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Facing denial in recovery from sex addiction

Denial is a refusal to admit the obvious. Denial is at work when you minimize, rationalize, justify, or blame. When you were in your addictive behavior, you may have denied your addiction by telling yourself things like: “I am no different than any other man (or woman) — everyone does this.” or “If I was addicted to sex I wouldn’t be able to control myself the way I do … I can go for long stretches without looking at porn (or going to a strip club, etc.) It’s not like I’m doing this all the time.” or the most common: “I just have a stronger sex drive than other people.”

Another form of denial is “forgetting” how often we engage in certain behaviors. We can practice selective memory when the truth is too painful to admit. For instance, a person might think he or she masturbates once or twice a week, when in reality they are masturbating every day.

A subtle form of minimizing often surfaces when people are first telling me their stories. As they start talking about their sexual acting out, they will include lists of things that they have not done. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to spend more time listing the things they’ve never done than the actual things they have done. The reason for this is obvious: by placing the focus on the things they have NOT done, they can feel a certain reassurance that they are not such bad people. It’s a way of letting ourselves feel better about avoiding certain behaviors … and not having to face the reality of the damaging things we HAVE done. I am especially sensitive to this because I remember how much I used to do it myself.

Recognizing Powerlessness

One of the keys to Step 1 of the 12 steps – and in fact the whole process of recovery – is the recognition of our powerlessness over sexually addictive behavior. This is important to remember after someone has been working the program and has been sober for a few weeks or months. It’s tempting to think that, since we’ve been doing so well in our recovery, that we aren’t as vulnerable to sexual temptation, and that we can relax our boundaries. People start engaging in “middle circle” behaviors … things that aren’t necessarily acting out, but are sexually stimulating and often are part of our rituals and lead to acting out. We tell ourselves that watching certain movies, looking at certain magazines, or flirting with certain people won’t be a problem for us. But what we’re really doing at that point is denying our powerlessness.

It’s like there is a tiger in a cage, and we’re saying that we can control him. We think we can take him out and play for a little while, and expect him to go back into the cage when we tell him to. But it doesn’t work that way.

We often discover that exposing ourselves to sexual triggers creates more craving than we can bear — and we fall back into our old behaviors.

Denying the pain of others

Another important aspect of denial has to do with our awareness of how our addiction has affected other people. Most spouses of sex addicts express great frustration that their addicted husband “just doesn’t get it,” by which they mean that he doesn’t understand how much his behaviors have hurt her. Guys whose main form of acting out is with pornography and masturbation often get into trouble here, because they tend to over-focus on the things they haven’t done, and say, “well it’s just pornography … I haven’t had an affair with anyone.” But they don’t understand how much the pornography has hurt their spouse.

Many addicts struggle to acknowledge how their addiction has affected their kids, or their work. Some of us have spent lots of money on our addiction … but even those of us who didn’t spend money on pornography or prostitutes or affair partners still have lost untold thousands of dollars through lost productivity and creativity. Denying the harm that our addiction has caused undermines our motivation for recovery, and interferes with our ability to make amends.

 

Related posts:

  1. Facing your fears: a key issue in recovery
  2. Porn addiction among college students
  3. Coming to terms with sex as an addiction
  4. The first task of recovery: Establishing Sobriety
 

8 Responses

  1. Great blog! I truly love how it’s easy on my eyes and the details are well written. I am wondering how I could be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which ought to do the trick! Have a nice day!

  2. Thank you very much for such amazing ideas!!! I’ll be your follower, lots of interesting stuff here.

  3. Very nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Gavina

    Hello,

    I am glad to come to your blog. And I am really liking your site. I have also enjoyed this article very much and I wish that you would continue writing like this.

    Hope to read more article on your blog.

    Thanks,
    James

  5. [...] Facing denial in recovery sexualsanity.com finding intimacy and freedom from … Facing denial in recovery from sex addiction. Denial is a … Another important aspect of denial has to do with our awareness of how … [...]

  6. Thanks for sharing. I hope that there are enough resources around to help you with your addiction.

  7. Mark

    Thanks for the comments everybody. If you want more on this topic, you might also check out “How to tell if someone is serious about recovery” here’s the link: http://sexual-sanity.com/2010/11/two-ways-to-tell-if-someone-is-really-serious-about-recovery/

  8. eva

    That is the common reaction of an SA person. They want to justify things on their own. but of course the truth is they are unaware that they are getting hook with this kind of problem. thanks for sharing it mark.. more blogs to come…

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