Use Healthy Coping Mechanisms to Step Out of the Addiction Cycle


Reclaim Sexual Sanity:  Find Recovery Now by Calling 212-673-5717 for an Initial Consultation.  See www.sextreatment.com for 35 full-length articles about sex addiction and for details about my private practice.

One Model of the Addiction Cycle
The  Cycle of Sex Addiction
AddictiveCycle
  1. The experience of shame  such as a real or perceived insult to your self esteem, being criticized, depression, emptiness, being bored, being alone and not knowing what to do, a “blame/defense” battle with a partner”, a wife leaving town for three days,  disappointment, a major loss, helplessness or hopelessness.  Almost anything that is experienced as emotional pain.
  2. The emotions become magnified and distorted because you have irrational thoughts/ reactions which lead to an intensification of your feelings.  It is these irrational, distorted thoughts you say to yourself that turn unpleasant feelings into intolerable distress.
  3. Distress fuels both the desire to hide and isolate,  because the feelings are shame-bound, together with the opposing need to form a pseudo-connection.
  4. Sexual fantasies to create a safer, more pleasant world for yourself.
  5. Intense cravings and urges;
  6. Preoccupation with sexual thoughts.
  7. Ritualization — not unlike OCD, the person engages in prescribed behavior, e.g driving through the streets where he used to pick up a prostitute.
  8. Dissociation –you lose awareness of who you are and what you are doing
  9. Entrance into the Erotic Haze.  You know what that is; I don’t have to explain it.
  10. Acting out —  a self-defeating strategy intended to communicate feelings about which you have no words.
  11. Orgasm — more shame, depression, self-hatred.  “I can’t believe I did it again.”
  12. Lapse of time.
  13. The cycle begins again to mask the pain of the humiliation of having done it again.  It’s become the only way you know how to  cope.
My intention for an upcoming article on http://www.sextreatment.com is to enlarge and scrutinize each phase of the sex addiction cycle in order to apply a healthy coping mechanism relevant to that particular phase.   This stops the cycle dead in its track and puts you on your way  back to self-control and sanity. Perhaps you may even follow the site!!
Dorothy Uncharacteristically  Self-Discloses
I had an experience of my own shame/addiction cycle escape just last night.  This after 33 years of recovery.
I very much wanted to attend a particular social event comprised of the people with whom I went through analytic training 15 years ago.  Due to various circumstances, I had not kept touch with the community through the years and the longer I stayed away, irrationally, the more SHAME I felt about staying away and the harder it was for me to get back.
I myself feel the pangs of the isolation of my work and I’ve been finding myself hungry for extra social engagement, for people to talk to about my wacky work, to hear presentations about what other analysts were doing and to present about my own work so as to get some clarity and feedback.
Last night was THE NIGHT.  I screwed my courage to the winds to face whatever unconscious irrational beliefs I had about becoming a member again, walked out the door, got in a cab to midtown, totally prepared to meet and greet.
I ended up getting there an hour-and-a-half late.  First of all, I was preoccupied with something and was late in getting out of the house.  Then the cab driver dropped me off God knows where and I spent time walking around looking for the place. I had gotten lost in Manhattan.  That’s pretty hard to do – they lay it all out for you, never mind I’ve been here for 35 years.  I arrived to discover that the party was over.  All had gone home.
Stunned, I staggered out into the street.  Standing in the street for what seemed to be an interminable period of time, I became AWARE that I was experiencing physiological tinglings associated with being in a high arousal state stemming from the following experiences:  more shame about having screwed up and missed the party, anger at myself for not being more mindful, projected negative appraisal from certain people who expected me to be there (What will they think of me?), disappointment, and feeling like a fool.  And oh, by the way, I hadn’t eaten anything and I was exhausted from overwork.
Then, the virtual impossibility of finding a cab mid-town on a Friday night.  Not only was I lost, I helpless to get home.
We’re human beings and all human beings are subject to having exactly these kinds of feelings.  Most know they’re not dangerous and that feelings come and go.  They let them go to move on to the business of living.
Addicts, however, react to their feelings in such as way that they become exaggerated and seem threatening.
How do they become exaggerated?

