Sex Addict Or Love Addict…Or Both?

Posted by on 02 28 15 in Co-Occurring Issues | Comments Off on Sex Addict Or Love Addict…Or Both?

I’ve been on the road to recovery for well over 20 years. I began my journey in Alcoholics Anonymous early in my 20s in order to deal with my issues with alcohol. Then I found Narcotics Anonymous several years later to work through my remaining substance issues. It was not until over a decade later, however, that I realized there might be another layer to my addictive tendencies when a close friend suggested I consider the idea that I might be a sex addict.

At first, I didn’t think it was possible. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I had myself convinced that I was just an active guy with a strong and healthy sexuality. Nevertheless, I decided to check out a couple of meetings. When I finally found my fellowship—Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)—I realized that things were much more complex than I initially thought.

Sex Addict Or Love Addict Or Both - LoveAddictionTreatment.comI came to understand that what I initially suspected might be a simple sex addiction was far more than that: it was a pattern of behaviors that were inextricably intertwined with my childhood, my relationship history and my past experiences with alcohol and substances. I saw clearly that the question “Am I a sex addict or a love addict?” was a classic logical fallacy known as a false dilemma: I wasn’t one or the other and I didn’t have to choose. In fact, the issues I faced had elements of both love addiction and sex addiction.

Types Of Behavioral Addictions Related To Sex And Love

People who’ve attended 12-step meetings of any sort know that, with some exceptions, they tend to follow a general pattern: introductions and check-ins, then some short readings such as “signs of addiction” and “promises of recovery” followed by either open sharing time or possibly in-depth readings on topics directly related to the type of addiction toward which the meeting is aligned. In my first SLAA meeting, I was surprised by how people identified themselves.

I’d been to quite a few AA and NA meetings in my years of recovery, but for the first time I heard things like:

“Hi, I’m Mike. I’m a pornography addict.”
“Hi, I’m Janet. I’m a sexual compulsive.”
“Hi, I’m John. I’m an intrigue addict.”
“Hi, I’m Mary. I’m an approval addict.”
“Hi, I’m George. I’m a sex, pornography and love addict.”

The list could go on and on—but what I soon learned was that all of the people gathered in that room were there to untangle multiple behaviors that had become unmanageable and that all of their behaviors had something to do with sex and love. Though in most cases people initially identified themselves as one certain type of addict, they quickly revealed through sharing that they were working through several related issues.

The pornography addict shared how his porn obsession affected his relationships. The intrigue addict shared how his drive to flirt and engage in sexually-charged conversations with co-workers affected his sex life with his wife at home. The approval addict shared that her need for approval from others led to excessive sexual acting out. As I listened to the members of my fellowship share their stories, I saw a little bit of myself in each and every one of them and I knew that I had something to learn from everyone in that room.

Signs Of Sex And Love Addiction

Five of the most commonly identified symptoms of sex addiction are:

  • Spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about sex or sex-related activities.
  • Ignoring life commitments such as family or work to pursue sex or sex-related activities.
  • Engaging in sex or sex-related activities despite self-destructive outcomes.
  • Increasing the amount of sex or sex-related activity to achieve the same internal effect.
  • Experiencing feelings of withdrawal when denied the ability to engage in sex or sex-related activities.

Five of the most commonly identified symptoms of love addiction are:

  • Neglecting personal needs in favor of the needs of the person who is the object of love/attention.
  • Engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as the use of alcohol or substance, to mask emotional pain.
  • Ignoring sexual, social and emotional boundaries to pursue the object of love/attention.
  • Manipulating others in the name of love or in pursuit of the object of love/attention.
  • Forming emotional attachments to people who are unavailable or with whom an intimate relationship would cause harm.

My experience sitting in SLAA meetings and hearing the signs of sex and love addiction read aloud taught me that my behaviors fit into both categories—some of them were typical of love addicts and some of them were typical of sex addicts. For a while, this was a little bit confusing, but through talking with members of my fellowship I learned that the two go hand-in-hand and that it’s very common for a person to have more than one addiction and display concurrent addictive behaviors.

Concurrent Addictive Behaviors: The Total Picture

Over time, I began to take a holistic view toward my issues with sex and love addiction and gave up on trying to pigeonhole myself as either a sex addict or a love addict. Looking back on my life through the dual lens of sex and love addiction, I’m able to identify which of my past relationships were healthy and productive and which were unhealthy and self-destructive. Interestingly, I’m able to identify both healthy and unhealthy aspects in just about all of my past relationships, and those are the experiences from which I’ve learned the most.

In the regular meeting I attend, every single individual is complex: though there are some very simple and direct dos and don’ts to addiction recovery—do establish bottom lines and don’t cross them, for instance—I find value in listening attentively to the nuances of every person’s story. Whether they identify as a love addict, a sex addict, an intrigue addict or a sexual compulsive, there’s something for me to learn from everyone in the room, and every moment spent in self-reflection carries me one step further on my road to recovery.

By Angus Whyte

Recovery Is Possible! Believe In Yourself…We Do!