From the SA White Book:
Many of us felt inadequate, unworthy, alone, and afraid. Our insides never matched what we saw on the outsides of others.
Early on, we came to feel disconnected-from parents, from peers, from ourselves. We tuned out with fantasy and masturbation. We plugged in by drinking in the pictures, the images, and pursuing the objects of our fantasies. We lusted and wanted to be lusted after.
We became true addicts: sex with self, promiscuity, adultery, dependency relationships, and more fantasy. We got it through the eyes; we bought it, we sold it, we traded it, we gave it away. We were addicted to the intrigue, the tease, the forbidden. The only way we knew to be free of it was to do it. “Please connect with me and make me whole!” we cried with outstretched arms. Lusting after the Big Fix, we gave away our power to others.
This produced guilt, self-hatred, remorse, emptiness, and pain, and we were driven ever inward, away from reality, away from love, lost inside ourselves.
Our habit made true intimacy impossible. We could never know real union with another because we were addicted to the unreal. We went for the “chemistry,” the connection that had the magic, because it by-passed intimacy and true union. Fantasy corrupted the real; lust killed love.
First addicts, then love cripples, we took from others to fill up what was lacking in ourselves. Conning ourselves time and again that the next one would save us, we were really losing our lives.
From pages 39 – 44 of the SA White Book
Lust— The Force Behind the Addiction
What’s So Wrong with Sex?
We hear this question often, and it was one of our favorite expressions of denial that we had a problem. We could ask similar questions for other addictions, the workaholic, for example. What’s so wrong with honest labor? Or with compulsive overeating: What’s wrong with it? We have to eat to live! Or with use of alcohol and drugs: What’s wrong with a little help to relax and escape? And finally, with the sexaholic: What’s so wrong with sex? It’s God-given! People ask similar questions about the use of television, movies, music, etc. Usually those of us trying to rationalize our addictions are the ones coming up with these responses. When the questions are asked in such a manner, it is easy to see how we can be so misled. And sex, perhaps, carries the most confusion.
We find it confusing and difficult, if not impossible, to see the physical manifestations of our addiction as cause enough for surrender. Knowing we must stop, we go to great lengths to find reasons for quitting:
“I might get VD, or the wife will leave me.”
“I’ll have a heart attack if I keep on eating like this.”
“I just know this weed’ll give me cancer sooner or later.”
“I’ll wind up with hypertension if I keep on working like this.”
“I’ll get cirrhosis of the liver and brain damage if I don’t stop drinking.”
“If I don’t unglue myself from this Tube I’m going to turn into a vegetable.”
Such reasons are seldom enough to make the true addict stop because they deal only with externals. The clue here is that we must differentiate between the physical action and the spiritual action (attitude) taking place at the same time in the same individual. Because he lives inside his attitudes, the individual doesn’t see them; he sees only the physical activity and thinks he’s feeling guilty for that. It is truly puzzling to him. Hence the confusion on the proper motivation for wanting to stop any given addiction. When we look only at the activity itself, most of us find no sufficient motive to stop, but if we can see its spiritual consequences, this can help us despair of it sooner and surrender. Thus, we must look behind the physical to see what’s really at work in our sexaholism. But first, let’s take a look at lust, for it is this concept that serves as a bridge between the physical and the spiritual aspects of our sexaholism.
Why in Step One do we say we are powerless over lust instead of sex? Is not some form of sex what we are addicted to? Yes, we answer, but our problem is not simply sex, just as in compulsive overeating the problem is not simply food. Eating and sex are natural functions; the real problem in both of these addictions seems to be what we call lust-an attitude demanding that a natural instinct serve unnatural desires.
When we try to use food or sex to reduce isolation, loneliness, insecurity, fear, tension, or to cover our emotions, make us feel alive, help us escape, or satisfy our God hunger, we create an unnatural appetite that misuses and abuses the natural instinct. It is not only more intense than the natural but becomes something totally different. Eating and sex enter a different dimension; they possess an unnatural spiritual component.
The addiction is thus to lust and not merely to the substance or physical act. Lust-the attitude itself-becomes the controlling factor in the addiction.
This may be why people exhibit lust in more than one area. Often, those of us addicted to substances or forms of behavior discover we are also addicted to negative attitudes and emotions.
