Dear #TruePrincesses! Today let’s discuss “what is sex addiction?” We will differentiate between sex addiction signs and symptoms, answer the question “what is a sex addict?” and talk about my own addiction story, as well as my experience with Sex Addicts Anonymous.
God created sex to be enjoyed by a man and a woman in the context of their marriage. I was sleeping around since 16 and diagnosed with sex addiction in 2014. Let me share what I’ve learned on my journey. I hope that my story will help you if you’re struggling with sexual temptations today.
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The term “sex addiction” describes sexual acting out in such a way that makes the person doing it feel powerless. The behavior leads to health issues, relational trouble, career risks, financial losses, and other undesired consequences.
I behaved in an out-of-control way sexually, and the consequences were severe. I will share my personal story in detail here a little bit later.
First, I want to explain what being addicted to sex is all about, especially given how many people laugh when they first hear the phrase “sexual addiction.”
Yes, some people laugh when I talk about it and they can’t even comprehend the devastation of this disease.
I couldn’t comprehend it either, so I understand how people may be completely ignorant.
That’s why I’m taking so much time to talk openly and vulnerably about my own problems with sexual addiction, my own denial about it, my own causes of this disease, and how I deal with this addiction.
What is sex addiction and what are its symptoms and signs? As we begin discussing this, remember: multiple symptoms must occur simultaneously to indicate sex addiction.
When specific behavioral patterns inflict on you significant distress and disrupt your life, you might be struggling with addiction.
Just so you know, I refused to deal with my sex addiction issues for a long time. I was in denial, refusing to face the possibility of being called a sex addict.
RELATED: What is a Sex Addict?
The unspeakable guilt and shame I felt due to my lifestyle were too much for me to bear. I liked thinking of myself as a “good person who had it together.”
I had nothing “together” though, I was broken and I was sinking in my own confusion, powerlessness, guilt, and shame. I was sick to my stomach from what I was doing, yet, I couldn’t stop doing it.
I was powerless, and my sex addiction was powerful.
I was suffering from sexual addiction, yet I chose to remain ignorant about it, pretending like everything was ok. I was in disarray, feeling lost and distressed.
I was not ok.
Definition of Addiction
Before talking about sex addiction specifically, let’s first define what addiction is in general.
Addictions lead to an inability to:
- Stay away from the addictive substance or behavior
- Practice self-control and set healthy boundaries
- See how the behavior is causing problems
- Produce an adequate emotional response
Over time, addictions can seriously interfere with your daily life.
People experiencing addictions are also prone to cycles of relapse and remissions. Addictions typically worsen over time leading to permanent health complications and serious consequences like STD, bankruptcy, divorce, unemployment, loss of child custody, homelessness, or mental health issues.
What Is Sex Addiction?
The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH) is a non-profit multidisciplinary organization dedicated to promoting sexual health.
Here’s its definition of sexual addiction referred to as hypersexuality:
Hypersexual disorder is a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior, despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it.SASH
When the obsessive sexual behavior continues for six months or more, it may lead to a significant impairment of overall functioning in such areas of life as family, career, self-care, hobbies, financial and relational responsibilities, and mental health.
My sexual addiction impaired my functioning to the point of jeopardizing my career, mental and physical health, and my relationships with friends. More on this later.
Sexual addiction is a condition in which you can’t manage your sexual behavior. Persistent sexual thoughts affect your ability to work, maintain relationships, and fulfill your daily obligations.
There were days when I simply stayed in bed, had sex, slept, had more sex, slept, and craved more sex. There were many times I forgot to eat and completely disregarded my responsibilities as an adult, such as taxes, for example, cooking, cleaning, laundry, paying bills, and attending the meetings scheduled on the calendar in advance. I depended on sex to live. That’s why one of the names of this addiction is “sexual dependency.”
What else is this disease called?
The Five Sex Addiction Synonyms
- Sexual dependency
- Compulsive sexual behavior
Typical behaviors of sex addiction include compulsive masturbation, persistent use of pornography, exhibitionism, voyeurism, extreme acts of lewd sex, and failure to resist sexual impulses.
Let’s talk about the signs and symptoms of sexual addiction.
