Relapse Prevention for Recovering Sex Addicts


Relapse in sexual restoration is a actuality. While all addictions are relapse susceptible, it’s the sexual restoration group that suffer most from the demoralization of repeated relapse. After all, we will reside with out ever being round alcohol or medicine, however our sexuality is ever-current. Because ours is a sexualized tradition, triggers, cravings, urges, cues, and excessive-danger conditions are all over the place. The intercourse addict, regardless of his greatest efforts to realize steady abstinence, might discover himself regularly returning to his habit regardless of the information of the injury it inflicts on him — illness, injury to main relationship, social disapproval, monetary loss, and decreased vanity.

In occasions of stress, the lure of fast gratification (the pleasure, “excessive”, rigidity discount, aid of misery) calls him and he responds, puppet-like, to the perceived inevitability of relapse. When caught within the habit cycle of preoccupation, fantasies, euphoria, urges, cravings and the extreme, and driving want for consolation and gratification, retreat into the consolation of the “erotic haze” is the solely coping mechanism obtainable to him on the time. The erotic haze is a dissociative state that permits the very actual unfavourable penalties of his conduct to recede from consciousness because the imperious want for quick gratification turns into his unique focus. Most intercourse addicts state that the sexual act itself is inconsequential. Hours spent within the dissociative “erotic haze” meet sure non-sexual wants. It is that this euphoric self-state that the individual is absolutely hooked on.

With orgasm, the “bubble” breaks and actuality units in. Feelings of defeat, disgrace, hopelessness and demoralization are widespread. Because his solely approach of dealing with distressing emotions is sexualization, he returns to the habit for aid of the ache that is induced by the habit as a result of he does not see any options. He blindly goes to the supply of the ache for aid of the ache. Thus we see the vicious, endless cycle of lively habit. We maintain returning to the supply of the struggling for aid from the struggling which creates extra struggling so we once more go to the supply of the ache and so forth and so forth.

But there is hope. Addicts repeatedly return to their habit as a result of it is what they know. The results of lengthy-time period habit is a gradual erosion of the power to decide on totally different options to cope with life. An addict simply getting into remedy is in a state of nil-selection. A relapse prevention program helps individuals who use sexual conduct addictively (M) to acknowledge elements and conditions which might be related to an elevated danger of appearing out; (P) to manage successfully with sexual urges; (A) to recuperate quickly from episodes to symptomatic conduct; and (A) to make use of such “slips as alternatives to study how their restoration plans may be strengthened.

You’ll study new coping expertise, new choices and new cognitive methods to deal with exterior and inner stressors. You’ll develop into very conversant in the warning indicators of your private relapse course of and study that you would be able to intervene at many factors in that course of with a wholesome coping mechanism. Change a thought – and also you’re out of the downward spiral. Do one thing totally different from you used to do – and also you’re propelled out of the erotic haze into actuality. Ingrained sexual habits could be reworked into behaviors which might be beneath the regulation of upper, extra mature psychological processes involving consciousness and accountable determination-making. You can start to make quite a lot of decisions that finally result in the enjoyment of pleasurable experiences which might be non-intercourse associated and haven’t any adverse penalties. The aim of Relapse Prevention (RP) is the restoration of the power to select, a rise within the shopper’s consciousness and selection about their conduct, to develop coping expertise and self-management capacities, and to usually develop a higher sense of confidence, grasp, or self-efficacy of their lives.

Working an individualized relapse prevention program isn’t a part of remedy per se, however sustaining a relapse prevention (RP) program might be probably the most crucial factor concerned in staying sexually abstinent. If the individual believes that the one objective of remedy is abstinence, then little consideration is paid to the perils and calls for of the journey in the direction of the upkeep of abstinence and continued progress as an individual. In the method of restoration you will be confronted with a plethora of temptations and stressors. The pull of highly effective previous behavior patterns will beckon you. Failure to anticipate and plan for the stressors of restoration will end in immersion within the habit cycle.