“I remember that when I came off lust, alcohol, and tranquilizers, resentment burst forth like a dammed-up volcano. I remember thinking that controlling lust must be like trying to control a piece of jello; you press in here and it bulges out there. Or like trying to rout a gopher; you plug up one tunnel only to have the beast go to work in another.”
People may not be allergic to food and sex in the sense some people are allergic to pollen, strawberries, or cats, but we do become “allergic” to lust for food and sex. Misusing the natural instinct of sex for an unnatural end over and over again increasingly sensitizes us to the triggers of that association, until a simple thought or look elicits the compulsion.
For the sexaholic, lust is toxic. This is why in recovery, the real problem is spiritual and not merely physical. This is why change of attitude is so crucial.
What Is Lust?
A Personal Point of View
It’s pretty tough to get a handle on it, but here’s what lust looks like in my life. It’s a slave master that wants to control my sex for its own ends in its own way whenever it wants. And it’s like mental-spiritual noise that distorts and perverts
sex, much as a raucous radio interference distorts a lovely melody.
Lust is not sex, and it is not physical. It seems to be a screen of self-indulgent fantasy separating me from reality-either the reality of my own person in sex with myself or the reality of my spouse. It works the same way whether with a girlfriend, a prostitute, or my wife. It thus negates identity, either mine or the other person’s, and is anti-real, working against my own reality, working against me.
I can’t have true union with my wife while lust is active because she as a person really doesn’t matter; she’s even in the way; she’s merely the sexual instrument. And I can’t have true union within myself while I’m splitting myself having sex with myself. That fantasy partner I’ve conjured up in my mind is really part of me! With lust, the sex act is not the result of personal union; sex doesn’t flow from that union. Sex energized by lust makes true union impossible.
The nature of the lust-noise interference I superimpose over sex can be many things: memories, fantasies ranging from the erotic to revenge or even violence. Or, it can be the mental image of a single fetish or of some other person. Seen in this light, lust can exist apart from sex. Indeed, there are those who say they are obsessed with lust who can no longer have sex. I see my lust as a force that apparently infuses and distorts my other instincts as well: eating, drinking, working, anger…. I know I have a lust to resent; it seems as strong as sexual lust ever was.
In my experience, lust is not physical; it is not even strong sexual desire. It seems to be a spiritual force that distorts my instincts; and whenever let loose in one area, seems to want to infect other areas as well. And being nonsexual, lust crosses all lines, including gender. When energized by lust, my sexual fantasies or acting out can go in any direction, shaped by whatever I experience. Thus, the more I indulge in sexual lust, the less truly sexual I become.
Therefore, my basic problem as a recovering sexaholic is to live free from my lust. When I entertain it in any form, sooner or later it tries to express itself in every form. And lust becomes the indicator of not only what I do, but what I am.
But there is great hope here. By surrendering lust and its acting out each time I’m tempted by it, and then experiencing God’s life-giving deliverance from its power, recovery and healing are taking place, and wholeness is being restored-true union within myself first, then with others and the Source of my life.
Lust Is ….
Not being able to say no
Constantly being in dangerous sexual situations
Turning my head as if sex-starved all the time
Attraction only to beautiful people
Use of erotic media
Being addicted to the partner as I would be to a drug
Losing my identity in the partner
Obsession with the romantic-going for the “chemistry”
The desire to make the other person lust
Another Personal Perspective
Lust is the most important thing in my life; it takes priority over me.
Captive to lust, I cannot be myself.
Lust makes me its slave; it kills my freedom; it kills me.
Lust always wants more; lust creates more lust.
Lust is jealous; it wants to possess me.
Lust makes me self-obsessed; it drives me into myself.
Lust makes sex impossible without lust.
Lust destroys the ability to love; it kills love.
Lust destroys the ability to receive love; it kills me
Lust creates guilt-unavoidably; and guilt has to be expiated.
Lust makes part of me want to die because I can’t bear what I’m doing to myself and my powerlessness over it. Increasingly, I direct this guilt and self-hatred inward and outward.
Lust is destructive to me and those around me.
Lust kills the spirit; my spirit is me. Lust kills me!