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6 Ways Helping Others Helps Addicts Recover

helping othersAddicts are afraid of other people. Sex addiction has been aptly described as an intimacy disorder, a disorder resulting from an avoidance of intimacy and a compartmentalization of one’s life and one’s sense of self. and their early life experience typically makes them feel unlovable and unable to be themselves around other people. Addicts deal with this dilemma by creating a facade or false self that they show to the world. Their real self, including their deepest sexual desires are compartmentalized and hidden.

Because of this deep sense of inadequacy, addicts find it hard to be real with anybody, even the person they are closest to. They don’t show up as themselves. So part of recovering from addiction involves learning to put your real self out there– your real feelings, your real fears. Restoring your capacity for intimacy requires overcoming the fear of being known.

Helping other people

The idea that no addict can recovery entirely on their own dates from the very beginning of 12-step support groups for alcoholics. The last of the 12 steps involves carrying the message to others. But talking and listening to one another is the foundation of self help support groups from day one.

Addicts can also practice being more open and caring in the context of their relationship with a partner. This will be a large part of the work they will do as a couple. Certainly one of the ultimate goals of becoming intimacy-abled will be to have and maintain a good relationship with a romantic partner. And whether they have a partner or not, helping others in recovery can provide a crucial way to practice the strengths and skills necessary for a close relationship

• Experience with intimacy

Through sharing something of themselves with others in the safety of meetings or treatment groups, addicts are practicing being honest and open with who they are. Thus they are using the group situation or the connecting with others outside of meetings as a laboratory in which to overcome their fear of being known in an intimate way.

• Spiritual connection

Even for the addict who feels he or she has no spiritual side, the act of uniting with a group is a form of spiritual connection in itself. In reaching out to others in the recovery community and in helping others the addict is practicing empathy and experiencing a connection and a recognition that he or she is not unique or alone in the universe.

• Self worth

When an addict calls another addict or receives a call he or she experiences being needed. Every contact provides validation and reinforces the fact that the addict has value to another person.

• Reinforces recovery

Giving to other addicts in any form such as sharing experiences, giving advice, providing information, offering encouragement or serving as sponsor is a way to acknowledge the value of what the addict has achieved in terms of their own recovery work. When someone else benefits from what the addict has gone through it reminds the addict that it was worth the effort, that recovery works.

• Prevents relapse

Helping others keeps the addict on track. It reminds him or her of the distance they have come from where they started out. And it provides a sense of gratitude for the sobriety they have achieved and a sense of the importance of protecting their recovery.
• Ripple effects

In helping other people the addict comes to recognize that they are a force for good in the world. They have done more than overcome their own individual problem, they have turned something painful, shameful and negative into something positive and powerful. They have made meaning out of suffering.

Find Dr. Hatch on Facebook at Sex Addictions Counseling or Twitter @SAResource

6 Ways Helping Others Helps Addicts Recover

Linda Hatch, PhD

Linda Hatch is a psychologist and certified sex addiction therapist specializing in the treatment of sex addicts and the partners and families of sex addicts. Linda also blogs on her own website at

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APA Reference
Hatch, L. (2019). 6 Ways Helping Others Helps Addicts Recover. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 17 Dec 2019
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