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Levels of relapse

Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

In all forms of addiction there are four levels of relapse. First we fall behind in our programs: getting sloppy about contact with our supports, skipping meetings, not calling our sponsors, backing away from step work (usually at about the 4th step). Then we begin falling back into old stuff like lying, justifying bad behavior, hanging around with the old crowd or in the old places while thinking we can “handle it.” Next comes exposing ourselves to triggers, things directly related to using like hanging out at the bar, chatting up attractive members of the opposite gender, checking out the new brands of beer at the market, and generally acting like someone who wants to use but hasn’t gotten up the nerve yet. The fourth level goes without saying. Then, if we’re lucky, we get to start recovery again someday.

One of the things that makes sex addiction so hard to grasp in concept is that there are so many ways it can express itself, from stalking to voyeurism, compulsive masturbation to abusing others, serial or multiple relationships to addiction to an individual so powerful we think we’ll die if the person is out of our sight. To complicate things even further, many forms of acting out in sex addiction are simply normal behavior carried to extremes — just as with many other addictions.

Some sex addicts refer to “accessory behavior”. Accessory behavior is things that aren’t necessarily dangerous themselves, but that could put us in a position where we’ll be exposed to triggers. In complex addictions like sexual compulsions, there are a wide variety of accessory behaviors and triggers, just as there are literally dozens of ways to act out sexually.

For example, a person who was not addicted to Internet porn might not be triggered by using a computer. Nonetheless, landing on the wrong page with the wrong images could easily be a trigger for someone who is trying to be abstinent, so unsupervised Internet use might be considered accessory for that individual. For someone who is addicted to porn, on the other hand, just being alone with a smartphone could be a nearly insurmountable temptation. For both of them, hanging around at the beach or mall on weekends would definitely qualify as accessory behavior. Put another way, accessory behaviors are the sort of things we can avoid, and probably should.

A “trigger,” on the other hand, is simply a temptation that we don’t have the fortitude to pass up.

There are a couple of things we need to remember. One is the old saw, “If something is causing you trouble and you keep doing it anyway, you have a problem.” Normal people don’t get into one abusive relationship after another; they learn from their mistakes. Normal people who get a DUI don’t drink and drive again. Normal people don’t spend hours and hours a day in front of a computer screen living out fantasies — of whatever kind.

The other point, of which I remind newcomers over and over, is that a trigger is not a relapse. Triggers are dangerous as hell, and a willingness to expose ourselves to them is perhaps even more dangerous. However, we don’t have to give in to them. Triggers are triggers, acting out is something else. We have choices, and if we act out it is because we chose to.

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

Sex Addicts: Driven by Compulsion and a Fear of Intimacy

By: Bill W.
Previously we discussed how sex/love addicts lack healthy boundaries, allowing others to affect us in unhealthy ways, and how poor boundaries cause us to lack understanding of other people’s limits. We went briefly into the way sex/love addicts tend to remain in unhealthy relationships because we fear abandonment and loneliness, and how that neediness causes us to seek out similar relationships over and over again.

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Sex Addicts: Driven by Compulsion and a Fear of Intimacy Click to Tweet

related-postsLike other addictions, a sex/love addiction is multifaceted. But the thing we feel most is compulsion. Because we are truly addicted, we chase sex and relationships because we fear being deprived of stimulation and distraction.

We may practice “serial monogamy,” becoming involved in one enmeshment after another. Or we may pursue more than one sexual or emotional connection at a time. But most of us are in a relationship of one kind or another (physical, emotional or as fantasy) pretty much all the time.

We may try to stop, but find ourselves doing exactly what we said we would not do. If we do succeed in avoiding further entanglements, we are likely to become anorexic: avoiding all emotional entanglement. As John Bradshaw says in his excellent book, Bradshaw on the Family, “One hundred eighty degrees from wrong is still wrong,” or (as I like to say) a 180 degree turn still leaves you in the same old rut; we need a different path altogether.

Sex/love addicts have an unrealistic idea of love. We think that momentary satisfaction (which never lasts) equals love. We think because we are physically drawn to other people we must be in love. Some of us are attracted to other addicts, who are themselves needy, and we believe if we satisfy their needs we can gain what we lack in ourselves.

