"Sexual addicts need to remember the decades of struggle that alcoholics had to go through in order to earn public acceptance of their illness."
~ Patrick Carnes
Sex is a normal, healthy urge. But for the sex addict, it becomes perverted into a coping tool to medicate trauma, tension or discomfort. Over time, the sex addict's symptoms worsen; he or she becomes habituated to current behaviors and takes greater risks to recapture the initial euphoria that could numb the psychic pain. It's a devastating disease that treats other people as objects--like pills or powders--to be consumed, hoarded, discarded. It can lead to a loss of employment, loss of friends and family, other addictions, or even arrest and public humiliation. The abuse of sex--not sex itself--becomes a weapon of self-destruction. Despite much progress and new information, sex addiction is still shrouded by stigma and shame that make it difficult for those suffering to receive the help they need.
During the healing process, we compare sex to the element of fire. Fire can destroy life, or it can support life by cooking our food, keeping us warm, and comforting us in the darkness. Just as we must learn to separate its dangers from its gifts, the sex addict must learn how to separate unhealthy from healthy sex. That's no easy task, especially for someone who grew up in a family that did not teach healthy love. It is a slow process of facing one's primal, never-met needs for non-sexual nurturing, intimacy, friendship and community, and of delving into the painful early traumas that the destructive sexual behaviors disguised, often for years. Usually, a period of total abstinence--a "fast"--is required to cleanse the addict's psyche of old, damaging behaviors and to prepare him or her for new experiences. The journey to recovering one's sexual self as something good and whole can be long and arduous. Human resilience is remarkable, however, and healing is possible.
- What did you think when you first heard the term sex addict? Has your view of sex addiction changed?
- To broaden your understanding of sex addiction, you might read a book on it, attend an open 12-step meeting in one of the "S" programs (Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous). You can always call the intake line of sex addiction treatment centers and ask questions.
- Do you or someone you know have a problem with sex addiction? What's stopping you from healing this area of your life? Today, address these issues with trusted others.