Overcoming Sex Addiction
eBook - ePub

Overcoming Sex Addiction

A Self-Help guide

Thaddeus Birchard

  1. 182 páginas
  2. English
  3. ePUB (apto para móviles)
  4. Disponible en iOS y Android
eBook - ePub

Overcoming Sex Addiction

A Self-Help guide

Thaddeus Birchard

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Información del libro

Overcoming Sex Addiction is an accessible self-help guide which uses the principles of cognitive behaviour therapy to help those with problematic or unwanted patterns of sexual behaviour. It is designed for those who are not yet ready to seek professional help or who live in a place where little help is available and can be used in conjunction with general psychotherapy. Written by a leading expert in the field, the book offers an insight into the origins of sex addiction, before going on to explain the cycle of addiction and how to break it.

The book has a do-it yourself week-by-week programme of action to tackle compulsive sexual behaviour, and provides extensive advice on relapse prevention to help the reader move forward in recovery.

Overcoming Sex Addiction will provide clear, informed guidance for sex addicts and those professionals working with them.

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Part I

Preliminary readings

Chapter 1


About this book

This book is designed as a ‘do-it-yourself’ therapy book for anyone wishing to begin the journey of recovery from sexual addiction. After all, any recovery from addictive behaviours cannot be done by anyone else. Even with a team of the best therapists in the world, you are the only person who can change yourself. When I see addicts, I make the point that you have to want recovery and be willing to put in the time, energy and thought that is required to make the change. All that I can do is to provide support, insight and answers to questions; well, maybe a little more, because having someone who is working with you and rooting for you helps to increase motivation. But this book is designed for people who are not able to access recovery-oriented therapy or who simply cannot afford the money required to join expensive treatment programmes or go into therapy for a year or two. Regard me as your therapist and this book as going to therapy. The book contains all the same interventions for sexually addictive behaviour that can be found in our group programme at the Marylebone Centre for Psychological Therapies or in individual therapy. It is divided into the same sequence of subjects that we use in our treatment programme. The only difference is that you will have to read it and do the exercises in your private time. At the end of this chapter, I will outline some suggestions that might be helpful to break the isolation and provide you with support and accountability. Addiction is a disease of disconnectedness, and connectedness is crucial to change and transformation.

Using this book

This book is a recovery tool, rather than just a book to read. It is an instruction manual for DIY recovery and should be treated like a guidebook. It is a step-by-step guide, designed to help you change your behaviour, based upon a 10-week recovery programme.
This first section of the book contains six readings, which need to be digested and understood before you begin the 10-week programme. You can read them all at once or space them according to your available time. However, they are not just a light read and it is important to understand the content of each of them. You might want to read each of them more than once. The six chapters focus upon the following topics: cognitive behavioural therapy, sexual addiction, supernormal stimuli, shame, neuroscience and attachment. The chapter on cognitive behavioural therapy outlines the main therapeutic approach upon which this book is based. It is important to understand this therapeutic model, as it will form the basis of your recovery work. The next chapter is a review of the concept of sexual addiction and a little about the history of the concept. It will help you to decide whether you are actually a sex addict. The concept of ‘supernormal stimuli’ is then explained with its relevance to the use of the internet as compulsive sexual behaviour. In the following chapter, shame is defined and explained in detail. There is then a long section on the neuroscience that lies behind sexual addiction. This is to help you see that the behaviour is not just about making wrong choices. It helps to explain why wrong choices seem to be so regularly made. The readings end with an explanation of ‘attachment styles’. These are early patterns set up by our relationship with our caregivers and tend to operate throughout the life span.
Once these readings have been digested, you will be in a position to start the 10-week recovery programme, which is set out in Part II of the book. Each chapter of the recovery programme is designed to be done in a week. You do not have to stick to that timetable. You may want to spend more time on one section than another. You might want to repeat some of the sections. You are free to work at a pace that suits you. The topics covered are as follows:
Week 1: Core Belief and Formulation
Week 2: Values Clarification
Week 3: Harmful Consequences and Worst Case Scenario
Week 4: Provisional Sex Plan
Week 5: Family of Origin
Week 6: Cycle of Addiction
Week 7: Exiting the Cycle
Week 8: Cognitive Distortions
Week 9: Personal History
Week 10: Relapse Prevention
Many of these terms will probably be unfamiliar to you at this stage, but there will be a step-by-step explanation of them throughout the book. Each week includes background information about the topic, as well as exercises for you to undertake to help you understand and change your own addictive patterns. You should set aside a certain amount of time each week for these exercises and turn your attention to the task in hand. It might be a good idea to write a note in your diary, perhaps allowing a slot of two hours at the same time each week. One or two of the exercises take more time. You should do your recovery work in a quiet space where interruptions are minimal. In addition to undertaking the written exercises, you might find it helpful to make use of the space provided at the end of each chapter to write notes about your own personal learning.
Each week of the programme also includes a ‘pillar’. The pillars are helpful devices to further your immersion in the process of recovery; they consist of some phrases for you to repeat to yourself on a regular basis. There is an introductory pillar at the end of this chapter, followed by 10 more pillars which you will find at the end of each of the chapters that comprise the recovery programme. I would suggest that you read the pillar given in each chapter three times a day during that week of the programme: once in the morning, once during the day and finally, out loud before you go to bed. The purpose of this repetitious behaviour is to create ‘neurogenesis’. Each time you read the pillar, it creates an effect in the brain that keeps you in recovery mode and reinforces a commitment to recovery. You can go back and reread pillars that you have used before and found particularly helpful. However, I would suggest that you avoid reading them all at once or rushing on ahead to read them.
In Part III of the workbook there are four ancillary readings, designed to expand your knowledge and understanding of sexual addiction. The first chapter is on the internet and sexually compulsive behaviour. This is followed by a chapter on quirky sexual patterns and another on some of the problems that can accompany sexual addiction. Finally, there is an outline of available groups and places to connect with others wrestling with the same problem. The book finishes with a resource list of books and organisations that can help you with your ongoing recovery.

