I have gained a wealth of knowledge and personal insights about sex addiction over the years, as it has consumed a significant portion of my thoughts and experiences. My journey towards recovery began at the age of 15 in 1985 when I got sober. However, as I approached my mid-twenties, my focus shifted to different areas of struggle, such as loneliness, romance, dating, rejection, relationship failures, and conflicts.
During the following years, I found myself in immense pain due to failed or chaotic relationships, despite making progress in my sobriety. In the late 90s, I hit rock bottom when a particularly inappropriate relationship ended, causing me unimaginable emotional distress. At 27 years old, I was fixated on a married fashion model who was a heavy smoker, drug and alcohol user, and constantly on the move. It was a train wreck of a relationship, to say the least. However, it's worth noting that she is now a close friend who has completely turned her life around, having remarried and become a mother.
At that time, I was overwhelmed and confused. It was only after ending that tumultuous relationship that I realized how deficient I was in the realm of intimacy. I came to understand that the work I was doing in my 12-step recovery program to maintain sobriety was insufficient to address this crucial aspect of my life.
I delved into reading books on sex addiction, romantic obsession, and sought therapy to confront my issues. This period marked my "second bottom," with the first being the rock bottom I reached at age 15 with drugs and alcohol. From that point on, I became acutely aware of how addictions can shift from one form to another until we engage in the healing process with a comprehensive plan. Prior to this realization, I was sober but still engaging in toxic behaviors. I have learned not to judge myself harshly. What is clear to me now is that I grew up in an unhealthy and traumatic environment, despite appearing successful from the outside. Our family was plagued by addictions to negative behaviors.
The bottom line is that life is challenging, childhoods are flawed, and the societies we grow up in are imperfect. The addictions we struggle with are not abnormal in today's world. Throughout history, people across the globe have faced similar problems and anxieties, which ultimately manifest in the behaviors we grapple with.
The journey toward meaningful and positive relationships is an ongoing struggle for many of us. Likewise, the journey toward our own health and well-being is a lifelong process of continuous work. We must make a daily commitment to this endeavor. Overcoming toxic relationships and shedding our own toxic behaviors requires self-awareness and unwavering dedication. We must be honest with ourselves about our actions. As adults, we have the power to choose our responses to the events around us. By focusing on what we can control and working diligently every day to effect positive mental shifts, we can strive for improvement in our character. This is the essence of it all.
To start, I encourage you to close your eyes and visualize an improved version of yourself. Then, document this vision in a journal. Journaling, in one form or another, is an essential practice for self-reflection and personal growth. It is the second step after visualizing our desired achievements and serves as a bridge to actualizing those goals. The third step is to take one action today, no matter how small, that moves you closer to your aspirations.
Regarding our addictions, the fact that you are reading this and that I have written these words is a significant step forward. You too can write about your addictions. By doing so, you are taking positive action.
When it comes to sex addiction, the term itself does not entirely capture the complexity of the issue.
More on Sex Addiction
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about sex addiction is how it doesn't quite describe the problem correctly. All addictions are symptoms of anxiety, damage to our self esteem, flaws in our character, defense mechanisms, and damage to our coping mechanisms.
The result is our responses are unconscious and we suffer.
Generally, we act out with negative behaviors because we feel stress and discomfort. Our childhood brains are still active as grown-ups and that aspect of our psyche controls us. We want relief from emotional turmoil so desperately that we will gravitate towards anything that can make us feel good, even if there are negative side effects. We obsess on our negative thoughts and do not have control of turning off the obsession. Addiction is that relief and distraction from obsessive thoughts we need so feels at the time.
Too bad the addictive behavior doesn’t work infinitely and without consequences, it doesn't. Sooner or later, the addiction becomes the problem on top of our original problem which was poor coping mechanisms and a lack of control over the energies and thoughts that move freely in the mind.
Most addiction recovery centers around developing the character to live life on life's terms, learning coping mechanisms, opening up our minds to the philosophies of self help, such as developing gratitude and other positive feelings, and healing from the pains of our past.
All types of self help and recovery require the individual to be ready, able and willing to do some basic action. If we can't do that, we are not ready or incapable. If you are reading this, you are capable.
