Amy Sohler, MPA, MA, LMHC, CDP, MHP, CSAT c, EMDRr
One of the most painful consequences of sex addiction (or, for that matter, any addiction) is that addicts who remain active in their disease create that which they fear most – isolation and loneliness. Unlike alcohol and substance abuse, though, sex addiction is especially complicated because the goal isn’t abstinence. The goal isn’t to abstain from human contact, but to embrace healthy sexuality and intimacy. Another issue that further fuels the complexity of such an addiction is the morality and stigma attached to sexuality.
I often ask my clients at Gentle Path at The Meadows what they’d like to see written in their obituary. Not a single one has ever told me, “I want my obituary to say I was a sex addict.”
According to the Harvard Grant Study conducted by Dr. George Valliant, cultivating meaningful relationships is, ultimately, what most people in their twilight years realize to be of utmost importance. Unfortunately, this aspect of life escapes most addicts, especially sex addicts. Such individuals turn to pornography in the form of pixels; sex workers; and masturbation in lieu of developing authentic relationships with others and with themselves. Like any addiction, sex addiction is a progressive disease that guarantees isolation for individuals who don’t seek help. It’s a sure ticket to a world of meaningless, counterfeit relationships.
Conducted over a 75-year period, The Harvard Grant Study traced the lives of 268 men many of whom were affiliated with Harvard University. Among other compelling findings, the study revealed that cultivating meaningful relationships makes life worth living. Some of the oldest men in the study – which commenced in 1938 – are now ninety-plus years old.
The Glueck Study, which examined a similar theme, focused on 724 lower income males from inner-city Boston between 1940 and 1945. Both studies point to the fact that what’s most important in life – cultivating meaningful relationships – is not dictated by economic or education levels.
As it turns out, the sex addict’s existence is the antithesis of intimacy. Cultivating meaningful relationships isn’t on the radar for individuals who are active in their disease. Forging intimate and authentic bonds is uncharted territory, and the sex addict’s world is gradually transformed into a tunnel of quick financial transactions with prostitutes; pixels of humans reduced to genitals and fetishes; and fast pickups with even faster drop-offs.
While most sex addicts want to pass on pearls of wisdom and good values to their children, they don’t have the capacity to do so. Leaving a legacy of morality, wisdom, and love is a top priority for most individuals. The majority of addicts are innately kind, loving, and giving people, but their disease clouds their true nature. The shame of it all is that they have so much to give. Yet their toolboxes are empty – or are filled with destruction and dysfunction.
Sex addicts crave intimacy, but their dysfunctional behavior solidifies the absence of healthy relationships. By remaining estranged from their authentic self, they’re cementing a life of loneliness, detachment, and despair. The sex addict’s “dirty secrets” thrive in isolation. Although their greatest fear is ending up alone, this fear is likely to materialize. Addicts don’t heal alone in isolation or through wishful thinking.
Sex addiction ultimately accelerates to the point where individuals become detached from family, friends, and the world around them. They may lose their jobs, find themselves in financial ruins, and destroy relationships and any semblance of self-esteem. Lives are reduced to “dirty” magazines, online porn, and prostitutes – and a host of other dysfunctional attempts to avoid embracing how they truly feel. Having an authentic connection with another human being – even a significant other – becomes the exception. Being relational is sheer fantasy and detachment is like a shadow that can’t be outrun.
Although shame, guilt, depression, and hopelessness are present with addictions in general, they are especially prevalent in the case of sex addiction. These painful feelings permeate the sex addict’s core and, in many cases, sabotage his ability to seek help. This inability to reach out further intensifies despair and self-loathing.
The good news is that thousands of sex addicts who have sought help with their addiction and their unresolved emotional trauma have witnessed miraculous transformations. Recovery can open up a whole new way of interacting with life that invites intimacy, friendships, love, emotional support, mindfulness, and sheer joy.
Many sex addicts take the first step after reading an article such as this; witnessing how their behavior is impacting loved ones; or realizing that their essence has been reduced to a potpourri of sick, dirty secrets. Everyone’s “bottom” is different. Some people have a moment of clarity – an awakening of sorts – and choose life.
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Every journey begins with a single step. Through an array of time-tested modalities, we’ll give you the tools to develop healthy relationships on all levels. You’ll have these tools with you for the rest of your life. We want to see you thrive! Call 855-333-6076 today to learn more.