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Becoming Pure Again

By Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D.

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Sex Addiction Recovery Tips from Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D.

Becoming Pure Again

Abstaining from compulsive behavior becomes easirer and easier over time. I recently completed psychotherapy with a client named Rosco after nine months of working together, and it was interesting to hear him describe how temptation’s power over him had gradually decreased throughout that period. In some ways, the spiritual healing from sexual indulgences is akin to waiting for the body to metabolize a dangerous drug we have ingested. The chemical has a certain half-life, and it is only gradually, over an extended period of time that the toxic substance is purged from the system. When we first abstain from viewing and fantasizing about powerful sexual images, it may seem as though we will forever be bombarded by mental pictures and desires that threaten to pull us back into full-fledged indulgence. However, if we are patient and willing to delay gratification, we will eventually experience the increasing freedom that Rosco discovered as he persisted in his abstinence.

For abstinence to be the kind that can purge your spiritual system effectively, it must be complete. Images, ideas and temptations may continue to come to mind, but our goal must be to abstain from pursuing them at all, even mentally. I have seen clients harbor a final vestige of their compulsive behavior, desiring to give up only the most damaging components and practices. I have never seen these attempts succeed: the practice is like leaving a clump of dandelions in your lawn, which always seem to very quickly spread their seeds accross the entire yard again. Slips and relapses are often preceded by rationalizations like “This is a pretty mainstream website” or “It’s only an advertisement and not pornography.” Those who keep looking for a little wiggle room, who want to enjoy some of their old ways, only in smaller doses or less frequently in order to avoid paying the high price they exacted, inevitably seem to wiggle their way back to a full-fledged, life-engulfing problem.

Those who succeed are typically those who treat a little foray back into the addictive behavior like a recovering alcoholic treats taking a sip of booze: as a dangerous practice that represents an unacceptable return to their old ways. The alcoholic who is truly committed to recovery finds ways to avoid alcohol, not to justify it. Likewise, the recovering sex addict who is wise does not look for “freebies” like turning their dream from the night before into a couple of minutes of fantasizing first thing in the morning or counting slowly as he keeps the “letter of” the three second rule.

Mark Chamberlain, Ph.D. is Salt Lake City-based clinical psychologist specializing in the treatment of sexual addiction. He can be reached at 801-564-7566. His offices are located at 1258 West South Jordan Parkway, Suite 202, South Jordan, UT and in Davis County at 1785 East 1450 South #233 Clearfield, UT. Mark is author of Wanting More: The Challenge of Enjoyment in the Age of Addiction and coauthor of Willpower Is Not Enough: Why We Don’t Succeed at Change. He specializes in the treatment of addictions and compulsive behavior. Contact Dr. Chamberlain to try out his eWorkbook, “Turning from Other Dependencies to God.”

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