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

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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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