Learn How Addiction Works
IN THIS PRACTICE:
How has technology affected sexual compulsivity over time?
What is compulsive sexual behavior?
Why is it important that you learn how addiction works?
First Practice Assignment
You live in a terrifically interesting time. Technology and the Internet have radically recalibrated sexual opportunity. Today it’s possible to access an enormous variety of sexually explicit material never before available in human history. And because of technology and social media, it’s far easier to engage others sexually, either online or in person. Do you ever long to live in a simpler time, one with fewer temptations, less opportunity?
I grew up before the Internet age, and a smaller percentage of us stumbled into compulsive sexual behaviors back then. Why is that?
Human beings have always had vulnerability with intimacy issues and especially erotic portrayal of human sexuality. Historically, as soon as humans could draw we drew sexualized portrayals of human sexual interaction. With photography we did the same thing but it was much more defined, exact and intoxicating. However, whether we used images or people, access to the level of sexual experience that would lead to compulsive living was restrained for most people.
By the time I was growing up we had a whole new ability to produce high-quality erotic imagery and distribute it (Playboy and Penthouse, etc.). So print media, films and then VHS tapes fueled the growth of compulsive sexual behavior in my generation. That accelerated the growth of sexual addiction beyond anything human history had ever seen.
Now the Internet has exploded the number of compulsive strugglers to. Due to changes in society and technology, far more people are struggling with compulsive sexual behaviors and the consequences that come with them. And because of those changes in variety and access, individuals progress in sexual compulsivity at a much faster pace.
Let’s make sure that you and I are on the same page about compulsive sexual behaviors, or sexual addiction. What do I mean when I talk about being sexually compulsive, or being a person who has stumbled into compulsive sexual behaviors?
Compulsive sexual behavior is a person’s use of sex to alter moods, handle feelings, handle life. What makes it compulsive is that is progresses—it takes root in a person’s soul in a way that it self-reinforces it’s usefulness to us and our need for it. We become dependent on it.
You know you’re becoming compulsive when you have difficulty controlling your use of sex, hide your behaviors from others, suffer consequences because of what you do sexually and are behaving contrary to your own best will and desire.
Compulsive sexual behavior is progressive, becomes a substitute for healthy relating, takes over your will and is pathological.
People like you and me who’ve become compulsive in the misuse of our sexuality must recognize that our addiction is taking our lives from us—bit by bit—and usually we aren’t registering the changes in our lives. We have a growing loss of our ability to connect within ourselves and with others in healthy ways, but generally we’re not noticing it. We’re gradually losing our capacity to integrate life well.
Why is it so important that you learn how addiction works, instead of just trying to stop it?
One the one hand, it is true that simply learning about addiction will not solve your problem. The Big Book of AA says “…the actual or potential alcoholic, with hardly an exception, will be absolutely unable to stop drinking on the basis of self-knowledge.” For those of us whose addiction is to lust and sexuality, the principle is the same.
The Big Book goes on to say that those of us who’ve developed an addictive mind will see “that will power and self-knowledge [will] not help in those strange mental blank spots.”
On the other hand, it is important and helpful for us to understand why wanting to change is not enough. We’re up against a set of unseen, unknown dynamics. Understanding how these dynamics work in our addicted minds will help us begin to recognize and avoid the traps of shame and hopelessness, which fuel our compulsive living.
The key is to learn all you can that will equip you to: 1) understand how it is you’ve become and continue to be compulsive sexually; 2) recognize how addiction is reinforcing itself in your thinking and behaving; and 3) discover ways you can dismantle the hold addiction has on you.
Assignment for Engaging the First Practice—Learn How Addiction Works
Work at the pace that is best for you, either one assignment a day or whatever pace fits your schedule and keeps you moving forward.
1. Go to http://www.sexhelp.com click on the “Education” tab and then “FACQS” and read both “What is sexual addiction?” and “What behavior patterns indicate that sex addiction may be present?
2. Read in Ashamed No More: A Pastor’s Journey Through Sex Addiction (T. C. Ryan), pp 59-65, “The Cycle of Addiction,” “Neurochemistry and Crazy Living,” and “But Why Can’t I Change?"
3. Now write down your responses to these questions:
What have I discovered about sexual addiction and how it works?
How does this material help me understand my affliction?
Am I tempted to use this teaching material as an excuse for my behavior (‘I can’t help it, my brain’s altered’)? Or does this material help motivate me to deal with this addiction?
Does this material help me understand I have to take serious steps to restore healthy function to my brain and my sexual life?
4. Here is a prayer I recommend you pray daily:
God, you have made me in your image. Help me to appreciate how precious and wonderful my mind is. Help me to see how addiction has damaged me. Give me desire and energy to recover my mind for healthy living. Amen.
You’ve taken a huge first step towards a different and better way of living. Don’t be surprised if you find resistance in your soul towards this work. It’s important work and a lot is at stake. You’ve made a good beginning, now keep going!
© 2017 LivingIntegrated®