Tag Archives: addiction cycle

What if I Stumble?


Sexual Addiction Relapse

Sexual Addiction Relapse



This is the humbling reality of sexual addiction. This is the reality of all addictions. What do I do if I stumble and relapse or, for the sex addict, return to using the natural purpose of sex for unnatural purposes. For us, who truly desire to be free from the power of lust and stop our destructive sexual behavior, relapse is humiliating reality. Unfortunately, it is a possibility that each one of use who walk the long road to recovery must face. How do we face this reality and if we do stumble, how do we get back on track?  The following will be broken down into two topics, prevention and restoration. How do we realistically prevent a “relapse” and if we do stumble, how do we restore ourselves back on to the road to recovery.

You hear me mention the term “progressive” as it relates to recovery in most of my posts and there is a reason for that. Recovery from sexual addiction is a process which takes a lifetime of commitment to a program of some sort. Recovery, within the context of an addiction, does not hold the same meaning as recovery from the flu or a cold. Unfortunately, recovery is not something that takes a week or two and then we are better. Recovery, for us, will be something that we must maintain focus on for the rest of our lives. Ideally, taking proactive steps to keep ourselves from stumbling will ensure that we will not “relapse” to our old way of thinking and lifestyle. I will address three areas of prevention before moving on to restoration.


  1. Chronological Focus: In lay terms, breaking recovery down into 24 periods of time. This topic has been discussed in the previous post, https://sexualaddicton.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/living-in-the-future-failing-in-the-present/ and still holds value in the area of prevention. If we begin each day as a new day of recovery, we begin with a proper perspective of recovery. Reminding ourselves at the start of each day that we can stay sober for at least 24 hours.
  2. Self Focus: This focus is not selfish in nature, however, it is the continual reminder that in and of ourselves, we are powerless over our addictions and lusts. With each temptation we realize this powerlessness when we try to resist it with our own strength. This is where the term Higher Power comes in. For me, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is my Higher Power because the Bible says that cursed is the man that makes his flesh his strength, as well as, stating that I can do “all” things through Christ who strengthens me. This validates the principle of powerlessness. As a sex addict, I am powerless over my addiction but through my Higher Power, Jesus Christ, I have the strength to stay free of lust and sexual addictions if I stay in a state of surrender to Him. This leads us to the third area of prevention. Surrender and Cry.
  3. Surrender and Cry: This concept is one of the most difficult one to embrace and apply in the life of a sex addict because it involves releasing the reigns of power and crying out to our Higher Power, as well as, crying out to our sponsor during times of temptation. Again, I make no apology for expressing that my Higher Power is Jesus, the Son of God and I believe that only through faith in Him there is hope for me. However, I do not wish to discourage anyone who desires freedom from this addiction by presenting this information in a dogmatic and biased manner. So to help us from stumbling, we must surrender ourselves to a power greater than ourselves and cry out to this Higher Power for the grace, mercy, and strength to endure any temptation we encounter. In conjunction with the cry to our Higher Power, we must cry out to our sponsor. This is why finding a group is essential to recovery because it is through them we find those who are willing to listen to our “cries” for help at anytime we need and bring us back to reality.


    Restoration is defined as a return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition. This is what we must do if we ever find ourselves facing the guilt and shame of a relapse. Recall how guilt and shame play key roles in sexual addiction in the post, https://sexualaddicton.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/what-roles-do-shame-and-guilt-play-in-sexual-addiction/
    with this in mind it is imperative for us to return to our former state of progressive recovery as soon as we stumble. If we do not return to this unimpaired condition immediately following the relapse into our former lifestyle, we run the dangerous and statistically proven risk of falling back into the sexual addiction cycle. It is in this cycle that we lose sight of our hope of recovery. So how do we restore ourselves once we realize we relapsed? Again, I will break it into three areas of focus:
    First we must quickly admit our wrong, first to our Higher Power and then to our sponsor. We must do this in order to get it out of the shadows because if it remains hidden from view, we hold on to all the negative emotion that is attached to the relapse. We admit it in full detail so that we release the power it has over us. The act must be brought into light so that we can examine how and why we screwed up so that we learn from our mistake and continue down the road to progressive recovery.
    Next we must ask for forgiveness from our Higher Power. This is merely a continuation of the previous step because it involves admission of guilt which in turn lessens the likelihood of the negative self-evaluative emotion of shame. It is also during this step that we must forgive ourselves, realizing that we are not perfect and that we are indeed powerless over our addiction. This renewed understanding leads us into the last step that I will address; going back to the basics of our recovery.
    Now that we are humbled and broken from our temporary fall from recovery, we must go back to the basics. We must start from the realization that we are indeed powerless because we just screwed up. We must surrender ourselves to our Higher Power because we are unable to stay sexually sober on our own. Finally we must again realize that recovery is a daily process and understands that a relapse yesterday should not affect our recovery today. Sounds a lot like the proactive steps of prevention doesn’t it?
    I know this post is not exhaustive in nature but is merely an attempt to bring hope and recovery closer to home for those who need help.
    As always you can email me at wesley.chapel.sa@gmail.com.

What Roles Do Shame and Guilt Play in Sexual Addiction?

To understand how these two interact with sexual addiction, we must first make the distinctions between the two and how they fit within the model of addiction.

When defining shame and guilt, let us use those proposed by Tangney and colleagues in their publication of Shame and guilt. Their perspective of shame and guilt suggest that both are self-conscious emotions that are involved negative self-evaluation. They go on to say that the difference between the two is that during shame the entire self is viewed negatively, while with guilt, a specific behavior that brought on those feelings is negatively evaluated. “Guilt says that this behavior is bad, while shame says that I am a bad person.”

Now that we have established the definition of shame and guilt, let us look at the common model of addiction for the sex addict to see what roles they do play.

The addictive cycle that seems to be common with sexual addiction as discussed by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D. consists of four steps that intensify with each is completion. The cycle progresses through preoccupation, ritualization, compulsive sexual behavior, and despair. In his book Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, describes these four steps as follows:

  1. Preoccupation is the mood or trance like state that the sex addicts’ mind is engrossed in the thoughts of sex, a mental state that induces the obsessive search for sexual stimulation.
  2. Ritualization is the routines that the addict establishes that lead up to sexual behavior. This ritualization intensifies the preoccupation adding to it arousal and excitement.
  3. Compulsive Sexual Behavior is the actual sexual act that preoccupation and ritualization lead to. For sexual addicts’, this behavior becomes uncontrollable.
  4. Despair the utter feeling of hopelessness that the sexual addict has about his or her sexual behavior.

Sexual Addiction Cycle

It is at this point, despair, that the feelings of guilt and shame interplay and assist in the continuation of the cycle. The addict experiences guilt over the compulsive sexual behavior. This guilt can be so overwhelming that the addict may begin to negatively evaluate themselves and experience the feeling of shame and say, “I am a bad person.” These two emotions may significantly increase the likelihood of repeating the sexually addictive cycle. The emotions of guilt and shame, we find, can be numbed by preoccupation, ritualization, and the compulsive sexual behavior. The trouble is that the cycle ends with despair and those overwhelming emotions brake through once again.

This post is not meant to reveal how to deal with the emotions of guilt and shame, but merely enlighten the addict to their existence and interaction. In following posts we may learn how to counteract these emotions, as well as, breaking the sexually addictive cycle. Stay tuned for more.

As always you can reach me by email at wesley.chapel.sa@gmail.com or find our group at www.wesleychapelsa.com


Carnes, P. (2001) Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Hazelden, MN

Tangney, J. P. and Dearing, R. L. (2002) Shame and guilt, Guilford Press , NY