Many people try hard to stop their sex addict behavior but can’t seem to get any “traction,” as they often put it.  They may go for a few days, a week or a month without engaging in their sexually addictive behavior but then they fall back into it.

This can be equally true for people who are trying to quit any of the sexually addictive behaviors such as internet porn, exhibitionism, affairs, prostitutes, cybersex and so on.

They are committed to recovery, they see a sex addiction therapist, go to meetings regularly and try to use all the tools of recovery (journaling, group support, phone calls) but they just can’t stay sexually “sober.”

Could part of the problem be as simple as mistakes in the way they are thinking about sexual sobriety?

The 3 Errors in Thinking

Error Number 1:

“I need something to put in place of my addictive behavior or else I can’t quit.”

This sounds logical but it is actually magical thinking.  The 12-step programs do suggest a three tiered approach to behavior, (the “three circles”) the good, the slippery and the bad (addictive) behaviors.  The good behavior is that which supports recovery and enhances life like social/recreational and recovery related activities.

So some addicts put the emphasis on finding the right “healthy” activities to put in place of the sexually addictive behavior, like playing golf or listening to music.

The trouble is that these activities are not going to substitute for their addictive behavior.  People can become obsessed with finding the right “alternative” activities; the ones that will magically make them not want their addiction. 

But in fact nothing can just take the place of sexual acting out.  Believing that the key is in finding a substitute for sexually addictive behaviors in effect places abstinence out of reach.

Error Number 2:

“God will give me a sign.”

There is nothing wrong with feeling that your higher power, God or the universe guides you in a way.  The trouble comes when people start making deals with God.

The deal is often in the form of believing that somehow “God will bring into my life that which has been missing, and then I will know that I can let go of my addiction.”

The thing that has been missing is very often the ability to sustain a healthy intimate relationship with a desirable partner.  So the logic goes that God will put the right man or the right woman in my life and that is when I can be healed.

This is impossible because until you let go of your addiction and become stronger and healthier there is no way that you will be ready for that right person even if they were to show up.  This faulty logic means that without the “sign” from God, you  actually have permission to keep being an addict!

Error Number 3:

“I can’t endure the feelings of emptiness, boredom and anxiety.”

This is simply not true. Feelings of loneliness, depression, apprehension and even desperation are part of the experience of withdrawal from compulsive sexual acting out behavior.  This error involves mistaking the perfectly natural process of drug withdrawal for a dire emergency.

The withdrawal process is time limited and will run its course.  It is not something you need to do anything about (although it’s a good idea to talk about the experience with support people.)

Unless you understand and accept the necessity of the experience of withdrawal you will stay stuck in the pattern of quitting, experiencing negative feelings and backsliding into addictive behavior.

Correct thinking means you “embrace the void”

All of these errors in thinking involve the denial of the basic fact that letting go of sexually addictive behavior is frightening and difficult.  These errors involve believing in what recovery people call a “softer, easier way.”

There is no question that there is a period of emptiness when we give up our addiction, our old friend.  But accepting the empty space, the scary void, allows us to learn to tolerate distress and get past it.  The void is our new friend.  It makes room for new joys, a new life, and a new love.

 


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    Last reviewed: 15 Oct 2012

APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2012). 3 False Beliefs That Keep You Sexually Addicted. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex-addiction/2012/10/3-false-beliefs-that-keep-you-sexually-addicted/

 




Check Out Linda Hatch's books,
Relationships in Recovery & Living with a Sex Addict.


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