Finding Help as a Sex Addict Is Not So Easy

Admitting that you are a sex addict is not an easy thing to do. There is a lot of shame wrapped up in that statement. It is hard to say aloud even to yourself, let alone to someone else.

When I first sought help, I was embarrassed and afraid to admit my problems, not just to my family and friends, but to counselors and professionals as well. That shame became even worse when I realized that there was no one within a few hundred miles of where I lived who was trained to offer help for my problem.

Finding quality treatment for sex addiction, whether you are the addict, or the partner of one, is extremely difficult.  It is not hopeless though. There are options for those looking for treatment for sex addiction and in some areas there is treatment readily available.  For example, there are close to 200 certified sex addiction therapists (CSAT) in California.

But in other areas of the country things are not so simple. There is not one CSAT in my entire state, not one person who specializes in my issue. It took me about 20 years of acting out with destructive sexual behavior before I sought help, and when I finally did it seemed that I had nowhere to turn. Things felt hopeless.

I was at a point that I could no longer pretend that things were OK. My marriage was shattered. I had lost my job and my home. I was involved in three or four different relationships at the same time. My high came from having multiple sexual partners and lying to them all. This wasn’t about the sex; it was about control and power. But even when my life was falling apart because of my sexual behavior, I didn’t stop. I just kept going deeper into addiction.

I saw five or six therapists over the course of a year and told them what was going on. The closest I got to getting help locally was an addiction specialist who told me that he didn’t know much about it, but would be willing to learn as much as he could and work with me.

‘Astounding’ Lack of Education

Before Timothy Lee became the founder and director of New York Pathways, he was an active sex addict who struggled to find effective treatment. He told me, “I tried to describe what was going on to therapists and some of them would tell me what I was doing was normal; the lack of education out there is astounding.” Now Lee is on the other side of the fence helping addicts recover.  New York Pathways treats about 100 addicts a week.

I had the same issue; some male therapists would insinuate that any guy would want to do what I was doing.  I spoke to a local therapist who preferred to remain nameless about this issue. Although she advertises that she treats sex addiction, she told me she had never encountered a client with sex addiction, or at least one who felt comfortable talking about it, and that she had no training in the issue.

She told me, “It is possible that I have worked with someone who had sex addiction, but if so, I didn’t know about it. This could largely be due to my lack of screening. Sex addiction is not given as much attention in the assessment process as alcohol or drug addiction. I always ask new clients how much alcohol they drink, and we explore their relationship with it. I ask about cigarettes. I ask about caffeine. I never ask new clients if they engage in compulsive sexual behavior or have a sexual preoccupation that adversely affects their life.”

I finally found a counselor a two-hour drive away who specialized in sex addiction. She was knowledgeable and it was nice to have someone validate what was going on. But after a few sessions of listening to the crazy things I was doing, she told me I needed to go to rehab and as quickly as I could.

So now I needed to figure out where to go and how to pay for it.  I started by trying an outpatient program in Los Angeles called the Sexual Recovery Institute. This was an all-day intensive treatment, but I did not stay at the facility at night. I stayed in a hotel room down the street.

Finding Common Ground

At this point I finally began to feel hopeful. I was around other addicts and working with a staff that understood what was going on with me. Up to this point, I had never met anyone else who identified as a sex addict.

We showed up around 9 in the morning and spent the day having groups and individual sessions. My individual counselor was excellent. It was the first time I had met with someone who really understood my issues.

After my two weeks, the staff pushed me toward inpatient rehab even harder than my therapist had, so a few weeks later I wound up at Keystone. Even though I ended up in rehab, I am still glad I tried outpatient at SRI first. The treatment there was very helpful for me.

While rehabs for sex addiction are extremely helpful, they also are expensive. There are 10 to 15 facilities in the United States that offer inpatient treatment for sex addiction; some of the most well-known are The Meadows in Arizona, The Life Healing Center in New Mexico and Gratitude in Mississippi. Others are listed here. Many offer private rooms, groups facilitated by experts in sex addiction and therapy around the clock.

I spoke to Deborah Schiller, Gratitude’s program director. She says the therapy there is world class, highly reputable, and on the cutting edge of sexual addiction treatment. Additionally, she said, the Gratitude program accepts all insurance plans and they are in-network with several major payers. However, Schiller acknowledged it can be challenging when some insurance company policies determine this particular type of treatment is not medically necessary.

Being in rehab isolated me from my addictive behaviors, which in itself was a blessing. For me, the most important aspect of rehab may have been to just get me out of what I was doing so I could step back and really see how bad things had become.

We started our day with a client-run group, and then continued to have group therapy run by the staff for the rest of the day. It was unique, for all of us, to be someplace where the staff actually understood our issues.  All of us felt shame for who we were and what we had done, but we also felt pride for being there, and for trying, at last, to get help.

Sexual addiction treatment is still new. There are many people who don’t understand what it is like to have this problem, or how to treat it. But help is out there, and it does work. One just needs to have the desire to find it.

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