Over time the sexual behaviors get more frequent, more extreme, or both. Things do not get better. At times when the addiction seems under control, the addict is merely experiencing one of the common traits of the addictive process in which there is a switch from sexual release to the control, or shutting down, of the problematic sexual urges and behaviors. During this time the person may throw him or herself into work or family life, develop a strong religious life, or otherwise “mend one’s ways.” The addict and others around the addict may rejoice at “the conversion.” But the control often turns out to be merely a phase in the addictive cycle. This is especially true if the person is not getting professional help or working a structured recovery program. In most cases, inevitably the control breaks down over time, whether it is in a week, a month, a year or five years or longer, and the addict finds himself or herself back in the behavior despite a promise to oneself or others never to do it again.
After having yielded to the temptation to act out, and the thrill of the release is spent, the addict will usually feel great remorse and fear. Frequently what the addict does at this point, if having previously promised the relationship partner or someone else not to repeat the behavior, is try to maintain the illusion that everything is still fine and keep the “slip” secret, thinking, “It would just make matters worse to admit this. I’m just going to be careful and not let it happen again.” This signals the return of one of the addiction’s most central characteristics: denial. Having “gotten away” with one infraction, it’s a little easier to rationalize doing it again at some point down the line, and the habit of leading a double life resumes, along with the alternating pattern of release and control. It is a foregone reality that the addict will get caught again sooner or later, or some other severe consequence will occur which creates another crisis—perhaps contracting a sexually transmitted disease or getting a warning at work, which might result in another marital separation, and another promise to stop.
Over time, as the addiction progresses, the cycles of behavior spiral around and around. The sex addict spins deeper into a vortex of increasing losses. First, usually, is loss of peace of mind. Loss of one’s integrity and trust by others follow. Then loss of things like time, money, opportunities, perhaps one’s job or career. Eventually loss of purpose. Ultimately loss of important relationships: friends, children, spouse. It can even lead to the loss of one’s life by accidental death, murder or suicide.
Regardless of how the addiction manifests (it has many forms and variations), it progresses in much the same way: always leaving a trail of problems and losses. The addiction seems to work for awhile, maybe even for years, but ultimately, and over and over again it fails. The highs wear off; the problems pile up unsolved and intensifying; the old highs stop working, requiring more daring and dangerous “fixes”; there is more depression and anxiety, more problems to medicate, and compulsive sex or love or both is the only solution. At least this is what the addict believes as the addiction progresses, in spite of increasing evidence to the contrary.
Without help, or until one is willing to get help, this is the way the sexually addicted person lives his or her life—or the way sex addicts slowly lose their lives.
If you are ready to get help, you might start by clicking on the “About Getting Help” side button, which will give you some things to consider. Or, if you like, you can click on the “Treatment” side button, which will give you specific information and options for seeking professional help. By clicking on the “Free 12-Step Program Help” button you can learn about peer help.