We live in a materialistic age where “seeing is believing”. We might also say where “touching is believing” (Sex addicts are very good at looking at, and touching their objectified sex “things”). So reality is measured in physical terms. The thermometer confirms the fever, the bacteria confirm the infection, the biopsy confirms the cancer.
When we are diagnosed with a chronic, progressive, terminal illness—cancer for example—the need for medical intervention is easy to grasp. We recognize the crisis in our health and the prospect of loss, decay, pain, and suffering—not to mention death—motivates us to restore health at all cost. Medical counsel is sought and received, treatment recommendations researched and followed, and in understanding what is at stake the patient and their families get around to reevaluating their priorities.
Healthcare can be very costly, and getting adequate treatment can exact considerable financial sacrifices; but the materialistic lifestyle attachments that often command our financial commitment loose meaning and importance if we do not have the health to enjoy them. And so it is that most of the time, the ailing patient comes to surrender and grieve those attachments in pursuit of reclaiming health and wellness.
Addiction is a disease: it is chronic, progressive, and terminal, but it is not physical. The consequences of addiction can manifest in physical symptoms, but the disorder has yet to be quantified in physical, scientific terms. Ongoing research seeks to establish the chemical and psycho-pharmacological basis of addiction, but to-date successful recovery from addiction has resulted from interventions that address the emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of disease.
This makes sex addiction very difficult for many people to grasp as a real disease, which, like cancer, offers the prospect of loss, decay, pain, suffering, as well as death. As an “intangible affliction” that cannot be observed under the microscope, removed with a scalpel, or obliterated with pharmaceutics, sex addiction is easily dismissed as many things, other than a life-destructive force, or illness, that can be treated and managed.
A further obstacle to getting treatment has to do with the fact that one of the major symptoms of addiction is cognitive distortion: that our mental reasoning processes are hijacked in service to the addictive behaviors that provide intense pleasure and comfort in the short term. Since deciding to get help and seek treatment is principally a mental process, the very faculty that facilitates this life-affirming decision is compromised by the disease itself. This is somewhat like having a neurological defect that prevents me from sensing the pain of a slipped disc, so I obliviously continue to exacerbate my condition by visiting the gym instead of the spine surgeon. That is, until the damage is so acute that I experience total failure and collapse—only then becoming aware of my problem if I survive it.
The successful recovering sex addict is the one that comes to understand the gravity of his/her disease in spite of his/her mechanisms of denial and self-delusion, and faces the urgency of receiving professional treatment with the same commitment and sacrificing attitude as the cancer patient who embraces, for example, chemotherapy.
We have little difficulty in appreciating that the successful outcome of chemotherapy depends on treatment adherence, and deferring to the expertise of the medical professionals in whose care we are. When sex addicts fail to adopt such an approach to the treatment of their condition, they are lulled by their own distorted thinking into believing that they can pick and choose the components of their treatment, and fit their plan to their budget rather than their budget to their treatment plan. The counselor is construed as a consultant rather than a therapist, and his recommendations are perceived as options; like sunroof and GPS in a car purchase. Try telling your chemotherapist that you will go for “chemo-lite” because you are saving up for your family vacation in Hawaii…
You’re not buying a car, decorating a house, or planning a vacation. You are saving your life, and everything in it that you care about. You can’t afford to bargain. Recovery is also remembering what we really care about in our lives. In sex addiction we have already lost touch with what those are because sex has replaced everything else. And ironically, there is no budgeting in sex addiction: we have no idea what the cost is, but whatever bill it presents at a later date, we are willing to pay with our reputations, marriages, children, jobs, health, sanity, joy, etc…
Treatment may be considerably cheaper in the end, and better value because you have a shot at life, peace, serenity, love, and gratitude.