A sign can be observed externally. A symptom is felt internally.
Sex Addiction Signs
Sex addiction signs are what others can witness from observing your behavior and lifestyle. Let me share from my experience.
By the way…
Sexual addiction is not something people typically share. This disease is extremely secretive due to the guilt and shame associated with it. I share with you my story to give God all the glory.
Anyone can suffer from sex addiction, and at the same time, on the outside, they may look completely ok. If you’re the one suffering from this disease, you may even persuade yourself that you’re ok. Denial is our brain’s natural defense against trauma. Realizing that you’re a sex addict is very traumatic, yet living in denial is way more traumatic, from my experience.
Sometimes, sex addiction signs are noticeable to people around you but not you. It’s because this disease causes you to live in a state of mental fog and confusion. You are so preoccupied with your temptations that you have no time, energy, or courage to reflect on your lifestyle.
That is why I say “I was dead and God brought me back to life” through Jesus once I fell on my knees and asked Him to come into my heart and save me.
I’ll share the details of how it happened.
First, let’s discuss sex addiction signs.
The signs of sex addiction are external and observable.
The Ten Signs of Sex Addiction:
- Repeated compulsive pursuit of sexual activities
- Obsessive sexual conversations and fantasies
- Compulsive relationships with multiple partners and strangers
- Deceptive lying to cover up the shameful behaviors
- Abnormal preoccupation with sexual ideation during work hours
- High tolerance for just about any sexual activity and need for more
- Genuine promises to stop the behavior broken over and over again
- Careless pursuit of sexual satisfaction despite any dangers or risks
- Candid expression of remorse and guilt after the sexual behavior
- Apparent withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop the behavior
That’s what others can see and observe in your behavior and lifestyle as it relates to the sexual addiction you’re battling.
Later in this article, I will explain how all ten of the above signs showed up in my personal life as I was suffering from sex addiction.
We must also discuss what’s called sexual fetishism.
Extreme Sex Addiction: Sexual Fetishism (Paraphilia)
Paraphilia (previously known as “sexual perversion” and “sexual deviation”) is the experience of intense sexual arousal to atypical objects, situations, fantasies, behaviors, or individuals.
Such attraction is often labeled as “sexual fetishism.“
When sex addiction manifests as a paraphilia, you experience severe distress, functional impairment, dangerous harm.
You may harm yourself or others.
There are eight major types of paraphilic disorders, and it is common to have several of them at the same time.
The Eight Major Types of Paraphilic Disorders:
Voyeuristic Disorder – the act of observing others in sexual activity. This may also include observing naked people or people who are getting undressed.
Exhibitionistic Disorder – exposure of genitals in public, which does not include urinating.
Frotteuristic Disorder – touching and rubbing one’s genitals against a person who has not consented to this behavior.
Sexual Masochism Disorder – engaging in humiliation, bondage, or suffering at the hands of another, despite the risk of death by erotic asphyxiation (choking).
Sexual Sadism Disorder – inflicting humiliation, bondage, or suffering on another person.
Pedophilic Disorder – sexual focus on children.
Fetishistic Disorder – using nonliving objects, such as clothing, shoes, or leather, for sexual arousal, includes eroticism over non-genital body parts such as toes or hair, does not include the use of vibrators or women’s clothing when used for cross-dressing.
Transvestic Disorder – cross-dressing for sexual arousal.
Sex addiction signs cause your family and friends much pain because they can see your problem but you can’t.
My friend Candace was the one who first brought this humiliating issue to my attention. I was embarrassed and upset but, thanks to her, that was the beginning of my journey of healing and recovery.
While you’re likely unable to observe your own actions with self-awareness, reflect on your lifestyle objectively, or change your direction, you are able to pay attention to the symptoms of sex addiction, which are internal.
Sex Addiction Symptoms
Risk-taking for the sake of sexual pleasure is the number one symptom of sex addiction. You find yourself willing to have sex in parking lots, in public bathrooms (I did that), in the car while driving (I did that as well), in stores (I did that overseas), in public swimming pools (I did that at some luxury hotels in exotic countries), in your family home where you can easily be caught, at work where you can lose everything, etc.
