People seeking help for sex addiction are anxious to see the light at the end of the tunnel. They are often stunned when I tell them that, even for those who are diligent and motivated, the whole process takes about 3 to 5 years.
Some practitioners might say that, like alcoholism, sex addiction is a chronic condition requiring continuous treatment for life to prevent relapse. I don’t think this is always the case. As I have argued elsewhere I believe that sex addiction recovery is possible and lasting. At some point people can say “I am a recovered sex addict”.
And yet the actual process of getting to that point of solid and reliable recovery seems to take a determined effort over a period of years. There is one possible form of sex addiction which may be different, and I will discuss that further on.
The Six Stages of Sex Addiction Recovery
We commonly think of our sex addict self as bad. And indeed the addict part of us does things that harm others and ourselves and that usually go against our deeply held values. We would like to distance ourselves from this part of us, to stamp it out.
In poetic language we think of the addict as a “dark passenger”. Clinically, we think of the addict behavior as a learned byproduct of early attachment injuries.
But in practice I believe that it is impossible to simply lock that evil twin in a closet or cut it out of us.
Asking a sex addict to take a polygraph seemed ludicrous to me at first. First off, it seems like something you do with a criminal, not with a patient who has come in for help with a sexually compulsive behavior.
I do not take sides on the issue of whether it is better to stay in a marriage or committed relationship with a sex addict or whether it is better to get away and start over. I think there are many valid arguments on both sides depending on the situation.
New studies in progress using the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), The Millon Clinical Inventory and the Sexual Dependency Inventory suggest that different general types of sexually addictive behavior tend to clump together with different personality types or traits. These types vary from less to more severe.
Since the posting on psychcentral a year ago of the article called “Organizational Infidelity Amplifies Sexual Trauma“there has been a great deal of attention paid to the poor handling of sexual trauma by institutions such as universities, the military and the church.
We often hear two conflicting messages about the painful events of the past. Treatment for addiction and psychological problems involves remembering working through hurtful experiences. At the same time it seems as if growth and change involve letting go of the past; forgiving, forgetting and moving on.