By Floyd Godfrey, LPC, CSAT candidate
There are various unseen systems that loom within every addict. Understanding these systems is critical for successful recovery. At our office in Mesa Arizona, I have seen three specific aspects of successful recovery that ought to be considered when working through a sex addiction.
The first aspect involves neural-pathway development. This is something that happens within the addict’s body. It involves his very biology. In basic words the brain grows a neural connection with the acting out behavior. Over time and continued acting out, this neural-pathway becomes larger and stronger. In most instances it becomes automatic. Triggers may come into the addict’s life and immediately stimulate those pathways, causing an automatic reaction toward the acting out behavior. The addict suddenly finds himself impulsively attracted to the behavior. So if you understand this concept, you can systematically begin developing new responses to triggers, and grow new pathways that will become automatic. However, you must be deliberate in training yourself, and you must be willing to do this over an extended period of time. Additionally, you’ll need to identify the most helpful tools for dealing with the triggers. This will be a very calculated exercise.
The second aspect of successful recovery involves and understanding of bio-chemicals. When a sex addict is acting out, his brain releases a chemical cocktail into the bloodstream. Neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, testosterone, and oxytocin inundate the body to create a euphoric state. When these bio-chemicals are released consistently over a longer period of time, the brain will adjust to them and consider these new higher levels as “normal.” The result? When you try to stop the acting out, your chemicals dip lower, and your brain pushes you back toward the acting out in order to raise the chemical levels back up. So if you understand this concept, you can systematically begin developing a list of activities that produce some of these chemicals in healthier ways. It won’t provide the same rush, but helps offset any discomfort the addict might experience during abstinence.
The third aspect of successful recovery involves an understanding of emotional factors. There are always emotional roots to the addiction that have been undiscovered. Sometimes it might simply be the addict’s inability to tolerate emotional discomfort, and other times it might involve trauma. Either way, an addict must find ways of dealing with emotional pain and resolving it in his life. Pushing it down or ignoring it will give him the opposite effect. He will find later on, that he either shifts to a different compulsive behavior, or perhaps has a complete addiction relapse down the road.
I find that a common emotional factor also involves toxic shame. It’s perfectly healthy to feel guilt. This is when you feel bad about something you do. Toxic shame however, turns guilt upside down and tells you to feel bad about yourself. So instead of feeling like, “That was bad,” you start to feel as though, “I am bad.” Similarly, instead of feeling like, “It was wrong,” you start to feel as though, “Something is wrong with me.” Or, instead of feeling like, “It was a mistake,” you start to feel as though, “I am the mistake.” Resolving toxic shame will be necessary for successful recovery of sexual addiction.
Do you need help with different aspects of sexual addiction recovery? Call us for a free 15-minute consultation about your situation. We have a team of experts who have special training in successful sex addiction recovery. Family Strategies Counseling Center: (480) 668-8301.