10 months ago, I moved into a property with a very overgrown garden. The previous owner had been house-bound and the garden had not been tended to for quite some time. At the start of the UK lockdown in March 2020, I, like many people, had time to tackle the overgrown garden and possibly grow some vegetables. At the back of the garden where I hoped to create a vegetable patch was a mass of Convolvulus (bindweed). As you can see from the picture, bindweed is pretty and attractive. Unfortunately, bindweed thrives by winding itself around other plants and generally taking over. You are probably reading this and thinking…. okay what has this got to do with sex addiction or porn addiction?! Well, while I was attempting to get rid of the bindweed in my garden, a blog series formed in my mind that bindweed is like sexually compulsive behaviour…. let me explain….
None of the clients we see at the Laurel Centre started off in life wanting to be sexually addicted to sex or porn. Clients generally come to us in crisis. Their partner has discovered their acting out behaviour, or they are at risk of losing their jobs because of too many late nights on webcams or porn, or they have caught an STI from unprotected sex. Like bindweed, their sexual addiction has wound itself around every aspect of their life and taken over. Their original life has disappeared. This blog series will focus on the different aspects of recovering from sex addiction and/or porn addiction with the well-known hobby of gardening as its metaphor.
Part 1 – weeding out sex addiction from your life
Part 2 – planting seeds to grow a new life
Part 3 – maintaining the new life
How to weed out sex addiction in your life
In my attempts to get rid of bindweed from my garden, I have learned that pulling up the top part of the bindweed does not get rid of it. You must “double dig” according to Alan Titchmarsh, which means digging deep down into the soil and picking out the thick white roots of the bindweed. If you leave even a tiny piece of the white root, it will grow back. Deciding to stop compulsive sexual behaviour requires similar effort. Just mentally deciding to stop your compulsive sexual behaviour will not be enough to get rid of the addiction. You will need to purchase some metaphorical gardening gloves, and a good spade and dedicate time to digging. And expect some aches and pains from sore muscles!
Many of the clients at the Laurel Centre acknowledge that one of the biggest turning points in their recovery journey from sex addiction is talking about their behaviours and their life story with someone else. This has either been in one-to-one therapy or on a group recovery course. There is something very healing about being heard and being accepted for who you are. Sex addiction and porn addiction can isolate you from a support network. Therapy and group work, as well as 12 step groups, can help connect you with others who understand. Therapy also allows you to understand what triggers you to sexually act out, as well as finding the root cause of the addiction.
Understanding your triggers
Figuring out what causes you to act out is another step in stopping the unwanted behaviour. Triggers vary from person to person, but generally they can be split into either environmental or emotional:
Environmental: empty house, unblocked internet, away from home such as a business trip, using drugs or alcohol, having a hangover or being with certain people.
Emotional: feeling bored, feeling angry or stressed, getting into an argument with a loved one, feeling rejected, not having enough time for yourself, feeling life is out of control, feeling depressed or anxious, feeling vulnerable etc
Once you have worked out what your triggers are, you can put actions in place to try to avoid them, or if you can’t, to develop better ways to manage when the trigger occurs. For example, if you know an empty house is a big trigger for you, then you could try and reduce the amount of time you are on your own, e.g. go and meet a friend in the park, or promise to ring a family member in the time you are on your own. Putting accountability software and internet software blockers onto your computer can also help.
Leading a life with healthy sexual boundaries takes time and effort. By digging around in every aspect of your life, it will help you to pull up the bindweed roots and throw them away. However, it is tiring work – emotionally and physically. Acknowledge to yourself that it will take time to get all the weeds out. Take time to rest and recharge your batteries. Self-care is important when making life changes. Once you have done the digging, and you’re confident you have got all the weeds out, then it is time to plant seeds for your new life. Part 2 will focus on this aspect of recovery from sex addiction and porn addiction.