1. Terminating sexual behavior

The first step towards emerging from denial is admitting there is a problem. Stopping addictive behaviors comes when the addiction has been acknowledged. Similar to how an alcoholic must quit drinking, a sex addict must stop all acts of sexual expression. Sometimes these behaviors are overt, such as having no sex before getting married, but other times they are covert, such as flirting. Once again, being truthful to oneself and others is crucial.

Support for those in recovery is crucial because it is practically hard to try and quit these behaviors alone without the help of God and others. Addicts learn what is and is not appropriate sexual behavior from other addicts in recovery. Sexual addicts can only temporarily stop acting out, and that only with a tremendous amount of willpower, without assistance to address the underlying issues that drive sexual addiction. Will, by itself, eventually runs out of steam. Addicts resort to compulsive sexual behavior because they cannot resist their mental obsession and bodily urges. One of the hallmarks of habit is this cycle of control and inability to control.

There are numerous ways to get aid and support. Sex Addicts Anonymous is one example of a support group, while accountability partners, in- or outpatient treatment programs, counseling, medical assistance, and Internet filters are other options.

2. Abolishing rituals

Rituals exist for all addictions. Practices can include everything from ideas to actions that eventually result in sexual outbursts. Addicts must recognize their routines to break the addictive cycle before acting out. Rituals could include scheduling alone time with your computer so you can log in to porn sites without being interrupted, daydreaming about having sex with a coworker, or picturing your neighbor naked.

3. Cutting off fantasy

The driving force behind sexual addiction, sexual fantasy can stimulate sexual desire on its own. The more effort made to quit imagining, the stronger the story becomes. Fiction has a tight grasp on the mind, which does not react to demands to “stop.” So how can a sex junkie stop having fantasies? First, by realizing that imaginations are made for a purpose—they serve as a means of stress relief and emotional escape. Finding the motivations behind their need to “escape” is necessary for an addict to stop dreaming.

4. Overcoming despair

Most sex addicts believe they are beyond forgiveness since their sexual behavior is disgusting. Desperation and occasionally even suicide are caused by self-loathing. The path to despair is one of isolation, while the path to recovery from pain is one of loving and secure fellowship. As a result, the sex addict must choose between a fierce internal struggle and coming out of hiding.

Sexual outbursts deepen desperation and push an addict further into isolation and shame. Even though it seems counterintuitive, it is a spiritual truth. For this reason, sex addiction support groups are essential. Desperation fades away, and hope reemerges as a sex addict learns that others have traveled the same path and are starting to recover.

5. Eliminating shame

Shame can be either healthy or unhealthy. When I have lied, for example, and feel ashamed about it, that is when healthy shame occurs. I have sinned, and my sense of shame informs me that I must address it through confession and repentance.

Unhealthy shame develops when I have acted up and felt like a wrong person. Unhealthy shame tells me I’m not good or worth anything. Unhealthy shame diminishes my value as a person, whereas healthy shame assesses the morality of my behavior rather than my character. It’s possible that I did something bad, but that doesn’t mean I’m a terrible person.

Addicts need to understand the difference between constructive and destructive shame. An addict is not a shameful person who is unworthy of love just because they engage in scandalous behavior. It indicates that they acted in a way that was unhealthy but forgivable.