SexualRecovery.net
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Welcome to SexualRecoveryNet:

Erik Bohlin, M.A. is a recovery coach who offers hope and skills to get you free from sexual addiction.  Check out the video.

 

The Problem of Sexual Addiction

Struggling with pornography, compulsive masturbation, affairs, chat rooms, and sexual behavior?  You are not alone.  It is a big problem.  The losses can be astounding--a marriage, a family, a job, and self dignity.  Sexual addiction can impact one's pocketbook, physical health and self esteem.  Oftentimes we don't connect the dots.  We don't see how acting out sexually is causing all these other problems.  Sometimes, we think that if we didn't have these problems in the marriage, we wouldn't "use" sex so much.  We might also just think that we have a higher sex drive than others and this is still normal.

If you feel that you have a problem, there is help!  But there is no freedom without a fight.  How does one learn how to recover from the grip of addiction?  There are specific tools and principles for stepping out of the
maelstrom of sexaholism. 

One has to see past the addiction, to what one can become.  One has to see that there more important things in life besides sex.  You might be thinking, "it is hard to imagine that there is anything better." (for sexaholics, some research indicates that you might process dopamine differently that other people do and that your experience of sex might be different as well.)  Most people understand that sexuality is a very powerful force.  When one has had a hard time keeping up in life, it is easy to use one's sexuality, or rather misuse it to feel better.  The nature of addiction is for "it" to become central in one's life-to become a "dictator."  Addiction comes from the Latin, ad dictum - to the dictator.  To get free it takes three things. 

1) Motivation-You've got to want it out of your life. 

2) Skill-You've got to learn how to get it is out of your life. 

3) Action-You've got to actually take the steps in order to get it out of your life.

Putting this all together is what is called a "program."  A "program" of recovery works for many addictions.  Just like the addiction ran your life into the grave, a program  of recovery can help you resurrect from that grave of self destruction.

A Program of Recovery from Sex Addiction
The addiction is a big part of any sex addict's life.  Just like people who drink and drug, shop or gamble, they use for just about any reason.  People use when they are happy.  They use when they are sad.  When they are anxious.  When they are mad.  It "helps" to face the day.  It "helps" to end the day.  Often sex addicts say they use it at night to go to sleep - a nightcap.  It becomes more and more clear that anxiety has a lot to do with this.  Any program of recovery involves learning to manage anxiety.  Does the acting out sexually create more anxiety.  Sure it does, but we don't usually think so.  

To recover, one must have a program.  Something that they do every day to remind them: 1) That they have a sexual addiction and need daily dose of the medicine of recovery; 2) There is hope for recovery and that it will work if they take certain steps; and 3) One must actually practice the steps (actions) and principles on a daily basis to recover. 

Your own program of recovery

Many of us tried on our own.  We realized that we needed more information or support or something, because we couldn't do it alone.

1.  Have you ever tried to stop acting out sexually but found yourself failing?
2.  Have you made promises to yourself that you would quit and found yourself using again?
Did accountability not work for you?

Most of the work to get well from sex addiction occurs outside the counseling office or a recovery group.  It is what takes place every day, morning and evening - with others and by one's self.  Counseling and 12 step meetings are essential to recovery, but the actual work occurs the other 23 hours of the day.  When we are alone.

A home-based recovery program makes a lot of sense.  As a therapist, I have worked with addiction for over 20 years and find that I say the same things over and over.  It is not that people's stories aren't different, but it is about the solution being the same.  Over the years I have learned a lot more about recovery than I started out.  I have found what works and what typically doesn't work.

A home-based recovery program for sex addiction can save you some money and can get you started on the road to recovery.  It is not intended to replace professional counseling, but is about providing sound information that can be used to help you get started in recovery and/or a supplement to therapy.

Counseling definitely has its place and can be very effective.  But what if you can't afford therapy right now or are unable to take time off from work?  The travel alone adds more time away from your day. 

