Like most addicts in any addiction, we want what we want when we want it. In fact, I spent 6 years of my career working in a state prison system. I noticed that most inmates were addicts. Many thought this very same way in what was referred to as “criminal thinking.” However, not only is this “criminal thinking,” it is also “addict thinking.” Fortunately, most addicts are not inmates. I truly enjoyed working with the male inmates in the prison system. It kept me humble to remind myself daily as I walked through the metal detector and turnkey that I was one bad choice away from prison myself. To me, the razor wire and small cells with tiny widows were an external manifestation of an inmate’s internal well-being.
Now, you do not have to experience prison to experience external consequences from your addictions and poor choices. “We want what we want when we want it.” This is what I refer to as bad pleasure. The world we live in promotes and encourages bad pleasure. We see slogans like, “Have it your way,” “Just do it,” “If it feels good, do it.” “Why wait when you can have it today?” We are bombarded by them. The credit card is a great example. I want to buy a new piece of furniture or computer, so I swipe my card and get the pleasure of the item that I want immediately. Now, I know in 30 days or less that payment is going to come due, so I must go to work and earn the money to pay it off. Bad pleasure is all about pleasure first, payment second.
Good pleasure is about payment up front and pleasure later. For example, I go to work, earn the money I need for the furniture or the newest electronic device, and then I go purchase the item with cash or money in the checkbook. Then, I receive the pleasure.
Sex addicts are much the same, as they like the “pleasure” of pornography, masturbation or sex outside of marriage but “pay” later with guilt, shame or natural consequences of getting caught or found out later. Good pleasure is investing in an intimate monogamous or marital relationship with “payment” up front and then receiving “pleasure” later with the act of physical intimacy to celebrate the “work” that was done first.
Four Key Elements
Below are four key elements I have found to help sex addicts begin to win at recovery and overcome this pattern of giving into bad pleasure. Generally, a sex addict might have one or two of these; however, I have yet to meet a sex addict that has all four of these in place when we meet for our initial session.
The first key to overcoming sexual addiction is to be obedient to a recovery model that has a history of success for those who have gone through it. Obedience is a very difficult concept with addicts, as they have done want they want when they want for many years or even decades. There are a lot of great programs that have a wonderful history and tradition, such as a 12-Step Program, Evidence-Based Programs, Spiritual Programs, Cognitive Behavioral Programs, Trauma-Based Programs, Neuro-Psych, and Energy Psych. They all have strengths and weaknesses. One program might help one person but not the next. The key I have seen is to be obedient to what the program is asking you to do. One must be obedient to the program’s definition of sobriety, such as no use of pornography, no masturbation and no sex outside of marriage. I have never found it wise for an addict to define their own sobriety.
Second is intentionality. You must be as intentional in your recovery as you were in your addiction. Sex addicts intentionally plot, plan, and scheme their next “hit.” They often plan their driving route, the time it will take to act out during a break, when they will be alone, when to get online, meet up with someone, make up a story about missing money, time spent, or trips taken. In the end, it is all very intentional. That same intentional energy could have been directed toward recovery meetings, recovery work, therapy, and rebuilding broken relationships.
If there is one thing consistent about sex addicts, it is that they are consistently inconsistent with their recovery work. Consistency builds trust. I like to define trust as positive consistent behavior or time. Distrust is negative inconsistent behavior over time. Nothing will destroy trust faster than a spouse not being consistently consistent. Now, it does not have to be just with the big things either. It’s about being consistent with the small things like being on time, being where you say you are going to be, when and with who, daily making phone calls to your support group or sponsor, paying bills on time, attending your children’s events, making deadlines at work or just being to work on time.
Generally, sex addicts have no accountability or anyone of authority who is speaking into their lives on a regular basis. One of the best forms of accountability for a sex addict is to take a polygraph test on a regular basis. Depending on the severity of the addiction, most of my clients take a polygraph every 30 days to once a year. After the first few polygraphs, sex addicts begin to look forward to their next test, as it becomes not only accountability but a sense of accomplishment that is verifiable. Sex addicts may also struggle with authority in their life, such as a sponsor, mentor, spiritual leader, pastor, rabbi, or priest to help keep them accountable. Now, don’t get me wrong, accountability is one of my pet peeve words in recovery, as one is only accountable as one is honest with or without authority in their life. I have met very few men who meet with someone of the same gender for accountability on a regular basis.
In conclusion, these are the four elements: Obedience, Intentionality, Consistency, and Accountability. Following these four key elements will help you or your loved one overcome their sex addiction.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.