There’s nothing soft about the damage “soft pornography” does to those not aware of its dangers.  And few people are.  If you use pornography or know somebody who does, here are fifteen common lies whispered to us by the purveyors of sex trash in magazines, movies, and websites.

I can control myself.  I will be able to keep my porn use from growing.

Reality:   What satisfies now won’t satisfy later.  Porn demands increasingly degrading stimulation.

If not, my firewall will hold up. No one else will ever know what I’m doing here.

Reality:   Porn sites are very wealthy, and so they have pioneered the technology for recording what you want and how to get you aroused.  They recognize you as a unique customer, and at your most vulnerable moments, they present you with images selected for you personally.  Private porn (just like actual cheating with a lover on the side) craves the thrill of increasing the risk of detection.

I won’t masturbate to this stuff.  

Reality:  It will arouse you, and it will glamorize masturbation.  If you give it enough opportunities, porn will talk you into it.

Even if I did, it would be harmless.  

Reality:  Just as the sound of the bell became an appetizing turn-on to Pavlov’s dogs just because it came right before the food, whatever you’re looking at or thinking about right before an orgasm will become irresistible in real life.  You will be training yourself not only to want promiscuous partners, but become unable to resist them.

I’m single—I’ll quit if I marry a prude, and let’s hope I don’t.  

Reality:  By training yourself to want promiscuous partners, you’re preparing any exclusive relationship to get ruined, by cheating, and guaranteeing it will be messed up by possessive jealousy.  Most of the insights below about marriage will apply to most single adult love relationships as well.

Porn is harmless to marriage.  In fact, it will spice up a marriage.

Reality:   Private porn stimulates the mindsets that trigger its use:  self-pity and self-centeredness, entitlement and resentment, insecurity and impatience, lust and loneliness.  All these attitudes ruin a marriage.

What they don't know won't hurt them.

Reality:   Whatever you do to yourself, you do to your spouse too (you’re a one-flesh team).  Even if you don’t get caught.  When you deceive your spouse, life always goes out of the marriage, and both of you can feel it.  When you do get caught, you’ll soon realize that the cover-up actually hurts the spouse worse than the pornography or the promiscuous sex it will eventually lead to.

Porn prevents adultery.  If I can enjoy porn privately, it will drain off the desire to cheat.

Reality:  By portraying sex apart from responsibilities like marriage, porn glamorizes cheating, stimulates the desire for it, and weakens the resolve to avoid it.

I can have it both ways.  I can change my mental gears to fit into whatever setting I’m in.

Reality:   Memories, pictures, feelings and desires from the porn world will spill over into a marriage, and vice-versa.  Each will mess up the other.

The purpose of sex is just pleasure and relaxation, so porn is pretty much perfect sex.   

Reality:   The best purpose of sex is for the enjoyment and bonding together of husband and wife, and that’s where all the perfect sex lies.

Marriage?  Fidelity and Monogamy are gone with the wind. Virtually no one is faithful anymore, and those who try to be are tragicomic figures who surely would cheat if only they could get away with it.

Reality:   Some people who could seemingly get away with it choose not to cheat because they want genuine intimacy at home.  They are the free ones, free to cheat or to be faithful, free to be natural, passionate, tender, and completely close all at the same time.  The tragic figures here those who stray.  They are not free, because they are slaves to their desires or to others' temptations—they can’t always  say no.

Deep down all women want to get off.  Every woman is steaming hot underneath, and wants orgasms above all.  They can and should come to a man preheated, ready to get sexy without any need for love, tenderness, or fidelity, which are all just a waste of time.

Reality:   Women heat up slow like a crock-pot.  They need appreciation, conversation, then affection.  Those who train themselves to discount these things and be aroused like men at just the touch or the sight of certain body parts are very unhappy down inside.  They long for a committed, caring relationship, and in time they will try to turn any extra-marital affair into a marriage for themselves.  Historically, these women make horrible wives, and dangerous friends.

Sex comes easy for men.   Men are passive and privileged, able to just wait until a woman presents herself.  They don't need to approach her, love her, understand her, listen to her, be true to her, or partner with her.  Men don’t need a woman to do any of this in order for him to get aroused.  They just need a fresh supply of raunchy stuff.

