Facing Down Withdrawals: Women, Sex and Love Addiction

Posted by on 03 15 14 in Sexual Addiction | Comments Off on Facing Down Withdrawals: Women, Sex and Love Addiction

To say that Leigh Anne’s life was in shambles was nothing short of the truth. In the period of one year, she’d managed to destroy her marriage, get fired from her job, ruin her credit and lose custody of her son. All of these things had occurred because of the years she’d spent hiding a secret, and now that secret was out.

Leigh Anne was a sex and love addict. Ever since she could remember, she’d experienced uncanny joy in the simple idea that someone desired her, she was wanted. So she had, however unconsciously, arranged her life so that she could experience as much desirability as possible. She played the role of whatever woman she thought the men in her life preferred. She was Jessica Rabbit, a ditsy Marilyn Monroe type, or the buttoned down businesswoman with a wild side.

When she met Craig, she thought she could safely put her those days behind her. He was handsome and successful and utterly loyal. More than anything, he wanted a family. So Leigh Anne took on the role of dutiful wife and mother just for him. She’d never really imagined having these things, but now that Craig wanted them, it all seemed meant to be. Until, that is, she began to grow uncomfortable with just how comfortable Craig expected her to be, and needful of feeling beautiful and wanted again. On the surface, the young wife and mother concept had seemed beautiful to her; she kept finding women just like this that she wanted to be. But underneath the glossy 5x8s was a picture of exhaustion and boredom. So Leigh Anne began searching, even if she wasn’t aware of it at the time.

Men began to turn up at her gym, her job and even in the playtime activities she took her son to. Single fathers or married ones, it didn’t matter. She was looking for the thrill in being chased. Once she’d had sex more than a few times with any single man, she again grew bored and wanted that feeling back—to be desperately sought after by someone new. But now that she’d lost everything as a result of her multiple affairs and the time she’d taken away from work in order to act out, she wanted only to get better. Leigh Anne had sat in her therapist’s office and decided never to have empty relationships again, though the days that have gone by since her decision have been difficult ones. She has been irritable, unable to sleep, angry, anxious, depressed, constipated, confused, despairing, restless, sometimes short of breath and often unable to concentrate. Some people would assume these feelings are all present because of the losses Leigh Anne has recently experienced, but the truth is that she’s experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to not engaging her addiction.

Withdrawals in Sex Addiction

Those who experience sex and love addiction are equally vulnerable to the withdrawal symptoms shared by individuals addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating and other substances or processes. Some of the withdrawal symptoms sex and love addicts can experience are:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Anger
  • Grief
  • Sadness
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Boredom
  • Despair
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Fatigue
  • Hypersensitivity
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tremors and shaking
  • Constipation
  • Confusion and inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Emotional instability
  • Aches and pains

Getting Past the Withdrawals

Feeling the uncomfortable emotions that come up in withdrawal from sex and love addiction is perhaps the only way to move through them in a way that doesn’t ensure relapse. You have to be willing to experience your feelings in a way the addiction does not allow; its purpose is to numb you, to keep you from feeling vulnerable. The more practice you allow yourself to have with feelings of vulnerability, the more capable you are of tolerating them. Sex and love addiction, after all, present in people who have problems being emotionally intimate. Sitting with your uncomfortable emotions teaches you a kind of inner sensitivity that addictive behavior does not permit. For example, staying mindful while feeling an emotion such as sadness allows you to come through the experience knowing that no matter how sad you become, you will always come out the other side.

The thing to understand about withdrawal symptoms is that, from moment to moment, they can change from one extreme to another. They can also arrive seemingly out of nowhere, so just when you think you’re doing fine, a strange bout of irritability or sleeplessness may crop up. Understanding that this is part of the process and remaining open to feeling compassion for yourself are important steps. You can recover; healing is possible.