The key to addiction recovery is, wanting it! Nothing can replace this, yet there are many effective ways to assist yourself in recovery, including learning new skills, digging into your style-of-relating, retraining your body, and more.
There are multiple approaches to recovery, but I want to share critical aspects I have learnt through evidence based research and clinical practice with folks like you.
Dealing with Denial of Sexual Addiction
When we really think we aren’t hurting anyone, or it doesn’t matter, or life isn’t that different because of my addiction, there is a lot of pressure against recovery. Denial is a close friend of addiction and we use it to keep negative feelings like shame away. Self-reflection, support, and honesty are needed to break denial. You can start by asking questions like:
- What problems do I see my past behavior having caused me?
- What problems am I facing now due to addiction?
- How have I been changed by my behaviors and exposures in ways I don’t like?
- What are the consequences of continuing my current behaviors?
Once denial is broken and support is received to push through the painful emotions that accompany these admonitions, the next steps become possible—even longed for!
This isn’t voodoo or hippy; it is the practice of being aware of yourself. When stress or other unpleasant emotions arise we often try to escape them. This process of distancing from ourselves grows and grows until we no longer have an awareness of what we are really experiencing within ourselves.
We become masters at “not living our true lives”. Without knowing your “true experience”, it is hard to do anything about it. The key to activating this awareness is activating interoception—this is the activity of attending to your inner experience. When you do this, you become aware of physical sensations, which are often emotions, and you can react appropriately.
Try the following to start your mindfulness journey:
- Ask yourself, how much time am I living in the present, rather than thinking about the past or future?
- What are you not accepting or acknowledging about your present reality?
- Try a reflective practice that will get you in touch with yourself again. My favorite for Christians is www.reflectiveprayer.com, and www.calm.com for others.
- Emotion regulation
When we can’t attend to ourselves, because we have learnt not to, or feel overwhelmed by our sensations we shut them down—often through addiction. As we remove the “band aids” and start experiencing emotion, it is crucial to learn how to regulate ourselves—something we are supposed to learn from active, caring parents.
If we had limited contact, or parents who themselves were dysregulated we don’t learn these skills. A simple first step is practicing the following:
When you feel a painful emotion, breathe deeply into your stomach, slowly exhale and repeat. Keep breathing in this way, attending to your physical experience. As you continue to exhale describe the reality of the situation to yourself without interpretation. Then, acknowledge your emotions and what you truly need as a result of your situation (a hug, a rest, help, understanding, etc).
Identifying triggers and solutions
Addiction recovery also requires you to learn what activates painful emotions that you want to be rid of, or what other stimuli remind you of the soothing addiction brings.
As you record these triggers in writing, you can counter them with an active solution—something you will choose to do instead of allowing the old response to the trigger to continue. For example: You see a sexy commercial, you commit to getting up, walking out of the room, taking several deep breathes and making an appreciative statement towards your partner.
Core beliefs (Your blueprint for life)
You will need to start unearthing what you believe about yourself, your place in the world, how it “should” work, and how people treat you. These all inform how you react, what you think you need and how you stubble when you want to run!
A therapist is often helpful in discerning this. Other great places to engage these discussions are in SA recovery groups, where other members may share and identify with core beliefs that are shaming, or grandiose self-protection. This is right at the heart of changing course in your life.
Our core beliefs inform the way we relate to others, what we try to illicit from them, and how we present ourselves. These are usually deeply routed patterns that stem from our childhoods.
Again, a therapist is helpful in discerning how you engage people, but you can start to track how you engage people and journal about the following:
- What was I hoping they would do when I…
- Why was I disappointed when they didn’t…
- I share information about me when I feel like…
- I hold back because I expect people to…
Activating your “Self”
Addiction disengages “yourself”—the active ability to run, sustain and feel good about yourself. It is critical to begin activating what generates self-esteem (which I encourage you to think of as a verb rather than a noun). Key areas to consider are:
- Planning: What are my goals? What do I want my days to include? How can I build friendships?
- Speaking: Stating truthfully your needs, emotions and thoughts. Asking others for help. Attending to others with words.
- Engaging: Going to the gym. Pursuing healthy leisure. Practicing recovery.
- Learning relational skills: Empathy. Conflict resolution. Conversational skills.
There are many more aspects to include in sexual addiction recovery, yet these core areas give you a solid footing from which to begin.
About the author: Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC, author of “21 Movements Towards Life” – The step-by-step guide to recovering from sexual addiction or pornography. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—both individuals and couples. He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com where you can find his guide, or contact him.
: Adapted from: Maltz & Maltz. (2008) The porn trap. p. 143.
: For a full discussion, see: Bessel A. van der Kolk. (2014) The body keeps the score.
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on December 5, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com