Allan had spent three years in the Twelve Step Program. He felt that he had learned a lot and made a lot of new friends. But he was still going to prostitutes, using pornography, and masturbating at work.
About six months before he called me he met Louise. He kept his Twelve Step meetings secret from her because he did not want her to know about his past.
He cared for her so much that he stopped all his sexually addictive behavior for the first three months of their relationship. Then he slowly returned to masturbation and pornography.
One night he picked up a prostitute. At the last minute he told her he didn't want to go through with it. He knew that if he did not get help, the next time he would go all the way.
A friend suggested he call me.
Because of his love for Louise, I was able to give him enough insights during our initial session to keep him from going back to the prostitute.
It was the first time in years he felt he actually had a chance of overcoming his addiction and building a good relationship with someone he cared for.
There was still a long way to go. Some of the mistaken ideas Allan had picked up from the Twelve Step program were:
- You must surrender your privacy to use the 12-step approach
- Public confession is required to overcome your addiction:
- You are not supposed to face your problem on your own:
- "Group think" is cool:
Allan had spent years confessing his sexually addictive behavior at open meetings anyone could attend.
The 12 step program discourages self-reliance
Allan believed that without a support group available to him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, he was helpless.
He would spend hours on the phone talking to other Twelve Steppers about his problems. Sometimes it would help. Other times, after he finished the call, he would go on a sexually addictive binge.
Twelve Steppers do not refer to themselves as individuals. Read the Twelve Steps for yourself. The word "I" is not used. Allan would make comments like, "Our addiction makes us do things we regret."
I would reply, "No, Allan, you choose to do things you regret."
If you want to overcome sex addiction, don't expect a group to save you. You overcome sex addiction or any other problem through your own, independent, self-reliant choices.
The Twelve Step approach was started in the 30's by two alcoholics.
The Twelve Step sex addiction program is actually an alcohol program.
Don't make the mistake of treating a sex addiction problem as if it were a drinking problem
Compare the 12 steps for alcohol and the 12 steps for sex. You'll see that the only difference is that the sex addiction program substitutes the word "sex" for the word "alcohol."
You can go through life without alcohol. If you attempt to do the same with sex, you will be fighting nature. It is a fight you will lose. Or winning will bring you suffering.
Because the Twelve Step approach is actually an alcohol program, it considers celibacy a success. You can attend Twelve Step meetings and hear Twelve Steppers brag about not having sex for years. Newcomers are encouraged to avoid all sex, as one would avoid all alcohol.
Allan had considered himself a success if he had no sex. But it put him in a troubling conflict when he met Louise because he sexually desired her.
Life is meant to be enjoyed.
Sex is one of life's most profound pleasures.
Not only is it a pleasure, it's good for you. Celibacy is unhealthy. It represents a complete flight from the healthy demands of an intimate relationship.
In our second session I said to Allan, "I suggest that you and Louise have as much genuine loving sex as you possibly can." It was advice Allan and Louise happily applied.
In the Twelve Step Program, married people are also advised to refrain from all sexual relations for months. As far as I'm concerned, that advice increases the tension between the husband and wife and encourages the sexually addicted person to flee further into fantasy and sex addiction.
Instead of celibacy:
Set a goal of achieving genuine loving sex with your partner.
Seek total emotional and sexual commitment. In a good relationship you don't have one without the other. You need both to overcome sexual addiction. More importantly, you need both to enjoy life.
Some people claim that sex addiction, or any other addiction, is a disease, like cancer.
Treating sex addiction as a disease will not help you. Here's why:
You won't be able to rely on yourself:
Let's assume you are struck with a curable form of cancer. You would rely on a surgeon or medication to save you.
In the Twelve Step Program and conventional, licensed therapy, sex addiction is considered a disease that just happened to strike you. Supposedly, you must rely on a Higher Power or medication to overcome the disease for you.
Allan truly believed that he could not overcome sex addiction on his own because he was convinced he had a disease.
But, as you've seen, sex addiction is the result of your choices.
Only you can change you.
Allan's addiction did not begin with a disease. A Higher Power or medication did not overcome it. It began with Allan. Allan's own correct choices overcame it.
