Do triggers still come in long term recovery of sex addiction?
Here’s vulnerable share for me. I am in a long-term healing phase of my past sex addiction.
I had a major trigger this week. Biggest one in at least a few years. I’m healed enough from sex addiction, that I wasn’t strongly tempted to act out sexually. But I was triggered to act out against my values in anger and escape. Something I did hurt a loved one, and because of my past it triggered an extreme amount of shame and guilt. I spent a day crying. It scared me to the point where I thought “I should be more recovered than this”. I could feel a lot of parts agitated.
An angry part that wants to protect me from this shame and guilt kept wanting to jump out and devalue others and blame others. I showed this part compassion and listened but reminded it we’ve talked through this and though it seems like a good fantasy in the moment, we know in real life this doesn’t match our values and will only cause us to feel more of this yucky guilt feeling.
A self-hating harsh inner critic jumped out way more harshly than I’ve heard him in a long time reminding me of all I did in the past. That part is scary. Other parts react to him quickly. But I tried to acknowledge him and say yes that was wrong, I’m sorry, thank you for trying to keep me safe.
An escaping part felt like the pain was getting overwhelming and wanted to escape it. Sex is no longer the first choice because of the work I’ve done, but it was wanting to escape the pain through a number of outlets. I chose to allow it to drive the bus a little, numbing out a little with online chess and a Johnny Cash playlist. I showed this part compassion and listened but reminded it the self can handle this pain, so we’re not going to more extreme pain escaping strategies. We want to feel the feelings and let them sit, so I worked with the escaping part to let this happen, and I spent most of the day crying.
A manager part wanted to up recovery work and radicalize a new program to make sure this never happens again. I showed this part compassion and listened to it and worked with this part to understand what was an overreaction and more of a self-punishment and what was a good idea.
Acknowledging the parts and showing them compassion was enough for them to settle down.
Rob Terry is a therapist for clients in Utah and coach for clients outside of Utah and across the globe. He specializes in sex addiction recovery for individuals and couples. He integrates the CSAT, OCSB, and Minwalla models for individual recovery and Gottman Method, RLT, and ERCEM for couples recovery. He is betrayal trauma informed. His therapy modalities are IFS, ACT, CBT, EMDR, and Attachment Theory.