When you are in a sober living program or living at a halfway house, you might uncover other addictions you didn’t know you had. In a way, becoming sober is a form of thawing out and doing so leaves you open and vulnerable to the other forms of addiction present in your life.
It might be difficult at first, especially because you’re residing at a sober living home to stay sober, not necessarily to uncover the other things to heal. Yet, this is precisely what recovering is all about. As you stay sober, you’ll find other ways in which your life needs to recover.
You should know that addiction doesn’t only mean having a physical and psychological dependence on a substance. You can experience addiction with a behavior, such as sexual activity. According to The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it is the activation of the brain’s reward system which is the key to drug abuse problems. In other words, it’s possible to develop an addiction to behaviors and any activity that triggers pleasure in the brain, to the point that that activity becomes the sole focus of one’s life to the exclusion and detriment of other life-activities. Certainly, sexual activity can become this. There is evidence that points to behaviors, such as gambling, having the same high, or rush in the brain, which is similar to the use of drugs. In that way, addictions can resemble the physiological symptoms that the use of drugs and alcohol might create.
According to Steve Sussman of the University of Southern California at Alhambra, sexual addiction is a pattern of sexual behavior that is initially pleasurable but becomes unfulfilling, self-destructive, and that a person is unable to stop. Along with this is the experience of sexual compulsivity, which is the repetitive sexual behavior attempted to achieve a desired psychological state that results in negative consequences for the sexually addict.
An addiction can easily develop when sex is regarded as shameful or secretive, especially if it was this way in an individual’s upbringing. An addiction with sex includes compulsive behavior, as described above, and a person might spend large amounts of time engaging in sexual-related activity to the point where he or she is neglecting social, academic, or familial responsibilities. As with the case of all addictions, there is a loss of control over one’s behavior. You might find that a sexual addiction is present for you if you see the following behavior:
- Obsessive thoughts about sex that disrupt functioning at work or home life.
- Inability to refrain from viewing pornography or engaging in sexual behavior.
- Avoiding time with friends or family to instead spend time watching porn or engaging in other sexual activity.
Some adults admit that a problem with sex actually began earlier in life. In some cases, this is due to child sexual abuse where sexual fantasy and obsession is a symptom of unresolved trauma. As a child moves into adolescence often any unresolved trauma becomes exacerbated and an obsession with sexuality might grow. Research indicates that individuals addicted to sex often come from families in which there was abuse. Specifically, one study indicated that 82% of sexually addicted adults were sexually abused as children.
Seeking professional mental health treatment is important if the above signs are evident. Just as in alcohol or drug addiction, the 12-step method could be a good form of treatment. Similar to Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings, there are also Sexaholic Anonymous meetings. They are run just like an AA meeting, only with sexual activity as the focus of addiction.
Furthermore, there are also residential treatment centers that focus on sexual addiction. If you feel that you might be struggling with a sexual addiction and you’re already residing at a sober living home, then perhaps choices of treatment could include attending a Sexaholic Anonymous meeting or participating in therapy. Many mental health professionals are specifically trained to treat sexual addiction and sex-related disorders.
As you “thaw out” from a drug or alcohol addiction, you might also uncover a sexual addiction. Yet, there is treatment and support available to help you recover a healthy sexuality.
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