accident“You do realize you are a sexual addict don’t you?” he said with some frustration in his tone.

I was stunned and dumfounded. I couldn’t find the words for a reply.

“No, actually I did not realize that.” I finally muttered. In fact, I was sure I wasn’t anything like a sex addict.

Up to this moment, I had really liked this therapist, I trusted him, how could he suggest such a thing. I had found his wisdom and insights very helpful as I worked through my recovery from my emotionally abusive childhood and depression issues. He always had the ability to cut to the heart of the matter, had his clinical judgement suddenly left him?

I was NOT a sex addict. I was NOT that guy!

Yes, I had some problems with affairs in my adult life, there were some things I wasn’t too proud of, but an addict, and a sexual addict to boot, NO WAY!

He didn’t argue with me. He just gave me a copy of “The White Book” published by Sexaholics Anonymous and told me to read it. By page 38 I had convicted myself.

So there I was, overwhelmed with the new found knowledge that I was a sex addict. Now what? How did I ever get to this spot?

It is said there are only seven scripts in Hollywood, that each new movie is just a retelling of a familiar story line. How many times have we seen Romeo and Juliet set in a new period with characters bearing new names, but still conveying the same tragic story? Like scripts, there are only a few well traveled roads that lead to addiction.

Finding the road that brought us to the precipice of the falls can give us direction in moving to the Waters of Recovery. While it is true that many rules of recovery must be observed by all addicts, all in recovery face some unique elements, elements that lead to healing their own particular underlying issues. A competent clinician would not treat someone who became addicted to pain pills while recovering from surgery, with the same treatment plan as an individual medicating the pain of childhood trauma, or someone who drinks in excess because of being raised in a family culture of alcohol abuse.

Exploring the history of the addiction and finding the underlying issues are paramount to building recovery and relapse prevention plans and maintaining sobriety. Underlying issues act as the powerful, invisible undertows on the river to the waterfalls. The issues lying beyond our awareness can dictate the addicts direction of travel.

John was a recovering sex addict who started attending Sex-aholic Anonymous meetings as part of his recovery plan. All of this 12 step stuff was new to him, but he had made a decision that if these folks had some ideas that would help him, he would follow their direction. John was also a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, which was one of his underlying addiction issues. He had spent nearly two years in therapy working on recovery from those tragic events. This work had been completed before he even realized he was also a sexual addict. John took to the meetings and the fellowship, found a sponsor and progressed nicely in his sobriety and recovery.

John also found a new friend. His name was Ernie and John described him as a “John Clone.” They felt an instant bond for each other. They were nearly the same age and their lives had traveled an eerily common path. They had been sexually abused in a similar manner when they were the same age.

Their form of acting out was identical and they had suffered very similar consequences from their addictions. John noticed that Ernie, like himself appeared to be very sincere and diligent in working his program. What he also noticed was that Ernie was not able to maintain sobriety and make strides in recovery. It was puzzling to John that if they were both sincerely working towards, and desiring recovery, why it was eluding his friend.

Then one evening at group, as John was listening intently to Ernie, he realized that the issue Ernie was talking about and struggling with was really an underlying sex abuse issue, and not an addiction recovery issue.

Because John had spent two years working on the childhood sex abuse issues, he was now free to work on addiction recovery. Ernie did not have that luxury. His sex abuse issues kept rising up and sabotaging his recovery efforts. John pulled Ernie aside and mentioned his observations and helped Ernie find a good therapist to help quiet his underlying issues. It wasn’t long before Ernie too, was building sobriety and establishing recovery.

As the story of Ernie suggests, this is the point at which the benefits of individual therapy may be of great help to the recovery process, but finding an appropriate therapist can sometimes be challenging. It is critical that they understand and have worked with other addicts. Equally important is an understanding what being a member of the church means. Moreover you must be able to connect on a level that will allow you to reveal intimate, difficult and personal material. Cinical exploration of issues detrimental to the clients healing can free him to move upstream to recovery. It has the effect of pulling up the anchor that has held the addict in his addiction.

This is an excerpt from The Waterfall Concept, A blueprint for addiction recovery. To read more about the book, click here.