Studies have demonstrated a strong link between sexual addiction and risk-taking.
The risks I took for the sake of satisfying my sexual temptations were many.
I sacrificed my professional reputation, close friendships, personal integrity, financial stability, physical wellbeing, and mental health. I sacrificed my dreams of a peaceful and joyful life because I hated the life I lived and I always wanted a vacation from myself, but anywhere I went, there I was again! There was no way to escape me – ever.
The 15 Sexual Addiction Symptoms:
- Inability to contain sexual urges and respect the boundaries of others
- Feeling of detachment leading to sexual activity not being emotionally satisfying
- Obsession with seducing people for the sake of sex
- Feelings of guilt and shame
- Awareness that the urges are uncontrollable
- Pattern of recurrent failure to resist sexual impulses
- Engagement in sexual behaviors for prolonged periods of time
- Attempts and failure to stop the behavior
- Energy investment allocated to obtaining sex, being sexual, or recovering from a sexual experience is significant
- Rage resulting from an individual becoming distressed, anxious, restless, and possibly violent if unable to satisfy sexual temptations
- Preoccupation with sex that is all-consuming and is used as a way to escape reality
- Escalation of uncontrollable sexual temptations over time as they become riskier and more intense to chase the desired sexual thrill
- Inability to fulfill obligations, for example, missing work due to sexual indulgence or not paying bills because of sexual pursuits
- Withdrawal felt intensely and painfully when trying to stop
- Dominance of sexual pursuits in an individual’s mind
That’s what a sex addict feel on the inside. That’s what the internal battle is all about, even when it is not apparent to anyone on the outside and everything looks ok.
This is the very foundation of feeling powerless when facing your own genuine desire to stop your unwanted sexual behavior, yet, being unable to do so.
When sexual temptations get in the way of living life as a productive member of your community, you are addicted to sex. You are at the point of feeling powerless and need help.
I needed help.
I needed to be saved from myself and my own destructive behavior.
That’s how I met my savior – Jesus Christ.
I will share with you here later a poem I wrote about that divine encounter.
Now, let’s discuss the activities associated with sex addiction.
Sex Addiction Activities
I’m often asked by women: “Anna, maybe you never had an addiction? Maybe you were just looking for love?”
That’s why many sex addiction support groups are called “Love and Sex Addiction Support Group” because it’s virtually the same thing.
Women who ask me these questions often have issues with their own sexual behavior, which they avoid thinking about, but they feel good saying they are in pursuit of true love since love is “natural” and it appears to be everyone’s need.
Let me clarify: there are specific activities of sex addiction, and when combined with the symptoms we discussed earlier, the resulting behavior and lifestyle lead to “sex addiction,” whether we admit it or choose to be in denial.
Here are those activities.
The Eight Activities of Sexual Addiction:
- Compulsive masturbation demanding multiple orgasms
- Multiple affairs, sexual partners, and one-night stands
- Persistent use of pornography, even at work or while driving
- Practicing unsafe sex, even with random partners or strangers
- Cybersex, phone sex, text sex, etc
- Visiting prostitutes or practicing prostitution
- Exhibitionism (a mental condition characterized by the compulsion to display your genitals in public)
- Voyeurism (the practice of gaining sexual pleasure from watching others when they are naked or engaged in sexual activities)
The activities associated with your specific sex addiction define its type. There are 11 types of sexual addiction.
Sex Addiction Types
The resource about my addiction that helped me a lot was a book by Dr. Patrick Carnes entitles “Don’t Call It Love.”
According to the book, there are 11 types of powerlessness, which are the different types of sex addiction.
