I didn’t even know my problem had a name – all I knew was that I couldn’t control my sexual behavior. For me, sex had become all consuming; a way of life. I kept reverting to the same behaviors, even though the consequences (for me and my family) kept getting worse.
Her demeanor certainly became more severe over time. Issues I’ve heard others talk about as well, such as: rampant sexual behavior, high levels of promiscuity, compulsive masturbation, excessive use of both legal and illegal Internet pornography, use of chat rooms and dating sites, multiple anonymous sexual… Encounters, exhibitionism, sex work… and much more.
Sex addiction is a shame-based condition. Most sex addicts use the powerful allure of sex to escape the toxic feelings they experience from shame; and in that way, sex addiction is not unlike other addictions. What sex addicts do is use sex in the same way others use alcohol or drugs, gamble, or overeat. We do it to survive the unbearable. We get high on it; to reach almost trance-like states or stasis where we can tune out our difficult feelings.
When I first went to a sex addiction recovery group, I discovered that my sex addiction is a disease. It helped me tremendously to know that it was an illness that had affected my mind, body and spirit; that it wasn’t my fault.
Discovering that I was not alone was a liberating experience for me. It is a great comfort and relief to know that the recovering sex addict community exists and that we have someone to turn to when things get difficult. I never thought I would sit in a room full of strangers and say the words “I’m a sex addict” – but then others did and I listened. And as they shared their own experiences and talked about how progressive this disease can be, I knew I was in the right place.
In the meetings I attended and led by other members, I gradually emerged from my shame, secrecy and fear and became part of a community that has a common goal: freedom from sexual coercion. One of the big problems for all addicts is isolation. By joining a group of people like me, I had begun to move from isolation to community—and eventually recovery.
Paradoxically, my first meeting was a liberating experience – meeting others like me and hearing their stories. It didn’t seem to matter that I didn’t identify with everyone’s behavior. But it was clear that we all had a common problem. I was amazed to find other people who had the same sex addiction challenges as I did.
There are no professional outside moderators, but I’ve seen people speak honestly and openly about their own problems, and I felt like I could speak openly about myself. It was nice to know that we met as equals; A sex addict helps another. The goal? To achieve sexual sobriety and practice a new way of life.
Due to the sensitive nature of sex addiction and societal views about it, the meetings I go to regularly are “closed” – they are only for those who wish to end addictive sexual behavior. I feel more secure knowing that the practice of anonymity and confidentiality is so respected. It’s a relief. I only have to use my first name and everything I say is confidential.
video of the day
Early on I got a temporary sponsor – a fellow traveler in the community – who had been abstinent from addictive sexual behavior for some time and who was able to guide me through what he had learned. The program I went to (SAA, although others are available) is based on the 12 Steps and 12 Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Although the 12 Steps use the word “God” to describe a higher power or spiritual way of life, the community itself is not affiliated with any religion, belief or dogma. It simply offers a spiritual solution without specific beliefs and practices.
I had wondered how I would define the specific behaviors I wanted to stay away from. At AA, it seems clear: people just want to stop drinking. So how do you keep yourself from having sex?
After all, as humans we need to eat, and we arguably “need” to be sexual – so instead I’ve learned to define what is “unhealthy” and “healthy” sexual behavior for me as an individual. I found it fairly easy to isolate the things I kept repeating. I knew what my behavior was jeopardizing: my health, my work, my freedom, my relationships—even my life. Yet, it still feels like a paradox that these severe negative consequences weren’t enough to stop me from going it alone.
What I learned was that sex addicts come from all walks of life: young and old, gay, straight, bisexual or asexual, cis, non-binary or transgender – and so many other combinations. We come from all ethnic and religious backgrounds.
Some of us have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse during childhood. Others grew up in families where addictions were already thriving: like codependency, alcoholism, eating disorders, workaholism, and sex addiction itself.
We are not bad, nor incorrigible. Many of us struggle with a poor self-image. The media and society sometimes view excessive sexual behavior as distorted and perverse, when the reality is that sex addiction is a long-term condition that needs to be treated.
While most people think sex addiction is about sex, it’s not. It’s about deep feelings of worthlessness and shame. It’s about bad bonding experiences in childhood, about rejection and abandonment. It’s about our inability to use the healthy methods of self-soothing that others have learned when confronted with stress and negative emotional experiences.
At the meetings I go to, I respectfully listen to what others are saying and then share my own experiences. I’m learning not to judge people or to tell someone what to do or to solve other people’s problems. And I’m now starting to live a healthy and comfortable life that I never had when I was “acting out”. I keep in touch with friends and other species, do voluntary work, pursue my passions and live my values.
Learning that I have a sex addiction — and being able to say it out loud and then seek help — has really changed my life: for the better.
https://www.independent.ie/style/sex-relationships/i-never-thought-i-would-sit-in-a-room-full-of-strangers-and-say-the-words-i-am-a-sex-addict-42020081.html I never thought I’d be sitting in a room full of strangers and saying “I’m a sex addict”