Find the answers to the common questions we hear regarding sexual addiction and recovery.

1. Since sex is a normal part of life, can it really become an addiction?

Sex is a normal expression of love and bonding between two stable partners who love and cherish each other. When used as it is designed, sex brings two people closer. It edifies and strengthens the bond. It is the result of working to have an emotional connection, an intimacy that is made of mental, emotional, spiritual, and social connectedness. It involves the heart, mind, and soul. It makes you want to be present with that person for more than just the sexual experience. It increases the desire to be with the person with whom you have the relationship, and to sacrifice for each other as you build your life and family together. It increases respect and brings a feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment in the relationship.

Sexual addictions involve sexual behaviors, which a person cannot stop even in the face of negative consequences resulting from the behavior, including damage caused to relationships, career, spirituality, finances, legal status, and other aspects of life. It results in shame, low self-esteem, denial, blaming, anger, rationalizations, sexual anorexia, and spiritual and emotional numbing.

The field of addictions now includes what are called "process addictions," which means that a person can become addicted to food, work, high-risk activities, another person and even emotions. All addictions have similarities and are symptoms that a person is attempting to increase pleasure and avoid pain. The LifeSTAR program's position is based upon the view that if you cannot control when you start of stop a behavior and if the behavior causes serious problems for you or those close to you, then you may have become addicted. Sexual addiction and compulsive sexual behaviors represent maladaptive ways that people attempt to meet physical, emotional, and psychological needs for love, touch, relationships, and intimacy.

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2. How do I know if I have an addiction?

  • Do I frequently engage in a sexual behavior to a greater extent or for a longer period than I intended?
  • Have I made a persistent effort to overcome or reduce the behavior to no avail?
  • Do I engage in the behavior when I should be working?
  • Do I miss social and family events in order to engage in the behavior?
  • Have a stopped fulfilling my obligations at home in order to engage in the behavior?
  • Do I persist in engaging in the behavior even after experiencing negative consequences of have a threat of negative consequences that would cause major problems if they happened?
  • Do I persist in the behavior even after experiencing legal consequences as a result of something I have done?
  • Do I spend money on sexual behaviors at the risk of not paying the bills necessary to support by family?
  • Do I hide mo?
  • Do I engage in the behavior to the point of injuring myself or at the risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases?
  • Am I emotionally numb?
  • Do I favor pornography over the natural sexual relationship of my spouse?
  • Do I suffer from shame, lowered self-esteem, and a need to withdraw from those I respect?
  • Have I kept my behavior a secret from my spouse, clergy, parents, and others who may be able to help if they only knew?
  • Do I find I have wasted hours by viewing sexual material when I only meant to "have a short peek?"
  • Do I avoid church, family outings, and community socials because I feel too ashamed of the double life I am leading?

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3. How is the LifeSTAR program different from 12-step recovery groups, counseling, or other types of group therapy?

The LifeSTAR program is a phased program designed to take participants on a gentle and structured path through recovery. It shares many of the same features of 12-step programs, counseling, and group therapy such as meeting in a group setting, completing workbooks, receiving education, and processing personal experiences. Think of LifeSTAR as a comprehensive recovery approach that includes all of the best features of these three approaches packaged in one program.

Each phase has a different emphasis: Phase 1 is designed to educate, create hope, and lay a strong foundation for future recovery work. Phase 2 is task oriented and helps individuals struggling with addiction begin deeper recover work. The emphasis is on completing specific tasks that build understanding and lasting change. Phase 3 is a process group where members take what they've accomplished in the previous two phases and integrate their learning for long-term recovery. The emphasis is on healing childhood trauma, family of origin issues, and the effects of addiction.

We strongly encourage individuals to continue attending 12-step meetings and counseling as they go through the program. We believe the LifeSTAR program to be an excellent compliment to any recovery work that is already taking place.

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4. Why should a couple be involved in treatment together? What can I expect by involving my spouse? Can I attend alone?

Many partners question why they would need to attend if they don't have an addiction. Research and experience show that when a partner is included in early recovery work, the chance of saving the relationship greatly improves. As a result of being in a relationship with an individual struggling with an addiction, many partners feel isolated, confused, angry, and betrayed. The LifeSTAR program was designed to address the unique and sensitive needs of partners. Even though they attend the initial "Getting Started Workshop" together, partners do separate work form the individuals struggling with addiction. Their work focuses on the nature of addiction, understanding their own families of origin, faulty belief systems about relationships, decreasing feelings of low self-worth, and creating healthy boundaries with loved ones.

In Phases 2 and 3, partners work on improving their on awareness of how the addiction has affected their lives and relationships, helps them improve their boundaries and ability to cope with the addiction, increases their self-care and healthy services to others, and helps them learn to express emotions in a healthy way.

