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Sexual Addiction

Am I an addict? – Am I in a relationship with an addict? Ask yourself Questionnaire for self-assessment Twelve Steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous The Twelve Traditions of Sex Addicts Anonymous What we Find Helpful in Working With Clients

Am I an addict?

Am I in a relationship with an addict?

If you are reading this then you are likely to be concerned about yourself or about someone you are close to. Those who have experienced obsessive compulsive urges to continue to pursue a level of sexual

behavior that is unsatisfying and leaves deep feelings of shame and fear of discovery will have asked themselves the first question. Those who have been involved, as a partner, parent, friend or family member, with a person who has problems with seemingly uncontrollable sexual behaviour will have asked the second question. What we call Sex Addiction can involve a wide variety of practices and can be conducted by men, women or homosexual people. In some cases it involves criminal activity, and for both the person behaving in this way and those close to them, the fear is always with them that the behaviour be discovered, will escalate to a criminal act, will destroy their reputation and real relationships, or will lead to them or those close to them contracting disease. The addict may have trouble with just one unwanted sort of behavior, sometimes with many, both sexual and non-sexual. Many sex addicts admit having had an excessive interest in sex for as long as they can remember, saying that unhealthy use of sex has been a progressive process. Often it will have begun with an addiction to masturbation, pornography in books and magazines, pornographic videos, and latterly with internet pornography, casual sexual affairs and use of prostitution. Sometimes it begins within a relationship with another sexually addicted person, sometimes with masturbation to release stress, or with soft porn use but however it begins, as years pass it can have progressed to increasingly dangerous behaviors. There is a basic element in all addiction which involves a feeling of not being in control in some area of their life, with the addict going on to experience powerlessness over their particular compulsive behaviors until they find their lives becoming unmanageable. The addict is out of control, and while ‘having to’ act out their compulsions they experience fear of discovery and tremendous shame, pain and self-loathing. Many addicts wish to stop, and despite their best efforts find how difficult it is and repeatedly fail. The unmanageability of addicts' lives can be seen in the consequences. They damage and destroy relationships, cause themselves difficulties with work, have, financial troubles, suffer a loss of interest in the non- sexual and may even have run-ins with the law. It often begins with low self-esteem and ends in despair and destruction unless help is sought. The addict’s sexual preoccupations can occupy all their waking hours and acting on their compulsions takes up most of their energy. It is a rollercoaster increasing in speed and intensity involving sexual patterns of behavior (or rituals) usually leading to increasingly and dangerously ‘acting out’ of their sexual addictions and fantasies. Acting out may involve flirting inappropriately, using books and films, surfing the

internet for pornography, prostitutes, or driving to places where sexually arousing events are taking place such as voyeurism and dogging. Normally, for the non-addicted, sexual behaviour takes place within a caring relationship and is an expression of positive emotional feelings towards a partner, but the addicts avoids this element and when the acting out happens they often are in denial of their feelings. Each addictive incident usually leads to a quick onset of despair and shame, or to feeling of hopelessness and confusion. Ask Yourself Questionnaire for Self-Assessment Ask yourself and answer truthfully these twelve questions which will help assess if you may have a problem with sexual addiction. 1. Are you leading a double life by keeping secrets about your sexual or romantic activities from those important to you? 2. Have you been driven by your needs to have sex in ways, places or situations or with people you (or someone like you) would not normally choose? 3. Do you find yourself buying books and magazines containing stuff of a sexual nature and looking for sexually arousing articles or scenes in newspapers, magazines, or other media? 4. Do your fantasies, romantic or sexual, interfere with your normal thinking process or interfere with your relationships or prevent you from facing problems? 5. Do you frequently want to get away from a sex partner after having sex? Do you frequently feel remorse, shame, or guilt after a sexual encounter? 6. Do you feel that you may be physically different from other people, or feel shame about your body or your sexuality, such that you avoid looking at or touching your body or engaging in sexual relationships? Do you fear that you have no sexual feelings or that you are asexual? 7. Do you find that your behaviour means that every new relationship follows the same destructive patterns which prompted you to leave the last relationship? 8. Do you find you seek novelty in that you need more variety and frequency of sexual and romantic activities than previously to bring the same levels of excitement and relief? 9. Have you behaved in such a way as to have been arrested or have put yourself in danger of being arrested because of your practices of voyeurism, exhibitionism, prostitution, sex with minors, indecent phone calls, etc.?

10. Do you find that your pursuit of sexual or romantic relationships interfere with your spiritual beliefs or development? 11.Do your sexual activities include the risk, threat, or reality of disease, pregnancy, coercion, or violence? 12. Has your sexual or romantic behaviour ever left you feeling hopeless, desperate alienated from others, or suicidal? If you answered yes to more than one of these questions then you don’t need anyone else to tell you that you are justified in having a concern. Seek help now from a counsellor, from a doctor, your spiritual advisor or from a sex addicts anonymous organization.

