Misdiagnosing Sex Addiction

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God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

Unfortunately for sex and porn addicts, the process of locating a qualified treatment specialist is not always easy. For starters, a basic understanding of sex and porn addiction is not a standard part of the training for most psychotherapists. As such, sex and porn addicts sometimes encounter therapists who are unfamiliar with compulsive sexual behavior but knowledgeable about various related and co-occurring issues – most notably depression and anxiety. These clinicians often correctly diagnose and treat these secondary issues while never quite touching on the addict’s primary problem, the addiction, simply because they don’t know how to diagnose or address it. It is actually relatively easy for therapists who are not trained to deal with compulsive sexual behavior to misidentify the issue as a mood disorder or an early-life trauma reaction.

Task for Today
Ask a therapist (yours or just someone you know) what he or she knows about sex and porn addiction. Has that therapist received training/certification for treating compulsive sexual behaviors?

Step Eight: It’s for You, Not Them

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The first step in forgiveness is the willingness to forgive.

For many recovering sex and porn addicts the second half of Step 8 – becoming willing to make amends – is incredibly difficult. And when we think about it, this is perfectly natural. After all, most of the people who show up on our amends list have, at some point, behaved badly toward us, making it very easy for us to seize upon their wrongdoings as a way to excuse our own poor behavior. If we find ourselves doing that, we needn’t beat ourselves up over it. Instead, we can simply recognize our feelings and remind ourselves that Step 8 is not about them, it’s about us. We are working the 12 Steps for our recovery, not theirs.

Task for Today
Ask yourself if you are making changes in life to further your recovery or to get on the ‘good side’ of others.

Broken Picker Syndrome

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A good relationship is about finding the right person, and also being the right person.

Sex and porn addicts share certain characteristics. One of these common traits is that we are often drawn to people who are not available to us, or who would reject or abuse us. It may be that we’ve compartmentalized sex to the degree that we cannot allow it to mix with emotional intimacy or other forms of healthy connection. It may be that our self-esteem is so damaged that we search out only the people we think we deserve. It may be that we are subconsciously repeating patterns of neglect and abuse that we learned in childhood as a way to take control of them (even though they’re long in the past and therefore can’t be controlled). Whatever the reason, our ‘pickers’ are broken, and we’ll need to do quite a bit of work in therapy and with our 12-step sponsor to overcome this deficit. The good news is this type of healing and recovery is possible if we put in the effort. We really can find the mutually loving, prodependent relationship we’ve been hoping for.

Just for Today
Put your romantic life on hold while you figure out and correct the flaws in your approach.

Does Technology Fuel Your Addiction?

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

As both scientific research and anyone who’s been in 12-Step sexual recovery meetings for more than a few years can attest, with every advance in digital technology, more and more people are challenged by sex and porn addiction. Consider that studies conducted in the 1980s (pre-internet) suggest that 3 to 5% of the adult male population was sexually addicted. By 1999, still the very early days of internet usage, that percentage had approximately doubled, to 8.5%. Today, though we don’t have an updated percentage from researchers, it is clear that sex and porn addictions continue to escalate. Stated simply, as digital technology has increased our highly affordable, mostly anonymous, nearly instant access to potentially addictive sexual imagery, activity, and partners, sex and porn addiction have become more problematic and widespread. Today, it would be difficult to find even one sex or porn addict who hasn’t been involved in some way with online sexuality.

Task for Today
Consider installing ‘parental control software’ on your digital devices. Ask your therapist and sponsor if they think this might be helpful.

Sexual Attraction in a Recovery Setting

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To overcome, one must stay focused on the goal and outcome, not the momentary distractions.

Unsurprisingly, many sex and porn addicts new to recovery find themselves romantically and/or sexually attracted to people in their therapy group or their 12-Step recovery group. This is the addiction fighting back, trying to take control once again. It is important for recovering sex and porn addicts to not act on these feelings. A much better option is to discuss the attraction with someone who is not involved, usually the therapy group facilitator or a 12-Step sponsor, though anyone who is actively involved in sexual recovery will do. Eventually, these feelings of attraction pass, and we are always glad we did not act on them.

Task for Today
Be honest with your therapist and sponsor about your current sexual attraction(s).

Climb the Mountain

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The greater the obstacle, the more glory there is in overcoming it.

In a lot of ways, life is a mountain. It’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s got all sorts of wonderful hidden surprises. It can also be treacherous. You’ve got rocks, ravines, mud, weather, and all sorts of other completely unexpected obstacles to overcome. The trick to succeeding in life and in recovery is not just appreciating the mountain but mastering it. But how does one master the mountain? The answer is simple: You develop new skills, and you learn to use those skills in ways that help you not only survive but thrive. That is the crux of recovery. We learn a skill for staying sober, we practice it, we master it, and then we learn another skill for staying sober. Before we know it, we’ve got a great big set of skills we can turn to whenever we feel challenged.

Task for Today
Accept and implement a recovery-focused suggestion you have heard repeatedly but resisted. In so doing, you will learn a new skill for staying sober.