When people recover from a problem with substance abuse they typically give up whatever drug they are addicted to for good. They can safely live without alcohol, marijuana or any other mind altering chemical for the rest of their lives. However, when it comes to other types of addictions like sex addiction the issue is a little more complicated.
While substances like alcohol or other drugs are not natural and healthy parts of our lives, sex is something that human beings need. The definition of recovery for a sex addict does not mean completely abstaining from sex permanently. It is more subtle and has to do with behavior, motivation and the person’s own relationship to sex.
People in recovery from sex addiction need to learn different patterns of behavior and ways of thinking that can help minimize their addictive tendencies. They may not be able to completely abstain from their addiction but they can take steps to gain more control over their actions. Mental and spiritual recovery is necessary for a sex addict to learn to have a more healthy attitude toward sex.
How Sex Addiction Recovery Works
Although a person with an addiction to sex does not have to be completely sober from their problem for the rest of their lives, it can be helpful to take some time away as they work on treatment. Most treatment experts recommend a temporary period of complete abstinence that will help the individual focus on what they need to redefine their issues with sex. The period of abstinence can help them experience life again without looking at everything through the lens of sex as an addict tends to do.
After a few months of complete abstinence and working hard in their treatment center or recovery group, the addict can begin to reintroduce sex into their lives. However, it is important that they continue to abstain from the kind of sex that would cause them problems. Whatever issue was addictive for them is something they need to stay away from such as casual sexual encounters, anonymous sex or certain kinds of pornography.
Sex addiction recovery can be very different from alcohol and drug recovery because it is very personal and depends on the individual’s own boundaries that they need to define for themselves. Each person might have a different problem behavior and only they know what type of sexual situation becomes addictive for them. Knowing their own triggers and what makes them act compulsively is key in figuring out how to change their sexual behavior.
People need to have healthy sexual outlets and those in addiction recovery need to figure out what works best for them. In an intimate and trusting relationship, sex can be a healthy and positive part of life. Those in sex addiction recovery are still encouraged to date and have sexual relationships that they can manage without it negatively interfering with their life.
Embracing and Not Avoiding Relationships
One of the realities of sex addiction is that people with this problem have issues with intimacy. They might use avoidance strategies that prevent them from having close relationships with others because they fear being vulnerable. This fear of intimacy often creates their addiction and it is important that they learn how to date and develop a close connection with others.
Purposefully avoiding sex in a relationship can actually be damaging to a sex addict because it perpetuates their fear of intimacy. That sense of closeness in a relationship can feel like overexposure to a sex addict who keeps sex anonymous and casual. Their intimacy problems create dysfunction in their lives and sex within the context of a loving and close relationship can actually be helpful for their personal issues.
Recovery from any addiction is about well-being and not simply just avoiding the addiction. In order to be healthy or mentally and spiritually well, sex addicts need love, intimacy and closeness with a romantic partner. It may take time and a lot of work in treatment to get to that point but it is crucial to their recovery.
Throughout the process of recovery from a sex addiction it is important for people to have a support group that they attend regularly or a treatment program that can help guide them through the changes they are going through. Because sex addiction is more complex than substance addiction, addicts need plenty of support and advice from mentors, therapists and experts who understand how to help them recover. Sex addiction treatment can be healing and life changing for people who have seen their own compulsive behavior become destructive and damaging to their personal lives.
If you or someone you know is struggling with a sex addiction, find a local treatment center that offers residential or outpatient care for recovery.