Entering treatment for sexual compulsivity takes a lot of courage, especially in a culture where sex is seen as taboo on the one hand, but promoted and sold everywhere on the other. When men and women first enter outpatient therapy, they often continue to engage in sexually acting out via looking at porn, sexting strangers, engaging in various hook up apps, going to "massage" parlors, stripping, escorting; or engaging in the more hard core addict-offender behavior or exhibitionism or voyeurism.

Some if not most individuals have a difficult time when we ask them to sign a 90 day sobriety contract committing that entails not engaging in ANY sexual activity or other compulsive behavior (i.e., with substances, food, money, work, etc).

In some cases, we allow individuals who are in committed, long term relationships (i.e., married or in a union) to continue to be sexual with their partner unless they use sex with their partner as an escape, a form of exploitation, or another means to feed their addiction. We often have clients come to us voluntarily admitting that they need to do a sobriety contract even with their spouses for these very reasons (escape, exploiting, etc).

Sexual sobriety is a necessary tool for sex addicts seeking recovery, since, like someone with a substance addiction, if they were to continue to come to therapy after getting drunk, it would defeat the purpose of treatment. In order to get to the deeper issues and desires, one must abstain (for 90 days) from sex and anything related to sex.

We are wired to be sexual; this is human nature. However, with a process disorder such as sex addiction, an individual does not understand what healthy sex is. They use sex as a means to escape uncomfortable feelings, avoid intimacy, and flee from being truly attached for fear of rejection from their loved ones.  In order to learn, understand, and begin to practice healthy sexuality, one must first stop the destructive compulsive sexual acting out.

WHAT IS SEXUAL SOBRIETY ENTAIL?

Once individuals sign a 90-day sexual sobriety contract, we realize that they will begin to experience withdrawals, similar to  those experienced by individuals with substance dependence (anxiety, depression, irritability, loss of sleep, loss of appetite). Therefore, we encourage clients to get as much healthy support as they can in order to cope with the emotional and physical discomfort they often experience.

For instance, we emphasis attending individual and group therapy on a weekly or multiple times weekly basis, as well as completing daily assignments ("performables") from Dr. Patrick Carnes' Task Based Model, and attending SAA, SA, and/or SLAA meetings regularly.

An example of an assignment early on might entail doing a 3 Circle Exercise: The inner circle involves those things individuals must abstain from (i.e., porn, massage parlors, strip clubs, etc.) in order to remain sober. The middle circle entails warning signs (i.e., having access to porn on one's phone, driving in the neighborhood where one visited a massage parlor, being alone with one's computer). The outer circle entails new and healthy behaviors that will support one in recovery (i.e., therapy, quality time with their loved ones, exercise, adequate sleep, healthy food, meetings, getting a sponsor). We review this "working document" on a regular basis since one's cycle changes as they continue in treatment.

Partners sometimes feel uncertain about their spouse (the addict) signing a 90- day sexual sobriety contract for fear that they will experience more punishment as a result of their spouse's addiction. After all, the betrayal that they have endured resembles what research has now confirmed as being symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not being able to be sexually intimate with their partner when they already have felt kicked to the curb via their spouse's addiction can add salt to the betrayal wound. We encourage partners to come into treatment so that we can explain the process and offer them the support they need. We also encourage them to attend their own individual and group therapy with one of our therapists who specialize in treating partners of sex addicts. We emphasize that they too deserve support right now as much as their spouses who've caused them so much pain.

SOBRIETY IS POSSIBLE

I have watched numerous men and women enter treatment fearing they would never be able to achieve sexual sobriety, but in time and with practice many folks say that sobriety works. A recent client said they appreciated the opportunity to be on the sobriety contract for 90 days because it allowed them to focus on the things they'd been avoiding for years; primarily dealing with difficult emotions and connecting more with their spouse and children.

The goal in sex addiction treatment is not to stop all sexual behavior, since as previously noted, humans are wired to be sexual. The goal is to teach individuals how to have sexual recovery and healthy sexuality, which starts with stopping all destructive behavior.

As I tell all my clients, there is HOPE, and you can recover. If you or someone you know believes you have a sexual addiction, love/relationship addiction and would like more information, please contact Candice at 801-272-3500.

RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE AND YOU ARE SO WORTH IT.