Alexander A. Avila, M.A.
Individual and Couples Counselor
Hope. Help. Freedom!
Your life experience is an individual one. But research reveals that addictions can appear very similar across ethnicities, cultures, genders, and ages. The positive thing about these similarities is the evidence-based treatment for substance abuse and sexual addiction recovery that is effective in helping people recover. Today, much more is known about how addictions develop and how addiction symptoms and addictive behaviors persist. Hope exists. Help is available!
Research on addictions and the brain demonstrates the powerful connection that both chemical substances and pornography can have in perpetuating the cycle of addiction. When we are visually stimulated and experience satisfaction, the brain-pleasure connection becomes even stronger.
We are kidding ourselves if we think we can recover alone or think that the addiction will not creep up on us later. If we’re honest with ourselves, we have seen the cycle. The addiction returns only to negatively impact our thinking, our relationships, and functioning in our personal and professional lives. We make promises to ourselves, trying to control our impulses and behaviors. But, substance use and sexual addictions are progressive in nature. And so our own brains trick us!
Substance Use Addiction
Whether you have a seemingly normal habit that has persisted for years or are facing a new struggle, some habits become problems and addictions that can easily feel overwhelming. We can look back and wonder how this addiction progressed so quickly, asking ourselves “How did I get here?” But along the way, the costs become obvious and extensive as we realize how relationships, finances, time, and other important life areas have been negatively impacted.
Maybe you’ve tried to quit, other people close to you have complained about your substance use, or you don’t engage in the activities you used to enjoy. Perhaps you neglect other important life areas and important people or have suffered legal or health consequences as a result of prolonged using.
Sometimes we feel locked into a habit that started years ago. You might just want your life back, or you might be seeking a life better than the old one. Either way, taking the first step and contacting a trained counselor is essential. Together with a counselor, you will evaluate your situation, co-create goals for your new life, and discuss specific steps to get there.
Many people don’t realize how much sexual addictions impact our relationships as well as our minds, bodies, and souls. We just don’t talk about it. It’s hardly typical social conversation. Yet, the sexual addiction epidemic affects the many roles in which we serve and negatively impacts the important people around us.
Numerous men struggle with a self-reported pornography addiction. When sexual addictions take over one’s life, they can have a devastating impact on other life areas such as work, friendships,
romantic relationships, family, and other leisure activities that help individuals remain in a healthy balance.
You may be wondering, “What is a sexual addiction?” In sum, any addiction is some person, force, or object that overpowers one's rational thinking and decision making to the extent that it interferes with aspects of healthy life functioning.
A sexual addiction can include viewing pornography, visiting strip clubs, cheating when in a committed relationship, engaging in exhibitionism or voyeurism, or having sex with various people in attempts to fill a void. For some people who are sexually addicted, their thoughts and behaviors may or may not involve minor children, rape, or incest.
When sexually explicit thoughts become acts that cause an individual to act compulsively or impulsively and/or engage in illegal or socially unacceptable behavior—regardless of the costs and consequences of his or her actions—that person can have symptoms of a sexual addiction. Sexually addicted people may feel guilt, shame, and regret over compulsively engaging in activities that are inconsistent with their own moral beliefs.
An addiction can be so strong that the known traumatic and life-altering consequences of getting caught are ignored because the temporary gratification of satisfying a need is more powerful. People can engage in impulsive and compulsive sexual behaviors in attempts to relieve anxiety, to meet a need, or to cover up pain.
Interestingly, the addicted person is the individual who usually most desires freedom. But getting that process started and knowing where to go and what to expect can hinder people’s honest intentions to obtain freedom from their addiction. Sexual “acting out” behaviors that are done in secret can create severe isolation, guilt, and shame. Such feelings can lead to depressed thoughts and a sense of alienation from others. Talking to others is essential.
It takes COURAGE to actively step in a new direction!
And I applaud those who take this step of bravery.
We Need Others
We think we can break free on our own. We may have even experienced positive progress toward sobriety. But, the object to which we are addicted still lingers in the background, controlling part of our thought life. In a sense, we are robbing ourselves from living a life of freedom.
The various types of losses and the associated pain and stress can leave us feeling overwhelmed, stuck, lost, hopeless, depressed, and trapped--like the world is closing in on us. But you CAN break free! There are others like you. Other people have broken free!
Research shows that individual counseling combined with twelve-step group participation provides the best opportunities for overcoming addictions. Alcoholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, and Sexaholics Anonymous are effective group treatment options for those who are serious about their recovery.