Listening to your program on your IPod or in the car can strengthen your recovery program.  I will share with you valuable steps towards getting free.  I will also encourage anyone who has this problem that they can get help.  I am starting to sound like I am selling something?  Well, actually I am.  There is a lot of valuable free information on this website.  I believing in giving.  But, I also make a living putting together audio programs for people with what I believe are very good and practical tools to help people.  I am a professional counselor and a recovery coach to assist people in recovery.  I realized that most of the information I gave to people was usually the same information.  I decided to maximize my times and efforts by putting together the Sexual Recovery Project.  It is comprised of a number of coaching sessions.  You can go immediately to our store to check them out by clicking here

Session 1:  Getting Started - This coaching session will get you started in your recovery journey.  What are the first steps of recovery?  Learn the difference between "getting control" of the addiction vs. "letting go" of the addiction.  What is sexual addiction and what is it doing to me?  How to get motivated for change.  Techniques to help you gently get out of denial and see the whole picture.  We discuss the personality characteristics and defense mechanisms of any addiction and how they affect relationships.  Learn about the 5 stages of change and how to use them for your recovery.  Click here to order

Session 2:  Relapse and Recovery - This coaching session with Erik will deal with slips and relapses in a compassionate way to help you learn how to get sober.  Humility is the key to gaining sobriety. Learn from your last relapse and gain wisdom from it.  Identify what your triggers are and 3 questions to ask yourself that will prevent another slip.  Gain better recovery by understanding a little about neurophysiology of sexual addiction. (49 minutes)   Click here to order

Session 3:  A Plan of Recovery - Just like "the force of addiction" had a plan of destruction, you must have a plan of recovery.  Without, you will never get sober.  I know this is bold to say, but I haven't ever seen anyone get long term freedom from sex addiction without it.  For recovery to be successfully, understanding, developing and putting into practice the plan will give you the greatest chance of sobriety.  Not only will it help you get sober, it will help you stay sober from lust. (70 minutes)    Click here to order


Session 4:  Surrendering to God  (will be added soon)

Session 5: The Neurology of Addiction  (will be added soon)

Session 6:  Making the Connection  - Learning about emotion and how to connect with others.  Addiction isolates its victims.  It is destroyed through honest and loving connection.  Learn how to connect in the right way and how the addiction brings 'the great misconnection.'

Session 7:  Handing Slips, Falls and Relapses  - Learning to handle relapse is just as important as learning how to get sober.  It is one thing to get sober.  It is another to stay sober.  Many people can stop.  It is staying stopped that is the key.


How do I know I am addicted to sex?
Here are some questions to consider.
  1. Have I ever thought I needed help for my sexual thinking or behavior?
  2. Have I ever thought that sex is controlling my life?
  3. Have I ever tried to stop or limit doing what I felt was wrong in my sexual behavior?
  4. Do I resort to sex to escape, relieve anxiety, or because I feel I can't cope?
  5. Do I feel guilt, remorse or depression afterward?
  6. Has my pursuit of sex become more compulsive over time?
  7. Has my level sexual behaviors progressed, i.e. "I have done things now that I thought I would never do?
  8. Does it interfere with relations with my spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend?
  9. Do I have to resort to images or memories during sex?
  10. Do I keep going from one "relationship" or lover to another?
  11. Do I feel if I had a better sexual relationship with my spouse that this would help me stop lusting, masturbating, or being so promiscuous?
  12. Does the pursuit of sex make me careless for myself or the welfare of my family or others?
  13. Has my effectiveness or concentration decreased as sex has become more compulsive?
  14. Do I lose time from work for it?
  15. Do I turn to a lower environment when pursuing sex? Has it taken me to places in a city, I never thought I would go?
  16. Do I want to get away from the sex partner as soon as possible after the act?
  17. Have I used alcohol and drugs in the past?
  18. Have I ever been in a situation that I might have considered sexually abusive?
  19. Have I felt I had to keep this a secret?
  20. Do I have difficulty expressing my feelings?
  21. Was it difficult for me to answer these questions, or did I try to minimize and rationalize some of the answers?