Reality:   As the years go by, love gets more and more sexually arousing to men, and lust, less and less.  Sure, nearly all men like to be playful and creative with their lovemaking, and want their wives to be the same.  But men like to take the initiative, and to be admired for their character, and for what they do in life.  No one’s approval or disapproval means more to him than his family’s, and that requires fidelity.

Lust has a lovely luster. People who crave sex and can't get enough of it live a beautiful, carefree, pleasure-filled life, played out in the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Reality:   No, these people are sex addicts, and unless they get into recovery or die young, they are destined to lose everything.  A sexual addiction can be satisfied with nothing less than destroying your family, friends, health, faith, money and even your ability to orgasm.  Truth is, "Anything you put before your recovery you will lose."

If it feels good do it.  

Reality:   If it feels good, first think through the long-term, widespread harm.  Do a cost-benefit analysis.  Remember that relationships are way more fulfilling than orgasms.  No one wants to live and die alone.


Four-Circle Sobriety Plan

         Four concentric circles represent three important lists of behaviors, and one list of warning signs. These lists will be fluid, and you will need to add and subtract new items on a regular basis, at least from the boundaries list and the recovery behaviors below.   Use these lists to structure and summarize your reports to people of how you have been doing, in the order below: red, then green, then yellow, and finally orange. They are often an excellent way to give account of yourself on a regular basis, in your marriage, with your sponsor, me, and with same-sex accountability partners. Each behavior needs to be very specific, to minimize confusion about whether you have done something, and whether it is useful as listed.

Sobriety definition (the red inner circle). Here you describe any behavior that you believe you are called to completely avoid. Examples of behaviors that are often placed on this list for married sex addicts are: adultery, pornography (be very specific), masturbation, and giving or receiving solicitations, money, time, charming talk or touch with an opposite-sex person. Spouses usually need to be told all details here within 24 hours, including your inventory of which of your character defects were involved, who you hurt, amends proposed.

Recovery behaviors (the green outer circle): if you are married, include positive approaches to your mate that you need to make regularly until they have become habits. Include all of your regular recovery behaviors, and state the frequency (say daily, or weekly) you are led to do each one: meetings, devotionals, phone calls, workbook pages, reading certain books, going to church, attending counseling, daily prayers, accountability check-ins with spouse, buddy and/or sponsor, whatever. (Some examples can be found below.) Include other behaviors that are to be done often and whenever appropriate, but not on a daily or weekly schedule (such as making amends and maintaining progress in step work and tasks for recovery). Also include behaviors your spouse wants and needs to see for closeness to occur (e.g., sharing your feelings, calling/texting during the day, coming home on time, spending time with the kids, praying together, sitting together on the couch, gentle touch that is not foreplay, speaking the spouse’s love language, whatever).

Troublesome attitudes (the yellow inner circle):  Between the outer circle and the middle circle, many people are finding it helpful to add a fourth circle as a warning.  Here you can list the mindsets and situations that tend to trigger your slips.  Common ones are: resentment, shame, insecurity, boredom, loneliness, horniness, exhaustion, self-pity, discouragement, failure, success, rejection, entitlement, egomania, etc. Watch for emotions that spike intensely as over-reactions to a situation, and for those that linger after the trigger incident, looking for other situations that justify their existence.  If you call these attitudes instead of triggers, you will take more responsibility for them, and for your choices when you experiencing them.  (Your addiction wants you call them triggers so you can say something just set you off.)  These attitudes will often need to be on your list of character defects when you do/did step 5.  Like dashboard warning lights, they help warn you when to walk out of trouble before you go in too far.

Boundaries list (the orange circle, next to the red, things that would be a slip but not a relapse):  This should include all behaviors that might come before a relapse, and that might incite some temptation to relapse, such as:   lying or covering up, eyeball slips (allowing your eyes to look too long at something), foot slips (allowing yourself to go somewhere unnecessary that is tempting),  fantasy slips (allowing your mind to imagine future misbehaviors),  euphoric recall (dwelling too long on the pleasures of past addictive escapees), online slips (misuse of the internet), argument slips (avoiding or prolonging a conflict which gives you resentment), or flirting slips (any violation of agreed guidelines for contact with the opposite sex (see my list for starters) that would not constitute a relapse.  Spouses usually need to be told about slips more vaguely (like just the number and type of slip), with fewer details and not as quickly (within a week is OK), but your inventory and your proposed amends do need to be included at this time.

