I’m fond of saying that addiction is hard to treat because IT WORKS!! Let’s face it. Contemplating walking away from intense, super-stimulating sexual pleasure isn’t easy. That’s certainly one of the “benefits” of your addiction. But there are many other benefits, some of which you may not even be aware of.
Ask yourself: What does my particular sexual “thing” do for me psychologically? Many different things, I suspect. Is it power? Control? Stress-reduction? A sense of connection? The rush of being desired by many women? Or is it the need to be recognized, seen as competent, acknowledged for who you really are and still be accepted? What are the psychological benefits YOU receive from sexual acting-out? How do you perceive your sexual behaviors as meeting deeper needs than the need for sex?
Neurotransmitter release in the brain accounts for your feeling of euphoria that leads the way into the “erotic haze” where you can spend as much as five hours a day feeling entranced, safe, thrilled, and excited with an enhanced sense of well-being. Not self-esteem, mind you, because building self-esteem requires work, Perhaps an exaggerated, slightly grandiose part of yourself takes over and through sexual fantasy, you can feel totally empowered.
There’s some pretty powerful benefits, wouldn’t you say?
The addict repeatedly loses himself and his life-realities in the emotions and sensations generated by sexual fantasy and behaviors. In “The Erotic Haze”, the addict is finally soothed and comforted in a way that may have been missing from his childhood. Time spent in “The Erotic Haze” is stress-and- anxiety free and meets unmet pressing, narcissistic needs. Sex addiction is a narcissistic behavior because the only exclusive concern is about him and his pleasure. In the Erotic Haze, there is perfect control. In it he achieves blissful satisfaction that is unavailable to him in real life.
Sexual enactment is the addict’s only source of safety, pleasure, soothing and acceptance. It vitalizes and connects. It relieves loneliness, emptiness and depression.
The sex addict has anxiety about being unable to get what he needs from real people. His desperate search for the fulfillment of unmet childhood needs inevitably ends in disillusionment. So he returns to his reliance on sexual fantasies and enactments to lessen anxiety about connection and intimacy and as a way to achieve a sense of self-affirmation.
Sex, for the addict, begins to be his primary value and a confirmation of his sense of self. Feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, and worthlessness magically disappear while sexually preoccupied, through acting out or through spending untold hours on the Internet.
By losing himself in sexual fantasies and constantly seeing others as potential sex partners, or by erotic Internet enactments, the sex addict is able to significantly reduce and control a wide variety of threatening and uncomfortable emotional states. Diminished depression, anxiety and rage are some of the payoffs.
In my experience working with sex addicts, there usually comes a distinct “point”, as though a bell goes off in their heads, or a gear in their brain moves and they get it!! The Moment of Clarity so much discussed in AA. It’s the moment when you get it in your guts that the benefits aren’t worth the cost.
Then you’re really ready to do sex addiction treatment!
Now let’s examine a cost/benefit analysis of a commitment to a long-term recovery program.
The cost of recovery is willingness to be open to change, insight and goal-directed actions. You must pay the cost of risking going to people, who can sometimes be arbitrary and unavailable, to get your needs met rather than turning to an addiction.
In recovery, you will no doubt grieve the loss of your compulsive sexual behaviors. After all, they’ve been with you for oh -so -long a time and you’ve relied on them for so many things in addition to sexual pleasure. Your “Erotic Haze” has been your safe haven from the storms of life stressors, interpersonal conflict, and negative emotional states for many, many years. However, following the painful process of grieving a loss a new chapter in your life emerges
The benefits of treating sex addiction are many. Freedom from a self-imposed, compulsive state where you suffer the self-esteem diminishing experience of not being able to control your own behavior. Freedom from having to lie and hide, more free time, increased productivity on the job, the ability to rebuild a sense of self-mastery and self-efficacy (the belief that you can do what’s required on you), clearer thinking, better decision making, adequate sleep. Emotional regulation. Ability to experience non-sexual pleasures of ordinary life. A template of what’s healthy, hot, connected sexuality with a cherished one can be. A better spouse, friend, parent, friend, son and employee. You can live better without it! You really can!