The real point is that there are now, fortunately, a lot more resources than there was before & knowledge / research in the area of additions in gen'l & sex addiction. There is some interesting things coming out of that work particularly regarding the brain, which will invaluable to address addiction issues even better.
So there is no reason to despair if one solution to many isn't the perfect fit for your situation, it may work along with something else, it may be helpful for some aspects of the recovery but not others, or it may be best to discard that approach & use some of the others instead.
There are a lot of choices now that were simply not available. Even better, there are a lot of people acknowledging they do have that problem or at least a major vulnerability to it, so it is taken much more seriously now than it was even 20 yrs ago with a lot more available help. Fortunately that now includes a lot of free or low cost help.
The programs may have different approaches so take advantage of that to find what works best, especially if what is tried first isn't being effective.
And don't despair simply because nothing seems to be working fast enough, it's impossible to reverse years of issues or addiction overnite. As tempting as it may seem, that would only get the surface issues if that, which would leave a ticking time bomb underneath that surface. The deeper & better the work to be done is acknowledged, the more power the addict is taking back from the addiction, the more knowledge they get on how it was able to lead them around & the stronger will be the ability to face it head on to win time after time.
But not the first week or the second or a few months later either. The addict has to get from a kindergarten level to Ph.D. It may seem like it takes forever & may not feel like any real progress is being made at all. At those times, it helps to look back to see the actual progress being made instead of just seeing how far there still is go. Not jsut for the addict but the partner as well. It's important that the partner also can acknowledge their growth as well as the work to be done there as an individual & partner.
... I do still strongly believe that the SA can't just cop out & say that he's giving it to God to fix. God is not going to do the work, the SA is. But I understand the powerlessness part of it now. In order to begin the process they have to admit that they WERE powerless over their addiction & that the addiction was running the show. Admitting the powerlessness is what allows them to then take the power back & begin their recovery. As spouses we have to look at it as a past-tense statement... he WAS powerless when he was acting out, but now he's taking his power back & working his recovery.
If your SA is not sober he is still powerless over his addiction.
The fact that the addict is not sober is proof they are still powerless handling and/or addressing the addiction & corresponding issues. A sober addict is demonstrating they have mastered control over it, at least at that moment. And if they can do it for any significant amount of time, then the odds are better they can maintain control over it as they get more practice at doing just that. Because not only are the detrimental effects more easily apparent but also the benefits of a sober life becomes even more valuable to them with the hard work successfully done to attain it.
As to the powerlessness aspect, that is a crucial component since there really isn't much doubt that the addition has taken control if the addict is acting out. Most addicts seem to want to think they can stop when they want to, but find out very differently.
Getting to the point where they can acknowledge to themselves then others that it is, is a major issue as it is one of the first giant steps to recovery. They don't have to stay powerless. They can learn to use easily available tools to develop needed coping strategies, develop healthy relationships both intimate & non-intimate, keep better boundaries then before & create a better life which being an active addict prevents from happening.
So while absolutely powerless at the start of the recovery, they can learn how to be powerful in making & keeping better choices much more automatically than they would ever be able to do early in. It takes knowledge, commitment & practice over time. And they should be able to get credit for those efforts. As should the partner for their efforts as well. It's a very heartbreaking, prolonged process to reach true healing for either.
The trail any seasoned addict takes to reach that point may be different in spots for each, but the road still ends up in a much happier, healthy, loving life than would be possible otherwise.
But it can be extremely disheartening & kill a lot of hope when someone new to recovery & their partner if they are or perceive a constant bombardment with the "an addict will always be powerless" message. When in fact, many many people have been able to successfully take control & keep it for decades without a relapse.
They just couldn't do that at the start of their addiction tale. But getting help with a true desire to succeed makes it more likely that they will become very powerful over any issues they have in their lives. Including the addiction, over time with the right amount of effort taking place.
The addiction is like a beast that grew bigger, stronger & hence more powerful over a period of time, often decades. With the right efforts, until it has full control of the host. The beast can be "starved out" of the host by denying it the food it needs to survive & replacing that with things that are toxic to the beast such as a good recovery plan being worked on. This will cause the addiction monster to be much smaller, less controlling & incredibly less powerful over time as well. It may not move out, but it can be imprisoned & kept that way, as many have done successfully for a lifetime.
We attended a full day training with Mark Laaser. He underwent the SA program with Patrick Carnes in '87 & worked with him to help others for quite a while. Mark wrote the first Christian book for SA's.
We saw the brain scans of active addicts & those of people who hadn't been for an extended time (some for over a decade). It was very interesting to see the difference. Mark is working with Dr. Daniel Amen to do more SPECT brain scan study & research to address addiction issues even better.
This is at least partly because they found a high incidence of untreated ADHD being a factor making people more susceptible to SA issues in one research study.
Articles section: brief update on SA field by Mark Laaser & Pat Carnes. It says that Pat found in his SA study that roughly 81% were sexually abused, 74% physically abused & 97% emotionally abused.
….So is sex addiction really about the sex? “No,” says Carnes, “but that's the mistake people often make. It's really about pain … or escaping or anxiety reduction. It's a solution.” ….
