Being a good friend can be a serious challenge for all addicts. Drug addicts and alcoholics may have “drug buddies” or “drinking buddies,” and sex addicts have acting out (sexual) partners. But addicts are intimacy challenged and avoid closeness, often being isolated except for their work relationships or immediate family.
Sex addicts tend to have a narcissistic defense system, a façade of grandiosity which covers a deeper feeling of unworthiness. The result is that they don’t easily feel safe with anyone. They tend to feel that everyone is either superior or inferior to them and so they avoid taking even the initial steps that might result in a deeper friendship.
We think of addicts as supremely self-indulgent, and sex addicts especially so. But every sex addict has an opposite tendency toward self deprivation. In their acting out behavior sex addicts are selfish, reckless, deceitful and often rebellious. They are usually repeating patterns of behavior that reflect traumatic experiences from early life. Sometime these were experiences of sexual trauma but often there were other stressful experiences that have become sexualized along the way.
Sex addiction is known to be a disease of extremes. Sex addicts swing between out-of-control behavior and over-controlled behavior in an ineffective effort to bring balance to their lives.
Where does compulsive self-deprivation come from?
That’s a stunning quote from Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and regular TV commentator. It was striking to see addiction, violence and sex in one short sentence.
Since he said this the news broke about the recent murder/suicide by Kansas City Chief’s linebacker Jovan Belcher. And now more recently we are devastated by the unthinkable events in Newtown CT. In addition to the serious considerations about gun control there is reference made to our culture of violence. What is the psychology of this “culture of violence?” And what maintains it?
Mindfulness practice is an important part of all addiction recovery but it is even more important in sex addiction recovery.
In staying away from drugs and alcohol there are often specific external triggers that can be avoided. This is a way to keep the addict’s mind from facing the choice to give in to the urge.
But in sex addiction there are not only external triggers, driving through the strip club neighborhood, browsing on the internet, etc. but there are powerful internal triggers as well.
Many recovering alcoholics and drug addicts have problems with their sexual and relationship life. Even though they have been in 12-step recovery, they may still have problems with intimate relating.
They may have great difficulty following through with relationships and instead go for repeated seductions in which they use the feeling of falling in love as a substitute high. Other recovering chemical dependency people become sexually compulsive with online hook-ups or internet pornography as their new drug of choice. Still others have intense, high drama relationships in which they seek to control the other person out of fear. As they often say, “I don’t have relationships, I take prisoners.”
Recovering alcoholics and drug addicts may use denial mechanisms to avoid seeing their problems with intimacy and sexuality. When we talk about being “in denial” what we mean is that the addict is using one or more habitual ways of thinking about a situation which serve to eliminate the need to take the situation seriously or to do anything about it.
Many sex addicts try therapy first. Although it may be appropriate for some sexual problems, conventional forms of psychotherapy alone don’t address sexual addiction effectively. It has long been understood that addictions in general- drugs, alcohol, gambling and so on- are different and require “treatment.”
Treatment vs. therapy
What’s the difference? In the simplest terms, therapy is more about insight into why you do certain things and feel certain ways; treatment is more about “follow these instructions and complete these tasks and you’ll end up in a better place.” Treatment often takes place in programs and most of them use a range of inter-disciplinary of interventions.
But both treatment and therapy can take place in any setting from an outpatient therapist’s office to a residential treatment program. Certified sex addiction therapists practice “treatment” in their private practices. So when I refer to “therapy” I’m talking about the traditional kinds of therapy that do not deal specifically with sex addiction.
Here are some reasons to try treatment first
Writing is a hugely important tool for those in recovery from chemical dependency, sex addiction and for emotional growth and recovery in general. Writing about yourself is a form of self-care but it is much more. In addiction treatment, it is a systematic set of exercises for self-exploration. Here are some reasons why you must do the written tasks of treatment and make writing a part of your recovery practice.