Possible Recovery Behaviors

(Use some of this menu of options to customize your own list.)

A 30-second prayer for a day of sobriety in early AM,

and another for thanksgiving at bedtime

A 2-minute meditation on how God might want you to help with your prayers being answered

Initiate successfully live phone call with sponsor, to include 4-circle report, including also:

10+ minutes for you (2+ for slips, temptations, and pressures, 8+ for your recovery)

Initiate phone calls with recovering buddies until you get one live on the phone:

5+ minutes for each of you (1+ for slips, temptations, and pressures, 4+ for your recovery)

20 min. of phone time buddies initiate (or 10 from you leaving two VM’s using format above)

15 min. of Bible study, leaving time to meditate on personal application for your life/recovery

15 min. of recovery reading, highlighting, meditating on personal application for your recovery

Attend a 12-step or recovery meeting

Chart the day’s activities, and on a log, record brief but specific answers to these questions:

Of what I did, what helped the most today, and why? What helped the least, and why?

Read and complete the writing assignments for one chapter per week of Facing the Shadow

(or Faithful and True)

Read and highlight/underline one chapter per week of a recovery-oriented book


           (Each paragraph can be a private devotional, or a class for group discussion.)

The Bible gives in rich detail how life unfolds for people who fall into sexual sin. It was pure visual seduction for David when he laid eyes on his neighbor’s wife Bathsheba (2Sam 11). His heart followed his eyes in violating the 10th commandment, and in short order that act stimulated violations of the 9th (lying), 8th (stealing), 7th (adultery), and when these couldn’t be covered up, he went on and broke the 6th by murdering her husband. Previously a man of great virtue, he quickly broke half the ten commandments, and it all started with his eyes. For her infidelity, Bathsheba may have gotten a palatial upgrade on her residence, but she had to endure her lover’s murder of her dear husband, feel his remorse expressed publicly in the hit song of its day (Psalm 51), and then like so many adulterers in therapy afterwards, watch helplessly as her children and step-children lived out the generational after-effects over the years to come: rape, incest, violence, job loss, family disintegration, etc. What does David’s story tell you about yourself?   About God?

In Genesis 39, we see a strong example of Joseph resisting seduction by Potiphar’s wife, going to jail for it, and then having a wonderful life restored to him because of his obedience. Read the story carefully, and ask the Joseph in you to teach you some lessons.

           Hosea gives us a compassionate look into the forgiving heart of God through a broken-hearted victim of his wife Gomer’s infidelity and chronic bondage to sex. The father of the prodigal son is another (Luke 15). If you believed God has already forgiven sin before it happens, that asking just accesses what’s already there waiting for us, how would it change your prayer life, and your life?

We see many successful lives turned around through repentance, confession, and obedient forsaking of sexual sin. David shows us the way in Psalm 51, and several women in Jesus’ life followed it -- the one at the well in John 4, the one weeping for the joy of her forgiveness and cleansing at the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7), and the one caught in the act of adultery, about to be stoned for it (John 8). Paul Tournier in Guilt and Grace teaches both perpetrators and victims that we all need a healthy amount of guilt about our sin, not too much like the woman had, and not too little like the Pharisees had. Godly sorrow for sin is shown in 2Cor 7: 8-11, which joins Psalm 51 as excellent roadmaps to repentance and restoration for the sexual sinner. Brokenness will show in a full confession, a broken open heart, and behavior change. What do these passages teach you about how to repent, and how to forgive yourself?

To prevent or to break bondage to sexual sin, it is necessary to guard what comes into the mind (Phil 4:8) and heart (Pr 4:23), through the eyes (Mt 5:28-9), through what we touch (v.30), so that unclean acts do not come out from our bodies (Mt 15:18-19), so that we and others are not perverted and ruined by the words coming out of our mouths (James 5:5-6), or what we join our souls to as we unite in a sexual embrace (1Cor 6:15-20). You check the doors of your house every night to keep your family safe. What good would it do to check every day your mind gate, heart gate, eye gate, ear gate, skin gate, mouth gate, and groin gate?

Computer porn and cheat chat smells badly of “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (1Jo2:16). We find the strength to avoid all this from our God, embodied in the Holy Spirit (John 14-16) poured out through the church/fellowship of believers (Eph 2:18-21, 4:4-6), the word of God (Heb 4:12-13, 2Tim 3:16-17), friends (John 15:15), people we help (Mt 25:37-40), and small support groups (Mt 18:20).  Is your God able to come to you through all these channels, or have you tired some of God’s blessing arms behind him?


