There seems to be a relationship between interpersonal violence, trauma, and sexually addictive disorders that is noteworthy and complex. The exact nature of the relationship between trauma and sex addiction is not fully explained yet, but the association is unquestionable. Different theoretical approaches have addressed this relationship and most suggest that sexually addictive behaviors are unsuccessful attempts of the organism to cope with memory reminiscences of unresolved traumatic experiences. Even though trauma can be buried in the deepest corners of our memory and appear as forgotten, there seems to be an unwritten law in the unconscious: we tend to repeat over and over parts of history that we cannot consciously remember. The original event and the sexual acting-out become dissociated as the result of a psychological attempt of protection and the acting-out represents the experience that cannot be recalled or verbalized. This psychological disconnection eliminates the pain but not the wound. Gentle Path at The Meadows provides participants with the opportunity of memory recovery, resolution of original trauma, and subsequent liberation of the actual pain.
All addictions, including sex and love addiction, involve an unstoppable pursue or reward in the brain. When trauma is present, the incessant seek of reward may respond at first to a need of compensation for the pain and suffering that a person has experienced. Further, and particularly when there are predisposing factors for addiction, the need acquires its own drive: the brain becomes physiologically dependent to the addictive element, which can be a substance, an object, a sensation, or even a person. When sex addiction is present, the sexual acting out may become the person’s best friend. Medical aspects of treatment offered in treatment such as antidepressants, which tap into the physiological responses of addictions, may provide some relief. Psychological therapies may help the patient cope with the sense of urge and develop new strengths. However, the sex addict may not be ready to let go of the addictive behavior that has provided a false sense of security for a long time. Our patients need to gently let go of the best friend.
Sex Addiction, in and of itself entails new sources of trauma; there is a proneness to re-victimization that results from the risky behaviors and/or dangerous relationships that are inherent to this disorder. A first goal in trauma-informed treatment for sexual addictions is the establishment of real safety and avoidance of further damage. In the same way that a cast is used to restore a broken bone, the wounded person has to accept the pain and his or her need of external help in order to start the healing process. Breaking through denial and admission of powerlessness are the essence of the First Step in Gentle Path and the beginning of a process or stabilization that will lead to understand the connection between trauma and sex addiction and recover from it.
Whereas trauma is the ultimate experience of powerlessness, sex addiction is a pathological attempt to staying in control. Sexually addictive behaviors somehow recreate a reality that was abruptly and unwantedly interrupted. Because our brain’s self-organizing tendencies, any interrupted gestalt needs to be perceptually and psychologically completed, and it will do anything to make this happen. The brain tasks will either take the path for addictions or for recovery. Recovery from sex addiction involves both the recognition of powerlessness and acknowledgment of old wounds. Bringing someone to his knees and getting exposed to the original trauma at the same time require a new sense of strength that can only be achieved if the person feels safe. Healing does not occur in the vacuum, and the therapeutic milieu at Gentle Path helps the patient create a new sense of safety and trust within the context of personal connections and safe relationships. In our program patients learn about resilience, new choices, and renewed skills, values, and ideals. Patients also learn that they can frame their own destiny by participating in a collaborative relationship with the clinicians at the program.
Gentle Path at The Meadows provides a therapeutic environment in which, a) the cycle of sex addiction and trauma repetition can be stopped; b) fear can be substituted by a sense of safety; c) new healthy relationships help breaking through isolation and the concept of intimacy is re-learned; d) coping skills are developed; f) new choices help develop a sense of genuine empowerment and self-pride; g) self-nurturing replaces self-abuse; h) spiritual healing becomes possible; g) chaos is replaced by a recomposed structure, and a sense of balance can be achieved. Most importantly, patients have a chance to let go of addiction as the old friend that helped with soothing when trauma occurred. During our treatment, the gentle path of recovery and healing gets started.