Because of the things we TELL ourselves about them.  I use Albert Ellis’s Rational Emotive Therapy sometimes to stop myself and get a perspective.  These series of irrational thoughts about our feelings  them seem overwhelming.

Phase 1: Back to me waiting on the street for the elusive cab.  From what seemed like out of the blue, but was really the result of many escalating factors in the cycle, I was at the first phase of the addiction cycle: an experience of an intense, unwanted inner state caused by what I told myself about my feelings.
What are these irrational beliefs/voices?
First, absolutism – inflexible demands I make on myself, characterized by the word “should”.  I should be able to get a cab.  I should be comfortable at all times.  I should not experience frustration or discomfort. My needs should be met.  I should not have arrived late.  I should have been more mindful because I shouldn’t make mistakes.  I shouldn’t be as upset as I am.
Followed by the “musts”.  I absolutely MUST have the approval and goodwill (of everyone in the world, really) but particularly of this group of people. I  MUST not make mistakes around them or appear imperfect.  And if I do, it’s AWFUL.
You can see that these somewhat crazy thoughts heightened my emotional experience and I was in a state of intense distress.  It is this particular distressed state that puts you at the beginning of the addiction cycle.
2.  I wanted to both hide and to connect so as to quell these very unpleasant feelings. The thought crossed my mind that I should go downtown to what used to be my favorite watering hole, connect to a person or two, and down a few shots.
3. I experienced, for the first time in a very long time, a craving for alcohol.
My addiction cycle stopped there.  I became AWARE that I was once again ensnarled in the addiction.  HOWEVER, I was able to implement healthy coping mechanisms to stop the process.  I didn’t have to become swept away by the rest of the cycle which surely would have resulted in relapse.
Here are some things I did:
With the knowledge that I had evolved into phase 3 of the cycle, I was able to apply healthy coping mechanisms to retrieve my sanity.
I was AWARE that I was having cravings.  I remembered that craving is a common experience, even sometimes with long-term recovery.  The experience is normal.  It didn’t mean something was wrong.  I reminded myself that craving is temporary and that, given time, it will run it course and I’ll be feeling like myself again.  How bad is it, really, to feel bad for 10 minutes.
All the urges I’ve ever had have passed.
I reminded myself of the incredible benefits accrued from having lived a sober life and called up the memory of my worst drunk.
With awareness of my changed physiology and enhanced arousal state caused by strong emotions, I quelled and stabilized by body by doing some favorite breathing techniques.  This immediately stabilized my anxiety and returned me to a physiological sound base.
I put my iPod on and became absorbed in listening to classical music.  Music doth have charms to soothe the savage beast and it was also using the coping mechanism of distraction.
I began to dispute the irrational beliefs that were agitating me so.  My adult has a long talking to my child.  Through this process, I was able to gain a larger perspective, another coping mechanism.  So I missed a party.  Big deal.  There’ll be another Fall Party next Fall and there’ll be events during the year.  In all probability, no one even noticed I wasn’t there.
I then used problem solving to dispel anxiety and to alleviate my sense of helplessness.  I walked over a few blocks where I thought I might better able get a cat.  That strategy having failed, I used my cell phone to call a car service.  I also used the cell phone to call a friend and talk it through.
When I got home, I did a bit of housecleaning.  In this way, I sublimated my negative energies into something useful and constructive. Importantly, I engaged in another distracting activity. 
 
Calmer, I did some benefit finding.  To counteract shame, I endorsed myself for having a strong intention to do something meaningful and constructive and for taking the actions I did take to make it happen.  I thought about how nice it was to walk around the city streets on a beautiful autumn evening and how fortunate I was to live in the Big Apple.
I also acknowledged gratitude for having been given the skills to know how to escape another encounter with the addiction cycle.
If you’re interested in treatment, contact me at dorothyhayden1231@gmail.com for a free 30-minute consultation. www.sextreatment.com

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