A primary and critical step in beginning recovery from sex and love addiction is identifying our bottom-line behaviors – those activities from which we must refrain in order to attain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wholeness. A change in our behavior – stopping the addictive pattern – one day at a time, marks the beginning of abstinence from compulsive and destructive acting out.
The physical, mental, emotional, and often spiritual upheaval which generally accompanies the release of our addictive pattern is called “withdrawal”. Whether our craving is for sex, romance, or relationships, whether this craving is constant or periodic, not satisfying such a craving often comes as a shock to our system. The word “withdrawal” typically conjures up an image of substance abusers who are dependent upon their “drug of choice” to alter moods and/or escape from the present moment. Like drugs, sex, and love addiction can become all-consuming, pushing us toward greater and greater risk to our physical health, our emotional well-being, our sanity, and our very life itself.
Times of withdrawal can be uncomfortable for many of us. Our bodies go through unexpected physical changes; our emotions hit highs and lows we never imagined possible. We feel, perhaps for the first time ever, the void that we had previously sought to fill with our addiction(s).
The Experience of Withdrawal
Abstinence from acting out on bottom-line behaviors opens us to the vulnerability we have desperately sought to avoid. This vulnerability is experienced differently by each of us. The resulting withdrawal is sometimes recognized first by its symptoms:

  1. A craving to act out.
  2. Inexplicable aches and pain
  3. Physical illness or exhaustion
  4. Switch to a new addiction(s)
  5. Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  6. General self-doubt
  7. Desperation and fear
  8. Suicidal thoughts
  9. Desire to isolate
  10. Obsessive thinking
  11. Sadness, depression, or despair
  12. Dreams of acting out
  13. Emotional highs and lows
  14. Irritability, anger, or rage
  15. Preoccupation with fantasy
  16. Confusion or trouble concentrating
If we aren’t acting out, then what are we to do?

Sometimes, we just breathe. It may be all we can do, for the moment. Reciting the Serenity Prayer has helped many of us pass that critical moment when we are tempted by our addiction. A phone call to a sponsor or other program member can help, as can reading an S.L.A.A. pamphlet, or Chapter Five of the basic text, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, where the experience of withdrawal is discussed in depth. Reflecting on the Twelve Steps can help us bring the focus back to the solution, instead of being stuck in the problem.
We found that the most healing antidote to the gnawing pain of our struggles and doubts was to turn over any questions concerning the outcome of our withdrawal to God, or to whatever Higher Power we felt was helping us to abstain from our old patterns.

Suggestions to help with “Withdrawal”:

  1. Don’t act out – just for today, this hour, this moment – no matter what! IT WILL PASS.
  2. Attend S.L.A.A. Meetings often.
  3. Call a program friend or your Sponsor on a daily basis.
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Set aside a time of prayer each morning and ask “Help me to stay away from _______ for today.”
  6. Set aside a time of thanks each morning or night.
  7. Start a meditation practice.
  8. Take special care of yourself: exercise, drink water, eat healthy food, get enough rest, and find things you enjoy doing.

You might be thinking, “No Way! It’s not worth it!” But the truth is, it is worth it. YOU are worth it! And you are not alone.