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But neediness is perpetual, a condition that never abates for long. This empty place needs to be filled from a source we are unable to tap. Some sex/love addicts seek rescuers, but the result is the same: another failed attempt and no lasting relief.

The root of these problems is our fear of intimacy. We don’t understand or know how to achieve a real connection with another. We attempt to connect in the only way that gives us that momentary feeling of loving and being loved.

Despite our fear of showing the real “us” to another, we desperately fear being alone. So we act out in our addiction, despite previous experiences which have shown us we’re on the wrong track.

The good news is there’s hope. Real recovery is possible. Before discussing that, however, we will continue to list more characteristics of sex/love addicts in the next couple of posts to help you determine if you might have a problem.

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

You Might Be A Sex Addict If…

By: Bill W.
I get a kick out of those lists you find online. You know the ones. They always start with: “You might be a (whatever) if…”
In keeping with my series of posts on sex addiction, I thought I’d create a list of my own.
You Might Be A Sex Addict If... Click to Tweet

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You Might Be A Sex Addict If….

* you look for sexual release and distraction when you’re stressed. We often act out when we’re bored, lonely, angry, afraid, or want to avoid thinking about the personal lines we’ve crossed. We worry that others have better jobs, prettier partners, or nicer cars. Most of all, we worry about others judging us if we lack these things. This kind of low self-esteem causes us to act out and find a way to relieve the pressure.

You Might Be A Sex Addict If...

* you use your sexuality to control other people by appealing to their emotions and hinting to get your way, rather than approaching issues directly.

* you become so involved in fantasies and romantic obsessions that you’re unable to function effectively in other areas of your life. Maybe you’re preoccupied with visiting the massage parlor after work or obsess about rushing home to your computer to watch porn. Maybe random people on the street ignite hours of relationship fantasies.

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* you’re in relationships with people who seem unreachable or unable to give you what you need. Every time a relationship ends, you dive into another with an unavailable partner. Sometimes you have a new relationship waiting in the wings (just in case). Other times you try to carry on both liaisons simultaneously. In any case, it’s always more of the same.

* you engage in sex-related activities or romance, despite wanting desperately to stop acting out and to live a quieter, less-demanding life.

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* you only see the “perfect” aspects of your partners and ignore all the red flags. Then you blame them for not measuring up to your perfect (yet completely unrealistic) “vision” of them.

* you’re afraid to become involved in an intimate relationship. This proves you’re no longer romantic or sexual, which is a sure sign you’re getting better, right? Not.

 

The bottom line is this. If sexual/romantic thoughts, acts, or fantasies are messing up your life, you need to take a good look at why this is happening to you.

There are fellowships and therapists out there happy to help. The first step is up to us.

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

Characteristics of Sex Addicts: No Boundaries

By: Bill W

One of the reasons sex addiction isn’t taken as seriously as other addictions (although, thankfully, that is changing) is that it’s an amorphous thing. Not only is sex interwoven into the fabric of our society, it’s also a fundamental part of the human experience. Just as it’s impossible to separate eating disorders from the natural need to eat, so is it impossible to separate sexual imperatives from normal human life. Thus it becomes hard to say whether many activities cross the line of inappropriate behavior, or whether they are normal “urges” or abnormal compulsions.sex addiction

 

So we have to look at these issues through the same lens we use to evaluate other addictions: is it causing problems for ourselves or others, and do we continue the behavior despite the consequences? Unfortunately, even those things are difficult to sort out sometimes, so in this and the next installment or two we’re going to look at some of the characteristics of sex addicts. Not all of them apply to all addicts, but most of us can relate to at least a few. So dial down the denial and let’s look at one right now.

boundariesBoundaries are internal, well-defined, points beyond which we don’t go with others, and they don’t go with us. For example, people with good boundaries don’t have sex with strangers, and they have pretty definite ideas about who is a stranger. People with good boundaries maintain their distance until they’ve had an opportunity to evaluate the other party. Certain kinds of conversation, jokes, and sexually-loaded remarks constitute boundary violations without the permission of the recipient, as do physical advances. Provocative dress is often a sign of poor boundaries. Sexual contact without consent is the ultimate boundary violation and is never okay. In fact, it’s illegal.brain_pornography

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Sex addicts lack healthy boundaries. We may fantasize about strangers without knowing anything about them. We may become involved sexually or seek emotional attachment with people who “speak our language,” despite that technique’s proven failures. We allow others to take advantage of us and often do the same to them, instead of functioning as partners. Everyone with poor boundaries (no matter the addiction) can’t say “No,” and/or to take “No” for an answer.

