Tweet Relapse in sexual addiction recovery is a reality. While all addictions are relapse prone, it is the sexual recovery community who suffer most from the demoralization of repeated relapse. After all, we can live without ever being around alcohol or drugs, but our sexuality is ever-present. Because ours is a sexualized culture, triggers, cravings, urges, cues, and high-risk situations are everywhere.
The sex addict, despite his best efforts to achieve continuous abstinence, may find himself continually returning to his addiction despite the knowledge of the damage it inflicts on him — disease, damage to primary relationship, social disapproval, financial loss, and decreased self-esteem.
The erotic haze is a dissociative state that allows the very real negative consequences of his behavior to recede from consciousness as the imperious need for immediate gratification becomes his exclusive focus. Most sex addicts state that the sexual act itself is inconsequential.
It is this euphoric self-state that the person is really addicted to. Feelings of defeat, shame, hopelessness and demoralization are common.
He blindly goes to the source of the pain for relief of the pain. Thus we see the vicious, never-ending cycle of active addiction. We keep returning to the source of the suffering for relief from the suffering which creates more suffering so we again go to the source of the pain and so on and so on.
But there is hope. The result of long-term addiction is a gradual erosion of the ability to choose different alternatives to deal with life. An addict just entering treatment is in a state of nil-choice. Ingrained sexual habits can be transformed into behaviors that are under the regulation of higher, more mature mental processes involving awareness and responsible decision-making.
You can begin to make a variety of choices that ultimately lead to the enjoyment of pleasurable experiences that are non-sex related and have no negative consequences. Working an individualized relapse prevention program is not part of treatment per se, but maintaining a relapse prevention RP program is probably the most critical element involved in staying sexually abstinent.
If the person believes that the only goal of addiction treatment is abstinence, then little attention is paid to the perils and demands of the journey towards the maintenance of abstinence and continued growth as a person. The pull of powerful old habit patterns will beckon you. Failure to anticipate and plan for the stressors of recovery will result in immersion in the addiction cycle.
The addict, because he has not developed ways of coping with overwhelming emotions, sees his only option for relief from the shame and self-loathing as the return to the beginning of the cycle. With time, the addiction cycle may escalate, with greater intensity, more frequency, more risk and greater loss of control.
Relapse prevention intervenes before the client enters into the addiction cycle. Motivation — Values and Goals The cultivation of meaningful, realistic goals and clarification of personal values should precede the development a RP program. You will your own life goals and enduring values that can guide you, as the North Star, towards restoration, recovery from addiction and the achievement of a satisfying and meaningful life. Most sex addicts want to achieve real connection with others and not the mere illusion of connection.
They want to stop the lies, secrets and deceptions that keep them in a perpetual state of fear, shame and self-doubt. Luckily, these goals are attainable. What it Takes Working a RP programs requires three things of you. You need to be consistently aware of the negative consequences of unregulated sexual behavior. Remembering the pain and suffering of being in active addiction can be a great motivator to change.
Active addiction gradually erodes your moral fiber and betrays your essential values. Knowing what makes life meaningful to you and re-committing to your essential values will be the motivational force and the foundation for the work ahead. Mindful awareness of your inner processes. Most of the warning signs of relapse occur unconsciously.
Mindful awareness brings them into consciousness where they can be dealt with in adaptive ways. Mindfulness meditation fosters a sense of detachment between addictive behavior and your personal identity. With mindful awareness, you can see the warning signs of relapse as they happen so you can take proper action.
A willingness to learn new responses to old stimuli, an openness to new ways of behaving and thinking and a continuing determination to practice new skills until they become automatic is essential to making your relapse prevention program work for you.
You just keep doing the next right behavior on your addiction recovery plan, regardless of your feelings or your perceived discomfort. The Basics First you figure out what thought processes, high-stress situations and behaviors lead to the end-point of acting out.
Sexual relapse is the end-point of a relapse process that may have begun last week, last month, or last year. There are many, many steps that lead to being in relapse mode. Cultivating mindful awareness of the warning signs of your particular relapse process is essential. However, the coping mechanism is maladaptive because it leads to suffering-inducing consequences.
