Think of your compulsive sexual behavior as energy. More specifically, think of it as water…water that is used to flowing in both a certain direction and at a steady pace. Attempting to corral or control the water (i.e. building a wall) is often futile…unless you have both a plan and resources. If you have tried to stop or manage your sexual behavior and have instead fallen back to familiar patterns of acting out, perhaps you have not realized the power and importance of this energy in your life.
What do you get from this energy?
Consider what this energy provides you. When you are in the rush of acting out, or even better, when you are in the planning phase, notice how you feel. Are you pumped up? Do you notice the adrenaline and endorphins doing their magic? When energy is lacking—feeling deflated, depressed—falling into sexual fantasy fills us up. Compulsive sexual behavior provides the ultimate coping strategy.
Can you convert this energy?
When recovering from any addiction, you need to break your recovery plan into short-term (first order) and longer-term (secondary) changes. First-order change involves changing the immediate symptoms and patterns while secondary change looks at more permanent, systemic changes. Converting energy and finding replacement behaviors falls into the former’s camp.
Think of yourself as a gatekeeper or traffic cop, determining and organizing where energy (feelings and thoughts) needs to go. Noticing when you are triggered to act out sexually and instead opt to do something else—that’s an example. Instead of looking at porn, or going for a sexual massage but deciding to channel that energy (and time) into another endeavor represents a vital piece of your recovery plan. Sounds so simple, huh? But as you likely know, this is not just a logical procedure! So, what to do?
No, not move towns, or jobs…unless that really appeals to you. Physically move, as in exercise, playing sports, moving your body from one place to another. When you act out sexually, you are releasing endorphins so it is important to find other, healthier avenues to replicate that. Studies suggest that adding exercise to addiction treatment (which typically means counseling, self-help support groups and/or medication) can strengthen the effects of recovery. In short, you may get a natural high instead of the fantasized version you are chasing.
Creativity not only helps feed the soul, it helps with overcoming an addiction. When you create something—a painting, a musical piece, or woodworking, to name a few—you feel good about yourself. Consider the underlayer of addiction as low self-esteem. Negative self-opinions often lead directly to acting out because the temporary high feels better, at least for the short term, than dealing with the core feelings. Directing your time and energy into creative endeavors can not only allow you to use your time more wisely, but also provides a pathway to dealing with the underlying issues.
Most people who struggle with compulsive sexual behavior isolate from others. Perhaps you don’t follow through with friends and instead opt to create the necessary “alone” time to act out. A richer, deeper happiness is rooted in the quality of your relationships. Relationships require time and commitment, so reach out to others. Make plans. Further those connections.
Converting your time and energy into physical, creative and social avenues may not be the “deeper dive” it takes to truly change your compulsive behavior long-term…but it is a valuable start.