“The real problem for most sex addicts, they would say to you, I wouldn't know healthy sexuality if it hit me over the head. So how do I know when I am in my craziness & when what I'm doing is a normal healthy reaction to have. And that's part of what recovery teaches,” says Carnes.
Laaser has been in recovery for over a decade. He say's it's a continuing process. After his sexual misbehavior was exposed, Laser entered a sex addiction treatment center for a month where he received psychotherapy.
He now runs a program called Faithful and True Ministries. He still occasionally goes for counseling & relies on the support of those around him, such as his wife Debbie who stayed by his side through it all.
“I never had these real feelings of just running & leaving,” says Debbie. “I wasn't aware that running would solve anything necessarily.”
Their relationship eventually strengthened. They dealt with some of the loneliness Laaser felt & both found comfort in their religious faith. “Now that Debbie & I are more spiritually intimate, sex in our relationship is totally satisfying,” says Laaser. His work has also helped him. He is again counseling others -- including men with problems like his.
Why can't people just stop?
So why can’t people just stop these behaviors? If there's no drug or chemical involved, how is sex addiction like drug addiction or smoking? “When you have a compulsive gambler,” says Carnes, “you’re not taking a chemical. ... In other words, we produce chemicals in our brain whether we use an outside chemical or not.”
New studies, like one at Vanderbilt University, are being conducted to determine if brains of sex addicts are somehow different, & if sex addiction is a true, measurable disorder.
Yet despite growing interest in such research, there are still some who do not believe it is a true addiction. The American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual, for example, does not list sex addiction as a disorder. “That book is always changing,” says Carnes, “and a consensus is starting to build. People who work in the addiction realm are starting to get a common agreement about how to start describing this.”
But, however the scientific debate works itself out, people like Ferree, Karen & Laaser want to help other people suffering from the same compulsions. They want people to know how to recognize the problem & discover that there is hope.
Transforming the Brain: In 'Wired for Intimacy,' William Struthers says there's a chemical reason why pornography is addicting. Book Review by Mark R. Laaser
William Struthers, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology at Wheaton College, has written a book to help us avoid becoming seduced in a culture where pornography can invade our homes.
The bad news, he argues in Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain (InterVarsity), is that the human brain can be chemically hijacked by pornography.
The good news is that the apostle Paul was right: The brain can be transformed by a renewed commitment to sanctification. Yes, I mean the brain, not just the mind. This book demonstrates that, while the process of transformation is based on a spiritual commitment of the mind to Christ, the result will be an anatomical rewiring of the brain.
To explain how this process works, Struthers goes into detailed descriptions of the anatomy & physiology of the brain. Beware: without some patience, wading through this material might feel like sitting through a biology class.
While some of the material is daunting, it's also fascinating evidence of the magnificent complexity of God's creation. There are more nerve cells in the human brain than stars in the universe. While many of us have been taught that we can find ways to improve other parts of our bodies, like the heart, how many of us know that we can develop spiritual habits that benefit our brains?
For me, an addictionologist, the chapter titled "Your Brain on Porn" is one of the best explanations of how a person becomes addicted to the neurochemicals involved in love, romance, sexual arousal, & human touch.
Addiction assumes that the brain becomes neurochemically dependent (tolerant) & will therefore crave activities, such as looking at pornography, that elevate those neurochemicals. This explanation gives scientific credibility to why "just looking" at pornography can never be done without consequences.
It suggests that Internet porn is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction.
One question I am frequently asked is, "Is masturbation a sin?" Struthers believes, as I do, that whatever one believes about it morally, masturbation is "playing with neurochemical fire."
In other words, even if you can masturbate without "lusting in your heart," you cannot escape the consequences of addiction if masturbation becomes routine.
Contrary to what our culture teaches, more sex is not better. The truth is that, for the human brain, there is never enough sex. Struthers does a good job in the second half of the book showing how the pursuit of spiritual intimacy in marriage is a true form of masculinity &, as such, will allow any amount of physical sex to be satisfying.
My one disappointment was the relative lack of practical advice on what to do to recover from addiction & walk the path of personal holiness.
Struthers offers some suggestions, including a willingness & commitment to change, confession, having a spiritual mentor, & envisioning a better life.
Those of us who are addicts, however, have already been discouraged by spiritual answers that are too vague or too easy. Nevertheless, Wired for Intimacy is a valuable contribution to our field.
Perhaps Gene Roddenberry was wrong in the introduction to Star Trek; the "final frontier" may not be space. It may be the human brain.
Mark R. Laaser, along with his wife, Debbie, are the founders & leaders of Faithful and True Ministries, an outreach to the sexually addicted.
Related Elsewhere: [Links at site]:
Wired for Intimacy is available from ChristianBook.com & other book retailers.
InterVarsity Press has more on the book, including an excerpt.
Stuthers has a blog discussing his research.
Previous articles related to pornography and sexuality & gender include:
Help for the Sexually Desperate | More and more, Christian men are admitting they've been caught in a vicious cycle. (March 7, 2008)
Overcoming Inertia on Porn | Sexual images of children are the target of Canadian Christian campaign. (September 1, 2003)
Editorial: We've Got Porn | Online smut is taking its toll on Christians. What is the church doing about it? (June 12, 2000)