Sex and Love Addiction-- the withdrawal and recovery phases. I am assuming and hoping that any addict at this phase is fed up with their own addiction. At this point, an addict is willing to endure whatever withdrawal pain that comes and willing to sacrifice and let go of whatever and whomever in order to shake this addiction. By now the addict realizes that to continue on in the unhealthy behaviors and patterns of sex and love addiction can mean only certain death or irreversible loss of sanity. It is this realistic and healthy fear that drives an addict into recovery.
Withdrawal is tough. Like an addiction to a substance, withdrawal from sex and love addiction involves emotional, psychological, and physical suffering. The addictive process is occurring in the brain, thus, sex and love addiction is just as neurological and chemical as an addiction to heroin or alcohol. Withdrawing from these neurological and dopamine highs can create physical symptoms of sweats, chills, headaches, stomach aches, fatigue and/or listlessness. There are the unavoidable emotional symptoms of fear, panic, anxiety, intense sadness or depression, anger, the sense of "going crazy," and many other possible feelings. The withdrawal process is different for every person both in symptoms and duration.
Withdrawal is the process of ceasing all harmful behaviors and patterns related to your own sex and love addiction. This may mean refraining from compulsive masturbation, no longer incessantly phoning an ex-lover or driving by their home, ending frequent sex with strangers, or leaving an abusive relationship. Define your "bottom-line" behaviors-- those behaviors that you must presently stop in order to begin withdrawal and recovery. Know that ceasing these patterns and enduring the pain of withdrawal will require support from others. This is a difficult process that will be made only more difficult if you attempt it alone. Find a support group, a therapist, and a nonjudgmental and supportive friend. Get yourself into a 12 step group for sex addiction or sex and love addiction (Sex Addicts Anonymous or Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous). If you cannot find one in your area then consider a group for recovering codependents or an Al-anon group. These are sound 12 step groups that will provide you emotional support and a foundation of 12 step work to get you started. Read and learn about your addiction. Take care of yourself emotionally and physically during this very difficult and trying time. This process can take anywhere from 1-6 months depending on the severity of the addiction and your consistency in refraining from bottom-line behaviors.
During the withdrawal phase of recovery, all of your poison and junk from the past will begin to bubble to the surface. Acting out and mood-altering with unhealthy partners and in unhealthy behaviors have kept these feelings at bay for many years. Now that you are no longer engaging in the love addiction, these feelings are allowed to come out. You may feel compelled to begin overeating, drinking, or completely isolating yourself from the world as a means to cope with withdrawal. As much as you can try not to pick up other addictions! As much as you can try not to go to the opposite extreme of sex and love addiction and become a sexual anorexic, mistaking that for recovery. Recovery from sex and love addiction does not mean you will never be in a relationship ever again, it means you are beginning a relationship with yourself for the first time ever.
If you endure, you will find one beautiful morning, you wake up with this strange feeling. You will feel quiet on the inside and open to the universe and a Higher Power. You will feel clean and free. It will likely scare the hell out of you, but pat yourself on the back. You are experiencing the peace of recovery and this is a marker that some painful emotional wounds have healed and you have begun a trusting relationship with self. Surviving withdrawal is an accomplishment to be grateful for and one that opens the door to deeper recovery... to be discussed in Part 3.