Understanding Sex & Love Addiction

It’s hard for most folks to conceive of sex addiction as being different from promiscuity or to distinguish love addiction from codependency. This is all the more understandable given that researchers have yet to definitively draw any lines between healthy fulfillment and pathological behavior. Addiction becomes evident when patterns are perpetuated despite unwanted and painful consequences.

Addiction always involves elements of impossibility. Just as drug addicts, “chase the dragon”, sex addicts pursue satisfaction of displaced insatiability and love addicts seek unending infatuation. The futility of seeking the unattainable is never present in the minds of we who remain obsessed and compelled.

Our pursuit of perfection is based in the false belief that it will provide holistic fulfillment. Irrationally, we are motivated to attain because it will make us feel that we are acceptable, deserving, and loveable (we are desperately seeking to feel good enough). We do not understand ourselves, only our base desires. We wish to be valued above all others, wanted, and prized. We work hard not to consider/remember why or how this came to be.

We are products of what clinicians refer to as “arrested development.” Erik Erikson described us as having gaps in our childhood/adolescent growth. We experienced loss and/or had needs that were not met. Perfectionism is most often the ideology of a sad and/or frightened child who has no good options.

Our emotional immaturity is evident in our behavior. We make choices impulsively. We seek immediate gratification without concern for consequence. We have a specific outcome in mind, it’s simply unacceptable to us that we cannot evoke it.

We rebel silently. We act out in ways that would anger or disgust those who failed us, though they will never know. This occurs on a subconscious level – a product of our own internal conflicts. It is rarely, if ever satisfying.

Our behavior is not simply an attempt to attain what we want feel. It’s as much about what we strive not to feel. When distracted by our pursuit of the perfect sex and/or love, we are temporarily relieved of feeling abandoned, rejected, and alone.

We refuse to accept powerlessness. We alternate between withdrawal and enmeshment. We impulsively connect to others in order to avoid ourselves. Everything is external, whether we’re focused on the object of our affection or pornography. It’s all a series of empty distractions.

Our addictions remain relatively invisible, our suffering progressive. We are likely to struggle in asking for help. Many of us are embarrassed to admit the nature of our condition for fear of judgment. If we find sufficiently trained clinicians we may gain a greater understanding of what drives us, yet as any good therapist will tell you, having the support of friends and family is vital in making sustainable change.

As with every addiction, we find that 12 step programs are our greatest resource. Ultimately, we accept that there are two satisfying relationships that are the foundation for all others: Relating to self in a healthy manner, and relating to a power greater than ourselves.

Help is available. Start here: http://www.slaafws.org/

 

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.