Recognize that the first three to six months of couple recovery are usually the most stressful. Both partners will experience a wide range of powerful feelings. There are often difficulties in the areas of communication styles, intimacy levels, sexuality, spirituality, parenting, past trauma, and finances. Identification of the sexual addiction/co-addiction systems is painful at first, but holds hope for eventual relief of the far greater pain of the addiction.

The following is a list of what to expect in the early stages:

  • Relief: The addict usually finds a great sense of relief after admitting the secret of the addiction. The end of the double life and shame may bring a premature sense of accomplishment, which needs to be reinforced by attending meetings, going to therapy, and connecting with program friends for support. Partners also feels a sense of relief at the end of secrecy and validation of their experience of pain.
  • Anger: Both partners can expect to experience anger. The revelation that their partner is a sex addict may trigger much anger mixed with legitimate hurt and betrayal for the spouse. The addict feels anger about the need to make changes as part of recover. Both partners may blame and shame the other.
  • Hope: The work being doen by both partners can bring new life and hope to the relationship. Both partners are encouraged to work in therapy, attend 12-step meetings, and group meetings.
  • Intimacy: Recovering couples begin to communicate at a more intimate level, often on issues they have never discussed before. Communication skills such as empathic listening, being respectful, and expressing vulnerability are essential elements in recovery.
  • Grief: The addict experiences pain of the loss of their "best friend", the addiction. The partner mourns the loss of the relationship as it was imagined to be. Partners often berate themselves for not having been aware sooner of the addiction.
  • Sexual issues: Sexuality has a different meaning in recovery. The goal becomes intimacy rather then intensity. Abstinence, and later the frequency, types, and quality of sexual contacts, are issues that the recovering couple must address. Past sexual relationships as well as possible past child sexual abuse of either partner need to be explored. Where other sexual partners were involved, the possibility of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases must be faced early. Couples who continue to learn about healthy sexuality will do better as they address these sexual issues.
  • Spirituality: Couples who grow spiritually together have hope that a power greater than themselves is also involved in the re-creating of their relationship.

If you are single or involved with someone who doesn't want to attend, we strongly encourage you to attend the program. Since the group is designed to meet the unique needs of partners and addicts, you will receive the help you are looking for

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5. How long does the LifeSTAR program last?

The Phase 1 "Getting Started Workshop" lasts 6 weeks.

The Phase 2 "Recovery Group" lasts 4-6 months, depending on the size of the group and their pace.

The Phase 3 "Advanced Group" lasts a minimum of 1 year.

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6. Can I just attend one phase or do I have to go through all three?

Even though each participate must complete Phase 1 to attend other phases, attending the other two phases is optional. We find that a majority of participants continue on to Phases 2 and 3.

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7. Do I really need to be in a group to overcome pornography or other sexually compulsive behaviors?

This is a common question, as many individuals who struggle with addiction would prefer to do their recovery work privately. We find that individuals who participate in the group process make changes more quickly and have longer lasting results.

Group work is unique because it challenges many of the core beliefs that plague individuals struggling with addiction. For example, many individuals who struggle with sexual addiction believe that if people really knew their secret, they would reject them. Attending a group disproves this belief, as group members actually deepen their connection to each other the longer they attend the group.

Eliminating unhealthy core beliefs, such as the one mentioned, is the main goal to overcoming a pornography/sexual addiction. Group work is a tried and proven method for helping individuals to accomplish this goal. Although it is initially awkward and uncomfortable to enter a group setting, virtually all participants report feeling grateful for the experience.

All LifeSTAR groups are closed, meaning that new individuals are not added without the consent of the members. This ensures safety and predictability in the process.

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8. How much will I have to disclose in the program?

Only as much as you feel comfortable disclosing. We believe that secrets are the lifeblood of addiction. Therefore working to disclose your secrets in a safe and confidential environment is an integral part of recovery. In Phase 1, you are not required to disclose any details about your addiction or your situation. If you want to share your story, there will be opportunities to share, but it is not required. In Phase 2, you will have a chance to tell your story in more detail and seek support from the other group members.

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9. Do insurance companies cover this program?

We do not bill insurance for the LifeSTAR program. If you are interested in using your insurance, you will be required to pay for the LifeSTAR program out of pocket and we can assist you in seeking reimbursement form your insurance carrier. most insurance companies won't cover the Phase 1 "Getting Started Workshop" as it's not considered traditional group therapy. However, Phases 2 and 3 are considered group therapy and may be covered through your insurance.

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10. Can I really be helped? Is there hope?

Yes, there is help available. As the research on addictions progresses, treatment facilities and therapists across the nation are being trained to recognize and treat sexual addictions. LifeSTAR is a specialized program for treating sexual addictions. If you are interested in finding therapists and treatment centers for locations throughout the United States, click here.

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