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.
Internal emotional states can lead to sexual thoughts, urges and fantasies even without any external “drug” or drug related stimulus being present.
Satisfying the sexual craving may or may not involve another person or stimulus from outside. Both the stimulus and the rewarding substance can be contained within the addict’s brain.
The opposite of mindfulness is unconsciousness
Mindfulness is learning to be aware of what is going on inside your mind and body. It involves learning to detach from and observe the train of thought and the internal tensions that arise.
Mindfulness practice requires time and space. Time, even a sliver of time, to detach and observe can prevent you from acting impulsively. And space in the form of stillness which allows for your attention to focus and to “listen” to what is going on inside of you so that you can act consciously instead of reflexively or unconsciously.
How mindfulness is essential in relapse prevention and recovery
- Mindfulness allows you to make choices.
Take for example the choice to go somewhere or do something that is a possible lead-in to sexually addictive behavior or to refrain from it. As an addict you will have both feelings; part of you wants to do it and part of you doesn’t. “Well it’s harmless; yes but what if?” When you take sides in that internal conflict you no longer have a choice, you are lost in an argument with yourself. The detachment of being mindful and aware of the two urges allows you to be conscious on another level. You are no longer identified with one side or the other. You are the awareness that is really in charge.
- Mindfulness allows you to use the tools of recovery
Resisting an urge is not mindfulness. In recovery groups there is a saying that “if you are arguing with your ‘addict’ then you have already lost!” Mindfulness is being present and aware of the craving or urge and not fighting it, just allowing it to be. This in turn gives you that little bit of time and space in which to allow the urge to begin to subside. It may take a while for urges and cravings to subside and you may need to maintain a level of presence and mindfulness about the craving for a while. But even then you will have the space in which to take other actions such as calling a recovery partner.
The recovery saying “one day at a time” is sometimes re-stated as “one moment at a time.” This is an acknowledgment that the process of avoiding a deeply ingrained behavior pattern sometimes involves moment by moment mindfulness and self awareness.
- Mindfulness facilitates a sober lifestyle
Sex addiction recovery involves more than just abstaining from a particular behavior, although that is a necessary starting point. Recovery in the larger sense means becoming connected with yourself and other people (and some would say with a “higher power”) in a new way.
The sex addict craves intimacy but is hindered in intimate relationships and in relating to people generally by a fear of being truly authentic truly present. The addict may relate in a myriad of reflexive ways such as with anger and defensiveness, or may play a role and manipulate rather than being real. In order to feel that you are being totally honest and authentic with people you need to be able to accurately express what you are thinking and feeling in that moment. Mindfulness practice lays the foundation for this transformation in all your relating.