Sex addiction is just one finger on the hand of addiction.
Let me try to define sex addiction for you for my own experience and I’m not a clinical practitioners so you might want to do some research on your own.
To me, the first symptom of sex addiction was the sense of loneliness that I felt in my childhood. When I got older, the loneliness amplified. The other thing that I must say in the background was that I had a sex drive. And it was very easy for me to equate the lack of the ability to have physical touch of any kind. It was a form of pain and suffering for me. Amplified by lowliness. Furthermore, the release we all feel, or the pleasure that we feel momentarily when we experience sexual sensations can feel good, and it could stimulate us to get out of our depression, our anger and our negativities. We can become addicted to that feeling just a momentary switch from the discomfort and the ordinary suffering to an elevated experience. (So there’s all these things mixed in to sexuality, desire, anxiety, skin, hunger, and hormones.)
Lastly, I do believe that when we do suffer from low self-esteem, whatever the cause, that the act of meeting meat and having them interested enough and us to take off their clothing, and be intimate, it’s a boost to self-esteem, and we could become addicted to that. And the whole thing is a cycle of unconsciousness. It is mostly common for people who have tendencies towards addiction have anything to be cross addicted so if I qualify as an alcoholic, even if I get sober if I’m not really aware and I’m not really working on myself and I don’t have good teachers it’s very easy for me to jump from my old, drinking problem into an eating problem or to a spending problem or do something else
When reflecting on sex addiction, I find that the term itself may not fully capture the complexity of the underlying issue. In my understanding, addiction, regardless of its form, often stems from anxiety, damaged self-esteem, character flaws, defense mechanisms, and impaired coping mechanisms. Consequently, our responses become unconscious, leading to suffering.
Negative behaviors tend to manifest when we experience stress and discomfort. As adults, our childhood brains continue to influence us, exerting control over our psyche. Desperate for relief from emotional turmoil, we instinctively seek out anything that can provide temporary comfort, even if it comes with negative consequences. We find ourselves trapped in obsessive thoughts and struggle to regain control over them. Addiction serves as a temporary reprieve, offering a distraction from our overwhelming preoccupations.
Unfortunately, addictive behaviors do not offer a sustainable solution devoid of consequences. Sooner or later, the addiction itself becomes a problem, compounding our initial struggles rooted in inadequate coping mechanisms and a lack of control over our thoughts and emotions.
The journey of addiction recovery often revolves around developing the character to navigate life's challenges, acquiring effective coping mechanisms, embracing self-help philosophies that foster gratitude and positivity, and healing from past traumas.
Engaging in any form of self-help or recovery necessitates readiness, capability, and willingness to take fundamental actions. If one cannot muster these essential qualities, it may indicate a lack of readiness or current incapacity. However, if you are reading this, it demonstrates your potential and capability.
Sex addiction is just one facet of the vast spectrum of addiction.
Allow me to attempt defining sex addiction based on my own experience. Please note that I am not a clinical practitioner, so conducting further research would be beneficial.
For me, the first sign of sex addiction was a deep sense of loneliness that permeated my childhood and only intensified as I grew older. It is important to mention that I possessed a strong sex drive, making it easy for me to equate the absence of physical touch with pain and suffering. Loneliness compounded this agony. Additionally, the fleeting pleasure we experience during sexual encounters can serve as a temporary escape from depression, anger, and negativity. It is this momentary relief from discomfort and ordinary suffering that can lead to addiction. Sexuality, desire, anxiety, physical touch, hunger, and hormones all intertwine, contributing to the complexity of the issue.
Furthermore, I believe that individuals with low self-esteem, regardless of the cause, may find a boost in their self-worth through engaging in intimate encounters with others. This boost can become addictive, perpetuating a cycle of unconsciousness. It is not uncommon for those prone to addiction to develop cross-addictions. For instance, if I were an alcoholic, even after achieving sobriety, without self-awareness, personal growth, and reliable guidance, it would be easy for me to transition from my previous drinking problem to other addictive behaviors such as disordered eating or excessive spending.
Note: It's essential to approach these matters with compassion, humility, and a willingness to seek professional advice and support.
