Sobriety Navigator: Sex Addicts – From Condemnation to Compassion!
I had successfully stopped drinking. But I felt things were not as they should be. I was occasionally “tuning out” and parts of my life seemed artificial. Something was still not right. So, with 3 years of continuous sobriety under my belt, it was now time to travel deeper into my journey of self-discovery. A trusted friend suggested I had “situational depression.” I entered treatment for situational depression, and it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.
I explored the underlying dynamics that motivated my disassociating. I found I was still harboring toxic shame and rage turned inward on myself. I still had moments when nothing seemed real to me. I would occasionally panic and question my stability. Was I not being honest with myself? That thought was overwhelming. No honesty! No integrity! No sobriety! I felt I must not be working a very good program or I would not have these feelings that everything was still fake or artificial. It was all very confusing. But what was the cause of all this confusion?
One therapist recommended I read about sex addiction since my life had been saturated with sex addicts from the time of my birth. Really? I wasn’t promiscuous. I wasn’t into weird stuff. In fact, I remembered being at an A.A. meeting one evening and seeing some literature on Sex Addicts and I thought it was a joke. But I learned it was real. And being around it can have profound effects on you. Toxic energy……..sex addicts have it by the truck load! Why? Because most sex addicts come from incestuous families.
I did what was suggested. I read about sex addiction. I realized that sexual addiction is a real disease and not just some disgusting behavior that people perform because they’re just plain evil. Not all sex addicts lack a sense of shame or human dignity. None of these conclusions could have been farther from the truth! In fact, I have acquired a compassion for people who suffer from sex addiction that I never dreamed I would. The underlying energies that fuel this particular behavior are usually the result of early childhood abuses. Well, who can’t relate to that! I learned that I was still seeing life through the filters of my abuse and the toxic shame that it had created. I had been sexualized and molested from the earliest time I could remember. Abuse begets abuse and the cycle continues. It’s the out of control reactions to traumas and lack of healthy coping skills that creates the confusion and addiction.
What I have learned from reading and talking with members of different 12 step programs who also joined S.A. is the profound sense of shame and demoralization they feel when they act out in behaviors that are in direct opposition to their intrinsic moral fibers. That’s right. Sex addicts do have a built in moral fiber and behaving in ways that are in direct opposition to them wreaks havoc on their souls!
I was curious as to what constitutes sexual sobriety in S.A., since in A.A. and N.A. it is complete abstinence from intoxicants. What I discovered through reading the book, Sex Addicts Anonymous, (International Service Organization of SAA, Inc. first published 2005) was the common sense defining of personal boundaries a member of S.A. must establish in order to separate healthy sexual intimacy from abusive, dangerous sexual behaviors. And, identifying and disabling their “triggers” can prevent relapsing into these abusive, dangerous sexual activities.
Wouldn’t you know it. It always gets back to boundaries. Abuse could not occur if there were healthy, safe boundaries in the household. People wouldn’t act out if they hadn’t had their own boundaries violated.
In the same book, Sex Addicts Anonymous, there are stories from people who had a terrible time with sex addiction and all its trappings. But what you’ll find in these stories is the success they have achieved and how healthy, safe boundaries are a critical key to their sobriety.
No one wakes up one day and says, “Hey when I grow up, I’m going to be a sex addict and wreak havoc on my soul and maybe the souls of others.” It’s doesn’t have to be that way. Today there are many wonderful recovering sex addicts all over the country who can demonstrate who they really are inside. The resources available through therapy and the S.A. 12 step program can help them reach that goal and gain their inner peace.
By Cynthia Peterson