The phases of this cycle include preoccupation, dissociation, getting into into the “erotic haze”, ritualization and sexual appearing out, adopted by despair, disgrace and guilt. The addict, as a result of he has not developed methods of dealing with overwhelming feelings, sees his solely choice for aid from the disgrace and self-loathing because the return to the start of the cycle. With time, the habit cycle might escalate, with larger depth, extra frequency, extra danger and higher lack of management.

Relapse prevention intervenes earlier than the shopper enters into the habit cycle. While behavioral or cognitive interventions are nonetheless potential within the preoccupation and dissociation levels, as soon as the shopper enters into the “erotic haze”, it’s virtually unimaginable to cease the method.

Motivation – Values and Goals

The cultivation of significant, lifelike objectives and clarification of private values ought to precede the event a RP program. To counteract the pull of the habit, that you must know why you are motivated to work for restoration.

You will your personal life objectives and enduring values that may information you, because the North Star, in the direction of restoration, restoration, and the achievement of a satisfying and significant life. Most intercourse addicts need to obtain actual reference to others and never the mere phantasm of connection. They need to construct the real vanity that comes from dwelling out one’s most cherished beliefs and values and from the power to manage their emotions and behaviors. They need to cease the lies, secrets and techniques and deceptions that hold them in a perpetual state of worry, disgrace and self-doubt. Luckily, these objectives are attainable.

What it Takes

Working a RP packages requires three issues of you.

Motivation. You have to be persistently conscious of the destructive penalties of unregulated sexual conduct. Remembering the ache and struggling of being in lively habit could be a nice motivator to vary. Another motivator to staying lively within the restoration course of and understanding that you simply’re working in the direction of your life objectives that might be unachievable when you’re concerned in lively habit. The means of constantly doing what you’ve got dedicated to do is itself a robust motivator. Active habit regularly erodes your ethical fiber and betrays your important values. Knowing what makes life significant to you and re-committing to your important values would be the motivational pressure and the inspiration for the work forward.

Mindful consciousness of your inside processes. Enhanced information and consciousness of internal processes (see article on “Mindfulness Meditation.”) is important for many features of restoration, however extra so in RP. Most of the warning indicators of relapse happen unconsciously. Mindful consciousness brings them into consciousness the place they are often handled in adaptive methods. Mindfulness meditation fosters a way of detachment between addictive conduct and your private id. Cultivating a “witness consciousness” that’s balanced and non-judgmental trains you to grow to be your personal thoughts-scientist. With aware consciousness, you’ll be able to see the warning indicators of relapse as they occur so you possibly can take correct motion. Through aware consciousness and with the assistance of your therapist, you will study to consider your considering and observe and detach from painful emotional processes.

A willingness to study new responses to previous stimuli, an openness to new methods of behaving and considering and a unbroken willpower to follow new expertise till they develop into automated is important to creating your relapse prevention program be just right for you. One definition of “willpower” is the power to remain the course no matter ideas and emotions. You simply maintain doing the subsequent proper conduct in your restoration plan, no matter your emotions or your perceived discomfort. Treatment means nothing if it isn’t used as a springboard for taking wholesome, constructive actions to switch the habit.

The Basics

First you determine what thought processes, excessive-stress conditions and behaviors result in the top-level of appearing out. Sexual relapse is the top-level of a relapse course of which will have begun final week, final month, or final yr. You do not get “struck” appearing out. Sexual enactments do not come out of the blue. There are many, many steps that result in being in relapse mode. Cultivating aware consciousness of the warning indicators of your specific relapse course of is important.

As you study new restoration expertise (or more healthy coping mechanisms), you’ll use certainly one of them as an intervention at numerous locations within the habit cycle. When you turn out to be conscious of the warning indicators of relapse, you instantly do one thing totally different than you’ve got all the time achieved that may disrupt the pull in the direction of appearing out.

When an addict has used immersion within the “erotic haze” as a coping mechanism to keep away from ache and cope with life stressors for an prolonged interval, it turns into his unique approach of dealing with life. However, the coping mechanism is maladaptive as a result of it results in struggling-inducing penalties. An RP program teaches adaptive coping expertise that generate new behavioral options, new methods of considering, new decisions, new experiences and, mixed with different remedy modalities, presents a radically totally different means of being on the planet.

