One of the greatest concerns for anyone who’s gone through sexual addiction treatment – or treatment for any addiction for that matter – is having a relapse at some point in the future. It can be very discouraging – as well as demoralizing – to do so much hard work only to fall right back into old patterns of behavior.
The good news is that there are several things you can do to help prevent relapsing once you’ve complete your sexual addiction treatment program. Following are 10 helpful tips to significantly reduce your vulnerability:
1 – Learn healthy, effective ways to manage the stress in your life. Granted, this is always easier said than done, but it’s a crucial aspect of relapse prevention. You see, stress is a common trigger for every addiction. The more stress you’re under, the more likely you’ll be to seek an escape from it. For you, engaging in unhealthy sexual behavior is going to be the most tempting means of escape.
Although stress is unavoidable in life, there are many things you can do to manage it and reduce its emotional and physical impact. These include relaxation techniques (e.g. progressive relaxation, guided imagery, etc.), as well as yoga, tai chi, regular exercise, and meditation to name a few. Find at least one or two that you enjoy and do it regularly.
2 – Avoid falling back into old lifestyle patterns. One of the riskiest things any recovering addict can do is to fall back into old habits and patterns. Once you’ve completed treatment you’ll need to avoid the places you once used to find new sex partners. If you often went to night clubs, bars, or strip clubs, it’s important that you avoid them. Otherwise, the temptation you face may be difficult to resist. The same holds true for online adult chat rooms, other adult websites, watching or reading pornography, and anything else associated with your addiction. You worked too hard in your sexual addiction treatment to put yourself smack in the path of temptation.
3 – Get help for any mental health issues and disorders. If you find yourself often feeling anxious or depressed, struggle with low self-esteem (which is very common for addicts), or suspect you have any type of mental health disorder, get help as soon as possible. It’s not uncommon for addictions to mask underlying disorders and issues. They often become much more evident when the addictive behavior stops.
Since a high percentage of sex addicts have a history of physical or sexual abuse, it’s important that you address that as well. As long as those issues remain suppressed and unresolved, your risk of relapse will be high. Working through them and healing the pain will help you feel stronger, happier, and much more in control of your life.
The sooner you get help for these issues, the less vulnerable you’ll be to a relapse. You don’t want to find yourself using sex as a coping mechanism again. Set up an appointment for an evaluation with a psychologist or other mental health professional to help you begin the healing process.
4 – Get treatment for any substance abuse issues. It’s not uncommon for people who are addicted to sex to also abuse alcohol or drugs. Alcohol, in particular, lowers your inhibitions and significantly increases your risk of relapsing after your sexual addiction treatment. Many drugs have a similar effect. Both alcohol and drugs cloud your judgment and make you more prone to losing control despite your best intentions. It’s not uncommon for sex addicts to substitute alcohol, drugs, or other addictive substances and activities (e.g. gambling) for the unhealthy sexual behaviors they formerly used to feel better.
5 – Follow your treatment plan religiously. Once you’ve completed sexual addiction treatment it’s crucial that you stick closely to the treatment plan you were given. If you are supposed to go to therapy, make sure to keep every appointment. If medications are part of your treatment regimen, take them exactly as prescribed and never miss a dose.
6 – Make sure you have a plan of action if you experience a setback. You’re only human so setbacks may happen from time to time. If that happens, the worst thing you can do is to throw in the towel. You’ll have the best chance of getting right back on track if you’ve got a clear plan already in place to handle a setback following your sexual addiction treatment.
7 – Incorporate healthy new activities into your life. Your old addictive behavior most likely consumed a lot of your time, energy, and focus. As soon as you complete your sexual addiction treatment program, start looking for fun and interesting activities that you can add to your life. These may include a new hobby, a new sport (or an old one that you once enjoyed), volunteer work that is fulfilling and meaningful, taking a class or going back to school, or focusing on a new career goal. The more time and energy you put into these, the less vulnerable you’ll be to a relapse.
8 – Educate yourself. Even though you may feel you learned a lot from your sexual addiction treatment, there’s always more to learn. Spend time learning more about addictive behavior, the benefits of your treatment protocol, and what others have done to overcome their addiction. Also, continue learning more about yourself including what things trigger you and what coping methods work best for you. The more you understand your addiction and how it affects you personally, the more control you’ll have over it.
9 – Establish a good support network. The more support you have the less likely you will be to relapse. Develop and nurture relationships with people in your life who genuinely care about you and always want the best for you. Trusted family members, friends, co-workers, a therapist, and support groups are all great sources of support.
10 – Never lose sight of your goals. This is just as important during your sexual addiction treatment as it is once you finish. If you haven’t already, take time to develop a clear vision of how you want your life to be. Set small, short-term goals as well as bigger, long-term goals with your vision in mind. Those goals will help keep you focused and motivated while reducing the risk of relapse.
While this may seem like a long list, consider each one you do as an investment in yourself. Some things (like dealing with a history of abuse) will be quite challenging, while others will be easier and even fun. All of them are worthwhile steps to take following your sexual addiction treatment. After all, you deserve a happy, healthy, addiction-free life!