The 11 Types of Sexual Addiction:
- Fantasy Sex – thinking and obsessing about sexual adventures
- Seductive Role Sex – having several relationships at the same time, using seductive behaviors inappropriately
- Anonymous Sex – engaging in sex with anonymous partners, cruising parking lots, bars, parks, restrooms in hopes to find sex adventures, participating in group sex, or having one-night stands
- Paying for Sex – paying for sexting, sex calls, or actual sex
- Trading Sex – making porn films or photographs, exposing yourself for hire or from the stage, getting paid for sexual activity
- Voyeuristic Sex – reading or watching porn, patronizing adult shows or stores, sexualizing people in public places
- Exhibitionist Sex – exposing yourself in public places, such as parks, shops, schoolyards, streets, beaches, or even hospitals
- Intrusive Sex – making inappropriate sexual advances, exploiting people for sex, and forcing sex on a person
- Pain Exchange – receiving or giving physical harm or enduring pain during sex to intensify sexual pleasure
- Object Sex – masturbating with objects, crossdressing to increase sexual pleasure, using fetishes, or having sex with animals
- Sex with Children – sharing inappropriate sexual information with children, exposing children to sex, having sex with children, or watching child pornography
I struggled with fantasy sex, seductive role sex, voyeuristic sex, intrusive sex, and object sex.
My mother struggled with number 11 and regularly exposed me to pornographic films and literature, to adult sexual behavior at home, to sexual conversations, to naked adults, and she touched me inappropriately, as well as required me touch her in sexual ways.
All this eventually leads to very negative consequences.
There are five types of sex addiction consequences.
Sex Addiction Consequences
Sex addiction is an illness. If untreated, it can leave the individual with intense feelings of guilt and shame to low self-esteem and result in anxiety, depression, or even suicidal ideation.
The Five Consequences of Sexual Addiction:
- Social – impaired family relationships, divorce, unemployment
- Physical – common STDs or unintended pregnancies
- Emotional – anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation
- Legal – arrests for soliciting sex, sexual harassment, sex in public
- Financial – loss of wages or profits due to the impact of sex addiction
The biggest consequence of this disease for me was self-condemnation. I had to work really hard to forgive myself for my past.
RELATED: I Am Forgiven
I pursued sex due to feeling low, then I’d fulfill my sexual desires and feel even worse, so I’d look for more sex to feel better, and that would lead to feeling worse, and on and on.
Sex addiction is the symptom of the vicious cycle of self-hatred, self-condemnation, and self-loathing taking place on the inside while sexual acting out takes place on the outside.
The only one who can interrupt it for you is Jesus.
He doesn’t just give you mercy canceling all your debt and shame.
Jesus blesses you with grace beyond expectations making you a child of God and giving you a new identity, new heart, and new life.
Addicted to sexual pursuits can be anyone.
Sex addiction does not discriminate.
Anyone can be a sex addict.
What Is a Sex Addict?
First and foremost, a sex addict is a human being with a traumatic past and the present in which this person feels powerless and possessed by sexual temptations.
A sex addict can be either a woman or a man.
There are no educational, demographical, or geographical barriers to sex addiction. It can happen to anyone.
However, I didn’t know it, so the label ‘sex addict” sounded devastating and humiliating to me because I thought that I was better than that.
Let me tell you a story.
My employer had an Employee Assistance Program. Through the EAP, I had access to therapy.
I remember having this trifold brochure with the number to call and the list of services offered by EPA. I looked at it so often! I kept it in my then-new Prius, and one day I gathered up all my courage and called the scary number.
A woman on the other end was friendly, yet, I was unable to say the words “I am a sex addict.” The phrase wasn’t coming out.
So, I just asked her this question: “Ma’am, can someone like me really be a sex addict? I’m a good person and I graduated from four colleges!”
There were a few moments of silence on the other end of the line.
I can only imagine the shock the lady experienced from my arrogance and ignorance. I thought only “those others” who are “not good” could possibly be called “a sex addict.”
The truth is this: an educated, well-spoken, church-going person who earns six-figure income and volunteers every Saturday can be a sex addict.
So, what is a sex addict and how do you know if you’re maybe one?
You live a double-life. You might be cheating and lying about where you are or what you’re doing or how you spend money. If the truth is that you have sexual secrets, which you refuse to share with anyone due to guilt and shame, if you figure out how to spend Easter with two different men (I’ve done that), then you have to lie to everyone constantly just to stay afloat, and you obviously have a huge behavioral and lifestyle issue due to your sexual temptations.
You exploit people. You might come across as a good woman. You might be volunteering at a charity and giving motivational speeches to inspire positive social change and all that… Yet, when it comes to sex, you could care less about people and you’re willing to manipulate and exploit them for the sake of satisfying your sexual desires. That’s a clear sign that you need help.