Answering yes to any of these questions could mean that you have a sexual addiction is affecting your life.



The Cycle of Addiction
This video explains how the cycle of addiction works and how it pulls you in.



The Four Core Beliefs
1.  I am unlovable.  The sex addict, like any addict at the core, feels really different from others.  There is a sense of toxic shame.  Yeah, we may feel and work hard just like the other guy and work at looking normal, but deep down we don't feel the same as others and really don't feel loved.  In a marriage, we complain that our wives don't love us enough.  We may not express this openly or even have thought about this--but this is how we feel.  We may have a lot of friends, but on the inside we think that we are fooling others and that given time, they will found out how "bad" we are an we will be rejected.  In the book of Sexaholics Anonymous, it says "that first we were sex addicts, then love cripples, we took from others to fill what was lacking in our lives."  We were taking what was lacking in our lives."  This leads us to the next core belief.

2.  If I share everything with you, you will reject me.  So we begin to hide and not share honestly what is going on in our life.  This is not just the sexual indiscretions, but just about anything we think presents ourselves in a poor light.  In some ways, sex addicts may look great and better than average on the outside, while on the inside they feel dead.  We live a double life, and not just about sex.  As a result of being dishonest, our marriage begins to suffer.  It creates a wedge between us and our spouse and we really start to think that if "I share everything, I will be rejected."  So we put a spin on reality.  We are in denial, which is not so much lying, but really about unawareness.  We fool ourselves so that we can live with ourselves.  We minimize.  We admit to some behaviors but normalize them and justify them.  We defend and explain.  We say, "well, it's not like we are having a good sexual relationship."  Could it be that the sexual addiction is the cause of that?  We usually don't think like this and think of it the other way around.  If I were having a better relationship with my wife, then I wouldn't have this trouble.  Chances are we come to the marriage with this.  We think, "I am just like all the other guys."  We develop an "accounting system" which is present in any addiction.  There is a list of sexual behaviors we haven't done to convince ourselves they we were not addicts.  "I haven't gone to a strip club or a prostitute"  "It is not like I masturbate everyday."  "It is not like I do it any more than every three months."  "I am not really out of control, I just need to work hard at this."  Eventually, if it is a sex addiction which is a progressive disease, it will be getting worse and not better.  We then do a behavior on the accounting list, but move it to the acceptable list to help us stay in denial. 

3.  If I depend on people or God, they will let me down.  Sex addicts are very independent, self-directed people.  They don't want to rely on anyone, because they feel that they could be let down.  They have a hard time trusting people.  This usually comes from their dysfunctional family growing up.  This is not about blaming, but identify where they became "ill."  The "addiction" becomes the "trusted source of comfort."  We don't know how to ask for help.  That is why this usually goes on and on and on.

4.  Sex becomes my more important need.  It may not seem like it, but really we live from sexual experience to sexual experience.  It begins to dictate our lives.  The root of the word addiction in Latin is "ad dictum," meaning, to the dictator.  These core beliefs are present in most addictions, drugs, pot, alcohol, sex, food, working, gambling,  and spending. 

In counseling we address these 4 core beliefs.  We have them start to break these rules.  We encourage people to talk in a safe and confidential place.  Usually with their therapist, support group, or 12 step group (SA-Sexaholics Anonymous).  We don't encourage lying to spouses, but we don't think it is wise to share everything, like their sexual history timeline with their spouse.  We need to help them get used to sharing honestly with them selves and then a sponsor.  Their spouse is typically coming from the place [and it is an understandable and healthy place] that their spouse has committed adultery, at least at a mental level.  We help the sex addict start to "get sober" as we call it.  That is they stop using porn, masturbation, etc. and they start to develop new ways of coping.  They start to feel emotion again or possibly for the first time a a deeper level.  We help them ask for help for what they need in life.  We help they develop a better relationship with God.  Many people have a relationship and have been going to church, but their addiction has gotten in the way. 
This is just a glimpse of the work we can do to gain recovery from this problem that seems to be affecting so many of us.



