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Question and Answer


8. I have a couple of questions regarding Sex Addiction. My husband is a recovering alcoholic/cocaine addict. During a marriage counseling session, the counselor suggested that he might also be a sex addict. Is there a difference between being a cocaine addict and the behaviors that go with it (sex, infidelity, etc.) and having a sex addiction? I am a grateful member of Al-Anon and do not wish to judge, but it's really a difficult topic with my husband and I. I have a lot of understanding about addiction to alcohol and cocaine but sex I don't know about. For example, if he is addicted to sex does that mean if I have sex with him, am I enabling him? Is it the same as drinking with an alcoholic or doing drugs with an addict? Also, is there "recovery" from sex addiction? Like, will he be able to have sex "normally" or how most people would consider "socially acceptable"? My thought is if sex addiction is like alcohol or drugs, they would not. (Alcoholics cannot drink "normally," drug addicts cannot do drugs "recreationally", etc.) Also are there any recovery groups for wives of sex addicts? I am really struggling with this.

submitted by Megan




First of all, I need to say that I am not a certified/licensed sex addiction counselor, although I have had many hours of clinical training in this area. I simply have chosen not to pursue this certification or license. With this said, I will share what I do know and what my understanding of these issues are.

Personally, I have struggled with the term addiction being attributed to sexual behavior. Yes, sexual behavior can be very destructive. It can become obsessive and many individuals have compulsions as well. I still struggle with the term "sexual addiction." I have not seen any research that shows genetics, neurobiology, neurochemistry being actively involved in this disorder like chemical addictions. It is also not a recognized diagnosis in the DSM-IV, used by clinicians to diagnose a variety of disorders. Alcoholism and Cocaine Dependence are in this manual. With that said, I know that the term sexual addiction has been popularized in our society. Also, there are 12-Step programs including Sex Addicts Anonymous and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous that have emerged and been shown to be very helpful with issues of sexual disorders. 

With regard to sexual compulsivity in conjunction with cocaine addiction, this is very common. There is a lot of research to support this and problems like what you have described (infidelity, etc.) are common with addicts. The vast majority of these individuals, through the recovery process, return to appropriate values and behavior. Steps 4 - 9 of the Twelve Step program bring about these changes. Understand that these steps do not occur all at once. The program clearly states "progress and not perfection." Hopefully, this is the case with your husband and that he is returning to healthy values and healthy behavior.

If you want to know whether your husband has a sexual disorder, I would encourage him to see a professional who is trained in this area for at least a screening. If the screen is positive for a sexual disorder, he then should seek appropriate treatment from a licensed professional. Many individuals treated for sexual disorders are encouraged to participate in SA (Primarily sexual predators) and SLAA (Primarily Obsessive / Compulsive, Boundary and Co-dependent Love "addicts") and SCA . In these groups the individual is not encouraged to abstain from sex entirely, only the destructive sexual behaviors (excessive masturbation, prostitution, pornography, voyeurism, pedophilia, infidelity,  etc.) in which they have engaged in /// the past. Much like eating disorders, the individual is not expected to abstain from eating food, only from the destructive behavior (bing/ing, purging, anorexia, etc.). Recovery in these disorders is abstinence from the unhealthy and destructive behaviors.

Finally, you asked about 12-Step groups or recovery groups for wives. There are some Al-Anon type groups for both SA and SLAA, but they are few and far between. I know very little about these groups, but you can get info on these groups at http://www.sanon.org/ . There are also professional counseling services available and probably easier to find. You indicated you are active in Al-Anon, you can use the 12-Steps to help you in addressing these issues - "and practice these principles in all our affairs." As I read your question, I would guess there is still anger, fear, and mistrust that is causing your struggle. Perhaps both of you may need to seek counseling to get to a healthy place individually before you will ever be able to come together as a couple in a truly healthy way. Both of you probably need to work on healthy boundaries, rebuilding trust and respect if you ever hope to establish healthy intimacy.