Finding Recovery: Questions and Answers about recovery from sex addiction

  1. How can I tell I’m a sex addict?

You’re a sex addict when you say you are.  Most twelve step programs for sex addiction have a self-assessment tool.  Try or . Try one of those tests and you’ll know for sure.  


  1.  I feel so alone. Are there other people like me?

You are not alone.  Millions of men and women struggle with compulsive sexual issues.   We can be addicted to promiscuity, infidelity, pornography, masturbation, compulsive relationships, cruising, voyeurism,  exhibitionism, anonymous sex, prostitution, multiple affairs, compulsive crossdressing, cybersex and phone sex, inappropriate touching, sex in public places, bestiality and many more.  As the addictive behavior progressively worsens it can lead to child pornography,  incest, child molestation, or rape.  Attending meetings with other people struggling with similar issues helps relieve some of the shame and helps you recover.


  1. Other people seem to look at internet porn and stop.  I can’t.  I frequently stay up all night watching porn and then skip work.  Am I the only one?

Inability to stop looking at pornography is a problem for an increasing number of men and women..  Researcher M. W. Ross studied internet use and found that 4.7 million people visit pornography sites in excess of eleven hours per week.  About 1% of users, mostly men, spend more than forty hours per week using the internet for online sexual activities.  Researchers at Duquesne and Stanford Universities estimate that at least 200,000 Americans are addicted to e-porn.  Twelve-step programs for sex addiction can help.


  1. I’ve been keeping secrets for all my life.  How do I stop?

I think you have recognized that keeping secrets keeps you sick.  Of course you keep secrets, you are ashamed.  Many of us find we lie even about unimportant things.  In recovery you will learn to be rigorously honest.  Those in twelve-step groups can get a sponsor who will help you be honest and hold your feet to the fire.  It’s not easy, but you can do it.


  1.   How hard is it to work the steps and stay in recovery?

Twelve-step recovery is simple.  Notice, I did not say it is easy.  Most of us had been sick for a long time before we tried recovery. Think about how much time you spent engaging in compulsive sexual activities.  Now add the time you spent planning for them, or thinking about them afterwards.  I suspect that was a lot of time.  For most of us, if we spend one half as much time on recovery activities than we did acting out we will recover.  But that is still a lot of time.  Recovery is not easy, but it is worth it.


  1. How do  find a meeting?  

There are a number of different Twelve-Step fellowships available to help with sex addiction. The largest ones are listed in the resources section of this web-site.  When I came into recovery I visited the three fellowships that are active in my area. I had very positive feelings about each one, but also that each was a little different.  I finally joined the one that was the largest and most convenient in our area.


  1. Can I just show up at a meeting?

Check what the group says on the fellowship’s website.  Most groups indicate that they are “open” or “closed.”  Open means anyone can attend.  Usually you can just show up. Closed doesn’t mean you can’t attend, it means the meeting is restricted to those struggling with compulsive sexual issues.  Some groups want to interview you before you attend.  That’s ok.  They are protecting the anonymity of those attending.  Some groups are restricted to “men only” or “women only.”  


  1. Can my partner attend the first meeting with me?

Check the groups website or call the information number.  Some groups will allow partners to attend an “open” meeting.  Most of us find it’s easier to share when the only people in the room are other addicts.


  1.  What kind of people attend meetings for sex addiction?

You may be surprised to find people having fun and enjoying life.  I thought when I first attended a meeting that I might find a bunch of drooling old men in trench coats.  Instead I found men and women of all ages smiling and laughing and trying to get better.  It didn’t take long to fit right in.


  1. How often does someone need to attend a Twelve-Step meeting?

How often we need to participate differs for each individual.  When an individual first comes into a program most recommend attending as often as possible.  Some recommend attending 90 meetings in the first 90 days.  That is not always possible.  But I think it’s important that we addicts recognize that we have a serious disease, and that in the beginning doing whatever is necessary to recover is the most important thing in our lives. Everything else — our relationships, our jobs, our financial security, and even our freedom — depends on it our recovery.  After we’ve been in recovery for a while we can reduce the number of meetings we attend, but for many of us recovery is a lifelong commitment. .  

  1.   Are recovery programs expensive?

I began my recovery in a residential program. Unfortunately, most residential programs for sex addiction are quite expensive.  Most experts recommend group programs like Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex  and Love Addicts Anonymous or Sexaholics Anonymous, which are free.  When I was placed in a group of other addicts who suffered from similar problems, who had been where I had been, and like me, were trying to recover, the shame lifted.  The gift of twelve-step recovery programs is that people really care that you are there, and they show it.  As fellow addicts, we accepted and supported each other as equals.  We did not judge each other.  C. S. Lewis wrote that real friendship begins in the moment when a person says “What! You too?  I thought I was the only one.”  I was not alone.  As other addicts shared their stories, their experience, and their strength and hope, I heard my own story.  Hearing about their recovery gave me hope for mine, and I began to see the possibility of an addiction-free future.


  1. Aren’t twelve-step programs religious?

Twelve step programs are spiritual but not religious.  The concept is simple.  The nature of addiction is that the addict is not able to stop on his own.  He thinks he should be able to stop, his family thinks he should be able to stop, but he can not!  Recovery begins when the addict admits defeat and accepts that he cannot stop on his own.  If the addict does not have the power to stop, he has to find a power greater than himself.  For most of us that power is God.  Others find that power in relationships.  Some find it in the twelve-step group.  Each addict must find that power for himself, but participation in a twelve-step group will help him find it.  


  1. My husband looks at pornography for hours every day.  How do I get him to stop?

Unfortunately, you can’t.  He has to want to stop.  Most of us who enter programs do so in desperation.  I would not have stopped if I hadn’t been arrested.  Others enter the program after their partner tells them “either you stop of our relationship is over.”  If you take that approach, you better be serious.  For most, recovery takes a long time.  I’ve seen far too many addicts come to a few recovery meetings and stop acting out.  When their partner sees progress and forgives them, the addict stops coming to meetings.  It isn’t long before the addict is acting out again.  Recovery involves more that no longer acting out, it involves changing the way the addict lives.  For most, this does not happen overnight.