Twelve Steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous Below are twelve step details from Sex Addicts Anonymous which is a religiously based organisation. If you have no God you may choose, for the present, to admit “your belief in the innate goodness of humanity in mind and spirit” instead. You may find the twelve steps and twelve traditions useful in understanding where you are and where you could be. Even after personal counseling some clients find they need the support of ongoing meetings with others who are fighting their demons. See www.saa-recovery.org and www.sauk.org . Note that these are religious based organizations. The Twelve Step Program of SAA Sex Addicts Anonymous is a Twelve-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Here are the Twelve Steps of SAA: 1. We admitted we were powerless over addictive sexual behavior that our lives had become unmanageable. 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God. 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. 7. Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all. 9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. 10.Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. 11.Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God's will for us and the power to carry that out. 12.Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other sex addicts and to practice these principles in our lives. The Twelve Traditions of SAA 1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon SAA unity. 2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority - a loving God as expressed in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern. 3. The only requirement for SAA membership is a desire to stop addictive sexual behavior. 4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or SAA as a whole. 5. Each group has but one primary purpose - to carry its message to the sex addict who still suffers. 6. An SAA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the SAA name to any related facility or outside enterprise lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose. 7. Every SAA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions. 8. Sex Addicts Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers. 9. SAA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve. 10.Sex Addicts Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the SAA name ought never be drawn into public controversy. 11.Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, TV, and films. 12.Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. (The above Twelve Traditions were adapted from "Alcoholics Anonymous.)

While the 12 Steps and 12 traditions content of this page are adapted from the Sex Addicts Anonymous website, this is not an endorsement of any particular program. ** Pleas see also the Addiction to Alcohol and Drugs section of our website for further help and information.

What we Find Helpful in Working with Clients We have found four ideas helpful in working with clients. The first is with regard to the helplessness and feelings of being out of control often felt by the addict. Often, it is found that the addict, as a child, had a strict or unloving upbringing where they were subject to critical judgment and little constructive praise. One or both parents may have been prudish and judgmental of others, and this may have led a repressed sexual life for themselves. As a result of this, the addict as a child may have developed a secret place in their head where they were free to act as they wished – their own secret, safe place free from control, repression and judgment. The second idea develops from this and is that the usual benign fantasies of adolescence are not left behind. The addict becomes all powerful in their own heads, but they may have difficulty in forming good emotional relationships. With puberty this difficulty is reinforced, and they are often unable to ‘explore their sexuality’ with others of their own age and development, often taking on the outward prudishness of their parent while secretly desiring a more active sexual existence, an existence which becomes fuelled by pornography and the instant gratification of masturbation. In adult life the addict may be in a loving and sexual relationship and yet continue with their addiction. Indeed, under the pressures of day to day problems within their relationship, they may find themselves turning more and more to using their sexual addiction of choice. At these times, in their minds, their partner may take on some of the hated attributes of the judgmental controlling parent and be seen as the reason the addict needs to seek sexual gratification elsewhere. If the partner’s perceived behaviour is interpreted as criticism of the addict’s sexual performance the addiction assumes a different dimension. The benefit of masturbation, viewing pornography, casual affairs or the use of prostitutes to the addict is that they feel they are in control. They choose the place, the time and the secretiveness of it, and they can decide when to begin, how long it lasts and when it is to end. The only one who judges

the performance is the addict themselves, and at the time it is always ‘perfect in the performance’, even though it usually leads to regret and shame thereafter. It always has the element of being done in spite of the ‘retained image’ of the critical parent and is always accompanied by the fear of discovery by the critical parent, and their reproach of the addict’s weakness, yet again! A final aspect we find needs to be addressed is the addict’s search for novelty. Just as the drug addict finds that one drug no longer ‘does it’ for them and tries another, so the sex addict is not satisfied with what previously turned them on. We are not talking here about the escalation but about the need for the new and slightly different. Why would the pornography addict download thousands of images all of which are basically the same? Why, having read one sexually arousing book is there a need to find another which merely provides a variation of the same graphic sexual story? The addict needs novelty – they need their sexual gratification fed by the new, or seemingly new, each time. This we interpret as the addict having a low boredom threshold. This, linked with their undermined self esteem and difficulty in playing their part in sustaining real relationships, leads to them being self-absorbed. The above convinces us that ideas from psychodynamic, attachment and cognitive/behavioural theory used together are helpful in counseling those with a sex addiction. If you have a problem then it is time to discuss it discretely with someone who understands and wants to help. You can do no better than contacting Absolute Discretion Counseling Therapy.

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