Dealing with Substitute Addictions: Compulsive Sexuality

Sex-Addiction.jpeg

Whether or not compulsive sexuality is technically an addiction seems to be open for discussion

It does have some similarities with chemical dependencies, but it also differs from them. For those who engage in it, however, it causes tremendous distress and suffering. For some, it represents a continuation of the way they behaved in bars, where they would drink and seek to get laid. For others, it simply takes the place of a chemical high.

Sexual compulsivity resembles addictions because it can produce a surge of euphoria. For this reason, it begins to demand frequent repetition. When some individuals attain sobriety from a chemical dependency through participation in recovery groups, they may find their sexual appetite becomes unruly and demanding. They may pursue other members in the recovery groups in order to placate this insistent need. This seductive behavior is referred to as “13th Stepping.” Or they may seek satisfaction outside their recovery group.

In either case, their inner Addict is taking advantage of their underlying discomfort. It offers them temporary relief in the form of sexual orgasms, but in doing so, it deprives them of genuine intimacy, that is, a relationship built upon mutual trust rather than sheer lust. Their sexual partners are converted into objects that exist primarily for gratification.

Fortunately there are some recovery programs that are designed to address this problem. The ones that use the 12 steps are:

Sexaholics Anonymous (SA)
Sexual Recovery Anonymous (SRA)
Sexual Compulsives Anonymous (SCA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)

They differ from each other primarily in how they define sexual sobriety.

In SA, only marital sex is allowed, whereas in SRA, sex is accepted in a committed relationship. SCA initially provided a forum for gay and bisexual men, but now it is open to anyone seeking help with this problem. In SCA, each member defines what sexual sobriety would be for him or her. This approach is also used in SAA, which is perhaps the largest and most inclusive of these type of programs. SLAA is for those with “a compulsive need for sex, extreme dependency on one or many people, or a chronic preoccupation with romance, intrigue, or fantasy.” Members of SLAA and SAA develop lists of situations that are healthy, risky, or troubling for them.

Many treatment programs use cognitive-behavioral therapy (the “Thirty Task Model”) designed by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D., to deal with sexual cravings. In addition, because one of the common side-effects of SSRI anti-depressants is diminished libido, people with this disorder may also use these medications to help them gain initial self-restraint.

Compulsive sexuality reveals how the indulgent side of our personality, the inner Addict, exploits our sexual instinct and our desire for happiness to determine our behavior. While it does produce a rush of excitement, it does not have the same degree of denial as an addiction does. In other words, those who engage in this risky behavior know in advance that it is not too smart, whereas people with addictions tend to minimize the negative consequences.

Obviously the inner Addict is a troublemaker. By learning how it manipulates us, we can free ourselves from its control and be able to help others as well.

Check back next week for our next substitute addiction: Excessive Exercise!

Richard G. Hartnett, MA, MS, LCADC is a former Jesuit priest who now lives with his wife, Kathy, by a lake in northwestern New Jersey. He has served as the chaplain at Hazelden New York, pastoral counselor at the Chemical Dependency Department of the International Center for the Disabled in NYC, and continuing care counselor at the outpatient Chemical Dependency Program of High Focus Centers in New Jersey. Currently he maintains a private practice in New Jersey. He is the author of The Presence at the Center, Renewing Your Fourth Step, The Three Inner Voices: Uncovering the Spiritual Roots of Addiction and Recovery, and Sobriety and Inspiration: Entrusting Ourselves to the Source of Our Healing and Creativity.

disclaimer

Call now for immediate help: (844) 630-4673