The “word of God” can also be found in Christian writings for the perpetrators and victims of sexual sin.  Though not specifically Christian, Pat Carnes bases his hope on the Biblically inspired 12-step program.  Doug Weiss, Mark Laaser and Harry Schaumburg are Biblically oriented Christian psychologists who are themselves recovering from sex addiction.  They show how sexual infidelity and pornography are twisted perversions of our spiritual hunger for God.  Help Online: - Great source of information, research, and on-line tests to learn about yourself and find qualified counselors to help - Dr. Mark Laaser's website - Dr. Doug Weiss’ resources - Great website - Domain for Sexaholics Anonymous, the more biblical of the 12-step programs - Domain for Sex Addicts Anonymous, the more liberal of the 12-step programs



Laaser, Mark (1996) Faithful and True.  Nashville : Lifeway, an excellent workbook, plus original book by Zondervan,
Schaumburg , Harry (1992) False Intimacy.  Colorado Springs :  NavPress.

Below are four lies your addiction will keep trying to get you to believe.  They are discussed in several of Dr. Patrick Carnes’ books.  In order to train your brain to think differently, make your own copy of this document, and add after each one ideas that will counteract them.  Unbold the lie, and leave the healthy ideas in bold face.  For each healthy idea, cite your source (authority).  Carry a copy of this with you as a tool in your fire drill kit.  And as you discover other lies your addiction tells you in your head, write them down as well, beginning with #5, and record the healthy ideas that correct these lies.  Keep sharpening this knife to cut thru the crap you will no doubt keep hearing in your head for awhile.  The more you use this tool, the less you will hear the lies.

  1. I am basically a bad, unworthy person.
  2. No one would love me as I am.
  3. My needs are never going to be met if I have to depend on other people.
  4. Sex is the most important sign of love. (or)  Sex is my most important need.

DSB's:  Dysfunctional Sexual Behaviors may include:  masturbation, pornography, flirting, eyeballing, massage, cheating, chatting, phone sex, role exploitation, buying, selling and trading sex, pain exchange, 800 #s, anonymous (bathroom/park) sex, fetishes, voyeurism, exposing yourself, webcam exposures, and varieties of shutting down:  impotence, anorexia, avoidance of marital love & sex.

Ten Addictive Signs:  impulse control, broken plans, can't quit, preoccupation (obsession), loss of needed time/money, irresponsibility, social fallout, social dropout, behavioral escalation (tolerance), withdrawal symptoms (mood changes).  3 of these 10 and it's an official addiction.

Cyberporn seems Accessible (but so are you to it!), Affordable (it is at first, but not for long!), and Anonymous (sure at first, but hey, not for long!).  It is also Always changing (it hypnotizes your attention), Aggressively seeking your loyalty (it wants your business, to sell your information to others), Adaptable (it remembers your past behavior, your arousal pattern, and throws up things personally designed to ramp up your involvement), and Always Accepting (it seems to never reject you, but it rejects the rest of who you are, your faith, family, finances, freedom, health, etc.).  This 7-headed monster will eat you alive if you let it.

Use the right terminology:  lover = hater, affair = trap, porn = poison, (masturbation) = idolatry, fantasy = adultery, "I didn't mean/enjoy it" = minimizing, "I can control it" = denial, ""I wanted to because" = blame-shifting.

Addictions are fueled by (and produce!) trauma/fear, shame, aversions, , and enablers, so learn to break those cycles.  These are both triggers and bullets.

Bondage will in slow, creepy, one-at-a-time-so-you-don't-really-notice speed also consume your:  mind, freedom, dignity (heart), wife, kids, career, faith, health, and then your life.

Bondage will take from your wife:  her trust in you, respect for you, feeling safe with you, desire for you, mental focus during sex, resistance to reading your mind and taking your inventory, ability to relax, body image, confidence in her future, and all the fruits of the spirit:  faith, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, self-control.

Recovery/Repentance involves:  people and principles, prayer and Bible study, meetings, readings, sponsors, accountability partners, phone calls, working the steps: admitting powerlessness and unmanageability, surrendering to God, taking inventory, giving character defects to God, making amends, admitting when we're wrong, prayer, service work, decompartmentalizing.

