Behavioral addiction and substance addiction have similarities and differences. I've learned over time that most people only associate addiction with substance abuse or chemical dependency, often leaving those suffering from behavioral addictions completely alone and underserved in their recovery process. In my recovery journey, I have had to overcome a lot on my own and even to this day, I have been told by many that my addictions either aren't real or aren't important simply because they don't involve illegal or harmful substances. Behavioral addictions are just as valid and often just as devastating as substance addictions, although sometimes the recovery process for each one can differ greatly.
As this decade is reaching its end, I am reminded of how long behavioral addictions have haunted me and exactly how far I've come. Around 2010, I first began exploring my sexuality as a teenager and I quickly learned how helpful sex could be as a coping skill for a struggling and defiant teenager like myself. Over time though, I wasn't just relying on sex to cope, my tendency to rely on certain behaviors or activities to survive slowly spread to nearly every area of my life including things like food, social media, shopping, and probably even others that I'm not fully aware of. Behavioral addictions are especially tricky to conquer because they commonly involve the most regular and routine aspects of our lives and they often go completely unnoticed.
We all cope with life differently, so how does one know when their beloved coping skill has manifested into a full-blown, unhealthy addiction? I believe most of us have our own unofficial list of coping skills that we turn to after (or during) a particularly unpleasant day. For some of us, a staple coping mechanism might be a hot bubble bath and for others, their nightly routine could include a chilled glass of wine while binge-watching their favorite sitcom. So how far is too far, and what transforms a harmless coping skill into an unhealthy life choice, or worse, an addiction?
Suicidal ideation is a concept I've grown to be incredibly close to in my addiction recovery journey. Most people sweep suicidal ideation into the same categories as suicidal thoughts or even suicidal attempts, however, it's not quite the same as either of those. Think of suicidal ideation as the "monster before the monster," it's not quite to the level of building a plan or constructing thoughts together, but it's pretty close. In my addiction recovery, suicidal ideation has been a constant battle to face, and for the longest time, I didn't even know or understand the severity of it. (Note: This post contains a trigger warning.)
In my observation, nearly every individual in addiction recovery has either heard of or experienced the 12-step groups or the 12-step curriculum. Some recovering addicts swear by 12-step practices and principles and other addicts convulse at the thought of attending a 12-step group meeting to share their feelings with a bunch of addicted strangers. I feel that I have a rather unique perspective on the 12-step model because while I don't actively participate in every principle and policy they suggest, I have developed a deep respect and admiration for the community as a whole and what they represent.
As a recovering addict, I have been fortunate enough to encounter many methods of recovery, including but not limited to the 12-step group for sex addiction. I first found my way to the most common group options like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and eventually, I discovered the variety of sex addiction-related 12-step groups available. After spending plenty of time in the 12-step group world, I can honestly say that I'm abundantly grateful for the recovery work they do within the community. However, I cannot give 12-step groups all the credit in regards to my recovery experience and maintaining sobriety.
There are numerous benefits to documenting cravings on an official craving log. Managing cravings is perhaps one of the most challenging barriers you must face in recovery. If addiction is like an earthquake in our lives, cravings are the continual and sometimes catastrophic tsunamis that follow. I define cravings at the mental, emotional, or physical reminders that tug at your soul and remind you that your addiction still exists. They tend to be at their most extreme in early recovery, but in some cases, cravings can be experienced for years following your sobriety date. So let's see how beneficial a craving log might be for your personal addiction recovery.
When fighting addictions of any kind there are many important elements that support sobriety, but one of the most crucial ways to prevent relapse is by creating and maintaining healthy routines. In my experience, when you are missing aspects of your personal healthy routines, you are more susceptible to unhealthy thoughts, damaging choices, and most important, relapse.
I spent most of my time in active addiction fearful of what others would think about me; but when I slowly began to open up about my sex addiction, I was incredibly surprised by the reactions I received from people. Some individuals pleasantly surprised me with their love and support, others made me feel like a piece of garbage, and a few of them completely creeped me out. Nonetheless, I am grateful I finally spoke up about my sex addiction, because I know now that the reactions from other people (even people I love) don't get to define me.
The crippling stigma of female sex addiction is just one of many hurdles women must conquer on the road to recovery. Sex addiction, like many addictions, weaves it's way into the most intimate areas of your personal life, particularly in your personal relationships. The stigma and unfair shame that accompanies sex addiction have been some of the most brutal aspects I've had to face in recovery, especially as a female sex addict.