Sex Addiction As An Illness

Sexual addiction is an illness. It’s solitary, dehumanizing, and satisfies only itself. Contrary to love, it’s fleeting. It causes people to abuse their bodies. It distances us from our emotions, destroys good feelings about ourselves. It therefore causes people to be broken and alone.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, sex therapist and author of “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction,” provides an operational definition of sexual addiction: “a pathological relationship with a mood-altering experience.” Contrary to real love, the sex addict obsesses over and depends on sex for comfort from inner pain. He or she uses it for nurturing, relief from stress etc.

Once, I heard a married man saying that he has sex with multiple women because “God is love.” Indeed, the notion of sexual addiction can be confused like that! It’s also confused with what is positive and legitimately pleasurable in married love enjoyed by the “normal” population. As life unravels, the sex addict despairs, helplessly stucked in the cycle of shame, degradation, and danger. Like a broken car, the sex addict needs a mechanic!

Nowadays, people need education and a clearer perspective about sexual addiction as an illness. Often this is obscured by media and by our reluctance to face sexual issues – personally, professionally, and publicly. The illness is further masked by secrecy and shame that inherently characterizes it.

The world is full of helpless sexual addicts in need of help.

Healing Your Loneliness

We all suffer from times of loneliness, in varying degrees. It’s pain. But it’s pain that tells you and I that we have something important to work on.

David never learned to get emotionally close to anyone. He was lonely even before he got married and later separated from his wife. That’s largely because he was raised from a family where the interaction did not make him feel he belonged. His marital separation increased this traumatic feeling of not belonging or being lonely.

If you’re severely lonely or feeling you “don’t belong,” as in the case of David, possibly the crisis itself can be used to help deal directly with the problem. You need to work through your loneliness so you can get to the other side. You need to develop new resources within your self to spend time alone without needing to have another person around or choosing to establish healthy connections with others.

A mentally healthy person is balanced. He or she strives to establish a proper balance between being alone and being with others. That’s how to heal your loneliness. Through your working on that balance.

Here are a several signposts to know that you’re making progress in your balance in healing your loneliness:

* You have stopped isolating, hiding, or withdrawing into your room or home.
* You have learned not to allow your feelings of loneliness to control your thoughts and behaviors by engaging in addictive activities, such as drinking, gambling, pornography, overeating etc.
* You’re taking time being with people rather than working long hours trying to run from loneliness;
* You’re not hiding from your loneliness by being with people you don’t enjoy being with.
* You are filling up your time with activities alone and activities with others in good amounts to stay active and engaged with life.
* You are comfortable being alone and have aloneness time.
* You avoid or refuse having instant attachment or love relationship just to avoid being lonely.
* You educate your self on how to establish healthy relationships and apply them.
* You choose to enter into romance or dating rather than needing it to overcome loneliness.
* You’ve learned to take time for your self rather than keeping overly busy.

The Third Ear

Love and hate. Dependence and independence. Joy and sadness. Individuality and intimacy. To be left alone and to be assisted. Trust and mistrust. Denial and acknowledgment. To tell and not to tell. To stay and leave.

Opposite tendencies or wishes can do co-exist within us. Especially in moments of stress, we may experience feelings contradicting each other living inside us. What is false and what is true can be confused.

Bridget, a single mother of three, often gets caught in perplexing contradictions. She does not want to be treated as though she is incomplete or needy.

However, she admits in her therapy that she’d like men to notice and love her, and making allowances for her hunger to feel “complete” with a man who’d take care of her. She asked, “Am I crazy? I’m confused.”

Dividedness. The self pulled apart by contradictions. What do you do in such a distressing psychological state? There seems to be no easy solution.

What helps can be the ability to “listen with the third ear.” It’s like my saying you using your “extra sense,” which is something that needs deliberate cultivation. It’s not easily accessible by natural means.

“Listening with the third ear” may mean dealing with our dividedness or contradictions as not a problem to be solved, right away. Before healing or wholeness sets in, this dilemma we always find ourselves in is an aspect of the human condition that must be accepted first.

Once this prerequisite is done, you then free yourself from the domain of helplessness to resolution or coming to terms with it.

Curing Death Anxiety

“Death is no paper tiger,” once wrote psychologist Dr. Carl Gustav Jung. Beyond age 35, according to him, death is a common universal source of anxiety or preoccupation in our lives. It’s also a revealer of one’s actual state of Self, mental health, and overall wellbeing.

In the process of getting older, death anxiety usually looms progressively larger. People show a variety of responses to this inevitable, heavy reality of eventual physical self-obliteration. Generally, one’s response can either be helpful or harmful to one’s self-integration and wellness.

I’m reminded of a 65-year-old millionaire mother of one of my addiction clients. Based on my client’s recount, she inflicted much verbal and emotional abuse on him since childhood. Yet she didn’t think, “Since my final years are getting so brief, how can I use my final years to heal my deeply wounded relationship with my children, correct my mistakes, and make up?”

Rather, she’s constantly thinking of leisure and self indulgence, speeding up her expenses to travel to as many countries as possible. It drove her to frenzy to hurry and enjoy seeing sights, grab all the gusto she can to enjoy further luxuries and comfort in life before she dies.

On the opposite side, other people cope with their death anxiety by turning to God and/or serving others. Not to hedonism or self-indulgence, but to producing a lasting legacy behind for others’ greater good. They’re able to discern the delusion of transitory leisure, possessions, and comfort before they die.

Examples of this abound. The aging Bill Gates, the world’s wealthiest man, donated millions of dollars to global health causes. Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor in India for many years and built a worldwide organization. Dr. Albert Schweitzer famously served in Africa as a medical missionary as well as countless others like him from missions and churches. Plus much more!

