The Meadows Blog

On Wednesday, June 1, 2011, Michelle Mays, LPC, CSAT will be presenting on Hope and Healing for Partners of Sex Addicts. Her lecture will discuss how the treatment community is debating whether partners are best treated with a trauma model or addiction model. She will explain how both models provide a lens through which to view the emotional, spiritual, and behavioral issues of partners of sex addicts. Blending both models brings a comprehensive picture of these issues into focus, enabling a clear delineation of phases of treatment and optimal treatment strategies for each phase. Seminar attendees will learn the strengths and weaknesses of each model, as well as a blended model that can be used to treat a growing population. Michelle will outline the phases of treatment and identify corresponding intervention strategies. The lecture will take place on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 from 7:00 pm-8:30 pm at the Unity of Fairfax, 2854 Hunter Mill Road, Oakton, Virginia, 22124. For more information, 866-922-0952 or eanderson@themeadows.com.

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My therapist told me most sex addicts have multiple addictions. Is that true?

I have never met a sex addict addicted only to sex. Typically, three to six addictions interact with one another. Most individuals who come into treatment don't realize this. Often they are in denial about the scope of their destructive behaviors, minimizing and rationalizing their patterns. Often they construct and normalize complex lives, allowing one addiction to flow seamlessly into the other.

Professionals who work 80 or 90 hours a week may feel they have earned a weekend of binge drinking and sex. They tell themselves they are not workaholics, because they can take time off to "relax." Similarly, some individuals who work excessive hours take vacations only to pack every minute with activities: scuba diving all day; a volleyball tournament before dinner; an expensive meal; and clubbing with alcohol, drugs, and sex until 3 a.m. - only to start the cycle over the next morning."I don't have a work addiction. I can relax and take time off," they tell themselves. What they don't realize is that they are addicted to intensity. They look for the high or emotional escape that allows them to avoid uncomfortable feelings.

All addicts are "shame-based," meaning they were given negative messages about themselves. A child can experience abuse that is overt (recognizable abuse that can be verbal, physical, or sexual) or covert (in which the child is not typically aware of the subconscious messages). Covert abuse is typically couched in the expectations that parents have for their children. "If I am a good athlete, my parents will be proud." "If I am homecoming queen, I will be popular."

These children believe they must perform in order to have value. Such intensely goal-oriented thinking teaches - and ultimately allows the children to avoid - feelings of shame. This is when patterns of addiction begin.

This need for external gratification sets up the children to have low internal esteem. They feel they are not enough; they are worthless and unlovable... unless they produce. Winning trophies and awards will bring attention and a sense of value. Before they are aware of it, these people establish patterns that allow emotional escape.

After cheating on his wife, the sex addict feels no guilt or remorse about his betrayals, but stops at the local pizza parlor and eats a whole pie. Still numb, he spends several hours gaming on the computer - yet another way to avoid the emotions that lie below the surface.  His patterns satiate his pain and shame.

Food addicts may gain weight so they don't have to be sexual. "I don't need sex," they tell themselves. "I am strong and independent."

The after-work drink with coworkers may turn into a one-night stand. "I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't been drunk."

In treatment, individuals look at the interactive patterns in their lives, the seamless processes they unconsciously devise in order to survive painful feelings. The healing process often overwhelms the individual, because the addict often believes his or her own lies: "I don't really have problem with..." In reality, they have spent a lifetime jumping from one addictive behavior to the next on a roller coaster; the costly consequences can impact their livelihood, relationships, health, and finances - and can even bring death.

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May 12, 2011

Ginnie Hartman, MA, LPC will be speaking at The Meadows Free Lecture on May 12, 2011, at 7pm at the Baronette Renaissance Detroit-Novi Hotel in Novi, Michigan. Mrs. Hartman will discuss Helping Heartbroken, Abandoned and Betrayed to Wholeness. The presentation will address the betrayal and abandonment partners of sex addicts face and provide a pathway to healing with a unique approach to wholeness. Contact Jenna Pastore at 815-641-2185 for more information. No registration required. We look forward to seeing you.

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Isn't the term"sex addiction" just an excuse for bad behavior?

By Maureen Canning

News stories about celebrities struggling with sexual addiction have raised questions about the legitimacy of sexual addiction as a disorder. Many say the diagnosis is an excuse for bad behavior. But assessing someone's behavior from afar is not an effective tool for understanding another's reality. Some may use sex addiction as an excuse, but it is important to understand it as a viable disorder that, when left untreated, can have serious consequences.

Sexual addiction is a progressive disorder; if not treated, it will become worse over time. Consequences will build up and wreak havoc in one's life. As the disease progresses, so do the consequences: depression, sexually transmitted disease, financial loss, relational conflict, isolation, low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts or gesturesThe individual spirals out of control to the point where the need to act-out sexually becomes his/her only priority.

Sex addicts have tunnel focus; they are hypervigilant when seeking another "hit." Meeting a friend at local restaurant is not about connecting emotionally, sharing, or catching up. It turns into an opportunity to objectify others or flirt with the server or attractive patrons. Addicts becomes frustrated when expected to be present in the conversation. They feel trapped and limited by their inability to catch another glimpse or slip their phone number to a possible hookup.

As the addiction progresses, it takes more time, energy, and resources. It may drain bank accounts, cause marriages to end in divorce, cost opportunities at the work place, and rob hobbies of interest. Despite obvious changes, addicts are experts at believing their own lies. They minimize their behaviors, believing they still have control. They distort reality to justify continuing the addiction.

Typically addicts don't seek treatment until the pain of their behaviors outweighs the gain. Self-motivation is crucial. An intervention with stiff consequences may be necessary to create the motivation. Most important is the knowledge that treatment is available for the sexually addicted individual. Within the context of a healing environment, addicts are able to break through the denial and begin a restorative process.

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Maureen Canning, Clinical Consultant of The Meadows and Dakota, was recently featured in an interview on iVillage. In Tiger Woods in Sex Rehab: What Really Goes on in There, Anyway?, Canning described some indicators of a sexual addiction, and what goes on during a typical day of sex addiction treatment. Canning was also quoted in a Time.com article, What Happens in Sex Rehab?

On a related note, the work of The Meadows Senior Clinical Advisor Pia Mellody was described in an article on love addiction on Albany.com. The article outlines Mellody's book Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love , and describes the symptoms, causes, and steps to overcome love addiction.

For more information on the treatment of sexual addiction, visit The Meadows, The Meadows Dakota or Maureen Canning’s Sexual Addiction Blog.

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