You will have an attractive excuse to continue with your sexually addictive behavior:
If you were struck by cancer and your spouse said to you, "If you don't overcome your disease, I'm divorcing you," your spouse would be totally heartless.
Allan expected people to treat him as if he had been struck by cancer - and to accept whatever his "disease" supposedly forced him to do. His favorite line was, "The disease makes us lie."
Allan didn't have a chance of overcoming sex addiction until he admitted that he was fully responsible for his actions - and his lying.
You will be in conflict with the mind's nature:
The mind is a wonderfully precise and powerfully logical instrument; it also dispenses a justice of its own.
As Allan accepted responsibility for his actions, his mind rewarded him with confidence to face his problems.
He also learned that his mind sent him a pain signal when he attempted to escape the responsibility for his actions.
Test it for yourself. The next time you act sexually addictive, tell yourself, "I'm diseased. There is nothing I can do about my actions. Someone has to come along and cure me."
At best, you might feel a temporary relief of guilt. But your mind will know that you are responsible for what you did. The guilt will return. And it will be more intense because you refused to accept responsibility for your actions.
Now try this: Tell yourself, "I got myself into this mess, and it's up to me to get myself out. I'll observe my actions, my thoughts, my feelings and then I'll look for a solution. I'll seek advice if necessary, but I know it's not up to the advisor to overcome my addiction; it's up to me."
Although that approach alone will not overcome your addiction, you will retain the dignity of being responsible for your actions. Without that dignity, your chances of overcoming sex addiction are just about zero.
You will become dangerously confused:
You don't choose to get cancer or any other disease.
If you tell your mind, "I have a disease," your mind will not know if it should approach your addictive behavior as something you have a choice about, or something you don't have a choice about.
I helped Allan clear up his confusion by getting him to understand that his addiction was a result of choices that he made - and those choices could be changed only by him.
The disease approach can be a big financial mistake:
Many medical professionals and conventional, licensed therapists will offer you an expensive hospital program to "cure" your supposed addiction disease.
Allan knew quite a few people who had spent thousands of dollars on hospital programs to overcome sexual addiction. He had never met one who had achieved long-term success.
Your addiction is not a disease because:
It began with choices you made.
It continued on because of your choices.
Only your choices can overcome it.
Make sure you are treated as a unique individual.
Anyone can attend Twelve Step meetings. The person sitting next to you might be a child molester, a stalker, or whatever.
Allan was well aware of this, but would not tell it to new people he was trying to get to join the program. He also knew, as did I, that there are people who go to Twelve Step meetings to get a sexual high from listening to the confessions. Others go to find new sex partners.
Most people attending the meetings sincerely want to overcome their addiction, just as Allan did, but even they don't know everyone who's there.
You are a unique individual with unique individual needs. The Twelve Step Program uses the term "We" instead of "I" because it does not consider you a unique individual. It considers you a helpless, diseased member of a group who must turn him or herself over to a Higher Power.
You need an individual approach because:
If your only addictions are masturbation and pornography, you do not have the same problems a child molester does.
If you are faithful to your partner, you do not have the same conflict as someone who cheats on theirs.
If you have a history of long-term relationships, you do not have the same difficulties as someone who prefers short flings.
If your pattern is short-term failed relationships or one-night stands, you don't want to be treated like someone who has been married for 20 years.
Now let's take a sobering look at the group therapy meetings run by the conventional, licensed therapy establishment. In these meetings:
You can end up in a room with at least one person who wants to dominate the sessions.
The other people in the group have no professional or legal requirement to keep anything you say private.
The person next to you has not overcome their addiction; that's why they are in the group. But they are more than willing give you their advice.
Would you go to a financial planner who can't afford to make his mortgage payments?
Would you hire a handyman who doesn't know the difference between a hammer and a drill?
You've heard the old saying, "the blind leading the blind." Group therapy is based on the assumption that the more blind people you get into the room, the better their eyesight becomes.
You overcome sex addiction by relying on your own unique way of thinking and feeling. If you get advice, make sure it's from someone who overcame sex addiction.
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- If you are a man in a relationship troubled by sex addiction, take this interview
- If you know or suspect that your partner is addicted to sex, take this interview
- If you lost a good relationship or never had one, take this interview
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