How it Works

The Ball and Chain

When I work with shoppers on a RP program, I use the metaphor of a behavioral chain that has many hyperlinks. The backside of the chain is relapse. Each hyperlink within the chain represents a relapse warning signal which you could observe because it occurs and instantly intervene with considered one of your newly discovered coping expertise.

Even although it appears as if relapse descends upon you, a drive past your management that comes “out of the blue”, in truth, there’s a lengthy chain of occasions that lead you there. You can study to seek out and management the chain of occasions that symbolize your specific relapse course of. Clients discover ways to return in time to reconstruct all the interior and exterior hyperlinks of the chain (ideas, emotions, behaviors, urges, fantasies and exterior occasions) which have that led to relapse of their previous.

Following is an instance of one among a shopper’s behavioral chain that led to relapse:

  • Two days earlier than his relapse, he went to the health club.
  • At the health club, he thought members of the employees checked out him in a wierd approach.
  • He interpreted their appears as judgments about himself.
  • He felt each embarrassed and hopeless. He felt hopeless as a result of it appears that evidently would by no means really feel regular in any of the locations he needed to belong
  • He went immediately residence with out doing her errands as a result of he did not need to be appear by anybody.
  • Lying on the sofa whereas watching TV, he turned sexually aroused and distracted from his earlier emotions of embarrassment and helplessness.
  • He went to the pc and appeared for a website with free porn footage.
  • After his orgasm, he felt ashamed that he had take a look at porn after he had promised himself he would not do this once more.
  • He felt hopeless and depressed and considered what a loser he was.
  • He considered how nobody would ever love him.
  • He thought he would go loopy if he could not be beloved and sexually glad by a lady.
  • He thought he has to show himself that he might have intercourse with a lady and that he was not a loser. He thought he wanted to regain his self-management.

This shopper’s chain introduced him to a brothel the place he had intercourse with a prostitute. Following his expertise, he felt a direct sense of demoralization and disgrace. If uninterrupted, the displeasure of the emotions of demoralization and disgrace will convey him proper again to the start of the habit cycle.

This is an unusual instance of how one can find yourself doing precisely what you did not need to do. When your private behavioral chain is pulling and you do not attempt to break it till it is too late, you then’ve gone and gotten your self simply within the place you’ve got been making an attempt to keep away from.

Again, the relapse did not descend upon him as a merciless destiny. It did not simply occur. It took a number of dozen steps for this shopper to reach at relapse. At every of these steps, (or hyperlinks within the chain) he might have intervened with a cognitive change or a wholesome conduct to stop the relapse.

You have to turn out to be very conscious of the hyperlinks within the chain, particularly when warning indicators go off. The subsequent step is to take a look at every hyperlink within the chain and provide you with options (additionally referred to as coping mechanisms) which might be methods to get out of the chain if you find yourself caught in it. Change a thought, you’ve got off the chain. Do an alternate conduct, you are off the chain. These are the methods to free your self from turning into twisted up within the chain. An various is one thing you do as an alternative of your ordinary response in a state of affairs. An various makes it potential so that you can assume and behave another way that you simply did earlier than (

You may need to decide up a replica of “Living Sober” (AA Worldwide) that gives loads of concepts of other, pleasurable behaviors and actions.

As you take a look at the pattern behavioral chain, you’ll be able to see a collection of feelings, ideas and actions. You’re not requested to do something concerning the feelings simply now. Feelings come and go. Just discover that how you are feeling impacts the way you assume and what you do at a given time. You cannot instantly change emotions, however you’ll be able to turn into conscious of them and the way they have an effect on the opposite elements of your life. What you can change immediately is the way you assume about issues and what you do about them. First you search for each cognitive distortion in your chain and provide you with options methods of considering that may be extra in keeping with actuality. Go by way of the chain, changing the ideas that led you down the darkish sexual options with higher options (Sbraga et al., 2000).

Next you take a look at the behaviors in you chain and provide you with practical options. If you end up in a excessive-danger state of affairs, what might you’ve gotten finished as an alternative? Write out an inventory of other behaviors that may immediately get you off the chain. Think of numerous choices, notably choices which might be give non-sexual pleasure with no damaging negative effects. Write your new coping mechanisms on a card and carry them with you.

Research has proven that folks lapse, it’s often in response to destructive emotions and to interpersonal conflicts. These occasions ought to all the time to think about excessive danger.

You discover ways to be good at utilizing you coping expertise to cease your relapse development by training. You are creating new, constructive habits for your self. These are habits that may take you in the direction of your objectives as an alternative of stealing away the most effective years of your life.

Managing Feeling-States

All addicts have issues with tolerating distressing inside states. Research exhibits that two forms of conditions are particularly excessive-danger for relapse: Negative emotional states and conditions involving an inter-private battle with a closed one. People go to any size to keep away from sure emotions comparable to disgrace, worry, anger, loneliness, vacancy, melancholy and so forth. Addicts keep away from emotions by means of sexual appearing out. You may contemplate different methods it’s a must to not sit with emotions.

It is feasible to regulate emotions for a little bit of time, however they floor and fade away. Handling emotions is important in relapse prevention as a result of how you are feeling has rather a lot to do with sexual management issues. Sex addicts attempt to handle their feelings with intercourse. Think for a second what number of occasions you’ve gotten gone out on the lookout for sexual satisfaction whenever you have been feeling harm, lonely, rejected, unhappy, indignant, disrespected, anxious, depressed, fearful or unloved? And, in fact, intercourse makes you are feeling higher – for a quick interval. Unfortunately, this technique of managing emotions simply does not work. If you actually did a price-profit evaluation of sexual appearing out, you may see that the profit is fleeting and the prices…nicely, you understand what they’re.

The actuality is that if having all of the intercourse you needed might make you are feeling higher or create a greater life for you; do not you assume it will have occurred by now? The drawback is that intercourse, regardless of its attract and the false guarantees it gives you, can’t make you are feeling higher in an actual or lasting sense. The genuine self just isn’t nourished or healed by way of intercourse.

So if you cannot change your feeling they usually simply occur, what are we to do about painful emotions?

Here’s the deal: DO ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS! Feelings, should you do not attempt to eliminate them, come and go fairly shortly. When individuals attempt to management their feelings, the emotions do not get the prospect to dissolve as they need to. They simply maintain coming again. FEELINGS DON’T KILL – THEY WILL NOT ANNIALATE YOU. THEY ARE NOT DANGEROUS. They create discomfort, after which they cross away. The essential factor is to recollect you can deal with any of your emotions that come up. You have a selection about whether or not or to not act out sexually and create extra struggling.

In the identical approach, what do you do once you’re triggered, scorching, sexy, aroused and amorous? The reply is identical: DO NOTHING. Sex addicts have a false perception that they need to do one thing about it it doesn’t matter what. This is a lie. People really feel aroused on a regular basis and do not act on the emotions. Happily married individuals are typically interested in different individuals, however they do not have affairs. Priests and nuns really feel sexual arousal however they honor their vows. Certain engaged younger individuals select to postpone intercourse till after marriage. Somehow, all of them survive with out appearing on sexual urges.

Learning to tolerate sexual arousal with out being sexual is a present you give to your self.

Urges and cravings

Urges and cravings are physiological responses to inner or exterior triggers. You expertise being pulled by the want for instant gratification. An RP program teaches you urge-administration methods. You are taught to anticipate and settle for these reactions as a traditional a part of getting sober.

You are taught to dies-determine with the urge and to view it dispassionately as an alien drive. I use hypnosis to arrange imagery work with the shopper and ask him to think about it as a wave, watching it rise and fall as an observer and to not be “worn out” by it. This imagery method is known as “urge browsing” and refers to visualizing the urge or craving as a wave that crests after which washes on to a seashore. In so doing, the shopper learns that relatively than constructing till they turn into overwhelming, urges and craving peak and subside moderately shortly if they don’t seem to be acted on. The shopper additional visualizes not being “swept away” however moderately can see himself driving the wave on a surf board. This imagery fosters detachment from the urges and reinforces the momentary, fleeting nature of those phenomena.

Lapse Management

Despite planning and precaution, many purchasers dedicated to abstinence will expertise a lapse after preliminary abstinence. Lapse-administration methods methods concentrate on halting the lapse to stop an uncontrolled relapse. I contract with the shopper to contact me as quickly as attainable after the lapse, and to guage the state of affairs for clues to the elements that triggered the lapse. The shopper is instructed to go away the lapse-inducing surroundings and we instantly construction the expertise as a slip-up, a mistake. Furthermore, the shopper is taught to reconceptualize the episode as a single, unbiased occasion and to see it as a mistake and never a catastrophe that may by no means be undone.

I discover that shoppers who place the blame for the lapse on themselves and see it as a lifeless-finish, a remedy failure and expertise disgrace and defeat are extra like to maneuver into full relapse mode. Other shoppers who view the lapse as a mistake that wants correcting and a chance to study what must be modified of their RP technique fare higher in resisting the doorway again into the habit cycle (Gorsky, 1986).

Sexual Fantasy as a Trigger

Sexual fantasies need to do with a want for one thing. For you to debate a sexual fantasy is to confess that you’ve an unfulfilled sexual want. There could be disgrace related to having that sort of longing. Getting rid of a sexual fantasy is not actually attainable. Once once more, I problem you to deal with sexual fantasies by DOING NOTHING. People typically attempt to eliminate their sexual fantasies or fake they do not have them. But making an attempt not to consider them might give them extra power.

Fueling fantasies to offer a better degree of pleasure is not the best way to go both. By “feeding” I imply to make them longer, extra detailed and stronger than they began out. People gasoline fantasies to work towards an internal “perfection.” But it will probably take over your life. You take a look at of actuality and examine into your fantasy. If you begin holding actual-life conditions and other people as much as the requirements of your fantasies, there isn’t any method they will measure up.

When fantasizing takes the place of actuality, it is very unhealthy. Remember a fantasy is a fantasy exactly as a result of there are not any downsides to it. There are not any prices concerned. Real life doesn’t work that approach.

A fantasy may be dispelled by discussing and understanding it together with your therapist. I have additionally discovered that the fantasy life leaves an individual as he matures and is getting satisfaction from actual dwelling. The fantasies will merely fall away.

Lifestyle Regeneration

A give attention to studying to realize and keep a wholesome, balanced life-fashion is vital. This is predicated on the precept that a wholesome, balanced life-fashion decreases one’s vulnerability to vary warning indicators into new behaviors and promotes psychological and bodily properly-being basically. Issues addressed ought to embrace food plan, train, relaxation, recreation and the stability between work (“the shoulds”) and play (“the needs.”).

Your way of life ought to be balanced with the “needs” and the “shoulds”. Life stressors must be balanced by real pleasure, shared actions and simply plain previous enjoyable.

Stress Management (Relaxation Training)

Stress is the silent killer for all of us — extra so for these concerned in an habit restoration program. Learning to cope with stress is essential. There are quite a lot of rest trainings and stress administration procedures I can draw upon to offer the shopper with a worldwide elevated notion of management, thereby decreasing the stress “load” that any given state of affairs might pose. Such procedures as progressive muscle rest coaching, leisure studying, yoga, meditation, train and self-hypnosis are helpful in coping with the hassles of day by day life. Also, via engagement in stress-administration methods, you’ll achieve mastery over arousal states and feelings which earlier than have been believed to be past private management.

An essential element of rest expertise is that you’ll study the talent of “self-soothing” which may give an expertise of with the ability to generate inside that which you’ve got been in search of from with out.

Skills Acquisition

Depending on every want, totally different shoppers must be taught totally different expertise. These might embrace:

Social Skills

Assertiveness Training

Communication Skills

Relationship Skills

Healthy Sexuality

Dating Skills

Positive Self-speak


Coping expertise for coping with life

Cognitive Re-framing (Marlatt, 1985)


Relapse Prevention by Marlatt and Gordon, 1985

Staying Sober by Gorsky and Miller, 1986

The Sex Addiction Workbook by Sbraga and A’Donohue, 2000