Your life is a drama. Sex is your number one priority. Everything else is a mess: your career, finances, health, chores, taxes, family, and your headspace of course. You might manage to stay employed, yet, you’re broke. You miss your period, call friends in a panic attack about potentially being pregnant (all the time), and you get tested for STDs as often as your girlfriends go grocery-shopping (because you disregard condoms in the moment of sexual pursuits). If that’s you, seek help right away.
You’re preoccupied with sex all the time. You can’t concentrate on work, hobbies, self-care, or even a meaningful conversation with a neighbor, because no matter what, you find yourself drowning in your sexual fantasies. When you aren’t fantasizing about sex, you’re planning your next sexual affair: shopping for the best hotel, the sexiest lingerie and heels to go with it, as well as the best sex toys and the newest lube on the market. If you aren’t planning your next sex affair or shopping for sex toys, it’s only because you’re actually having sex. After that, guilt and shame attack you, and you escape them straight into your sexual fantasies. This vicious cycle can only be broken with help, so if that’s your life, ask for help right now.
You pursue sex no matter the consequences. You’re out of control. You miss work. You lie to friends. You don’t pay your bills. You compromise your wellbeing. You don’t take care of yourself. You’re not pursuing your dreams and goals. You’re betraying the trust of people who rely on you. You dismiss your own conscience and silence it in order to follow your sexual temptations. Eventually, you lose yourself to this pervasive disease and you find yourself trapped in your own web of misery. You know the pain you’re suffering from is self-imposed, so your hatred and condemnation are addressed to yourself, and, eventually, you may not want to be anymore. I read many stories of suicide as the result of sex addiction, simply because eventually self-hatred is just too much to bear. The consequences of sex addiction are serious. If that’s your life, don’t suffer alone in silence. You need help.
Your appetite for sex and orgasms is unfulfilled. My mother was the one who instructed me to pursue multiple orgasms with many men, and from my early teen years, I followed her instructions. Eventually, I needed more toys, more times, more extremes, more role-play, more dress-ups, and more often. There was just never enough, eventually, to satisfy my desires. There were days and nights spent having sex with little to no break, in hotels where everything else was taken care of by the service staff, yet, no sex, no toys, no pleasure was enough, and I was left with an even bigger hole to fill, desiring more and more sex.
You masturbate all the time everywhere. This one is painful… because it began when I was very little. I was masturbating in elementary school on a chair using a little orange jacket, folded under my butt… Pornography was my mom’s way of educating me about life and relationships and preparing me for womanhood. So, masturbation was my go-to escape place growing up. If you do it in the morning, on your lunch break, in the car, in the shower, in bed before you go to sleep, in your sleep, and even right after having sex, you’re a sex addict and you need real help right away.
You feel powerless. You can’t stop acting out, though you genuinely do want to stop. You try but you also fail at it. One day, you come to the end of yourself and realize: “I am powerless.” Talk to someone you trust who can help you with this.
You condemn and resent yourself. You know you’re hurting people and destroying yourself. You lost your sanity and dignity. You can’t count on yourself. You don’t trust yourself. You despise yourself. You hate yourself. You condemn and resent yourself. Get help for sex addiction because it won’t get better on its own. You’re not just feeling powerless. You are actually powerless. Sex addiction is powerful.
Remember, that a sex addict is someone who has many sex addiction symptoms and behaviors running together at the same time. Multiple symptoms must occur simultaneously to indicate sex addiction.
How do you know for sure if you’re a sex addict?
Can you get diagnosed?
Sex Addiction Diagnosis
Sex addiction can be diagnosed using both DSM-5 as “other specified sexual dysfunction” (DSM-5) and the “International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems” (ICD-10) criteria as “other sexual dysfunction not due to a substance or known physiological condition”.
I was diagnosed by a sex addiction therapist.
Beware that such a diagnosis may leave you feeling hopeless and disgusted with yourself. I felt that way. In fact, I felt devastated. I withdrew, isolated, and felt like an outcast BUT from the other side where I am today, I am encouraging you and cheering you on: face it and deal with it.
