Establishing and maintaining sobriety – stopping the bleeding – is often a good place to start with someone struggling with an addiction, and sex addiction is no exception.
If a person desires improved relationships with others, especially with a spouse/partner, then getting clear on ‘bottom lines’ – and then implementing them – will be most helpful. What is a ‘bottom line?’ Bottom lines (or one’s Inner Circle in the SAA tradition) are a list of behaviors that a person knows he or she needs to stop engaging in. There is no wiggle room here, simply a clear understanding that these particular behaviors are quite harmful and need to stop, and as such have landed on the bottom line.
Establishing sobriety and adhering to bottom lines is often how addicts begin the transformation from ‘pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization’ to a semblance of sanity and serenity. It is also a highly personal process and what one person includes on his/her bottom lines may not show up on another’s. Avoiding extremes is typically recommended (although in some cases, extreme measures need to be taken). As the client, you get to decide.
Of course, the goal is not to abstain from sex permanently. It’s not healthy or realistic to expect an individual to stop having sex and relationships forever; similar to eating disorders, the plan is not to stop eating. The goal is to have a healthy relationship with sex and love.
Starting the process of identifying your bottom line behaviors is one of the primary steps and an essential piece of beginning your sexual recovery. Meeting with a therapist who has experience treating individuals with sexual addiction can help you explore and identify where to start in changing your behaviors and developing a plan.
And although identifying bottom lines may seem like an infringement on one’s freedom, my clients report that implementing such bottom lines actually gives them more freedom where it really counts – from destructive patterns that previously sabotaged their relationships. So the ‘bottom line’ is: establishing sobriety via bottom lines improves not only one’s serenity but one’s relationships as well.