Is sex addiction* really about sex? Is any addiction really about the element to which a particular person feels drawn? People can become drawn to anything, and they do, for that matter.
Oftentimes when treating a compulsion we look to eliminate the symptom without looking at the cause. We look to stop the drinking, gambling, shopping or pornography viewing. If we only work to stop the symptom without getting to the reason that it has presented itself in the first place the symptom will return but not always in it’s original form.
Without getting to the root of the issue we might witness someone giving up one addiction only to replace it with another. Someone may be able to get rid to a cocaine habit only to replace it with sex. Or you might see someone give up alcohol only to replace it with food or a rigid workout routine.
The key to treating addictions is to get to the root, the reason one feels the need to use in the first place.
Addiction and The Feeling of Emptiness
Everyone wants to feel at peace. Everyone wants to feel whole. Everyone wants to feel connected. Everyone wants to feel a deep sense of happiness. When we are consumed by our thinking and emotions we can become cut off from this state of peace, happiness and joy and this sense of being cut off causes great fear.
We try to find this state of peace, happiness and joy through external things. We may try to find it in sex. We might use a relationship. We may turn to one of our roles, such as our role of “good mother” or “competent banker” or “ethical person”. We may use alcohol to get back to this place of complete peace.
Many of these external things can give us a glimpse of what we are looking for but when we get to this temporary place of peace we can’t stay, so to speak, because we did not get there through the correct means. So when we sober up, the sexual act is complete, the honeymoon stage in a relationship is over or we lose the role that provided some relief we are then thrown back into the feeling of emptiness.
When we are back in this feeling of emptiness, we can begin to beat ourselves up for using sex or drugs to get to this nirvana we so desperately seek. Now in this state of emptiness, compacted with punishing ourselves for a past behavior, we feel that we need a sense of peace and completeness more than ever. So, we go back to using what ever we have come to use to get us to our temporary escape. And so the cycle continues.
If we look to only stop the behavior- the sex, the addiction to shopping, the draw to substance, gambling, or the pull to relationships, we are still left with this feeling of incompleteness. If one does not get to the root of why they feel incomplete they will find something else to fill the perceived void and thus trade one addiction for another.
Getting to the root of addiction
You are not your thoughts. You are not your emotions. You are not your roles. You are not your possessions. May people would agree with all of the previously mentioned statements. Most would intellectually be able to make sense of the statement “I am not my thoughts” but few actually know this to be true.
We believe many thoughts that come up in our heads without question. Various ideas that pop into our mind we buy and take as gospel. Most of us fall into the trap of if I thought it, it must be true. But that’s just nuts!
If you thought you were a lobster would it make you a lobster? Most people would answer “no” to this. But the moment the thought “I’m worthless” comes into our head we think it must be true.
If I’m not after the object of my addiction, what do I want?
What we are all in search of cannot be found in an object. We are all looking for that sense of completeness, that feeling of “Ahh, I’m finally home”. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that whenever you acquire those new shoes you were after, that sex or relationship you were in search of, alcohol, a trip or whatever form the object takes, what you will see is that the moment you obtain the object you will feel happy only momentarily.
We often mistakenly think the feeling of happiness is coming from the object itself, say the shoes. But this is an illusion. The happiness we feel does not come from the shoes or any other object. It actually comes that moment we are desireless.
The very moment we obtain what we think we want there is a brief period of time when we experience that feeling of desirelessness. In the moment we have no desire we can begin to experience happiness.
Happiness is the light that shines from you. When you remove what blocks happiness, (i.e. desires, expectations, fear, just to name a few) it is free to shine. We can see it reflecting back at us, but it is always coming from us.
What we are really in search of is this feeling of completion but as long as we are looking for it in external experiences will believe that our happiness depends on something outside us.
*I do understand that at this point in time there is no official diagnosis call “sex addiction”. However, for the purpose of this article I have used the term sex addiction to stand for sexually compulsive behavior.