Recovery/Repentance brings:  restoring the free-flowing of all things consumed above, and what we are all made to crave above all else in this life:  intimacy with God, spouse, self, children and buddies in recovery.  You doubt me?  What good is anything else without these, without loved ones to share it with?  How deep could your joy be, and how long could it last if you don't give it away?

The hallmarks of addiction are:  failed efforts to control or stop the addiction, withdrawal pains, obsessive thoughts about the habit, increasing consumption, continued addictive behavior despite huge costs/problems from doing so, and self-deception about the causes and effects of the addictive behavior.

A very common cause and effect of addictions are their polar opposites:  compulsive habits of avoidance (aversions, or “anorexias”).  The causes and effects of these aversive disorders are remarkably similar to those for addictions:  both addicts and anorexics were often abused, neglected, or traumatized in their youth; exposed to addictions and enabling co-addicts in their families; and raised in homes that had way too much discipline or affection, or way too little.

For sex addicts, the best course of treatment is very structured and homework-intensive, so it has a time frame built into it.  It is multi-dimensional, involving 12-step recovery, individual and ideally group counseling, a regimen of physical health, your family (if they will participate), and for Christians, prayer, church and Bible study.  It reflects a structure of 30 tasks that is now emerging from research as the model standard for all addiction treatment programs.

I used to include a time line in this outline, but that was designed for hard core addicts who needed an intensive outpatient alternative for residential treatment.  The amount of time to work through these phases, and the number of tasks that will need to be written out vs. discussed, will depend on the severity of your problem, and that really can't be known until the end of the second phase of treatment when you're out of denial.

Sexual addiction is not a black and white concept, as if you're either addicted or you're not.  It's more like as infectious disease, and regarding the lust virus, you need to ask yourself, "How bad a case do I have?  How much of my system is infected?  How much damage has it done to my mind, heart, calendar, budget, career, faith, self-esteem, marriage?"  The more extensive the damage, the more extensive the treatment and recovery you'll need to get free of its grip.

The stages of treatment outlined above are very useful, in that they come in a logical order.  Though you are working on all the issues to some extent all the time, it is best to keep your primary focus on one aspect of recovery at a time.  The later phases require building on the foundation of the earlier.

Note that many addicts want to put the last phase first, the fix their marriage and family life, and then establish victory over their bad habits.  This effectively would make the spouse a substitute addiction, and it wouldn't work for either of you.  Full restoration of maritalintimacy can only come in the final stage of treatment.

Because addicts are usually (1) pretty unhappy with their lives due to their addiction, (2) quite injured and misled from their childhood experiences, (3) damaged from trauma, (4) addicted to more than one type of substance or behavior, (5) suffering from losses that haven’t been grieved, and (6) unaware of the existence or relevance of these five things, addicts can’t effectively plan their own treatment.  So this course doesn’t have many optional features.  It works if you work it, and you’re either on board or you’re not. But rest assured that my goal is to phase regular sessions with me out of your life, and turn you over to the guidance, support and accountability of fellow believers and recovering 12-steppers.

Addicts are much like the prodigal son, codependents are much like the elder brother, and recovery is much like the father who comes running with open arms.  I am like a fellow traveler who has walked the road of recovery himself, and I am here to lead you to a new home life that is better than you could have ever imagined.

Forward Movement Publications in Cincinnati published a pamphlet I was asked to write explaining sexual addiction to the average Christian reader. You may find the contents of the pamphlet below:

Sex:  When is it an Addiction?

By Dr. Paul Schmidt

Of all the experiences we 21st century Americans crave, of all the images we see that motivate us to buy, the biggest idol we worship today is romantic intimacy.  We long for a lively, creative, safe, sensual, affectionate, utterly enjoyable connection with the one we love.

Oh sure, we have other major longings—health, wealth, youth, beauty, closeness with nature, peace of mind, and healthy family bonds.  We know much more about how to get and keep these than we do about romantic intimacy.

So why don’t more people find this intimacy as it was made to be?   Well on the road to Shangri La, we get hijacked.  Most of us have turned aside and run aground, settling for things much easier to obtain, things that are more gratifying in the short run.  We give up our integrity for intensity.  So we lie marinating in the juicy, perverted, counterfeit versions of romance we get from Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and that modern marvelous mainstream sewer, the Internet.  No wonder there’s so much sexual sickness today.  What constitutes sex addiction, and how common is it?

