Sex addiction therapists as well as many in the recovery community believe that a sizable proportion of alcoholics are also sex addicts or move into sexual addiction once they are sober from alcohol.
Intimacy disability is at the heart of all addiction
Alcoholics and drug addicts who are abstinent from drug and alcohol use have most often “worked a program” in which they became aware of their own fears and insecurities. They have probably learned how to be less self-conscious and more authentic in their every day dealings with people. They have also been exposed to the idea that recovery means “rigorous honesty.”
However, sobriety from chemical dependency does not necessarily mean delving into the hang-ups that the addict has with regard to intimate relationships. The recovering addict or alcoholic will have learned to trust a higher power and to accept the help and friendship of other people. And yet they may still be incapable of being trusting and open in an intimate romantic/sexual relationship.
The alcoholic/addict may have had no experience with “healthy” intimate relationships. Most if not all addicts have childhoods characterized by problems in their bonding with their parents or caregivers. These may seem very obvious or more subtle, but these attachment issues produce addiction prone people who have a long-standing mistrust and avoidance of intimate bonding.
Alcoholics and addicts may have worked through their general social avoidance, self-consciousness and discomfort for which alcohol was the medication. But they may not be able to carry those skills over to the more threatening and less familiar area of dating and intimacy. Often they are aware of the fact that in their alcoholism or drug addiction they did not have healthy relationships. As they often put it they don’t have relationships, they “take hostages.”
Alcoholics and addicts resist looking at their intimacy issues
A lot of alcoholics/sex addicts will tell you that programs like SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) are “graduate school” compared to AA and the other chemical dependency support groups.
Sex addiction programs look a lot like drug and alcohol programs and they do have a lot in common. But quitting drinking or drugs is often experienced as a simpler and easier process for many people than confronting sex addiction. I have heard more than one AA member complain that when it comes to SAA: “the credits don’t transfer.”
Although recovering alcoholics are very well represented in the ranks of recovering sex addicts, there remain a very large number of recovering alcoholics who resist or pooh-pooh the idea of sex addiction recovery.
People recovering from chemical dependency use the same denial mechanisms about sex addiction that they used about drugs or alcohol prior to getting into recovery from chemical dependency. These denial mechanisms have just changed their content but not their basic form. They include things like minimizing, rationalizing, intellectualizing, and compartmentalizing.
The role of ego
In all of the above mentioned denial mechanisms, there is an element of ego that has crept back into the alcoholic or addicts thinking. They can’t imagine what it is to feel safe and contented in an intimate relationship and instead they satisfy themselves with various behaviors such as one night stands, serial seductions, high drama relationships that do not last, or avoidance of intimate relating altogether and so on.
What the recovering addict in denial has failed to see is that other people can and do change and that their sexually addictive tendencies are out of their control. They have forgotten that step one in 12-step work is admitting powerlessness and admitting that you need help. The ego has crept in the form of “self-will” about sexuality and relationships. The addict has forgotten about reaching out and having faith.