If you’re a Christian, death and its accompanying anxiety is vanquished. For Jesus proclaimed: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. They are given eternal life for believing in Me and will never perish” (John 11:25, 26).

I ask, have you found true lasting remedy for death anxiety yourself?

How To Take Care Of Your Self

Self-Care is vital. You miss or neglect it, you break down. You get ill. You experience unhappiness.

There are known effective ways or strategies to maintain self-care. I’m thinking of some specifics below where we may need to actively work on to improve and maintain our self-care.

Assess and get ready to better self-care.

Physical Self-Care:

* Eat regularly (e.g. breakfast, lunch and dinner)
* Eat healthy
* Exercise
* Get regular medical care for prevention
* Get medical care when needed
* Take time off when needed
* Get massages
* Dance, swim, walk, run, play sports, sing, or do some other physical activity that is fun
* Take time to be sexual with your spouse.
* Get enough sleep
* Wear clothes you like
* Take vacations
* Take day trips or mini-vacations
* Make time away from telephones and gadgets

Psychological Self-Care:

* Make time for self-reflection
* Have your own personal psychotherapy
* Write in a journal
* Read literature that is unrelated to work
* Do something at which you are not expert or in charge
* Decrease stress in your life
* Let others know different aspects of you
* Notice your inner experience—listen to your thoughts, judgments, beliefs, attitudes, and feelings
* Engage your intelligence in a new area, e.g. go to an art museum, history exhibit, 
sports event, auction, theater performance
* Practice receiving from others
* Be curious
* Say “no” to extra responsibilities sometimes

Emotional Self-Care:

* Spend time with others whose company you enjoy
* Stay in contact with important people in your life
* Give yourself affirmations, praise yourself
* Love yourself
* Re-read favorite books, re-view favorite movies
* Identify comforting activities, objects, people, relationships, places and seek them out
* Allow yourself to cry
* Find things that make you laugh
* Express your outrage in social action, letters and donations, marches, protests
* Play with children

Spiritual Self-Care:

* Make time for reflection
* Spend time with nature
* Find a spiritual connection or community
* Be open to inspiration
* Cherish your optimism and hope
* Be aware of nonmaterial aspects of life
* Try at times not to be in charge or the expert
* Be open to not knowing
* Identify what in meaningful to you and notice its place in your life
* Meditate
* Pray
* Sing
* Spend time with children
* Have experiences of awe
* Contribute to causes in which you believe
* Read inspirational literature (talks, music, etc.)

Work Self-Care:

* Take a break during the workday (e.g. lunch)
* Take time to chat with co-workers
* Make quiet time to complete tasks
* Identify projects or tasks that are exciting and rewarding
* Set limits with your clients and colleagues
* Balance your caseload so that no one day or part of a day is “too much”
* Arrange your work space so it is comfortable and comforting
* Get regular supervision or consultation
* Negotiate for your needs (benefits, pay raise)
* Have a peer support group
* Develop a non-trauma area of professional interest
* Strive for balance within your work-life and workday
* Strive for balance among work, family, relationships, play and rest

Ways To Handle Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of our life. But stress, if not properly coped with, turns bad or unhealthy to our health – physically, emotionally, and psychologically

When stress is bad, it leads to a host of ailments. High blood pressure, among medical conditions. Sleep deficits. Addictions. Relational breakdowns. Mental health disorders.

Let me share here below a few specific things or steps we can take to control “bad stress:”

1. Find out information about what’s exactly going on.

2. Let your feelings out through healthy channels.

3. Make time for play or recreation.

4. Pay attention to your family and friends.

5. Stay away from addictions when stressed – drugs, alcohol, smoking, food, sex, gambling, internet etc.

6. Eat healthy.

7. Focus on the positive.

8. Be objective and realistic.

9. Exercise regularly.

10. Find a hobby.

11. Pray.

12. Read and meditate on the Word.

13. Celebrate every success.

14. Develop your faith in the Higher Power.

15. Call on a friend.

16. Read.

17. Take a walk to nature.

Managing Envy

“Envy is the ulcer of the soul.”
— Socrates

Envy has the power to damage your self. If you’re unable to check or manage it, it may consume your whole being.

Author Rolf Dobelli, in his book “The Art of Thinking,” tells of a Russian tale: “A farmer finds a magic lamp. He rubs it, and out of thin air, a genie appears, promising to grant him one wish. Finally, he says: ‘My neighbor has a cow and I have none. I hope that his drops dead.”

Sounds absurd? But, this tale of Dobelli still reeks of common reality among humankind. Yours may not be extreme. But whether you like it or not, there’s a part of our self – whether conscious or unconscious – that tends to be envious of other people’s success or blessings.

Tomas wished he wasn’t that way. As he told me about his expanding wife’s foreign business trips while he remained stuck in his job, he felt kind of sad. It would be wonderful for him to enjoy his wife’s success without having to experience feelings of envy about it.

The trouble with such envy is, it can create a chain of unhealthy, irrational thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You find your self distant from your wife. You try to sabotage her plans. And perhaps, puncture her clothes or steal her passport!

So, how do you manage and control your envy when you experience it?

In my own self growth, I’ve learned how “grateful for what I’ve got” helps check my human tendency to envy. Count your blessings is a familiar refrain. I start and end my day with thanksgiving prayer.

Then I think about how vast the ocean is, instead of looking only at a little corner. That enlarges my vision, helps me see the bigger picture. It energizes me to create one opportunity after another. Actively inventing my future stops the envy.