  Sexual Addiction

In 2004, America spent more money on pornography than on the NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball combined, more than NBC, CBS, and ABC earned as an industry.  Addiction to pornography over the Internet is by far the fastest growing addiction in the world, and women, children and geriatrics are the fastest growing groups of cyber-addicts.  Our best estimates are that 6% of Americans are sex addicts, and the prevalence is slightly higher in Christian circles.  So if your family has 20 folks over for Christmas dinner, odds are there’s a sex addict in the house.

What forms does an addiction take, and what is its course?   Each addict usually has 1-3 out-of-control habits with sex.  These habits usually include traditional sexual deviations, but viewing pornography and marital infidelities (affairs or one-night stands) can also become addictions.   When loved ones discover the problem, they usually take on a reformer’s zeal, sexual anorexia, or both, any one of which just provokes the addict into rationalizing more severe and more cleverly hidden sexual misconduct.

For those who do not recover, symptoms progress.  It takes more and more stimulation to give them the same satisfaction, so their abominations grow like mildew in the dark.  They generally go through their relationships and die a rather miserable, lonely death, financially and spiritually bankrupt.

When does sex become an addiction?   When sexual behavior works against intimacy in a monogamous relationship, or against personal integrity for a single person who’s not in love, it can be called “Dysfunctional Sexual Behavior” (DSB).  Experts agree that you have an addiction when your DSB shows three or more of the following ten signs (hallmarks for any addiction):

impulse control (recurrent failure to resist DSB impulses),

broken plans (frequency/duration of DSB keeps exceeding what’s planned),

can’t quit (persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to stop for good),

time loss (DSB takes up excessive amounts of time),

preoccupation (thoughts of DSB keep intruding),

irresponsibility (DSB occurs during times committed to obligations or responsibilities),

social fallout (recurrent negative consequences of DSB in work and/or family life),

social dropout (skipping social, occupational, or recreational activities for DSB),

behavioral escalation (it takes more cost and/or risk to get the same emotional relief), and

withdrawal symptoms (irritation, tension, or despair when unable to act out the DSB).

Addiction via Computer

Cyberporn has become epidemic in our culture because it seems to be accessible, affordable (at first), and anonymous (but it never is).  Internet service providers know who uses porn, and employers can track their computers.  Porn sites buy and sell links and email addresses for big money, and infect users’ computers with pop-ups.

Organized crime is behind most of the porn traffic, and all the bigger hosts know exactly which pictures you watch the longest, what sequences made you get out your credit card before, and how to present similar but new things the next time you get on line.  So there is a constantly updated, personalized temptation waiting for the sex addict every time he goes online.  Satan has done himself right proud here.

Is this experience addictive?  Besides being a gateway drug that fuels escalation and triggers new forms of sexual acts and crimes, cyberporn is highly addictive itself, and has rightly been called the crack cocaine of sexual experiences. Since these and other sexual experiences produce massive amounts of dopamine in the brain, it’s been said that sex addicts carry their drugs with them.

How do Sex Addictions Form and Grow?

In classical conditioning demonstrated by Pavlov, the sound of a bell becomes a turn-on when it is paired repeatedly with the pleasure of eating.  Likewise, and Americans are tragically unaware of this, whatever is presented the first few times with sexual arousal and orgasm becomes a turn-on.  That explains how various things one would think would be turn-offs, if experienced by sex addicts while they were messed with in their youth, perpetually produce the effect of throwing gasoline onto a lust bonfire.  For example:

 Addictions are fueled by Trauma.  When people are raped, incested, or sexually abused, they are usually attracted to repeat the traumatic situation, in a futile and subconscious effort to make it turn out differently, and too often to pursue sexual release they can’t find any other way.

Addictions are fueled by Shame.  Though addicts believe shame will help prevent acting out sexually, it’s actually a huge trigger.  Recovery requires addicts to break the shame cycle.

Addictions are fueled by Other Addictions.  Sex addicts are usually addicted to something else too:  alcohol or other drugs (42%), eating disorder (38%), workaholism (28%), compulsive spending (26%), or compulsive gambling (5%).

