobriety” actually means. We worry that sexual sobriety mirrors chemical sobriety, where permanent abstinence is the goal. Many of us ask our therapist or sponsor some form of the following question: “Will I ever have a healthy, regular sex life, or do I have to give up sex forever?” This question is usually followed by a statement like: “If I have to give up sex permanently, then you can forget about me staying in recovery.” And who can fault us for this? The good news is that unlike sobriety for alcoholism and drug addiction, sexual sobriety is not defined by long-term abstinence. Instead, recovering sex addicts view sobriety much as it is handled with eating disorders – another area in which long-term abstinence is simply not feasible. Instead of permanently abstaining from all sexual activity, we learn to be sexual in non-compulsive, non-problematic, life-affirming ways. For us, that is sobriety.

Just for Today
Make a list of sexual activities you enjoy that do not cause problems in your life and are therefore not part of your addiction. Share this list with your partner, if you have one. If you don’t, share it in therapy, in a 12-step meeting, or with a friend in recovery.