To the majority of people, both in and out of the helping professions, the idea of sexual addiction may be new and puzzling. Can someone be addicted to sex? What is the difference between normal sexual desire and addiction? Even if sexual behavior is compulsive, is it necessarily harmful?
For us, sex had become a mood-altering behavior to which we turned in order to avoid our true feelings and emotions. This use of sex and sexual fantasy became compulsive; the need to escape, no matter what the cost, was greater than our ability to stop. The “high” we got from sex was so intense that we repeatedly used it in an attempt to avoid the realities of our lives. Sexual fantasy, the pursuit of sex and sexual acting out came to dominate ever greater parts of our existence. We found that no matter how hard we tried to stop or control our behavior, we could not.
Although there has recently been much research on sexual addiction, in this pamphlet we base our observations on our personal experiences. In our own lives, we have seen the obsessive thinking and compulsive behavior and the destruction it has wrought. We were driven to ask for help because we could not stop our addictive behavior by ourselves.
There is no single kind of behavior that typifies sexual addiction. Many forms of sexual activity can be used to escape one’s feelings. We have found that common ones include compulsive masturbation, pornography, inappropriate affairs, voyeurism, exhibitionism, anonymous sex, patronizing prostitutes, and prostitution itself.
We have engaged in these behaviors despite enormous costs to ourselves and those close to us. By continually numbing ourselves with sex, we did great harm to our emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. Our actions were regularly ruled by compulsion rather than common sense, and we put ourselves at great risk. We could not stop, despite the risk of AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases; the danger of violent crime while cruising for prostitutes on deserted streets; the threat of our stash of pornography being discovered by our loved ones; or the chance of pay-for-sex phone calls being traced to us at our work place.
For us, the first realization of our addiction came when we asked the following questions:
- Is our behavior repeated over and over?
- Is our behavior emotionally or physically damaging?
- Do we want to stop but cannot?
There is a checklist of symptoms of the addiction included in the pamphlet Sexual Recovery Anonymous. Many people coming into recovery have found this pamphlet useful in determining if they have a problem with sexual addiction.