What are the steps toward healing?
Recovery is the process where we are tired of using and we say good by to our 'drug of choice.' The process of recovery is three-fold: Physical, Emotional and Spiritual. Some substances have a direct effect on our nervous system like alcohol, pot, street drugs and prescription medicine. Sex addiction is what we call a "process addiction" as they involve behaviors and not a substance.  Other process addictions are compulsive, gambling, spending, work and Internet use. Don't be fooled. These behaviors can be very addictive and affect our brains just as much.

Emotionally, addicts are numb. That is why many people with addiction look so good. They function pretty well. They appear even tempered at the beginning stages, because they are sedating ourselves with the glass of wine at night, the porn fix weekly or the "shopping therapy" on the weekend. They really don't really think that there is anything wrong. This is what is called denial.  It is easy to minimize masturbation.  The feeling is that "I am not really hurting anybody."  But, it is hurting the loved ones around them by numbing themselves and expecting others to pick up the emotional pain. 

Emotional_Teeter_Todder
A spouse, parent or concerned person begins to feel more than they addict is feeling. As the concerned person becomes more motivated to help the addict, the addict does less to help their own life. The need to be "independent" and not controlled is a very strong need. It surpasses rational thinking and logic. They unconsciously choose to continue in their addictive cycle rather than look at the reality of what is going on and doing what their spouse wants. Feeling "independent," they are actually dependent on the sexual acting out, eating, drinking, working, shopping, gambling, or drug use.  The spouse or loved one started to be afflicted with the desire to "think for," "feel for," or "fix" the addict.  Why?  They have all this emotion that the sex addict is not dealing with.  By this time, the sex addict may only feel 50% of their emotion while the codependent may be feeling 150% (100% of their own and 50% of the addicts).  The feelings are then overwhelming for the spouse. 

There is also the element of breaking marital vows or a committed relationship, taking the sexual energy away from the other and consuming it on one's self.  All addiction has elements of selfishness, even though they may look very unselfish in some ways.  It would be like going out on a date and then running to the corner of the restaurant and eating the the meal by oneself or worse, taking a snapshot of the date and then spending time with the photograph. The reality is that there is no healthy masturbation or porn use.

The Physiology of Sexual Addiction

For instance, there is a center in our brain called the "Cingulate Gyrus." This area has to do with attention. It is the "channel changer" in our brain. When this works well, we are able to see options, have cognitive flexibility and be able to shift our attention from one idea to the next. When it doesn't work well, we get STUCK, not being able to get a thought, worry or resentment out of our minds. People who struggle with "Cingulate Gyrus" problems tend to hold on to resentments from the past, worry a lot, and their brains gets into a lock-in mode. These people often come from alcoholic homes. Addiction is appealing to them. It momentarily takes away the obsession and resentment and numbs it with pleasant feelings. But the obsession become switched to the obsession to use or compulsion to act out. We know that sexual addiction and compulsive gambling affect the same center of the brain, "Cingulate Gyrus," as in cocaine addiction. Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist whose clinics have looked at more that 20,000 SPECT brain scans of individuals, has provided us with a lot of useful information regarding addiction. His website, brainplace.com is very helpful.


