The simple definition of any addiction is the persistent pattern of behavior or thought that endures despite causing harm. It is marked by an apparent loss of control. Addicts may spend inordinate amounts of time pursuing or recovering from engagement with certain substances or activities. This often hinders the addict’s ability to fulfill their role obligations, causing relational and personal problems. Addiction is described as an autopilot mode where a person finds themselves consistently doing something before they even realize how they got there.
Addiction includes abuse of substances as well as behaviors. No matter the substance or behavior, addiction involves the activation of the brain’s system of reward and reinforcement.
At Sojourn Counseling, we offer particular expertise to those struggling with sexual addiction, which often includes the compulsive and pervasive use of pornography and/or an obsession with unhealthy or risky sexual encounters.
While not all addictions look alike, they often function the same way. The addiction is a coping skill that temporarily solves a problem, numbs a pain, or otherwise meets a need. Treatment must address these underlying needs for lasting change to occur.
Some people may be genetically predisposed to addiction. However, environmental and personal factors play even larger roles in initiating risky behaviors that may develop into addictions. Addiction may be a learned behavior that – like a well-walked path – becomes a deep rut that is hard to get out of without help.
Sexual addiction has an additional biological component because the human body was designed to give a large chemical reward for sex, even when engaging healthily. This can be confusing! Another contributing factor to sexual addiction may be growing up in an abusive environment or one in which emotional needs were not met.
We take time to understand the whole story behind addiction. Then we latch onto and protect the legitimate need while letting go of the illegitimate behaviors that cause so much pain. We help you discover what you were truly looking for and then teach you healthier and more connected ways to get those needs met.
Often, addiction is a response to some type of traumatic event and grows rapidly in secrecy and shame. With shame and secrecy, asking for help and working on becoming healthy again are hindered or halted completely. Addiction may also come with a belief system that the substance/behavior is the only solution and that nothing else will work.
Recovery involves addressing this source of pain and provides new coping skills to replace the skills of addiction. It replaces secrecy and shame with openness, safety, and love from others and from ourselves. It replaces isolation with close relationships that get strengthened in times of need and allows us to be a source of strength for others.
Like hospital triage, recovery from addiction has three phases. The first phase is stopping the bleeding – or stopping the offending behavior. The second phase is learning why the bleeding started in the first place – or what happened that led us to cope in this way. The third phase is sewing up the wound – or creating a new life that is something we want, something that is healthy and fulfilling so there is no need for the addiction any more.