A word about ambivalence

At this stage, we should consider ambivalence. We are all ambivalent about giving up an addictive substance or an addictive activity. After all, why would you want to give up something that is so exciting and offers such a reward? The answer to that lies in the consequences of the behaviour. In advance, it seems unstoppable but afterwards you probably ask yourself ‘Why did I do it again?’ You have probably become sharply aware of the negative consequences that would occur if you were found out. You might realise that the behaviour is a threat to your relationship. With sexual addiction, the desire to stop comes and goes, depending on where you are in the addictive cycle. There will be more about the cycle of addiction in a later section of this book, but for now it is important to understand that ambivalence follows the cycle: the nearer you are to ‘acting out’ (the term that we use to describe engaging in compulsive sexual behaviour), the less committed you are to stopping, and afterwards, the less time that has passed since acting out, the greater the resolve. So the resolve to stop increases immediately after acting out and then fades as you make your way through the cycle towards the next episode of acting out. Ambivalence is a natural component of addiction. Just accept it.

Developing the reflective self

You will need to develop an astute ‘reflective self’ if you are going to change the behaviour and leave behind unwanted sexual behaviour. The reflective self is the part of the self that can observe the rest of the self. It is from this observation that change can be made. This book is designed to give you exercises that will help develop the reflective self. Take, for example, a patient of mine with panic attacks and overwhelming self-absorption. When we are in therapy, I can see him begin to descend into a bad place as he tells me how bad things have been. His constant rumination on feeling bad, and how bad he has felt, lowers his feeling states further. When I ask him about the future, he brightens up and his mood lifts. There is clearly a direct relationship between what he is thinking about and his mood states. I have pointed this out and he has seen the point. The more time he spends on worrying about feeling bad, the worse it becomes. The more time he spends planning and visualising the future, the more optimistic he feels. My task was to bring this to his attention. Using the reflective self, the part of the self that can stand outside the self and see the self, could have brought him independently to that conclusion. So your task is to get good at understanding yourself and seeing and understanding your patterns of behaviour. Figure 1.1.1 illustrates how this works. As you will see in the next chapter, this is the single most important feature of cognitive behavioural therapy: we can change our behaviour by observing ourselves and thinking differently, and applying the insight gained from this process of self-analysis to our future behaviours.
Figure 1.1.1 Reflective self.


