sexual addiction recovery10) Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

12) Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex addicts and to practice these principles in our lives.

So Much More Than Maintenance

Sex addicts, like all addicts, can be surprisingly resistant to the idea of participating in 12-step sexual recovery programs such as SA, SAA, SCA, SLAA, and SRA. Ironically, the same men and women who regularly engage in compulsive, sometimes illegal and often public sexual acts often worry they’ll be “spotted” at a 12-step sex meeting.

The fact that they’ve posted personal information and nude photos of themselves on dating websites and “friend finder” smart-phone apps, have repeatedly looked at pornography at work, or had an angry spouse tell everyone he or she knows about their sexual behavior matters not at all. The reality escapes these individuals that the only people likely to spot a sex addict at a 12-step sexual recovery meeting are other sex addicts who are dealing with the same basic set of problems, and these are the last people on earth likely to gossip about or place a value judgment on another’s sexual history.

Nevertheless, some sex addicts fight the idea of attending 12-step recovery groups, so it is up to the therapist to bring the themes, neurological rewiring, and overall experience of step-work into the treatment arena.

Typically, after doing the work of the first nine steps, a sex addict has just begun to scratch the surface of repairing, reconfiguring, and rebooting the three types of relationships that are available to him or her as a human being—relationship with self, relationship with a higher power, and relationship with others. The individual in question probably feels a lot better about who he or she is after doing the work of the initial nine steps, and most likely the addict has established some semblance of sexual sobriety, but lasting recovery requires ongoing work, and steps 10, 11, and 12 provide guidance as to what that work is all about.

These three steps are often called the “maintenance steps,” but they provide a great deal more than sobriety maintenance. In fact, they are a design for living from which anyone could benefit. As we all know, it is a rare moment when everything is fine and in its place. The world brings us unresolved issues—lingering emotions, betrayal, losses, injuries, and constant change. Life happens. And these three steps are the tools that recovering addicts can utilize to live life on life’s terms, with all the twists and turns, without needing to “seek comfort” by acting out.

The work of these steps can be achieved either as homework or in therapy sessions, knowing that the addict’s chances of long-term sexual sobriety increase significantly with this ongoing effort. Should this individual later decide to enter 12-step sexual recovery, all the better. Concurrent work in therapy and a 12-step program are mutually reinforcing, as both venues provide the social support and shame reduction process essential for sexual recovery.

In two previous blogs (see links at the end of this article) we discussed bringing the work of steps one through nine into therapy using a cognitive behavioral format, noting that doing so is especially effective in a group setting. Below is an attempt to adapt the remaining three steps, 10, 11, and 12, into therapeutic tasks specifically designed to address sexually addictive behaviors.

Adapting the Steps for Therapy

STEP TEN: Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

Step 10 helps sex addicts, should they relapse or have a slip, to recognize and correct the problem right away. Sex addicts can also use this step to monitor their behavior in general, helping them keep their side of the street clean in all matters on a daily basis. Step 10 lets sex addicts know if they’re staying on the path of recovery. In some ways, it is a daily repeat of steps 4 through 9 rolled into one. Most of all this step about keeping the individual clear of shame, secrets, and hiding—all of which lead back to active addiction.

Tasks Related to Step Ten

  1. Ask the client at the beginning of each session, individual or group, to acknowledge some issue or event they could have handled differently in the past week. Encourage internalizing the process of: taking inventory, admitting mistakes, making a mental note to not make the same mistakes in the future, and making amends when appropriate. Eventually this process can become an automatic part of the individual’s life that occurs either at regular intervals throughout the day or at the end of each day.
  2. Assign as homework a daily inventory/amends list.
  3. Discuss this list in therapy, helping the addict to spot patterns of behavior, to understand how he or she might have handled certain situations differently, and, most importantly, what issues/emotions/experiences within these patterns might evoke relapse.

STEP ELEVEN: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.

This is the place where sex addicts build upon their relationship with a higher power. They seek that relationship through prayer and meditation. They pray for knowledge of God’s will for them and the power to carry that out, and nothing else. That’s it. That’s all they ask for. And then they meditate to quiet the mind so when the answers come they can hear them.

Step 11 is a very simple step, but also a bottomless pit. This step will take a recovering addict as far as he or she is willing to go. As with earlier higher power-related steps, understanding one’s higher power is not necessary to successfully engage in the recovery process. Step 11 is not a religious practice, but a spiritual one that is unique to each person.