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Once in relationships, sex and love addicts tend to stay in them despite obvious problems. We do that because we are afraid to be alone, because we feel helpless and don’t know how to extricate ourselves, because we feel sorry for the other person. If we do leave, we often go back in response to begging or threats, or we immediately jump into another relationship because we lack the emotional resources to “make it” on our own — or think we do. Our sick relationships tend to distance us from family and friends, hobbies, other outside interests, and sometimes even jobs.

Those are a couple of things to mull over. We’ll go into the characteristics of sex addicts further in the next post.

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

Signs of Sex Addiction

By: Bill W.

One of the first signs of addiction is preoccupation with sex. That’s fairly normal for fifteen year olds, but not for adults–at least, not in most cultures. When we find our minds constantly going back to any issue, it’s a sign that we’re not processing things efficiently. When we begin doing so to the point of interfering with everyday matters, we’ve got a problem, regardless of what we want to call it.

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For the purpose of this discussion we’ll call unusual sexual activity or thoughts acting out. These can range from fantasies about an “ideal” relationship to sexual acts, to watching porn for hours or sneaking photos of women on the street, among many others. Whether or not they are abnormal often lies in the frequency with which we indulge. Like other kinds of acting out (drinking, taking drugs, overeating, etc.), when we indulge so often that it’s affecting our ability to function in other ways, things aren’t going well.

Lying and secrecy should set off our alarms big time. People don’t ordinarily find it necessary to carry out normal activities in secrecy, or to lie about it afterward. If we can’t be up front about what’s happening in our lives while talking to a trusted person like a spouse or sponsor, something’s up!

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Acting out addictively leads to escalation. As with any addiction, we reach a point where we need to pursue bigger thrills, greater highs. Along with escalation, we may find that we are doing things that are dangerous physically and/or legally, like consorting with prostitutes, having unprotected sex, or engaging in sexual practices that can be harmful. Dangerous or illegal acts, behavior that would jeopardize our relationships, and things that create financial problems would threaten our jobs are serious danger signs.

Along with escalation comes efforts to control. We may find that an evening with family becomes more difficult, and that we feel compelled to take an hour on the computer or “go out for a drive,” instead of the things that we know we ought to be doing. We may continue acting out even when it makes us feel guilty, try to act out only at certain times, or avoid certain activities, and find that we aren’t successful at sticking to those limits.

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And, when we don’t act out for a time, do we get restless and irritable? (Yes, Virginia, there is withdrawal from sex addiction.)

Finally, we get to emotional issues. Do we act out to relieve stress, stifle anger, when we’ve had a hard day or a fight with our partner? Do we use our sexuality as a means of escape from problems and uncomfortable feelings? Are we covering up the shame of things that were done to us by others, perhaps in our childhood?

If any of these ideas make us nervous, we need to take a good long look at our sexual behavior, perhaps with the help of a therapist or a program of recovery. We may not like the answers we find, but if we don’t deal with these issues we’ll like the results of that even less!

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

Sex Addicion–Joke or Curse?

By: Bill W.

In addition to my chemical addictions, I am also in recovery from sex addiction. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that I have been compulsive in my sexuality since an early age–and that’s a long time ago indeed!

People love to laugh about “sex addicts,” as if the whole idea were somehow silly. Truly, it is anything but. Sexual issues of one kind or another are at the root of many other compulsive disorders, to the point that savvy therapists are beginning to look there for clues to folks’ other addictions early on in their therapy.

Unhealthy sexuality is ingrained in our society. We use sex to sell everything from automobiles to beer, from vacations to drugs. It’s so thoroughly a part of American culture that it’s nearly impossible to avoid sexual references for much longer than we can stay away from TV, the internet, and even the local supermarket.

