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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Posey

From Chaos to Compass: Where to Begin Your Journey to Conquer Compulsive Sexual Behaviors

When I first got serious about confronting my habits surrounding compulsive porn use I had no idea where to even begin. The thick layers of guilt and shame make it really difficult to look at these behaviors head-on, but to go beyond that and try making sense out of these behaviors and how to address the needs these behaviors were attempting to meet at times felt impossible. In this blog I will go over three foundational areas of focus which may serve as a good launching point into your journey of recovery from compulsive porn use and other unwanted sexual behaviors:

  1. What is my sexual health plan? “What is a sexual health plan?”, you might ask. In it’s most basic sense, a sexual health plan is getting really clear with yourself and your partner (if you have one) about what behaviors are unequivocally off-limits. These off-limit behaviors do not just need to be sexual in nature - they can also be behaviors like acting in deceptive ways, “sneaking” around, lying, or gas-lighting. If you are partnered it will be extremely important to include the not-just-sexual aspects of your acting out as it is this deceptive behavior over time which really undermines the trust in your relationship and leaves your partner feeling so devastated and disoriented. The sexual behaviors are one thing - the prolonged patterns of deception are another - it is important to get clear about that in your sexual health plan. A sexual health plan also includes identifying the behaviors, activities, and emotions which aren’t necessarily the acting out behaviors, but those which in the past have inevitably led to the acting out behaviors. An example of these behaviors could be scrolling social media with the underlying intention of “accidentally” coming across explicit content. The internal narrative which accompanies behaviors such as these sounds a lot like, “Scrolling social media isn’t bad, It’s not like I’m logging on here specifically to seek out explicit content.” all while knowing the explicit content will inevitably find it’s way in front of your eyeballs. Finally, a sexual health plan includes the behaviors, emotions, experiences, and relationships which keep you away from the acting-out behaviors. These behaviors can include hobbies, spending time with friends and other loved-ones, meditation, or prayer.

  2. What Underlying beliefs made it possible for me to engage in these behaviors? I have told many of my clients that all behavior serves a purpose. In order to maintain sustainable recovery from compulsive sexual behaviors it is essential to discover and really understand the purpose these behaviors were attempting to serve. Answering the question “what was I believing about myself, my relationships, the world around me, and my future in my moments of acting out?” will shine a light on the purpose these behaviors were serving. For instance, my answer to this question was something along the lines of, “I was believing that my experiences of anxiety and feeling like I didn’t ‘have it all together’ would not be accepted by those around me.” Once I was able to realize this belief I was able to recognize that my compulsive porn use, at least in part, was attempting to serve the purpose of managing my anxiety in a way that didn’t make my anxiety known to others. Gaining this insight helped me to develop ways to challenge the negative beliefs I held about my experiences of anxiety and how my community would react to it. It also empowered me to discover ways of managing my anxiety which worked for me and my relationships.

  3. What does my addiction cycle look like? Like the sexual health plan, there are numerous different templates out in the world which you can use to map your cycle of addiction. Here is one I put together as an adaptation from other templates that are out there:

As you can see, these cycles can be customized to your exact experiences with compulsive sexual behaviors, and the triggers don't necessarily have to be negative affect states. Identifying what your cycle looks like helps by empowering with knowledge of where you are in relation to your cycle at any moment so that you can make conscious decisions about how to get out of the cycle. Essentially, knowing your cycle makes the unconscious conscious, and therefore you gain access to power over your cycle which felt elusive previously.

I hope the above areas of focus gives you some meaningful places to begin your journey in recovery. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you are in need of a little more guidance on your journey to overcoming compulsive sexual behaviors. You got this.

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