Relapse Prevention Skills for Sexual Addiction Recovery

Man struggling with sexual addiction relapse

It is incredibly hard to see the air you breathe, similarly it is frustrating to desire change that you don’t know how to create. While recovery can often seem like this—trying to live in a way you have never known possible—there are practical steps you can take.

First, remember that lapses in behavior aren’t relapses, yet your recovery may be in jeopardy if you don’t implement practical steps.

So what are the practical steps that guard against relapse? The bad news is that they are person specific and correspond to your unique struggles. The good news is that this means you can discover them with hard work and patience.

To start you off in the right direction we will look at three landmarks on the journey to solidifying your recovery. It will be your continuing task to navigate these landmarks and find your own unique way of viewing them.

Rituals and Habits:

The sexual addiction cycle [1] reminds us that preoccupation with, focusing on, and planning to engage sexual behaviors develop into a common ritual.

Woman with sexual addictionYour ritual will be different to the next persons, whilst sharing the similarity of being a slippery slope that is hard to escape without planning.

Behavior patterns can be recognized and interrupted, but only after you take the time to recognize them for what they are.

A great example of these rituals is the following from the, 21 Movements towards life guide [2]:

  • A behavioral pattern that could become a ritual is: always firing up the computer right after a hard days work to get some “me time” and “relax”. You may well need some “me time” and “relaxation” (this isn’t the problem), yet the computer might be the common medium for your acting out (the problem).
  • Another example could be: always planning in some extra time into business trips (that commonly gets used for acting out behaviors).

Once you act out sexually, find yourself tempted, or work hard to protect yourself, you can find these ritual behaviors in your life.

The steps to implementing ritual breaking behaviors are the following:

  • Write out your old ritual with all of the behavioral components.
  • Write out an alternative behavior ritual you can use that meets the legitimate need located within the old ritual.
  • Write out the new ‘rule’ you will place around this old ritual to protect yourself—for example, “I will always leave my smartphone in the kitchen at home because it is healthier to engage my family.”

Relationships:

Addiction often results in isolation, particularly in regards to meaningful topics within your life. The therapeutic community has long espoused the importance of human connection for mental and behavioral health.

This landmark is crucial and cannot be emphasized enough. Key questions to ask yourself are these:

  • Do I have friendships in which people know the true me?
  • Do I have 3 people except family I would call on to help me in times of need?
  • Do I talk to people about what takes up the prime places in my mind?
  • Do I know another person as well as I really would like to?
  • Is there anyone that knows the nuances of what I am going through right now?

These questions will illuminate the health and depth of your relationships. If these questions have exposed a gap in your experience, then it is time to commit to building sustained and healthy relationships.

Start with any connection you do have and look to deepen them.

Next, look for any groups or associations that meet around interest areas of yours. You will also benefit from actively looking to see who you do relate to in your normal spheres of life and attempting the “next step” of communication. Don’t force this, but do commit to working in this area.

Emotional Coping Skills:

The third landmark to consider is how you now cope with emotional experience given that addiction numbs our experience. If you haven’t noticed a connection between how you are feeling and experiencing the world and your struggle to act out I would encourage you to look for one—it is rare when they aren’t connected.

It is vital to realize that emotions are not good or bad, but experienced as pleasurable and uncomfortable [3]. When we experience extremes we often want to do something to get them back under control.

Basic effective methods of self-soothing when emotions throw us off-balance are the following:

  • Breathe deeply and rhythmically, which regulates your nervous system and allows a sensation of calm to return.
  • Consider what thoughts are spurred on by your experience and start questioning whether they are accurate or old expectations.
  • Turn to a friend and tell them how you are doing—this is very important for our sense of stability and stress.
  • Make sure you are exercising regularly and eating right—these two factors dramatically impact our ability to cope.

Man using smartphoneEmotional coping skills can be developed quickly and learned through a number of methods. I would encourage you to check out mindfulness based methods such as www.reflectiveprayer.com or the app, Stop Breathe Think.

However your recovery is going, taking the time to consider and capture these three landmarks will improve your chances of avoiding relapse.

Discussion Question!

Have you set limits on your smartphone usage?  What types of limits have worked well for you?


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]: Carnes, P. (1983) Out of the shadows.
[2]: Loosemore, P. (2016) 21 Movements towards life.
[3]: Watt, T. (2014) Mindful London: How to find calm and contentment in the chaos of the city.


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 May 22, 2017.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 7, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com