Q: I used to feel like more of an addict than I do now. I’m starting to feel like I can watch porn and masturbate once a week and it’s no big deal. It doesn’t feel as compulsive as it used to, where I was watching porn at work or looking for excuses to sneak away to do it.
This is a very interesting and controversial question. Many of my CSAT colleagues I believe would say say categorically no, once an addict, always an addict. I take a little bit different approach.
When I work with clients, the client sets their bottom line. The goal is not necessarily to be “sober” from sexual activity but to align one’s sexual behavior with one’s values.
But when I work with a client to determine their values, I want them to really make sure they’re the one determining the values not the addiction. ie did I decide porn is not against my values because it doesn’t bother my spouse, and I can consume it in a non-compulsive fashion. Or is the addiction setting the values, ie it really is against my values and I wish it was out of my life but I’ve tried and failed so many times I’m just going to accept this as something I can’t change.
Be extra careful if this goes against your relationship agreement as this will move you into narcissism and entitlement and over time this will really hurt your soul as you suppress the pain you’re causing yourself and your partner and putting up delusions everything is OK.
You might want to spend some time doing a values clarification and determining exactly how you feel about your porn use. It might lead you to get more motivated about recovery and eliminate the behavior completely; it might lead you to feel like this is a behavior you’re OK to do in an occasional, non-compulsive way. Therapy is useful to talk through this conflict, especially using IFS, a therapy tool that’s very helpful for working through an inner conflict like this.
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.