An RP program teaches adaptive coping skills that generate new behavioral alternatives, new ways of thinking, new choices, new experiences and, combined with other treatment modalities, offers a radically different way of being in the world. The bottom of the chain is relapse. Each link in the chain represents a relapse warning sign that you can observe as it happens and immediately intervene with one of your newly learned coping skills.
You can learn to find and control the chain of events that represent your particular relapse process. Clients learn how to go back in time to reconstruct all the internal and external links of the chain thoughts, feelings, behaviors, urges, fantasies and external events that have that led to relapse in their past.
Two days before his relapse, he went to the gym. At the gym, he thought members of the staff looked at him in a strange way. He interpreted their looks as judgments about himself. He felt both embarrassed and hopeless. Lying on the couch while watching TV, he became sexually aroused and distracted from his earlier feelings of embarrassment and helplessness. He went to the computer and looked for a site with free porn pictures.
He felt hopeless and depressed and thought about what a loser he was. He thought about how no one would ever love him. He thought he has to prove himself that he could have sex with a woman and that he was not a loser. He thought he needed to regain his self-control. Following his experience, he felt an immediate sense of demoralization and shame. If uninterrupted, the displeasure of the feelings of demoralization and shame will bring him right back to the beginning of the addiction cycle.
It took a few dozen steps for this client to arrive at relapse. At each of those steps, or links in the chain he could have intervened with a cognitive change or a healthy behavior to prevent the relapse. You need to become very aware of the links in the chain, especially when warning signs go off. The next step is to look at each link in the chain and come up with alternatives also called coping mechanisms that are ways to get out of the chain when you are caught in it. These are the ways to free yourself from becoming tangled up in the chain.
An alternative is something you do instead of your usual response in a situation. An alternative makes it possible for you to think and behave in a different way that you did before. As you look at the sample behavioral chain, you can see a series of emotions, thoughts and actions.
Feelings come and go. Just notice that how you feel affects how you think and what you do at a given time. What you can change directly is how you think about things and what you do about them. First you look for every cognitive distortion on your chain and come up with alternatives ways of thinking that might be more in line with reality.
Go through the chain, replacing the thoughts that led you down the dark sexual alternatives with better alternatives Sbraga et al. Next you look at the behaviors in you chain and come up with realistic alternatives. If you find yourself in a high-risk situation, what could you have done instead? Write out a list of alternative behaviors that will instantly get you off the chain. Think of lots of options, particularly options that are give non-sexual pleasure with no negative side effects.
Write your new coping mechanisms on a card and carry them with you. Research has shown that people lapse, it is usually in response to negative feelings and to interpersonal conflicts. These events should always to consider high risk. You learn how to be good at using you coping skills to stop your relapse progression by practicing. You are creating new, positive habits for yourself.
These are habits that will take you towards your goals instead of stealing away the best years of your life. Managing Feeling-States All addicts have problems with tolerating distressing inner states.
Research shows that two types of situations are especially high-risk for relapse: Negative emotional states and situations involving an inter-personal conflict with a closed one. People go to any length to avoid certain feelings such as shame, fear, anger, loneliness, emptiness, depression and so on. Addicts avoid feelings through sexual acting out. You might consider other ways you have to not sit with feelings. It is possible to control feelings for a bit of time, but they surface and fade away.
Handling feelings is essential in relapse prevention because how you feel has a lot to do with sexual control problems. Sex addicts try to manage their emotions with sex. Think for a moment how many times you have gone out looking for sexual satisfaction when you were feeling hurt, lonely, rejected, sad, angry, disrespected, anxious, depressed, fearful or unloved?
And, of course, sex makes you feel better — for a brief period. If you really did a cost-benefit analysis of sexual acting out, you might see that the benefit is fleeting and the costs…well, you know what they are. The problem is that sex, despite its allure and the false promises it offers you, cannot make you feel better in a real or lasting sense.