Rehab for sex addiction

Wow has my life been busy these past few weeks! I’ve picked up several new sponsees, one of my teenagers has had yet another attack of the stupids, and I’ve been working outside the home more than I usually do. 

Blue Rule

* A quick google of rehab, with Moderate SafeSearch on turns up a page full of bikinis and nudity. wtf. So instead, here’s a picture of a place I visited with my family a few months ago. If I hadn’t gone to rehab, I wouldn’t have lived to make that trip and my family certainly wouldn’t have been in any type of shape to enjoy this particular beach, since it’s where my husband and I walked when we were falling in love.

The Beach

And now, with apologies for the break in posts, I’d like to answer the questions that BTY, Shooze, and Ken posted in their comments.

What were the most and least beneficial parts of the treatment program for you? 

Two big things come to mind. First of all, I was treated with dignity and respect by EVERYONE I came in contact with, including the kitchen staff. Not only did this counter my self-loathing, after all, you don’t show up at a treatment facility for sex addiction at the top of your game, it was also instrumental to my ability to be able to trust the counseling staff. Clearly they were providing a safe environment. I found out toward the end of my stay that the director of the program along with the counseling staff deliberately cultivated such an attitude.

Secondly, it’s easier to stay sober in the controlled environment of a treatment facility. Our daily lives are saturated with sex, which makes it much harder for many of us to recover. 

What did you do there that you are still doing now?

We did a lot in treatment, and I thought most of the activities were stupid. The ropes course made some sense; team building and all that. But I wasn’t into all that New Age bullshit like meditation, art therapy, the spirit stick, role playing, and so on. Saying affirmations, for example, seemed like psychobabble bullshit. I did them because treatment was expensive and when it didn’t work, I wanted to be able to shoot myself with a clear conscience that I’d done everything they told me to do. However, most of that “touchy-feely shit” worked. I still say affirmations. I remember asking the guy who was doing the spirit stick, why we were doing something so obviously whacked. I mean, please. I just wasn’t buying the efficacy of that stupid stick. He said that this was just one of the ways they were trying to break through our intellectual defenses, which were formidable because as a group, sex addicts tend to be very intelligent. This still makes sense to me. I do not believe that some Native American spirit came to relieve some of my childhood pain through a magic stick. But it was a therapeutic experience nevertheless. If it had happened in a room-sized PET scanner, we’d probably have a better idea as to what was really going on. 

I still do my best to be truthful and transparent while maintaining appropriate boundaries. 

I have some trustworthy people in my life that I use to double check my judgment of situations and people. 

When I feel sexually aroused at an odd time or place, I check to see what might be out of balance. Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? Am I sad? Angry? Afraid? As soon as I identify the feeling I’m avoiding, the arousal drops away.

I still participate in 12-step meetings.

I make sure I’m taking care of the basics: eating on time, exercising, and good sleep hygiene. Patrick Carne’s PCI is an excellent tool for tracking this.

Roughly, how many men vs. women were there? Did this affect your experience in any particular way?

I was the only female patient at that time, which was a good thing for me. I really struggle with female social interactions and have a hard time trusting women. Interestingly, part of why I picked this residential treatment facility was because I thought there was a “women’s center” for the sex addicts and I thought that being around other women like me would help me get better. It turns out I’d misread the information; the women’s center was a separate program for women with eating disorders.

However, here’s an interesting thing. When I went back to visit a year later, there was again one woman in a group of male patients. I got the distinct impression that she was using that as a way to separate and elevate herself by thinking she wasn’t as bad as the men with their disgusting porn habits. For women and men who identify as “love” addicts rather than “sex” addicts, or for women and men who are sexually anorexic, that attitude of “better than” can really hinder their recovery. The staff is trained to deal with that though.

My therapist was female. And there have been times in the history of that facility that the ratio was reversed, 10 women and one man, or times when the ratio was more even. It all depends on who is seeking recovery there at the time.

How 12 Step focused was the treatment?

The whole program was centered around the 12 steps. We attended meetings every day but it was an adjunct to treatment. The etiquette of not using therapy words in 12 step meetings wasn’t as rigid as some places since the meetings were often full of newcomers who were in treatment. Although I’d already worked through the steps with a sponsor, I did another first step in treatment and I use that format with my sponsees now. 