Addictions are fueled by Aversions.  Sexual anorexia (extreme disgust and avoidance) often co-exists with addictions in addicts (binge-purge cycle) and their significant others.  All aversions help trigger, maintain, and rationalize the addiction.

Addictions are fueled by Enablers.  Some partners and loved ones believe they might have caused the addiction, or perhaps could learn how to control or cure it.  This actually takes responsibility for addiction and recovery away from the addict.  The co-addict “enables” the bad habit by robbing the addict of the guidance and motivation for change that can only come with pain, which can only come when the co-addict lets go (like God lets go of sinners in bondage, see Romans 1). 

Significant Others

The family members of sex addicts are caught in a vicious cycle.  The three cases illustrations from the start of this article had problematic marriages even before detection by the spouse, but even moreso afterwards.  The sex-addicted partner is motivated by a wicked concoction of lust combined with shame and/or self-pitying resentment.  The addict is convinced that the spouse is undersexed, and detection only makes that situation worse.

The good news about sex addiction for the addict’s loved ones is that they didn’t cause it, they can’t control it, and they can’t cure it.  The last two may not sound like good news, but only this truth can set them free to live their own lives better, within the marriage/relationship.  The bad news is that they are sick too, in that they have usually become addicted to the addict.  Codependency is simply caring about the feelings and needs of another person to the neglect of your own.  Jesus’ second commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves, not instead of ourselves, or as a priority over ourselves.

The Path of Recovery

God does not leave us to travel this earth alone.  As we recover from sin, we all need to replace our primary identity from our blood family with a new primary identification with our family of faith, just as Jesus did (Matt. 12: 46-50).  Another way to say this is that both addict and co-addict are called to give up their bondages (to sex and to each other) by becoming bondservants of our Lord.

So the road to recovery ideally involves church, counseling, and the 12-step community.  You can think of recovery as people and principles—it takes both.  Like church, you can’t succeed treating your 12-step group as just a social club, and like the Bible, you can’t successfully apply 12-step principles by studying them alone.  Recovery usually takes 3-5 years, and that’s if addicts use 12-step groups, plus individual and group therapy.

12-Step Recovery and Research

Beginning addicts and those without healthy religion or marriages need extra help getting over shame.  They will benefit from Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA), which don't consider any private behavior harmful, including premarital relationship sex, masturbation, or adding to either of these some internet porn.

For more happily married, and more actively Christian addicts, and those less vulnerable to shame, Sexaholics Anonymous (SA) considers a spouse the only acceptable sexual outlet.  In the battle against lust (which SAA and SLAA don't recognize as such), this creates a "hedge around the law" for safety against sin.  SA is more consistent with Christian tradition that sex outside marriage is wrong, and with Jesus' common sense teaching in Matthew 5: 27-28 that mentally rehearsing a sexual act makes it more likely to happen.

It helps greatly if both the addict and his/her partner will work a 12-step program together.  For these folks, there is Recovering Couples Anonymous,

Do addicts and co-addicts have to use a 12-step program?  Research says that if they want to recover, the people and principles of recovery are absolutely essential.  Individual counseling comes in a close second.  Also vital is confessing thoughts, feelings, memories and behaviors to others in recovery:  indeed “we are as sick as our secrets.”  To learn more, the addict can visit,, or  Co-addicts can find help at and

The bad news from research is that apparently less than 10% of addicts have found recovery, and that like alcoholism and other addictions, sex addiction is a progressive, fatal disease that will ruin every aspect of the addict’s life.  The good news is that research has identified thirty tasks addicts can do that will virtually assure their recovery (see  Studies show that over 90% of those who complete even the first 19 of these tasks were still in recovery without slipping back into addictive behaviors five years later.  And the best news of all:  like recovering from other addictions, God is at the heart of it, and recovery transforms every aspect of life into better-than-ever faith, hope, love, joy, and peace.

Indeed, even when both parties devote themselves to God as embodied in church, trained counseling, and 12-step recovery groups, honestly the marriage is never ever the same.  But the good news is that these admittedly few marriages that do recover are really wonderful, very exciting, quite fulfilling.  They are actively involved helping others come through the turbulent white waters of sex addiction and co-addiction.  These folks are mighty warriors in the kingdom, and they are wildly happy with each other.  That is good news indeed.  Praise be to God.


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Dr. Paul F. Schmidt