How Setting Goals Can Help Overcome Sexual Addiction

Couple walking in the fog

It is incredibly human to get swept up with a current problem or preoccupation. We have all experienced this and found our world shrinking around us.

For example, a recent client of mine (details changed to protect identity) was struggling with whether to return home for the holidays because her parents are always so invalidating and uncaring. She is expected home, yet hates the person she becomes when she returns there.

All of her time and energy was consumed in battling against the pressure her family applied, so much so, that her anxiety spiked and she stopped her yoga classes, neglected to eat healthily and fell behind in school.

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She was helped immensely by widening her field of view and engaging in life outside of the decision of whether to return home.

Keeping a Wider Perspective

Man walking on the streetAn extension of this point is that, “We all need a purpose in life that’s greater than ourselves.”[1] And greater than our present trials! Goals are incredibly helpful in keeping a wider perspective and aiding us in facilitating healthy life choices.

Goals can help us discern if we are neglecting important aspects of our life, provide momentum for growth, allow us to step out of all-consuming problems, and frankly feel more human!

When we consider recovery and sexual addiction treatment, recovery not only feels like a monumental task, but we have to consider to what we are recovering?

It isn’t possible to remove something that has aided us, or become a comfort without knowing what is to take its place. Goals can help us set healthy, concrete plans in place to undergird our recovery efforts.

Knowing What is Important to You

The deeper question behind goals is, “What is important to us?” Often addiction blurs our ability to answer this question and we need help and support to figure this out.

If you struggle with this notion of knowing what is truly important I encourage you to talk with a trusted friend or mentor in an open and honest exploration of what is important to you. When we know what is important to us we can step back, and write goals that fit into a new narrative for our lives.

Brooks talks about a “redemption narrative”, which is a very powerful idea. When recovery begins we are turning from one dominant narrative to a new one. For example, from “I am unable to cope”, to “I am able to make healthy choices and take care of my family even when I experience pain”.

This narrative shift is made powerful when we add the redemptive element: “I was struggling to cope, and then I realized I could make new decisions and think about myself as an over-comer and competent person.” Considering how your story might take a redemptive turn is a powerful precursor to writing effective and life changing goals.

Looking To The Future

Matheson makes clear that “when we turn towards the future, we turn away from our past, harnessing the brain’s built-in capacities to stick to healthy choices.”[2] This suggests that not only do we change our narrative, but also we harness our brain’s capacity to change.

Neuroplasticity is a process by which our brains change and learn healthy habits. Once habits form we then feel the emotional and physical effects of a renewed brain. Of course this process requires time and concentrated effort structured around meaningful goals.

Couple standing on the beachFurther, goals need to be practical and tangible, with defined outcomes and steps towards achieving them. The process of undergirding your recovery from sexual addiction using goals requires some planning and thought.

I would encourage you to start by considering, “what really matters to me in life?” This question will help you discern what your redemption narrative is. The questions below will help you think through this process so that you can write a new guiding statement on which to build concrete goals:

  • What matters most to me in life? (find at least 7 things)
  • Where do my morals and values come from? What are they?
  • What are my hopes and dreams for the future?
  • Can I form goals that encompass my dreams and passions?
  • How will I treat the most important people in my life–be specific?
  • How do I want other people to experience me?
  • Where in the world do I want to make an impact?
  • Consider what passions, hobbies, desires and dreams you have lost or given up.
  • What relationships are impacted by my life, and how do I want them to be impacted?
  • Think deeply about what you value the most and feel coming from within you. Write a short (1-2 sentence) guiding statement.
  • Share your guiding statement with at least 3 people in your circles.

Example: “Grow into a dependable, strong and sensitive man who delights in his children, treats his wife like a princess, builds meaningful friendships and engages them all in purposeful activity.”

From here, you are ready to create goals that move you towards fulfilling your guiding statement. Write out at least 10 goals that will stretch you, and yet build on healthy life choices, such as exercise, career, food, leisure, family, friends, socializing, fun, emotional health and spirituality.

Discussion Question!

How has goal setting help you overcome your addiction?


Paul LoosemoreAbout 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.


References:

[1]: Brooks (2011) The social animal.
[2]: Adapted from Loosemore (2016) 21 Movements towards Life. Stopsexualaddiction.com


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.

Published on April 19, 2017.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 19, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com