Category Archives: Sex Addiction

Facing cross addictions

I recently led a teleseminar on cross addictions. It was interesting and helpful for me to do the research for it, and deal with the many helpful and insightful comments and questions.

Few people are addicted to just one thing. The achilles heel of recovery is often that by putting out the fire of addiction in one area, we simply ignite a bigger fire in another area. So the person who gets into recovery for alcoholism gets sober from alcohol, but gets deeper into his or her sex addiction. Or the person in recovery from sex addiction gains 20 pounds because his or her food addiction starts getting out of control.

In her wonderful book “Desire,” Susan Cheever quotes Pat Carnes as saying that “the mono drug user in our society is a vanishing species.” Carnes refers to cross addictions as a form of “bargaining with chaos.” That’s where we tell ourselves that we’re going to stop sexually acting out, but give ourselves permission to smoke/drink/eat more instead.

Here are some statistics, from a speech by Stephanie Carnes, a leading addiction expert in her own right, on cross addictions:

Sexual anorexia: understanding and dealing with a growing problem

Sexual anorexia is a really important topic, and isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Sexual anorexia is the unhealthy fixation on avoiding sex out of fear and shame. It can appear on the surface like a commitment to sexual purity (just as food anorexia can appear on the surface to be healthy self-discipline around eating). But under the surface sexual anorexia is very different than it appears. It’s not about healthy self-control, it’s about fear, self-hatred, and (very often) unresolved trauma from sexual abuse.

Just like sex addiction, sexual anorexia is often misunderstood. It’s not simply a matter of having a low sex drive. It has to do with anxiety and repulsion towards sex. Wikipedia describes it as: “A loss of ‘appetite’ for romantic-sexual interaction. However, the term is used broadly and can be better defined as a fear of intimacy to the point that the person has severe anxiety surrounding sex with emotional content i.e. in an intimate relationship.”

Patrick Carnes has written the book on this topic, with the title “Sexual Anorexia: Overcoming Sexual Self-Hatred.” Here are a few quotes from an article which features a reprint of the introduction to the book:

Sexual anorexia is an obsessive state in which the physical, mental, and emotional task of avoiding sex dominates one’s life. Like self-starvation with food or compulsive dieting or hoarding with money, deprivation with sex can make one feel powerful and defended against all hurts.

When referring to food appetite, anorexia means the obsessive state of food avoidance that translates into self-starvation. Weight concerns and fear of fat transform into a hatred of food and a hatred of the body because the body demands the nurturance of food. food anorexics perceive bodily cravings for sustenance as a failure of self-discipline. The refusal to eat also becomes a way for food anorexics to reassert power against others, particularly those who may be perceived as trying to control the anorexic, trying in some manner to prevent the anorexic from being his or her “true” self.
Continue reading Sexual anorexia: understanding and dealing with a growing problem

New study shows abuse rates by Catholic priests even higher than expected

There’s a great article on our companion blog for pastors (lastingleaders.org) about a recent report with even more bad news for Catholics. A comprehensive study done for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops found that between 1950 and 2002, 4 percent of Catholic priests were accused of sexually abusing minors (4,450 of the 110,000 priests active during that period). Previous estimates by church officials had been much lower. Read the article for more.

Myth-Buster: Are sexual predators the biggest concern about our kids’ online behavior?

“Every parent wants to protect his or her children from emotional, psychological and physical harm. That’s why parents are so disturbed by programs like Dateline NBC’s ‘To Catch a Predator’ and news stories that portray the Internet as a breeding ground for sexual stalkers.

“The truth, according to a recent report by David Finkelhor — director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center — is that the Internet hasn’t created a new kind of child predator. Instead, the Internet has provided a new medium for an old phenomenon: adults looking for underage sexual partners.

The study finds that in the vast majority of ‘online predator’ cases, the adult perpetrator clearly identified himself online as an adult looking for sex with minors [source: Wolak et al]. Most predator crimes are statutory rape, not sexual assault, meaning that sexual relations between the parties involved weren’t forced.

“This is an uncomfortable subject, but an important distinction, says mother and Daily Beast columnist Lenore Skenazy. Instead of banning a child from using Facebook, for example, parents can focus on teaching their children about healthy relationships [source: Skenazy]. And teachers and authorities can focus on the danger signs — abuse at home, drug use, isolation from peer groups — that would lead a young person to engage in risky online behavior.”