12 Step Programs, Honesty, and Shame

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12 step programs have helped countless individuals who have struggled with addiction.  The steps are simple spiritual processes that when utilized help people overcome what they could not do on their own.  These principles, even though they appear simplistic, are pretty profound and life changing once they are explored, understood and practiced.  The recovering addict claims "spiritual progress, rather than perfection." (taken from the book Alcoholics Anonymous)  Perfection was part of the disease. Addicts could not admit many mistakes, imperfection or any problems prior to recovery. Why? Shame is a big part of it.  We tend to use the word shame to describe what in fact is really, "toxic shame."  Healthy shame reminds us that "we are not God." Most of the shame addicts experience is this "toxic shame," that is not being human.  To compensate for the sense of shame, they are perfectionists.  It is difficult for them to be honest with themselves about their faults, their shortcomings and the life in general.   Without honesty, there is little growth.  So unrecovered addicts tend to repeat the same mistakes without ever learning.  Shame makes them arrogant, prideful and "better than life." They are in a "better than/less than" dance.  You are either better than them or less than them. Health is recognizing that each person was created by God and that we have all been affected by the fall.  This disease has affect us all.  If we can only see ourselves as we really how, think how much more we could repent and make progress.  In a shame-free environment, there is acceptance.  Acceptance of another human weaknesses and strengths.  By accepting we don't meaning condoning sinful behavior, but acknowledging and dealing with it.  Because of shame we don't even want to deal with it. We bury it. We repress it.  We actually don't think it is there.  That is why so many alcoholics don't really think that there is a problem.  Shame is the experience of being a "defective human being." Recovery helps us see that we are a "human being with defects."  This shift in our approach to ourselves, helps us see ourselves as we really are and then repent and recover.


The Illusion of Control

Another element that addicts experience is that they feel so out of control, that they overcompensate by trying to control the externals--people, place, situation. Letting go is foreign to the life of an addict. In essence, they are "control freaks." We tend to think of negative situations involving control. But control can be trying to make everyone happy. Not ever really telling people that we are upset, because we don't want to upset the proverbial apple cart which would ultimately make us feel out of control. We don't want to be rejected, so we lie. Lying could be seen as form of control. We would any of us lie, except to alter peoples perceptions of ourselves. God knows that truth. We try to control our feelings. The more we seem to control, the more out of control we feel. We use our drug of choice, to give us a false sense of control.
 

The Paradoxes of Recovery

In recovery, paradoxes become evident.

  • We surrender to win.

  • We give away to keep.

  • We suffer to get well.

  • We die in order to live.

We SURRENDER TO WIN. We need to totally surrender unconditionally.  We acknowledge that we cannot win the battle against addiction and have totally made a mess of our our life.  We are better off if we stop running our life and let God run it for us.  We pray in Step 11, "asking only for God's will and the power to carry it out."  We are like a prisoner of war who surrenders with our hands up and we do whatever our higher power tells us to do.


We GIVE AWAY TO KEEP. This strange expression identifies our selfishness and understanding that we can only be healed as "we give away what God has given us."  "Freely you have received, freely give." (Matthew 10:8)  When we are hoarding, greedy and stingy we are likely to use our addiction again as we have left a state of Grace.

We SUFFER TO GET WELL. There is no way to escape pain or suffering in this life.  It is a truth that most alcoholics as well as most people try to ignore.  The alcoholic, drug addict and sex addict use their substance to avoid suffering.  This is why they use.  Many people reserve the term alcoholic for those that really suffer--shaking, needing another drink, getting sick from drinking.  But perhaps they are numbing themselves in minor ways and are too out of touch with themselves to identify that they are drinking as a form of self medication.  To recover, we must go through the pain.  We must learn to be mature and to face reality.  Thankfully, the 12 steps help us face reality with the Grace of God.


We DIE TO LIVE. This beautiful paradox comes right out of the biblical idea of "losing our life" (Matt. 10:39) and denying one's self and carrying one's cross. (Matt. 16:24) The harder we hold on to our life, the more it slips through our fingers without us realizing it. (We call this white knuckling it)  But when we empty ourselves of our ego, and die to our dreams, our will and our ways, God will give us life.  We must die daily.  While we may decide to surrender at a certain point of time, we must surrender every moment, so as to acquire God's grace to keep us sober.  This only comes through death, his and ours.





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"When you take a man as he is, you make him worse.
             
When you take a man as he can be, you make him better."
 
      

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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