The experience of a sex addict extends beyond solely seeking sexual encounters. While exceptions exist, sex addiction often progresses to a point where the individual becomes consumed with the need for sexual experiences as a way to alleviate anxiety. However, in many cases, a sex addict can also transform into a love addict, relying on love and romance to counter negative emotions. The distinction lies in the fact that the love addict is not necessarily seeking genuine intimacy and honesty; rather, they are searching for someone to rescue them from their misery. They crave the intoxicating chemistry of love to escape their painful circumstances.
It's crucial to recognize that deep love connections and true intimacy cannot be achieved through fleeting moments of romantic chemistry alone.
Love addicts and sex addicts may share a propensity for easily falling in love. Sex addicts tend to sexualize love, replacing the profound intimacy, trust, growth, safety, compassion, and happiness found in a genuine, intimate relationship with the superficial physical intimacy of sex. The pleasure and enjoyment derived from sexual encounters become a validation and a sense of love and belonging. However, some may quickly abandon this feeling as the closeness and vulnerability of a real loving relationship can evoke discomfort. Sex often becomes a safe outlet to experience passion and love without confronting the fears and anxieties associated with the dependencies that develop within genuine, loving relationships.
Sex addicts employ love as a means to secure sex, while love addicts or romantic obsessives use sex to secure love. These two categories can intertwine, and individuals can transition between being a sex addict and a love addict.
It's worth noting that sex addicts may derive more pride and satisfaction from the pursuit and validation of a partner than from the actual act of sex itself. Additionally, while sex addicts may exhibit dangerous behavioral patterns, it is not always the case.
If sex addiction is not the primary addiction, individuals may not reach the same dark bottom line as those who have delved deeper into the addiction pattern. However, both individuals with milder and more intense addiction share similar anxieties and coping mechanisms along a similar trajectory.
I must emphasize that everything I have discussed merely scratches the surface of this complex disorder. A comprehensive examination would require an extensive volume encompassing various types of addiction, their origins, and, of course, strategies for recovery and regaining a healthy path.
With humility, I want to emphasize that all types of addiction, whether it involves gambling, sex, eating, spending, or drugs, share a common underlying cause and, therefore, require a common solution.
One significant distinction between sex addiction and alcohol addiction is that when we seek liberation from them, we must moderate our sexual behavior for the rest of our lives. We cannot plan to completely abstain from sex; instead, we must learn to moderate our eating patterns. However, when it comes to substances like gambling, drugs, and alcohol, it becomes impossible for the addict to achieve true moderation. Complete elimination of these substances is necessary for true freedom.
This difference in the nature of substances and addiction is substantial and should be acknowledged.
When it comes to any addiction that requires moderation, it is essential to develop a positive course of action. Writing out a plan on how we choose to incorporate these substances into our lives and utilizing that plan as our top-line behavior is crucial. Being accountable for any behavior that falls below the top-line standards can easily lead us back into the addictive cycle. Establishing top-line behavior regarding food, sex, money, and other aspects that require moderation is necessary to stay on the right path. However, in the case of drugs, alcohol, and similar substances, the top-line behavior is complete abstinence.
In terms of my sexuality, my top-line behavior is to engage in intimacy only within the confines of an intimate and committed relationship. This is what I strive for.
During my encounters with 12-step recovery programs, I met individuals who had more extreme behaviors associated with sex and love addiction. When I read their top-line behaviors, I recognized the differences. Some chose not to have multiple partners, engage in unprotected sex, partake in risky encounters that could lead to legal trouble or offend others in society, or rely on sex as a means to cope with anxiety. Each person's top-line behavior varies based on their own journey and experiences.
I must humbly admit that my knowledge of sex addiction and romantic obsession is limited, as my primary addiction was drugs and alcohol. I attended sex addiction meetings for approximately 24 months, around 15 years into my recovery from drug addiction.
It wasn't until I had been sober for 30 years that I truly understood that my underlying issue was simply loneliness and a deep yearning for love, touch, and compassion. The delay in this realization was not due to the difficulty or time-consuming nature of recovery work. It took me that long because I had not consistently practiced top-line behaviors throughout those years. It took me a considerable amount of time to reach my lowest point and start addressing my personal challenges.