The sheer intensity and complexity of the feelings that drive sex addiction are what make overcoming it so difficult - and so rewarding. The rewards can be maintained throughout one's life, if the addiction is approached correctly.
Sex addiction is successfully overcome by attacking the problem on two levels. The first level consists of the personal issues stirring beneath the sex addiction. The second level addresses the addictive aspects of using sex as an escape. One of the most common mistakes people make when attempting to overcome sexual addiction is they attack the problem on only one level. Another common mistake is not knowing how to distinguish between the personal intimacy issues and the addictive issues involved with sexual addiction.
The personal issues display themselves through the different forms of sex addiction. Unlike alcohol, or most other addictions, there are various kinds of sex addictions with important differences. Someone addicted to masturbation/porn does not have the same personal problems as someone addicted to prostitutes. A married man sneaking one porn magazine into the house should not take the same approach to his personal issues as a single man obsessed with porn stars.
All the personal issues involved with sex addiction spring from one root: fleeing intimacy. Intimacy issues such as those between parent and child, between friends, neighbors, business associates, etc. do not apply to sex addiction. The intimacy problems involved with sex addiction are emotional, romantic, and sexual on an adult level. Conventional, licensed therapy encourages its clients to focus on the traumas of childhood to overcome sex addiction. But sex is a distinctly adult issue. Even people molested as children change as they mature. Although they don’t get media attention, there are plenty of people molested in childhood who did not become addicted to sex. From what I’ve observed in helping people overcome sex addiction since 1983, most sexually addicted people have never been molested. Clearly, childhood trauma does not cause sex addiction.
Your best chance of success is to approach sex addiction as an adult personal conflict.
Now let’s look at the second aspect of overcoming sexual addiction – using sex as an escape. Let’s start with this definition of addiction, “The consistent use of a substance or an activity to escape dealing with uncomfortable feelings.” Sex is not the only activity that can be used for escape. Addictive use of work, exercise, or eating is also possible. Substances such as alcohol, drugs, pot, and psychological medication can also be used addictively to escape reality.
The sexually addicted person is not the only one who suffers from his addictive escapes. The partner can suffer more than he does. When a couple seeks help, it is just as important to relieve the partner’s pain as it is to successfully guide the sexually addicted person.
In the next part of this series we’ll discuss how the attempt to escape reality causes a substance or activity – such as sex - to become addictive. One final thought to keep in mind: the rewards of dealing with reality far outweigh the temporary and shallow high of escape.
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Joe Zychik is the author of "The Most Personal Addiction: How I overcame sex addiction and how anyone can"
For more information on overcoming sex addiction visit: SexualControl.com
Joe overcame his own sex addiction in 1982. Since 1983 he has been helping couples and individuals successfully overcome sexual addiction.
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