Beating porn addiction

How faulty core beliefs can sabotage recovery

Last time we explored the faulty core belief of ‘I don’t need to change’ and today we’re looking at ‘I don’t want to change’. Beneath this thinking there is often a terrifying fear of loss. It’s important to acknowledge that part of recovery includes loss and it is often this loss that feels ‘not worth it’. That may be loss of sexual excitement, loss of freedom, loss of power or loss of self-identity. These feelings of loss need to be taken seriously, empathised-with and mourned and, where possible, rebuilt or replaced. This can be particularly difficult when the key benefit of recovery is a lifestyle that’s never been experienced. For example, how do you know that flesh on flesh sex will be better if you’ve never had it? How do you know if being in a committed relationship would be better than repeated casual encounters if you’ve never had one?  It’s a risk like we were talking about in the last blog, but this is a risk that’s definitely worth taking. But even if you know that there’s something better for you than this life, because you have already experienced it, at least in part, that doesn’t mean that giving up your behaviours is going to be pain free.

Giving up porn

There’s no way to sugar coat this, there are some days when it’s going to hurt. Whatever your behaviour is, or was, you enjoyed it. Maybe not all of the time, but at least some of the time. And it probably gave you a sense of comfort. A client recently likened giving up acting out to losing a close friend. Something he had been able to rely on, in good times and bad. He also said it was like an enjoyable hobby that he had given up, but knew he could never return to. It’s important that you acknowledge this pain, don’t deny it, because craving and grief often feel the same. There will be times when you think you’re craving – but really you’re grieving. But that grief will not overwhelm you, whatever your core beliefs around grief may be, you can cope with this. 

There’s another common faulty core belief that trips people up. I’m going to illustrate this by sharing a story with you; Geoff’s story. Those of you that have read my book may remember it.  It’s a true story, but I have of course changed any identifiable features.

Geoff had always been a successful lady’s man. He had been a very attractive boy who grew into a very good-looking man and he had never been short of attention. He loved women and he loved sex – and had enjoyed plenty of both. He recognised he was addicted in his early ’30s as his increasing effort to commit to a steady relationship failed. Geoff had the looks, the charm, the money and the lifestyle that gave him access to an endless supply of sexual partners.  A year into recovery, Geoff had cut back considerably, but he was still acting out. As much as he longed for a committed relationship and children, he couldn’t imagine only ever sleeping with one woman. He also worried that without the drive to conquer and the thrill of the chase, he would become boring. He also thought it made him successful in his career – he didn’t want to lose his mojo. He wondered if he was just one of those people who was born to be a Lothario and perhaps he should focus therapy on mourning the fact that he might never have a ‘normal’ life rather than continuing to try and overcome his addiction.

Geoff’s story illustrates another common faulty core belief that can keep people trapped in sex addiction and that is that ‘sex is your greatest need’. This is often a deeply held view for people who’ve only ever experienced intimacy or validation through sex. Sex is massively important, not just because it feels great, but because it’s the only way they can feel close to someone or feel like they exist. It’s also common for people to say ‘I’m a passionate person’ or ‘I have an addictive personality’ or ‘I never do anything by halves’. These are all core beliefs that have developed into negative thinking patterns and behaviours that have evolved into an identity. And beneath each of these you’ll find also find a devastating fear of loss, but unlike the loss of acting out, and the grief that goes with it, which as I said, regrettably is 100% true – this fear is unfounded. This fear is based on a faulty core belief. Sex is not your greatest need, your dependency has made you think that, but it is not a fact. It is important, but it is not of greater importance than all the other elements that give our lives meaning. Furthermore, giving up your acting out, does not mean giving up your drive, or your passion – it means redirecting it.

Stopping sex addiction

If your behaviour has become part of your identity – understand this – it has ‘become’ part of your identity over a period of time. It has been part of your evolution.  But you are continuing to evolve and ‘you’ create your identity. ‘You’ can create your identity to be anything you want it to be. 

To summarise – unless you identify and address your faulty core beliefs, your recovery is likely to be sabotaged. Underlying  the faulty core belief of ‘I don’t want to change” is a fear of losing a sense of one’s identity. Losing something really, really important if you do change. Mostly, this is simply untrue – your behaviours do not define who you are and you can choose to be whoever you want to be. You are not losing anything important, you are losing something that is damaging and destructive to the life you want to lead.  Having said that, yes you are ‘losing’ something that you used to enjoy and you need to accept that there will be a grief process – but that does not need to be overwhelming.  Sometimes ‘I don’t want to change’ is masking a much deeper fear that ‘I can’t change’ – and that’s what we’ll be exploring in our next blog. In the meantime, if you want to find out more about what recovery really means, why not join one of our workshops. You’ll find more information here.

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