Tasks Related to Step Eleven

  1. Work with the client to develop healthy self-soothing techniques such as meditation, visualization, and somatic experiencing.
  2. Encourage daily or weekly journaling about the client’s relationship with a higher power, in particular how that relationship has or has not changed since entering recovery.
  3. If the client continues to struggle with the idea of a higher power/God, ask the individual to draw a circle on a piece of paper and write inside that circle all of the traits he or she would like a higher power to embody—unconditional love, acceptance, non-punishing, etc. Tell the client to think of it as an “eHarmony” or “Match.com” ad detailing what he or she would want from a higher power. Discuss this concept in therapy, and ask the client how he or she might in some way address that entity, regardless of his or her belief system, each morning and evening. Ask the client what it would be like to “act as if” he or she believes in that higher power.
  4. If the client is unfamiliar with the serenity prayer, teach it: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Discuss the process of surrendering control, of letting go of outcomes in regard to people, places, and things.

STEP TWELVE: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex addicts and to practice these principles in our lives.

With this step addicts are asked to practice the 12-step principles in all their affairs and to bring the message of recovery to other sex addicts. The sex addict’s job in recovery now is to become the beam of light ahead, leading the way to healing for the person behind who is still struggling with his or her addiction. If the client is willing to become the sponsor of another person, this provides the client with a new opportunity to begin the process of step-work all over again as he or she guides the newcomer through the 12-step process. Whatever items the client may have missed the first time through the steps can be dealt with while guiding another person.

Interestingly, this altruistic element of 12-step recovery is thought to be a key element in long-term sobriety. In fact, the single biggest indicator of lasting recovery is helping others to achieve and maintain sobriety. And we are now learning, through analysis of modern brain imaging scans, that addicts can and do rewire their brains through such empathic/altruistic behaviors, growing the parts of their personality that were diminished by early trauma, personal deficits, and ultimately by their own addiction.

Tasks Related to Step Twelve

  1. Encourage the client to become actively concerned for other people, to become involved in behaviors that focus on the needs of others who are struggling to get well rather than on their own wants and desires.  Address the client’s resistance as it shows up. This is likely the very same resistance that arises when he or she begins to minimize self-care and thereby move back toward active addiction. (I don’t have time. I’m too busy. Etc.)
  2. Assign the client to be of service by volunteering, or, if the addict has joined and is active in a 12-step sexual recovery program, by becoming a sponsor, secretary, or intergroup representative.
  3. Ask the client to journal about his or her feelings prior to being of service and immediately after being of service. Discuss these feelings in therapy.

The above lists are of course incomplete, as every client’s path to long-term recovery is different. However, the well-worn, trusted concepts integrated into all 12-step recovery programs are extraordinarily useful therapeutic tasks for sex addicts. Remember too that each of the 12-step sexual recovery programs has its own “Big Book” much like the AA Big Book, and all of these can be purchased online and utilized without ever having to go to a meeting (or as a source of encouragement to do so).

There are also many printed 12-step guides in booklet or book format, many of which are specific to sexual addiction or can easily be adapted to sexual addiction. Patrick Carnes book, A Gentle Path through the Twelve Steps (www.gentlepath.com), is one such example. Other excellent material is available through Hazelden Publishing (www.Hazelden.org).

* This blog is the third of a three-part series. Part one, covers steps 1 through 3 and Part two, covers steps 4 through 9.

Young woman at the beach photo available from Shutterstock

 


Comments


View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 0 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.

Trackbacks

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (July 19, 2012)

Delicious Flavour (July 19, 2012)

From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (July 19, 2012)

Translating the 12 Steps into Therapeutic Tasks for Sexual Addiction Recovery … | Clinical Psychologists (January 9, 2013)






    Last reviewed: 6 Sep 2012

APA Reference
Weiss LCSW, R. (2012). Translating the 12 Steps into Therapeutic Tasks for Sexual Addiction Recovery: Steps 10, 11 and 12. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 1, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/sex/2012/07/translating-the-12-steps-into-therapeutic-tasks-for-sexual-addiction-recovery-steps-10-11-and-12/

 

Purchase Cruise Control now Purchase Untangling the Web now

Check out Robert Weiss' books today.

Subscribe to this Blog:
Feed


Or Get a Single, Daily Email (enter email address):

via FeedBurner



Recent Comments
  • 80+1: just found this site and wanted to add another dimension to your research/study. i have been w/ my...
  • William Fisher: Thank you. An excellent summary of the reasons why “conversion therapy” is, at best, a...
  • Buster Ross: Thank you for writing this, it’s so alarming, and I’m so grateful for you making this...
  • TPG: What a dumb law. Every teen who has ever sent a self of themselves nude (child porn) to another teen (recipient...
  • flamestar: You act like the only kind of masturbation is compulsive over masturbation. It is true that pornography...
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code



Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!