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Patrick Carnes, a leader in the study and treatment of sexual compulsivity and addiction, defines sexual addiction as “any sex-related compulsion that interferes with normal living and causes severe stress to family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.” (Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Center City, MN. Hazelden. 2001).

Sexual compulsivity can include such diverse things as “undressing” every person of the attractive gender in our minds (or imagining a fantasy relationship with them), sexualization of inappropriate people, internet porn, and even sexual anorexia–the complete avoidance of sexual encounters.

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Another form of anorexia is avoidance of social encounters because one has become so enmeshed in sexual compulsion that he or she has little desire (or time) to relate to others in a real, everyday way. This is a major problem, especially if the people involved are family members or partners. Alcoholics and other addicts isolate, too, but sexual isolation is especially pernicious because it removes our attention from anyone whom we cannot objectify.

Objectification, in fact, is what sex addiction is about. We begin to think of people only as sexual objects or the reverse–obstacles to our sexual fantasies. By doing this we distance ourselves from the real damage that we are inflicting on both the people we have dehumanized and those around us.

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Imagine being in recovery from a condition that plagues you when you’re walking down the street (especially in the summer), glancing at magazines in the checkout line, and watching football on the tube. Imagine having to limit your travels to places where you are unlikely to encounter people who trigger your fantasies and tendency to objectify. Imagine being unable to go online without safeguards: needing special filtering software on your computer, providing total accountability for your online time, or perhaps having a spouse in the room during computer time. Imagine learning that you need to avert your eyes when a sexually-attractive person is nearby. And on, and on…

Does sex addiction still sound funny? I didn’t think so.

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Bill W. (No, not that one!)

SFYB Staff Writer

The Four Components of Any Addiction @StopFryingBrain

By: Bill W.

I’ve been an addict from the age of four (sex and relationships) and 18 (alcohol and other drugs). And I’ve been in recovery from one thing or another for about 25 years.

I say “one thing or another” for good reason. If I’d paid attention and taken a “fearless inventory” when I got clean and sober back in 1989, I would — maybe — have dealt with my sexual issues then. Instead I let them screw up my life for another quarter-century.

The Four Components of Any Addiction

Although I did pick up a 25-year medallion from one of my fellowships a couple of months ago, I don’t really consider my recovery to have begun until April of 2013. That’s when I admitted I was powerless over my sexual and relationship issues. They were the root of my problems, not the booze and drugs. But I had to get my head on straight (and then have a massive kick in the ass) before I was able to recognize that and become willing to do something about it. Amazingly, I’ve somehow managed to b.s. my way into a sort of recovery “guru” position over the years, working and writing in the field and generally being a pompous know-it-all.

So my view of addiction is highly personal. This brings me to what I believe are the four components of any addiction: compulsion, obsession, living problems, and lack of satisfaction.

Some years ago I became obsessed with fancy knives. I’m not a violent person, given to thoughts of mayhem, but I grew up in a rural area where they were everyday tools. During that period of insanity, I bought several expensive knives. I researched them, looked at them in stores, decided which was the perfect choice, and then — finally — got one for my very own.

STOP FRYING YOUR BRAIN_knives pic

Here we have all four components of addiction: unaffordable (compulsion), continual thought and research (obsession), how do I justify this — or keep it a secret (living problems).

Finally, there was a short period of “Wow, I have the perfect knife” — and then the letdown. I’d look at the catalogs. There was always a better one (lack of satisfaction).

Then the cycle would start all over again.

I went through a similar period with pocket flashlights. This may seem silly, but both impacted my life negatively (we were broke), and despite that I continued the compulsive search for “perfect” cutlery. I pretty-much did the same with all my addictions.

I bet you did, too.

How many of us can look back and recognize that search for the perfect high, the perfect relationship, or a perfect balance between drunk or stoned and our everyday misery? How many of us have chased perfection past the boundaries of sanity and allowed it to ruin our lives?

STOP FRYING YOUR BRAIN_sadness

If you’re on this site and don’t recognize the basic emptiness behind those feelings, then I suggest you stick around for a bit. Along with the rest of us, you might learn something.

