The CHOICE Recovery Model – Identify Positive Sexuality  

So now we have looked at the C,the H and the O of the CHOICE Recovery Model.  We have Challenged Core Beliefs, Have a Vision for the future and are beginning to Overcome Compulsive Behaviours.  So now we turn our attention to I – Identify Positive Sexuality.

One of the biggest challenges working with sex addiction and porn addiction is that the goal is not abstinence or sobriety, but rather developing and enjoying a healthy sex life, free from compulsive and damaging behaviours. Recovery means giving up the addiction, but it definitely doesn’t mean giving up sex!! Furthermore, enjoying a positive sex life is known to bring many physical and mental health benefits and can significantly contribute towards relapse prevention.

What is healthy sexuality for an addict?

Positive sexuality comes in many different guises and each individual must decide for themselves what healthy means. It’s not necessarily monogamous and it certainly doesn’t have to be vanilla. But it does have to fit with your value system.  In my book, Understanding and Treating Sex & Pornography Addiction I describe positive sexuality as:-

  • In line with personal values
  • Respectful of self and others
  • Pleasurable
  • Mutually fulfilling (when partnered)
  • Not shameful
  • Confidence and esteem building
  • Safe from risk of physical or psychological harm

Sex addiction and porn addiction can rob someone from seeing sex as a fulfilling part of their life, but discovering, or rediscovering this experience, is a fundamental element of long term recovery.  

Discovering what positive sexuality means to you often means unpicking old negative messages and letting go of shame from previous experiences. It means setting your own boundaries and committing to keeping them. For some in early recovery, those boundaries are quite tight – for example, someone might make a decision to give up masturbation completely for a period of time, or to put a hold on kink activities. In the early stages this may help to ensure that triggers to old acting out behaviours are minimised and once recovery becomes more confident, these behaviours may be added back into the mix.

Setting sexual boundaries

The exercise I prefer for setting sexual boundaries is the 2 circle exercise (you can find full details in my book or by visiting www.sexaddictionhelp.co.uk and downloading the kick start recovery kit).  This exercise recommends that you list behaviours that you know are ‘not ok’, those that are ‘ok’, and also those that are ‘iffy’.  The ‘iffy’ behaviours are ones that you find difficult to control or ones you just haven’t made your mind up about yet.  Spending time discussing this with a counsellor or sponsor is the best way to make a final decision. For pretty much everyone, giving up fantasy about acting out behaviours is a definite – in other words, fantasy is ‘not ok’.  That can be challenging in the early days, but the more you practise mindfulness the easy it will be to focus on physical sensations and stay within your body, rather than drift into fantasy.  Again – you can find much more about that in my book.

Identifying positive sexuality is critical for long term recovery from sex and porn addiction. How you enjoy your sexuality is your choice, but addiction robs you of that choice. Getting into recovery means making new sexual choices; ones that will make you feel not only good about yourself, but great. 

That’s all for now – next time we’ll be looking at the second ‘C’ of the CHOICE Recovery Model - Connect with Others.