Sex Addiction Terminology
Below are simple, clear explanations of the terminology used by people in sexual recovery in Twelve Step programs, but it is useful to anyone who is willing, honest and open around looking at their own personal sexual behavior to help determine whether of not it is healthy...
Acting Out - Committing sexual acts that you don’t want to do but are powerless to stop.
Bottom Lines - Sexual behaviors from which we abstain. To commit such behaviors is referred to as “crossing bottom lines”.
Top Lines - Positive behaviors to which aspire and that replace our former “acting out” behaviors once we are sober.
Sobriety Definition - in SLAA, SAA, SCA everyone has the freedom to determine her/his own bottom lines. In SA one of the strengths is a common bottom line that in this case is no masturbation and sex only in marriage. The primary criteria in determining bottom lines is: Can I stop a given behavior-If I cannot then addiction is present.
Abstinence -Refraining from sexual, romantic or relational bottom line behaviors.
Celibacy Period - a time of complete abstinence from all sexual behavior including masturbation and sex with a partner. This is initially designed to determine exactly what behaviors you are addicted to.
Hitting Bottom - A negative event or act that is so impactful that one becomes willing to “go to any length” to prevent similar losses.
Slips - Crossing bottom line behaviors once they have been established. Sobriety begins again at this point.
Denial - Rationalizations, justifications or any mental block that the addict uses to deflect the pain of the truth around addiction.
Sponsors - A person who has more “experience, strength and hope” in the program, who is familiar with the Steps and can be available to you when you need help.
Program Buddies - Friends who are about where you are in recovery that you feel comfortable sharing with often.
Spirituality - We define this for ourselves but a temporary definition might be-actions, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs that create and sustain healthy relationships with ourselves, others and perhaps a higher power.
The Twelve Steps - A program designed to replace the addiction by attaining a spiritual (not a religious) awakening brought on by:
• Admitting powerlessness, believing there is help and accepting it (Steps 1,2,3)
• Becoming aware of one’s inventory and sharing it (Steps 4&5)
• Becoming aware of and developing one’s character. (Steps 6&7)
• Becoming aware of one’s harms and rectifying them (Steps 8&9)
• Maintaining the spiritual awakening by personal inventory, prayer and service (Steps10, 11,12,)
Higher Power - The belief that there is a “power greater than oneself”-if only the power of the collective wisdom of the group, which can be helpful when you are powerless.
The Promises - Positive things that begin to happen in a recovering addicts life. They typically begin manifesting during the 8th & 9th step process and include, but are not limited, to freedom; happiness; serenity and unselfishness.
Meeting - A safe, anonymous gathering of addicts where experience, strength and hope is shared in order that we may all overcome our common problem.
Journaling - Many of us find comfort and stability in keeping a notebook to write down our feelings and inventory our progress.
The Slogans - Short, useful pieces of collective wisdom. Examples are: One day at a time, Easy does it, Let go and let God, Live and let live, Take care of yourself, Lighten up, Turn it over, Be gentle with yourself, H.A.L.T.-Don’t get too Hungry Angry Lonely or Tired, Keep it Simple, To Thine own Self be true, This too shall pass, There but for the grace of God go I, Act as if, First things first.
The Chip System - A way of keeping track of and celebrating sobriety time. The white chip denotes surrender to the program. The red chip marks 60 days celibacy and the blue chip notes years of sobriety or multiples thereof.
12th Stepping - Carrying the message of recovery to another sex addict. Traditionally done in pairs after sobriety is attained, we believe this act to be the highest available honor of service and not to be implemented until the preceding 11 steps have been successfully completed.
The Twelve Traditions - Rules governing our group’s behavior. Not recommended as a newcomer concern.
Intimacy - The ability to share feelings, desires, needs, thoughts, attitudes and beliefs honestly and openly with another person; with yourself; or with a higher power
Healthy Sexuality – Most of us believe that a healthy sexuality is characterized by commitment, love and intimacy.
Commitment - a willingness to stay with a partner and work through pain and problems regardless of how you may feel. There is a limit to this commitment and that is when staying with a partner is clearly detrimental to oneself spiritually.
Boundaries - There are two usages of this word. A boundary is a sexual behavior that if I participate in is unhealthy for me but which is not severe enough to constitute a slip or “crossing of bottom lines” but serves as a warning to me and probably indicates that I am not taking good enough care of myself. Common boundaries are-No intriguing, no fantasizing, and no objectifying. The second usage of this word is when I communicate with another person that they must not behave in a particular way around me. This is called boundary setting. Examples of behavior that could warrant boundary setting might be shaming, blaming or violence.
Limits - This is something I announce about myself indicating I am unable or unwilling to go any further with an activity.
Intrigue - The transmission of sexual information or energy to see if the other person is available sexually. Sexual innuendo, double entendre, sexual jokes or simply bringing the topic of sex to the conversation. In it’s more subtle forms intrigue can be accomplished with eye contact, body language or intentional contact with some one who ‘triggers’ you.
Objectifying - Viewing another person as the object of personal sexual gratification.
Fantasy - The use of memories of previous sexual experiences or the use of imagination to create sexual fantasies for the stimulation of sexual arousal. It is frequently, but not always, accompanied by masturbation.
Sex Addiction - Obsessive/compulsive sexual activity that negatively impacts other parts of the addicts’ life...or other peoples lives. The compulsiveness can be expressed in many ways. Possibilities are through the use of masturbation, promiscuity, affairs, multiple partners, anonymous sex, sex in public places, strip clubs, lingerie parlors, prostitution, child molestation, rape, pornography, x-rated bookstores, voyeurism, exhibitionism, orgies and porno theatres... but are not limited to these.
Relationship Addiction - An expression of powerlessness in the inability to leave or stay out of self-destructive relationships. The sexual or romantic aspects of the relationship may not be highlighted. It is the clinging to stay in a current relationship or the clawing to get into a new relationship that characterizes this addiction. The solution here is 12th step recovery with an emphasis on multiple, healthy, non-sexual, intimate friendships to fill the unmet needs for family that the addict experiences.
Love addiction - An obsessive/compulsive need to satisfy the desire to feel whole or complete through using the presence of another person. When there is a feeling of “oceanic one-ness” in the beloved’s presence and a corresponding sense of doom, futility, pointlessness and despair at the prospect of never “having” the love object then love addiction is present. There may be no “relationship” in the conventional sense and there may not even be sexuality present. 12th step recovery works here, too, but the emphasis needs to be on learning how to love yourself thoroughly before you love others.
Romance Addiction - An obsessive/compulsive need to be excited by romantic, though not necessarily sexual or relational, activities. Endless series of brief relationships, inability to commit, self-destructive pursuit of the manic, fantastic and chaotic “relationships” as well as well as the demand that the “ideal perfect partner” be found characterize this addiction.
Chastity - Celibacy accompanied by no fanaticizing, objectifying, intriguing, or any other activity which would arouse one’s own or another’s lust.
Recovery - Initially, the stopping of all self-destructive sexual, relational, romantic, or “love addicted” activities but finally... “recovering” our true lives...