Part of the work that needs to be done in recovering from sex addiction is the process of immersion. Rather than immersing yourself in internet pornography or in the pursuit of sex workers, you have to immerse yourself in a culture of recovery. You become what you spend your time doing: if you run you become slim, if you study you become an expert, if you dance you become a dancer, and if you practise the piano you become a piano player. Whatever you practise, over time, you get good at. Practice is just the laborious repetition of an action until it becomes automatic. The exercises provided in this book are aimed at helping you learn to make alternative choices to sexual acting out. The more you practise, the easier it becomes and the better you get at it. It is difficult at first and there are many mistakes but, if you keep at it, things will change. If you are willing to go to any length, you will get the results.
This is where reading is important. Reading is like an internal conversation with another person. We become changed by what we read and by the things that absorb us. Immerse yourself in a culture of recovery and even the immersion process will start to make changes in your thinking and in your insights. If you would like some additional reading material on the subjects covered in this book, you might obtain a copy of Patrick Carnes’ book Out of the Shadows or Paula Hall’s book Understanding and Treating Sexual Addiction. These are two excellent introductory texts on the subject of sexual addiction and will provide you with helpful insights. You could also get my book CBT for Compulsive Sexual Behaviour – A Guide for Professionals. Although meant primarily for professionals working with men with sexually compulsive behaviours, it contains a great deal of useful information. This book, Overcoming Sexual Addiction, draws on all the information given in the first book and sets it out in a self-help style. You can also browse through the reading lists produced by the major distributors of books and look up sexual addiction. See if there is anything on the lists that appeals to you or resonates with your situation. You can also go to the Resources section at the end of this book for helpful ideas.
So begin to try and sink yourself into recovery from compulsive sexual behaviour, through reading, through doing the exercise programme in this book and, just maybe, by joining a group or going along to one of the recovery fellowships.

Getting connected

This book is meant for those who do not have any other recovery resource; however, that does not mean that you are entirely on your own. At least, you do not have to be entirely alone. As we all know, it is difficult for one lump of coal to burn by itself; it usually needs a couple of others to start a fire. You already have me and you, or, at least, this book and you. There are other possibilities, such as joining a group. We run groups at the Marylebone Centre, which are attended by a range of people from across the spectrum, including barristers, policemen, solicitors, teachers, students, sportsmen and clergy.
Another possibility is to join a Twelve Step programme. I will write more about these later in this book; they meet almost everywhere in the United Kingdom and they can provide important company on the journey. Have a look at the websites for Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and see if there are meetings near enough for you to get to easily. These are just non-professional groups of men and women who are sexually addicted and who come together for mutual support and encouragement. You could always go along to one of these meetings. You do not have to say anything and you could just take it in. You would probably need to go to several meetings before making a decision about whether or not it might be a way to break your isolation in the problem. There are also online meetings of these groups and it might be possible to find an online sponsor. A sponsor is someone in recovery who has a bit more experience in overcoming sexual addiction and you could enlist this person as your support person.
Another idea would be to choose a couple of trusted friends and tell them that you are setting out on a recovery journey. You would have to explain the nature of the problem and ask them if they would be willing to help you along. I would suggest, if this is feasible, that you might ask them whether they would be willing to meet with you about once a month for an hour or so to review your progress. You might feel too much shame about the behaviour to do this, but shame is diminished when it is spoken about to non-judgemental others. If they are your friends, I think that they might well feel complimented to be asked to help you in this way. It tells them that you trust them.
Another idea is to find an accountability partner. This is much the same idea as above but would involve one individual who you trust and to whom you could explain the situation. If you go down this route, I would suggest that you have a meeting with them once a week. This could be face-to-face or it could be by telephone or email. If the problem is internet addiction, there are programmes that will email your internet searches to an accountability partner. The programme ‘Covenant Eyes’, for example, will send a record of your internet usage to a designated third party. This is a good way to prevent your misuse of the internet.
Another way to create some help with this process is to approach your pastor, priest or other religious leader. You could tell them about the problem and ask if they would be your accountability partner. It also probably makes sense to interview them in advance to see whether you think the person might be on your wavelength. I think you might time-limit it to 3–6 months so that the commitment is not forever.
In any case, no matter what alternative you adopt, suggest that you try it out provisionally for six weeks so that you can see how it is going. Do not be afraid to fire an accountability partner if they are not giving you what you need for your recovery. You will know if they are helping or not. Do not be too hasty in making a decision, so that you can be sure that it is the right decision.
Finally, you could go into therapy. There are a lot of therapists about, although most are not experienced in working with sexual addiction. They would want to help. If you choose this option, simply tell them what you have in mind and, if they agree, then set it in motion as above. Keep in mind that it needs a trial period. A lot of therapists work from home so it need not cost...


  1. Cover
  2. Half Title
  3. Title Page
  4. Copyright Page
  5. Table of Contents
  6. List of illustrations
  7. PART I Preliminary readings
  8. PART II 10-week recovery programme
  9. PART III Ancillary readings
  10. Conclusion
  11. Resources
  12. Bibliography
  13. Index