I found this in an article about Internet Myths on the “How Stuff Works” website. I thought it was important enough to include here. I have long said that sexual compulsion is the real danger for our kids on the Internet, and the online predator issue is statistically insignificant compared to what is going on for most kids online.

Food and Sex: what happens when we move from famine to feast

People in Bangladesh don’t need Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. They don’t get enough food. Calories are scarce there. But not here in the US. Here we have an over-abundance of food, and face an onslaught of temptations to over-indulge. If we’re going to be healthy, we have to be wise about our food choices and diligent about exercise. The overabundance of food creates a situation that forces most of us to make physical health a conscious priority.

(Of course, there are some people who can eat whatever they want and don’t have to worry about food and nutrition. But we hate those people and will not speak of them again.)

In a similar way, we are now in a unique historical situation: an over-abundance of sexual stimulation. If I am unsatisfied with the sexual experiences in my life, I don’t need to go to a cave somewhere and look at drawings of stick figures for sexual gratification. I don’t need to go to a museum and look at paintings of nudes. I can look at photographs, even video. And I don’t have to go to a cave – or even to a store – to do this. I can just turn on my computer, or open up my cell phone. The mechanics of finding sex partners have also gotten simpler and easier, given today’s technologies.

These technologies make sexual stimulation easily accessible and create a temptation factor that is enormously higher than it was in previous generations. We have to deal with it. Just as we have to be conscious about food and exercise choices if we want to avoid being fat and unhealthy, we now need to make conscious choices about the sexual stimulation we fill our lives with, and the sexual experiences we have. And just as some people truggle to control their weight more than others, some people struggle controlling sexual behavior more than others.

Sex Addiction: an overview for spouses and friends of the addict

Noryne Mascarella has written the best summary of sex addiction for spouses that I have read. She works with spouses, and her essay is written to help them understand sex addiction, and answer some of their questions. I think this is a great article for anyone to read, including addicts themselves. If nothing else, her discussion about how to rebuild trust should put addicts on notice about continuing the path of recovery. Here are the questions she addresses, which form the outline of the essay:

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.

Continue reading Facing denial in recovery from sex addiction

The Spiritual Questions and Challenges of Recovery – free teleseminar July 23

We’re hosting a free teleseminar on Thursday night, July 23. This teleseminar is open to anyone who’d like to learn more about recovery from sexual struggle, either for themselves or someone they know. The theme will be: The spiritual questions and challenges of recovery.

Many people who come into recovery with a strong religious background find that their faith complicates things. The reverse is also the case: their addiction complicates their experience of faith. They struggle to figure out why the spiritual approaches they tried in the past didn’t work. I have come to believe that for some of us who come out of church backgrounds, recovery will involve unlearning as well as learning. As the saying goes in AA, “it was our own best thinking that got us into the mess that we’re in.” Let’s face it: for many Christians, struggle with addiction creates a crisis of faith as well as a crisis of life and relationships.

Some people are disappointed or even angry at God for not answering their prayers for healing from their addiction in the past. Some people struggle with heightened sense of shame around their behaviors (“Since I’m a Christian and have access to God’s power to change my life, why am I not getting this?”).  Some people deal with unspoken questions and doubts about their faith. Other people find that approaches to recovery that involve compassion for their past wounding are hard to reconcile with the stern moralistic tone of what they have been taught is “biblical” Christianity. They find it hard to balance the psychological insights they encounter in recovery with the black and white “just trust God and don’t do it” teaching that they’ve grown accustomed to from their church.

In this teleseminar, I will address these spiritual challenges, talking about my own experiences of recovery after 15 years as a pastor of two evangelical churches. I’ll address topics such as:

  • Why so many prayers for recovery go unanswered
  • How “faith” helps and hinders recovery
  • What is God’s part and what is my part in recovery
  • How to deal with it as a believer when important recovery insights come from non-believers

I cannot over-emphasize the importance of this topic! Many men that I know and work with in recovery are facing profound struggles with this topic, and there are few places where we can talk honestly about them. I certainly don’t want to present myself as having “arrived” in any way, shape, or form with respect to this issue, but I do want to share what I am learning.

When will it take place?
· Date: July 23 (Thursday)
· Time: 7:00pm, central standard time

How much will it cost? free

How long will it last? 60 minutes

To register, send an email with your name, phone number, and email address to:

mary@recoveryremixed.com

finding intimacy and freedom from pornography and sex addiction