Going through withdrawal
I. Learn about self-medication
- An addiction occurs when a person (1) is strongly, “positively” affected by a substance or activity, and (2) is unhappy enough about something to want to medicate it away. For an addict, using a substance or doing an activity puts him or her in an artificially euphoric, numbed, or fantasy state of being--a “place” that feels good, where misery and pain are temporarily ended. While there’s nothing wrong with having less pain when one is overwhelmed, there is something wrong with trying to medicate away the realities of life rather than face them. This is what happens in addiction--the realities of life are not faced, and the addictive “place” ends up taking over ones life, becoming a new source of pain all its own. Tolerance and withdrawal make matters worse.
- In chemical dependency any use of the substance automatically takes the person to the addictive place. In sex addiction it is being sexual in a certain way that does it. It is generally not about relational sexual activity; it tends to be about impersonal sex. Thus, it is not about addiction to all sex, but to sex done in a particular way. Similarly, addiction to overeating is not literally an addiction to food or eating, but to overeating. And, love addiction is about seeking excessive security or avoiding abandonment to medicate away excessive feelings of personal insecurity. In any case, the behavior involved is important because it takes the person to the “state of being” to which they are addicted--for the purpose of medicating away pain.
- It is also helpful to note that an addiction has lots of contributors for any one person--genetic, psychological, familial, cultural, etc.
II. Recognize the need for withdrawal
- Boredom (or really, agitation) is a big problem for people attempting to withdraw from an addiction. Many addictions are stimulating in nature...or rather over-stimulating in nature. Facing life without them is incredibly "boring" initially to a mind or body used to over-stimulation.
- To some degree even the average person has an addiction to over-stimulation if he or she doesn’t deal well with times of inactivity. Television, video games, computers, and other forms of entertainment have become national preoccupations. In withdrawal we have to be able to tolerate inactivity long enough to calm down and begin to experience peacefulness. It takes time.
- However, stopping an addiction also starts a more intense type of panic. Physiological and psychological cravings and urges for the addictive substance or behavior are intense. These cravings and urges are temporary, but difficult to resist. Without successfully resisting them, however, withdrawal will not occur. And lastly, as we withdraw feelings we have been trying to avoid for years return. Though we are afraid of them we must let them happen and must deal with them--often with professional help.
- Withdrawal is both acute and long lasting, and it must happen. For it to happen, one must identify the addictive behaviors that are used for self-medication and stop them. (These are the behaviors that spiral out of control.) Whether these behaviors are acted out through fantasy or real life, or with spouses or strangers, they are a problem for the sex addict. Going to that unreal, self-medicating place is something the addicted person can no longer do. It is the addiction. Sexaholics Anonymous uses words like “chemistry” and “magic” when referring to it in its statement of "The Problem."
III. Learn what it takes to get (and stay) sober
A personal program of recovery usually includes:
- Abstaining from your substance/activity
- A 12-step program
- Psychotherapy (in many cases)
- Lots of dedication and personal growth
- Recognition of the benefits of recovery
- Improved sense of self
- Peace of mind
- Improved life circumstances (relationships, job, finances, etc.)