Building a new life without porn or sexually compulsive behaviour

September is a month where life changes are clearer than other months.  Parents post the ‘first day at school’ pictures of their children on Facebook, the leaves on the trees start to go brown, people return to work from their holidays and the weather begins to feel autumnal.  With this theme of change, we wanted to encourage people that recovering from sexually compulsive behaviour is possible.  At the Laurel Centre, we see hundreds of people each year who want help in understanding sex addiction or porn addiction and then building a new life.  This has been done via individual counselling, couple counselling, groupwork or attending one of our workshops or residential courses.

Understanding yourself in the cycle of addiction

It can feel very scary when you realise you have a problem with porn or your sexual acting out behaviour has been discovered by your partner.  It can feel like your life has ended.  Clients often come into therapy feeling broken and hopeless.  Not knowing what to do next.  The first step in recovery is to understand your own cycle of addiction.  Sex Addiction counsellors help clients to understand their own cycle of addiction.  The cycle of addiction looks like this:

Dormant

This is the phase where the addiction is temporarily in remission but underlying issues remain unresolved.  Life may appear ‘normal’, but it’s simply a matter of time before a trigger occurs. 

Trigger

The trigger can be an event, an opportunity, a bodily sensation, emotion, or thought process that activates the behaviour.

Preparation 

The preparation phase can vary in length considerably from just a few minutes to turn on a computer, to many weeks of planning. This phase includes practical preparation such as the where, when and how as well as psychological strategies to create the environment where acting out can be tolerated and/or enjoyed.

Acting Out

For some, acting out is a single event such as visiting a sex worker which may last just a few minutes whereas for others it may be a week long binge of pornography use. Some describe it as a highpoint that brings euphoria and relief but for others the accompanying relief is purely about getting the deed over and done with so they can finally begin their descent back to the comfort of the dormant phase.

Regret

Depending on the consequences of acting out, the impact on personal values and an addict’s commitment to change, the regret phase may be experienced as little more than a momentary ‘ooops’ or weeks of despair, shame and self-loathing.

Reconstitution

During the reconstitution phase an addict is either consciously or unconsciously putting their life back together again. It may be a time for rebuilding self-esteem, covering tracks and/or renewing resolutions not to act out again

You have a CHOICE

In Paula Hall’s book – Understanding and Treating Sex and Pornography Addiction (Routledge 2018 2nd edition), she talks through a recovery model called CHOICE.  This model is a roadmap in changing your life and getting yourself off the cycle of addiction.  Last September, Paula wrote a series of blogs focusing on each part of the CHOICE model.  We have linked each blog, so you find them easily to have a read:

C – Challenge Core Beliefs

H – Have a Vision

O – Overcoming Compulsive Behaviour

I – Identify Positive Sexuality

C – Connect with Others

E – Establish Confident Recovery

There is hope

We will end this blog, with some words of encouragement that change is possible.  Each client at the Laurel Centre is given a document called ‘The Pillars’.  The idea is to read one pillar each day for a week, before moving on to the next pillar (10 in total).  The pillars are to help change your mindset.  Here are the words from Pillar 1 – I am ready to change:

I am ready to change. I have lived the way I have for too long. When I began this journey long ago my choices were just that; choices. Now they have grown into an addiction that controls me to the point that I feel I have no control. This process has affected my thinking, my feelings and my being. Those that I love have also been impacted, some have been devastated. But now, I am ready to change and I commit to pay whatever price is necessary to accomplish this. I have already seen the power of bad choices in my addiction. Now I employ that same power but for positive choices. I will use the power of positive choice for the purpose of recovery and growth. I will begin the change now and I will recovery from my addiction.