What Do I Tell People While I Am in Sex Addiction Treatment?

Teen struggling with prescription drug use

When it comes to kids asking about sex, there have always been jokes, cringing, embarrassment, and confusion. What do I say, how do I protect them yet equip them, where is the line, are they too young to even ask the question?

These questions and many more get fumbled by countless parents every day, and they serve as a pretty good guide as we think about communicating about sex addiction treatment!

Developmentally Appropriate?

Let’s start with the most vulnerable people in your world—the kids! The first thing to consider is how old are they and therefore what is developmentally appropriate for them to hear or know about (1)?

This question is crucial because it is the primary information you need to know to adequately protect your kids while still addressing the disruption in their lives.

Think about these things: How old do you need to be to have any idea what “addiction recovery” could mean, or what “sex addiction treatment” is? The kids might not yet know what sex is.

You want to carefully consider every phrase you use and how much exposure it creates, how much confusion it will stimulate, and if it could overwhelm your kids and create anxiety.

Woman sitting, struggling with sexual addiction

The tendency is to overburden kids with information they can’t process. Whatever level they need, join them there, and be ready and open for questions to come.

Look up developmental guides and find out what is appropriate—talk to a counselor who works with sexual addiction or children.

An example of what might be appropriate for small kids: “Daddy is going to spend a week away to learn how to love mummy well, to remember how to care for her and make changes to how I spend my time.”

Honesty With Boundaries

When you think about adults the emphasis shifts to creating healthy boundaries, which is something sex addicts don’t often have. This is a learning opportunity.

You want to let people know that you are making very serious changes and that mental health is a priority for your family.  However, the more intimate your relationship with friends and family, the more you may disclose.

A key question becomes, “How honest can I be with this person depending on their ability to support us and be a constructive influence in recovery?”  This is the opposite of focusing on self and shame.

What is Pertinent?

You must also ask yourself: what is it that this person needs to know? This is to help you continue building meaningful relationships without putting the undue stress of sexual addiction treatment on others.

To clarify this, your social circle of friends may need to know you have struggled with mental health and appreciated their support in your recovery. You close friends may need to know you are in addiction recovery so they can support you.

Your extended family, depending on how close and supportive they are, may need to know nothing much beyond you are out of town that week or they may need to know of the distress and trauma your family are going through so that they can assist in multiple ways.

There is no simple answer other than to assess what is pertinent to this relationship about which you are thinking.

How Much is Enough?

No matter how close you are with someone, there are usually going to be details that you shouldn’t discuss. This is because their best interest is important, just as your recovery is important.

Sexual details, for instance, are not typically helpful; rather they could offend or traumatize individuals (2). It is important to think about the other person’s needs and sensitivities when discussing (or potentially discussing) sexual addiction treatment.

What Do I Do With Questions?

We are inquisitive; there is no denying it. When tricky questions come, or people press you for details you are well within your rights to politely decline further information.

This may be challenging or seem like the hiding behaviors you are trying to leave behind. I would encourage you to consider for whom the question is intended. Are they asking to help and support you, or only because they want to know more?

If it is the former, it may be helpful to tentatively share a little more, but if it is the latter, then politely decline.

Declining information could be as simple as: “Thanks for asking, I’d rather keep the details between my spouse and me, boundaries are something I am working on.”

The Bigger Picture

The bigger picture isn’t “sex addiction treatment,” it is things like loving your family, learning emotional connection, living a life that is fulfilling, growing your sense of self, getting priorities aligned and living according to your values.

Jimi Hendrix t-shirt in addiction treatment

Don’t fall into the trap of talking about addiction recovery like it is the goal and focus of your life—it maybe for a short time, but it is for a bigger purpose.

Remember to discuss what you want your family to look like, how you want to live and invite others into this journey.

Paul Loosemore

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.


[1]:  Bowman, T. (2013). Angry birds & killer bees: talking to your kids about sex. Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City.
[2]:  Steffens, B. A., & Means, M. (2009). Your sexually addicted spouse: how partners can cope and heal. Far Hills, NJ: New Horizon Press.

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 October 6, 2017
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on October 6, 2017.
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions.