SEX ADDICTION TREATMENT

Frank wanted his life back. He had been spending hours, sometimes almost all his weekends, in front of his computer, feeling compelled to look at pornographic websites. At our first appointment, he spoke about the importance of ‘getting it out in the open’ and his hope that this might help. Thinking about how things had changed or progressed since our first meeting Frank remembered the feeling of not being in control,

I was feeling very fatalistic, I was trapped in a hole. Every weekend I felt it was something that I had to do or was compelled to do and afterwards you feel so bad about yourself.

Recovering a Sense of Control

Something that comes up quite regularly in my work with people around pornography and sex ‘addiction’ is the idea of trying to ‘control’ the use of pornography. Many therapists and psychologists appear to be in favour of people trying to control themselves by putting boundaries into place around their porn use. However by all reports this just tends to flare up the ‘Addiction’. Frank and I worked together over webcam for a number of months. At our last appointment, I asked him about the benefit in us having this connection over time.

You can only tell a person things, but they have to go through it. I went over in my head what I wanted to say. And a few things you said that opened the blinds. For example, that I didn’t need boundaries when I was younger. I didn’t always have to do stuff like that.

Here Frank was referring to masturbation. During one appointment we had a conversation about the choices he made about masturbation when he was a younger man. There had been times Frank chose to masturbate and times that he decided not to. In other words, even as a teenager, Frank had been capable of making his own decisions about sexual expression. If you take a wild animal and put a cage around it, the first thing the animal will do is to try to break out of the cage. I don’t make people construct rules for their pornography use. This is something they have generally already tried before they come to see me and it has often not worked.

Observing the ‘Porn Addiction’

I often encourage people to step back and just watch the ‘Addiction’ come and go without intervening. In doing so, I am inviting the people who work with me to become co-researchers in the problems in their lives. Of course many people start off by assuming the therapist will be an expert or source of all the answers or even an authority figure. This is how therapists are popularly portrayed but it isn’t generally such a helpful idea for a couple of reasons. Firstly, while there might be similarities of experience, everyone has a different story as to how they came to be using pornography and why they want to stop. And of course, if there was a manual or technique that worked for everyone, it would be sold at the newsagent!

When Frank started making his own observations about the ‘Addiction’ he began to notice times at which it was more likely to ‘take over’ and times at which it took a back seat. He was also in a position to reflect on how he wanted his life to be. He spoke to me about ‘missing out on a real life’, how the time looking at porn was time that he could be doing his sport training and what his family meant for him. He talked about wanting to get back to having respect for his body. This was something he had valued quite early in life but seemed to have slipped in recent years. At the same time, he started to get a new perspective on masturbation.

I don’t have to be scared that it is going to kill me.

Frank started talking about having used pornography as a kind of conditioning he had done to himself. He had got into a pattern around sex and was relying on that. And this gave us the idea that if he had been conditioned to using porn, perhaps it was just a case of re-conditioning himself, like a motor can be re-conditioned, or an athlete can condition himself. These were metaphors that came from the realms of mechanics and sport, both of which were interests for Frank.

As our webcam counselling appointments continued, Frank shared with me some of the discoveries he had made during his re-conditioning…

I’ve started talking to more people. The interaction with people, having a laugh and joking, it’s so much more…
I don’t see it as a major part of my life, or casting a shadow.

A Step by Step Journey Away from Using Porn

For adults, the experiences of life goes back a long way. But without assistance we don’t always easily recall those times in our lives where we had a sense of ourselves as capable or skilled or in control. Narrative Therapy conversations about pornography use or ‘sex addiction’ can help people recover the sense that they have some authority over their own lives again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REDUCING ANXIETY WITH ACCEPTANCE

Anxiety is a feeling that is common to us all and in fact we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning without feeling compelled to do something with the day ahead. But what happens if your anxiety is really high about everything all the time? Well the best thing to do it accept it and stop struggling with it. If you struggle with thoughts of anxiety you are in the loop of being anxious about your anxiety. But if you simply accept your feelings of anxiety, even though uncomfortable, you no longer enter the anxious struggle world.

I wonder if you can understand the concept that you are not your mind? In your own internal world your mind uses the language of words, images and thoughts to project onto a screen what you are experiencing. Humans can however, observe their own thoughts so if you are experiencing anxiety you can actually step back and see your mind is projecting thoughts of anxiety. The trick is not to struggle with these thoughts as if you do you are fighting anxiety thoughts.

Imagine falling into quicksand. If you laid flat you would float and stay alive. Quicksand only kills you when you struggle in it and in doing so you drown yourself. Anxiety is the same, if you observe, recognize and accept the feelings and do not struggle the anxiety feelings will lessen.

It does not matter what uncomfortable feelings you are experiencing whether it be loneliness, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or whatever, rather than struggling with these feelings accept them. Maybe laugh at these projected thoughts onto your mind screen or make the words that pop up into bright colours with a bouncing ball or make up a song about these thoughts. Doing this allows you the control to observe and defuse your thoughts as just thoughts that will pass.

So here is a trick. Imagine a struggle switch at the back of your mind. Right now it is off. You all of a sudden have feelings on anxiety say about a meeting where you have to present material. Okay you accept these feelings of anxiety. You recognize where in your body you feel these translated feelings. You see the words that pop up in your mind and make them a colour but you don’t switch the struggle switch on which is a secondary mind system.

Your primary mind system produced anxiety thoughts and feelings and you accept these but you do not allow your mind to fall into a secondary system of struggle. Once you enter the struggle world you are now struggling with the anxiety, which means being anxious about the anxiety and this is not a good place to be. How am I going here? Have I lost you?

The important thing to take away is that you are not your mind. You can observe your mind as a series of language expressions of thoughts, images, ideas that come and go to be projected onto a screen for you to observe. Don’t fight the quicksand, lie flat and float and you will survive although it is uncomfortable.

 

Alcohol and Depression

When we drink alcohol the party gets going and it all seems great but the ending is not always so. When we begin to drink we get an instant celebratory high but if we keep drinking, drinking and drinking the night can become weird.

We can end up having: forgettable sex, shameful behaviours, feelings of emotional anger plus experiencing a horror day afterwards with feelings of guilt, depression and loneliness. What a bummer when the night started off so well.

Depression brought on by alcohol use is a medical fact but the great thing is if we stop drinking the depression will lift in no time at all. There is a cycle that goes like this: love a drink, love another, and another, then drunk, then depressed, then loneliness. This is especially the case if we drink alone at home.

When we drink our pre-frontal cortex, which controls the regulation of our emotions is disabled, making us less able to manage our free-floating thoughts. Emotions and feelings come and go in our minds throughout the day and our pre-frontal cortex deals with them rationally. But if we drink a lot – bingo – we experience little control of these same negative emotions. That is why alcohol violence is so prevalent. When the person becomes sober again they find it hard to understand who that other person was – who behaved so badly. I have had clients who have ruined weddings, thrown wine in peoples faces, smashed up houses, attempted to drown them selves, hit their best friends, blah, blah, and blah.

Then there is the home drinker who drinks excessively every night (with a bottle of wine or more) and feels constantly depressed (because that amount of alcohol does that chemically) and then feels isolated, lost and lonely. That is a horrible habit to get into and experience.

But as I said before a lot of depression can be chemically eradicated instantly by giving up alcohol. To test this research, have a go yourself. If you drink every day stop for 2 days a week and see how much better you feel the following days. You will sleep better for a start, have more energy and your brain will function clearer. If you feel you are really out of control with drinking give it up for a month. You will lose weight, feel great, greatly reduce depression and be so much richer. You will love yourself so much more as well.

Most of all my clients prefer to manage alcohol better rather than give up completely. This means them coming up with a program of better management like: 2 days off a week, half filling wine glasses, drinking water between drinks, not having alcohol at home, etc. Everyone’s program is different.

I also ask my clients to give the person who gets drunk and out of control (them) another name. They then write stories about what this other person did under the influence of excessive alcohol. This really helps as the brain easily forgets these bad shameful memories.

What advice can you give to others about controlling alcohol consumption to relieve the symptoms of depression and loneliness? Or what are your experiences or thoughts about managing drinking?