There are many types and classifications of abused drugs, and new ones are surfacing regularly from nightclubs. Drugs, much like alcohol, cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, marijuana, methamphetamines, opioids, prescription drugs, steroids, or synthetics as well as tobacco, caffeine and even sugar are used to escape or alter one’s mood or state of mind. For decades, inpatient and outpatient programs have been around, and some more successful than others. Ideas and paradigms have changed to attain and maintain sobriety; however, sobriety and helping people live healthier lives without the substance is the goal nonetheless.
Some time ago, I wrote a blog on how many alcoholics are also sex addicts that have not been identified or treated. [Read Alcoholics are Untreated Sex Addicts – A New Paradigm] We need to think outside the box if we are to help teens, young and adult men as well as women struggling with not only alcohol but all substance abuse issues. We need a new paradigm. In my experience as a sexual recovery therapist who has worked with inpatient and outpatient programs, I have found those who struggle with drug addiction more often than not also struggle with love and/or sex addiction.
I like to think of a love addict as a person who loves to be in love or “puppy love.” They often struggle with codependency, as they need to be validated by a partner to have self-worth. This is also known as “relationship addiction,” going from one relationship to the next and never being able to be alone or not be in a relationship. For the love addict, being in a relationship means they are loved. Traditionally, only women were thought to be love addicts; however, this is changing.
Sex addicts are more about the act of sex – the orgasm, the fantasy, pornography, romance novels or literature, such as 50 Shades of Grey (which offends some of you I know, but it is true, as this is “female porn”). The sex addict can also be about the ritual or the excitement and anticipation of who, what, when and where to enjoy the next experience. The sex addict may care less about the relationship. The hook-up culture does this very well. For the person participating in this behavior, having sex equals love or the feeling they are loved and desired. Traditionally, only men were thought to be sex addicts; however, this is changing quickly with the growing female sex addiction population [Read The Female Sex Addict]. Some substance abuse addicts can be both a love addict and sex addict.
When assessing a client, substance abuse programs need to begin asking more direct questions and taking a more comprehensive sexual history to better help their clients. They should ask questions about their first exposure to porn, the first time they masturbated – how often or when was the last time, the types of porn and fantasies, the novels they seek out, the type of sex acts they fantasize about or act out, their first sexual experience with another person (willingly or unwillingly), sexual traumas they have experienced, or how many partners they have had, etc. Many substance abuse addicts associate the act of sex with the substance, as they go hand and hand. Did the substance abuse allow the person to numb up in order to act out sexual behaviors or did the sexual behaviors drive and pay for their drug addiction? Was it the chicken or the egg? In my experience, they both drive the other, and substance abuse fits like a glove with love and sex addiction.
Now, I am not saying everyone who struggles with substance abuse is a love or sex addict. However, in many cases, a person will leave an inpatient program with tools, resources and a plan to remain sober from their substance abuse but has had little, if any, treatment, information or understanding about love and sexual addiction or how they are connected. This sets them up to fail. They quickly relapse, because they go back to the same relationship, or relationship patterns with a significant other, only to find themselves using again and not understanding why. It is also true that some substance abuse addicts will go without sex for months or years, because their drug of choice is so much better than sex. This too causes a problem for their significant other, which I will address in my next blog on substance abuse and intimacy anorexia.
Substance abuse programs are beginning to see how love and sex addition is connected to substance abuse; however, we have a long way to go. More research and information needs to be shared between the correlation between drug addiction and sexual behaviors. If we are to better serve our clients, clinicians need to start having a conversation on this important issue. We are all sexual beings. However, I have found very few substance abuse clinicians effectively treating love and sex addiction, because their training spends little, if any, time educating them about this important issue.
Cory Schortzman is an author, speaker, teacher and licensed mental health professional. Since 2008, he has served as the Executive Director of Transformed Hearts Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, CO. He is the founder of SARA, the Sexual Addiction Recovery Association. Cory is passionate about helping couples and individuals overcome sex addiction. He is also passionate about bringing awareness to the public and supporting the elimination of sex and human trafficking. Cory has been married since 1998 to his beautiful wife, Kerry, and lives in Colorado with their four daughters. He and Kerry have been seen on the CBS Early Show, Inside Edition, and ABC Good Morning America, Fox 21 News, and TLC/Discovery discussing the harm of sex addiction and the joys of recovery. He has also been heard on numerous radio programs.
Cory’s books include: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light the Workbook, Into the Light the Steps, Ashes to Beauty the Steps, 301 Dating Ideas, 301 Conversational Ideas, 301 Ways to Say I Love You, 301 Ways to Love Your Children & 301 Recovery Tools & Tips.