What I Realized About Sexual Fantasies at Disneyland

sexual fantasiesRecently, I went to Disneyland with my wife and son. One of the many attractions we enjoyed was the Indiana Jones ride. Have you ever been? It’s not one that’s easy to forget. I became anxious before the ride, which I’ll tell you about. And I realized that how I dealt with my anxiety was a helpful metaphor for how sexual fantasies work.

 

The metaphor isn’t perfect, but I’m hoping to show you how sexual fantasies can work. Understanding them can help extremely helpful, especially when healing from porn or sex addiction.

Here’s What I Wish I’d Said on My Recent Podcast Episode

alcohol treatment familiesIn early May, I was in Phoenix for the annual symposium for therapists who treat individuals struggling with problematic sexual behaviors and their partners. I was presenting on harm reduction at the conference on a panel discussing alternative paths of recovery that may not include 12-step recovery groups. I was thrilled to bring harm reduction to the field of sexual addiction and recovery.

 

While I was there, I spoke further with Jackie Pack, the facilitator of our panel. She invited me onto her podcast Thanks for Sharing to talk more about harm reduction. A couple of weeks ago, Jackie graciously hosted me and we talked about harm reduction, its benefits and rationale, and how it can help those struggling with addictive behavior and those who love them.

 

We covered a lot of ground, but there are some things we didn’t get to or that I wish I’d said more clearly. Here’s the rundown.

Understanding Addiction, Part 1: The Disease Model

understanding addiction“Why? Why do I keep doing this?” I get this question a lot, especially from new clients who are struggling to comprehend why they keep engaging in an addictive behavior they don’t want to keep doing. They struggle in understanding addiction.

 

I get it. I’ve been there. I wondered the same for a long time. I couldn’t understand why I continued to drink when I felt as ashamed about it as I did. Eventually, I came to understand why I started to drink and why I continued to need to drink.

 

Eventually, I came to understand that I drank to alleviate my own shame and anxieties. Understanding what alcohol was doing for me helped me learn to be more authentic and manage my feelings differently. When I didn’t need alcohol anymore, I spontaneously stopped when I got tired of how much it was taking from me.

 

Maybe you’re trying to understand your drinking, gambling, sexual behaviors, or other addictive behaviors. Really, you’re asking about what you don’t understand about yourself. That’s where looking at a few models of understanding addiction can help.

Contact with the Affair Partner After an Affair Ends

contact with affair partnerShould he have any contact with the affair partner now that the affair is over? Shouldn’t she cut her affair partner out of his life and stop talking to him altogether? How can I get him to stop talking to her?

 

After an affair, the couple is in crisis. They’re struggling to adapt to their new reality now that the affair has been exposed.

 

The hurt partner is reeling from this world-shattering news. She’s often traumatized and angry, while also struggling with the desire to scour phone records, check his phone, and other responses intended to help her feel safe after a massive betrayal.

 

The partner participating in the affair is often remorseful and desperate to save the relationship.

 

In instances like this, it’s a matter of course that the affair is over, that contact with the affair partner will not continue, and that both partners are all in the save the relationship.

 

But this is not always the case.

Treating Sex Addiction with Harm Reduction Psychotherapy

treating sex addictionThis week, I received the exciting news that I’ll be participating in a panel discussion about sex addiction, approaches to treatment, and how best to help clients needing support with these issues. I’ll be talking about treating sex addiction with harm reduction psychotherapy.

 

The conversation will take place at the conference for the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals in Phoenix in May. It’s going to be a great chance for mental health professionals on the front lines of out-of-control sexual behavior treatment to compare treatment options and philosophies.

 

Normally I don’t post too much about developments in the field of addiction, though I did give an update about sex addiction receiving a diagnosis last summer.

 

But this panel is so important and exciting because it’s evidence of a growing number of voices in the addiction field who think a bit differently about how to help those struggling with addictive behaviors, including sexual behaviors.

 

I thought I’d briefly compare the traditional approach and the harm reduction approach as I consider my remarks for the panel. I’m very much thinking out loud here as I continue to evolve and grow, so I invite you to be a part of the dialogue in the comments below.

Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.

 

For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.

 

People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.

 

But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.

How Alternative Addiction Treatment Can Work for You

Koorosh Rassekh, MMFT, is a licensed therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach, California. His mission is to break the stigma around mental health and create a world of healthier people, families, and communities.

 

I recently connected with Koorosh and invited him to share about how he helps his clients change their addictive behavior. Read more about my collaboration with him about sex and porn addiction here.

 

1) Evo’s website states that you respects “where you are and where you want to go.” What does this mean for how you think about and treat addictions?

 

Taking inspiration from one of my mentors and one of Evo’s key advisors, Dr. Gabor Maté, I would say that Evo understands that addiction is never the primary issue. It is a secondary response to something deeper happening for a person – trauma, marginalization, the impact of being different, bullying culture, rape culture, etc. When people suffer, they turn to whatever is available to address their suffering. With substances, people often use as a coping mechanism, and this coping mechanism becomes a problem within itself.

Master Your Recovery Mindset

master your recovery mindsetIf you’re in trying to change your relationship with alcohol, a drug, sex, porn, or some other addictive behavior, you know it’s not a cakewalk. I want to walk you through an exercise today that will hopefully call attention to recurring thoughts that might be getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

 

I’m going to try something different here. I’m going to ask you to notice your first reactions to the statements that I’m going to give you. But in order for it to work, you have to promise to pause after you read each statement, taking note of what you’re thinking.

 

So don’t read on until you do that, okay? But first, a few words about why this is important. Let’s dive in.

Changing the Conversation with Your Addict

changing the conversation with your addictIf you’re in recovery, and especially if you frequent 12-step meetings, it’s not uncommon to hear about the “addict” in each person who struggles with addictive behavior. Often, using this term in this way refers to that part of the individual that wants to use, act out, or wreak havoc in some other way that is harmful to others.

 

I completely understand, then, why when I hear folks use this term in this way, they’re trying to prevent that damage from happening. They don’t want to lie anymore. They don’t want to hurt their partner with the “addict’s” hurtful words. And they really don’t want to use or act out.

 

So why am I about changing the conversation with your addict?