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Defeating The Venus Flytrap Of Sex Addiction

By: Scott McAdams

(Do Not Try This At Home)

Scott McAdams

We are all hardwired to be attracted to beauty in its many forms. Usually, these natural attractions result in an enhancement of our lives, a heightened appreciation for the wondrous gifts of our world. We marvel at the great masterpieces of man’s (and woman’s) efforts in art, literature, and science, feeling proud to be a part of such achievements. We are mystified by the ability of great music to touch our hearts so deeply as we experience the joys and sorrows of composers and performers.

Defeating The Venus Flytrap Of Sex Addiction Click to Tweet

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Heroism and selflessness in acts of loving kindness surround us daily, reminding us of our shared responsibilities to each other. We are awestruck by the majesty in nature, no less found in the smallest lily of the field and the overwhelming depth and variety of the universe. We are astounded by the beauty that envelops us and draw it closer to us with every breath.

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STOP ADDICTION ANIMATION 3Enter human nature and its fundamental frailty.  In our desire to take possession of that which can not be owned, we may tarnish our relationship to all things beautiful. Seen in its true light, beauty remains impeccable.  But, as science explains, looking at something changes its nature intrinsically.

This phenomenon holds true in human relationships as well.  This becomes apparent when we try to take ownership of another person in any way. Hence, the term “sexual conquest” rears its ugly head.  Then the beauty and promise of the sexual act is diminished, and remains a fleeting glimpse or not seen at all.

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Since we are also hardwired to procreate, sexual attraction is one of our most powerful instincts. Normally, these instincts are tempered by “the better angels of our nature,” and our ability to love and understand the focus of our desires.However, our hard-wiring can go haywire and with it the beauty in sexual relationships.

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The sexually addicted often enter into the sexual act, selfishly immersed in self-absorption, unable to find the tremendous fulfillment that a caring relationship offers. There may be huge obstacles placed in his (or her) way in the search for such fulfillment, some so deeply ingrained they are imperceptible.

STOP ADDICTION ANIMATION 3

Unhelpful societal norms (“I win, you lose”), unscrupulous friends and acquaintances, the destructive effects of secondary (or primary) addictions, post traumatic fallout from childhood and after, and the ensuing lack of psychological stability or proper counseling contribute to this addiction, directing the sex addict away from meaningful relationships. Daunting challenges face the sex addict, and he or she may very well need all the help that can be mustered.

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If you are experiencing these problems, get in touch with the experts in the treatment of sex addictions. They’ve seen and heard it all, and are prepared to expertly guide you through what may seem to be an inescapable maze. They do so with a heartfelt concern for your difficulties, dedicated to improving your life. They want you to experience the beauty of healthy relationships.

Why not take a step away from sexual addiction into a beautiful future? Click graphic below.

Scott McAdams

Staff Writer SFYB

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  • We are an “organic” social media community marketing content model. Come join our marketing effort today!  StopfryingYourBrain.com becoming one of the most viewed Substance Abuse sites in the nation. Learn why below we are a...
  • 5 Signs of Addiction for Seniors Other relevant articles you may be interested in; 1) Opiate Dependence among the Elderly 2) Elderly Addicted to Opiates 3) 5 Signs of Addiction for Seniors 4) Things Are...
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  • Great FB Groups For Addiction I’ve been working with best support people/groups in the addiction vertical. All the groups below are some of the best support groups on Facebook i’ve encountered. If you’re looking for...
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  • Exposing the FDA StopFryingYourBrain.com becoming most viewed Substance Abuse sites in the nation click here and learn more. There is also an excellent companion clip to this one which may be found by clicking here Wa...
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  • Stop Frying Your Brain Our Capabilities Please join our network of over 250 facility operators ! stopfryingyourbrain.com one of the most viewed Substance Abuse sites in the nation click here to learn more Do you...
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  • A Day in the Life of a Crack Dealer. Think about this for a while… Stop being so dam stupid. Be Smart. You have a choice. VOTE: While You Still Can! Donald Trump? StopFryingYourBrain.com becoming...
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