Sex and porn addicts can often trace the roots of their addiction back to certain events in their lives. These events may have been embarrassing, shameful, or damaging encounters with sexual feelings when you were younger. They often have a lasting effect on the personality – one that can last throughout your entire life, if left unaddressed.
Addicts and non-addicts alike can relate to the feeling of remembering something unpleasant or strongly emotional. Maybe after an embarrassing and painful “belly flop” at the community pool, you’ve avoided diving boards for the rest of your life. Maybe you can’t handle public speaking very well, ever since you accidentally let a curse word slip in front of your 7th grade history class. The common theme here is that events from your childhood are directly impacting and informing the decisions you make as an adult.
While this phenomenon can happen to anyone, when it happens to an addict, it can keep you in a cycle of destructive, compulsive behaviors, even if you have the desire to stop acting this way.
Naming The Pain
When clients come to me for help with our sex addictions rehab, one of the tasks set before both of us is to unravel and straighten out a tangled past. We can accomplish this by working with each client as they write out their own personal timeline, as it relates to their compulsive behaviors.
A personal timeline is really just a sequential listing of events that an addict feels might have impacted them in a negative way. We take many factors into consideration such as family life, social life, sexual feelings at the time, and the age at which these events happened.
Essentially, what I am asking is for you to become a behavior analysis expert on yourself and be aware of the signs of porn addiction. After all, who knows you better? When something traumatic happens to a person when they’re young and still figuring out the world, they are likely going to remember it for a long time. They might not grasp the overall effect it’s having on their behavior, but they can usually name the event as being a particularly bad memory.
Singling out your worst moments, but then examining them as an impartial analyst would, is a very empowering experience in the recovery process. You get the chance to view memories in a detached way, and therefore protect yourself from acting out in response. By putting that crucial bit of space between a painful memory, and a compulsive reaction, you can begin to regain control over the situation. You can begin to understand that you’re not at the mercy of your addiction. You can take charge!
Of course, some memories are particularly intense and you might have to take some extra time before being ready to face them. Other times, memories might be buried deep down in an effort to protect yourself from the associated feelings. I still say this is a valuable exercise, even in those cases. I’ve personally experienced how being able to step back, name my emotional wounds, and see them for what they are is a turning point when struggling with addiction.