Sex addicts anonymous twelve step program – What is abstinence?

Sex is a natural part of human life. But do sex addicts need to abstain totally from sex in order to recover from sexual addiction? We review what twelve step groups believe in terms of abstinence for sex addiction here.

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Abstinence is key
Twelve step programs talk about sexual abstinence as the cornerstone for a healthy life. But are the talking about not having sex at all? Or are some sexual activities healthy while others are not?

What is sexual abstinence?
According to Sex Addicts Anonymous, abstinence does not mean giving up sex. Instead, twelve step literature claims certain types of sexual behaviors lead to feelings of shame, remorse, emptiness and craving for more. The trick is to distinguish between these compulsive sex acts and safe, joyful and intimate acts of sexual expression that are within your personal moral code. So, in the twelve steps, sex addicts do not give up healthy sexual expression. Rather, a sex addict “gives up acting out: the compulsive, painful and destructive sexual behaviors.”

How do you define sexually acting-out?
Twelve step groups like Sex Addicts Anonymous agree that abusive or high-risk sex acts are not OK. In other words, you should not have sex without consent or sex that puts you in danger. Other than these, SAA has not come to a consensus on which sex acts are acting-out and which are not. The group leaves it to you to define which types of sex acts affect you negatively.

How does a sex plan work?
When you join a twelve step group, you choose a sponsor who can guide you through the process of learning about sexual addiction, accepting your own weaknesses, and working towards a spiritual solution to stop acting out sexually. One very powerful way of monitoring compulsive sexual behavior is to write out a sex plan. You first define which sex behaviors lead to negative consequences and the patterns that lead up to them. After writing out a list of ACTING-OUT sex behaviors, the addict can then restrict these certain sex acts. Twelve step groups suggest that you revise a sex plan only with the help of a sponsor, to keep you accountable and provide a second opinion.

In all, I think that the twelve step approach to sex addiction is a healthy process of normalizing sexual behavior. As with food, we could not exist as a species without sex. But understanding ourselves, creating limits, and having sex within these limits can promote healthy sexual expression. But what do you think? Do twelve step programs work? What about relapse? Your comments are welcomed here.

Find a twelve step program meeting

COSA – Codependents of Sex Addicts
SAA – Sex Addicts Anonymous
SLAA – Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
SA – Sexaholic Anonymous
SCA – Sexual Compulsives Anonymous
SRA – Sexual Recovery Anonymous

Reference sources:
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.


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  1. I have masturbating since I was years old, my first cum was at 12. Since the age of 12 I have Ben a steady consistent reliable chronic masturbator. Masturbation habits and stretched up to an average of 10 hours a day up until recently I was able to maintain my lifestyle of masturbation in my personal life and also I continued growth in the business – professional world as well as maintaining a great personal life. I do not have an urge for any relationships and or sex when I masturbate I do not fantasize about having sex it is strictly to masturbate and to enjoy myself as I choose.

  2. Hello Sheldon. I’d suggest that you meet with a clinical psychologist with experience in sexual disorders. There may be some problems with intimacy present that you need to face, or methods that can help you control compulsive behavior. Either way, professional help can…well, help.

  3. i really dont find this funny i started when i was in 6th grade remained a virgin till i was 32 going on 33 and enjoy it when ever i can get some but spend more time still playing pocket pool! want to do this with a chick but can stop playin with myself long enough! So to me its messing up my life im 34 now and im always aroused! Help!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Me serouisly Help

  4. Hello Johnny. Thanks for your message. I would agree that 25 times is excessive for masturbation. Have you consulted or sought help yet with a sex therapist? I’d suggest that you contact a professional through the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT), The American Board of Sexology, or a similar organization. It can be very helpful to work with someone who can direct you towards making a change in your life, instead of trying to do it alone.

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