Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Can a recovering sex addict ever have sex?

Hint: Yes, they can!

by Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S (See all authors)

Sex addicts new to recovery typically have little to no idea how to define sexual sobriety. Sometimes they worry that sexual sobriety is the same as chemical sobriety, where permanently abstaining is the ultimate goal. Many say that if that is the case, they’ll stick with their addiction, thank you very much. And would anyone fault them for this?

Happily, sex addiction recovery is less like recovery from substance abuse and more like recovery from an eating disorder, where the goal is learning how to eat in healthy ways rather than abstaining entirely, which would obviously be a very bad idea. As such, long-term recovery from sex addiction does not mean addicts can never have sex again. Instead, sexual recovery is a process of learning to be sexual in life-affirming, relationship-affirming, non-compulsive, and non-problematic ways.

Nevertheless, most newly recovering sex addicts are asked in treatment to take a 30, 60, or 90-day timeout from all sexual activity, including masturbation. This relatively brief period of total abstinence is suggested for two reasons: 1) it temporarily separates the addict from his or her problem-causing behaviors, and 2) it helps the addict develop some perspective on his or her behavior – an understanding of which sexual actions have caused problems and which have not. Then, based on that analysis, sex addicts can create a written definition of and plan for sexual sobriety.

Moving forward, the recovering addict agrees to avoid the sexual behaviors that create problems in his or her life. Engaging in any such activity is deemed to be non-sober sexual behavior. [T]his definition clearly defines the addict’s bottom line behaviors. Murky plans lead to murky recovery, and nobody needs that extra layer of complication. Healing from sex addiction is hard enough as is.