How did you navigate the program as an atheist?

This is a really good question. I was lucky to be a believer when I went to treatment. I prayed every morning, on my knees with my forehead pressed to the floor (as I was getting my shoes from under the bed). 

For atheists, there’s no getting around the plethora of quasi-religious talk in rehab and recovery. That really needs to be addressed better, using terminology and resources that atheists can accept. Since I’ve had a spiritual awakening to atheism, this is the one part of the whole recovery industry that really pisses me off. It’s exclusionary and unnecessary. I was able to come up with a reasoning that works for me using some of my favorite atheist authors and books, including Carl Sagan, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, who wrote Breaking the Spell. That last book in particular has been very illuminating for me.

How did you feel coming in as the client to a treatment center run by a bunch of experts? Was the power differential troubling in any way?

I was a wreck and if I’d been truthful about my suicidal ideations, I’d have been hospitalized. I was also coming from a 3 year relationship with a therapist that had culminated with my therapist suggesting we terminate our relationship after he’d shared some of his dark sexual fantasies involving the occult. We were having phone sex and I was feeling good about setting boundaries about including the devil in bed, so to speak. So I definitely had some issues with therapists and the power they have over their clients! And in hindsight, my lack of trust made a lot of sense. 

But it’s a good question because the power differential really was interesting in treatment. No matter what your drug of choice is, rehab is expensive. But health insurance does not pay for sex addiction, partly because sex addiction isn’t a recognized diagnosis in the DSM-IV. That means that everyone I was in treatment with had shelled out close to $30,000 dollars to be there. As a result, almost everyone was sincere in their desire to get better. In addition, sex addicts tend to be a smart bunch of people, in part because we don’t kill our brain cells like drug and alcohol addicts. 

So I was in treatment with a select group of financially successful, intelligent, and highly motivated people. I have not been in such erudite company in any other venue in my entire life. It’s no wonder some of us found it difficult to let some young therapist with bachelors degree direct us.

Not everyone in treatment was independently wealthy or the owner of a successful business concern. But we were all able to access a trust fund, borrow money from relatives, take out a personal loan, or just write a check for a hefty chunk of change. And we were all smart.

What made you choose a treatment center over other ways that people recover from addiction?

I was in therapy and going to meetings but I wasn’t getting better. In fact I was getting worse. This was a last ditch attempt before suicide for me. I didn’t want to waste money though, and everyone who can google knows the abysmal statistics of drug rehab, despite the glowing brochures. 

I’d read Love Sick, by Sue William Silverman. Although my acting out behaviors were different, there were a few scenes in her book that I could have written and I strongly identified with her story. I emailed her and asked if she thought she could have gotten better without treatment. Much to my surprise, she emailed me back. Her response gave me the sliver of hope I needed to postpone my suicide.

I called the treatment center I was interested in and my mother wrote a check. She still does not believe that I was molested and our relationship is very distant, but there’s no doubt that her willingness to write that check saved my life. 

How did you choose your treatment center?

I picked one that was affiliated with Patrick Carnes.



  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. Coming from an atheist household, I’ve struggled with trying to connect to the very Christian concepts of the 12 Steps. Things like “giving my life over to God” or letting “Thy will not mine be done” is really foreign to me. This really doesn’t work when you’ve been someone like me who connected her spirituality to her addiction, convinced that she had found her own “God” in her impulsive, short-lived flings with people and therefore could be pretty convinced that addiction was “God’s will.” It seems to me that even in order to follow the right “God’s will” you’ve gotta believe in the balanced, loving God of the New Testament rather than the rather angry, punishing God of the Old Testament.

  2. GentlePath, thanks so much for your thoughts on this. I have to agree that the religious (well, actually, specifically Christian) nature of recovery is exclusionary and unnecessary. I am not Christian and went into my own recovery as a self-proclaimed agnostic, and it was very hard to work around all the religious baggage. I’m at a place I’m comfortable with now, but I had to stop going to 12 Step for 4 years to get to a place where I could let go of that.

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