Your addiction is not the end of the world. You can conquer it. You can free yourself from it. You are not your addiction.
A proper diagnosis is your first step to freedom from sex addiction. There’s hope and there’s help. Seek both.
In order for a sexual addiction to qualify as a mental health disorder, an individual must experience repeated sexual fantasies, behaviors, and urges that last upwards of six months, and are not due to factors, such as medication, another medical condition, substance abuse, or manic episodes linked to bipolar disorder.”The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, UCLA
To receive this diagnosis, you must show at least three of the following nine traits during a 12-month period:
- The behavior has increased in frequency and intensity to achieve the desired sexual satisfaction
- Continuing at the same level of intensity as before fails to produce the desired sexual satisfaction
- Discontinuing the behavior leads to withdrawal syndrome, including physiological or psychological changes
- Similar behavior is engaged in to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms
- Engaging in the behavior for a longer time or at a higher intensity or frequency than intended
- Having a persistent desire to cut down or control the behavior, or making unsuccessful efforts to stop it
- Spending a significant amount of time preparing to engage in and recovering from the sexual behavior
- Giving up or reducing important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of the behavior
- Continuing the behavior despite knowing that it is likely to lead to negative consequences
If this information describes your lifestyle, I encourage you to seek professional help. If you’re a sex addict, you need support right now.
How Do I Know If I’m a Sex Addict?
Here’s a quick questionnaire to test the possibility of you being a sex addict.
I am not a therapist, I have no mental health training, I share my personal experiences only, and this information is what I discovered for myself from my own sex addiction journey.
You need to see a trained mental health professional in order to receive an actual diagnosis for any of the behavioral issues you might be dealing with.
Sex Addiction Quiz:
- Is my mind constantly preoccupied with sexual ideation?
- Do I typically feel guilty and ashamed after sex?
- Has my sexual behavior ever caused problems?
- Did my sexual behavior ever hurt people?
- Do I ever hide my sexual activities from others due to shame?
- Do I ever feel that my sexual desire controls me?
- Have I been neglecting my life because of my sexual pursuits?
- Do I use sex to escape from my reality or avoid dealing with life?
- Do my sexual pursuits cause drama in my life?
- Do I watch porn and masturbate regularly?
If you answered truthfully, and the majority of your answers are “yes,” you might be a sex addict and need to see a sex addiction therapist to be properly diagnosed and provided with appropriate help.
Where does this destructive disease come from?
What causes this?
Sex Addiction Causes
Addiction takes root in the reward center of the brain.
It may occur when certain parts of the brain mistake pleasure responses for survival mechanisms.
Let’s pause for a second.
If you’d never been to psychotherapy or taken the time to understand the trauma YOU personally endured early in life, you might be puzzled right now.
Addiction is linked to survival?
Yes. Here’s how it can happen.
Let me share my personal example real quick.
Before I do, though, I want you to know that it took decades to discover this breakthrough, but once I did, this profound realization changed everything.
Everything about my addiction and survival is summarized in the two pictures below. Read carefully.
Anna (me as a little girl) needed her mom’s attention and approval to survive.
Anna’s mom loved talking about sex.
Talking about sex led to the only real bonding Anna ever experienced with her mom.
Anna wanted to bond with her mom and, to survive, Anna needed her mom’s approval and affection.
Anna was instructed by her mom to go have many sexual encounters with as many men as possible and report back to mom on all the details of those sexual experiences.
Anna followed those instructions and felt loved and accepted when her mom would take the time to hear about her sex-adventures over a cup of hot black Russian tea at a small kitchen table, talking face-to-face and bonding.
That’s my story…
My feel-good hormones came from bonding with my mom over her obsessive sex-related questioning, attention, and approval of me.
Over time, here’s what else fed my sex addiction.
The midbrain, which is the section of the brain handling the body’s reward system and survival instincts, sometimes gets confused. Here’s how.
As sexual activity creates a rush of dopamine – the “feel-good” chemical in the brain – the process triggers the feeling of pleasure.
When using sex to escape stress, anxiety, life problems, or relational issues, the midbrain may mistake the feeling of pleasure from sex, which is used to escape big issues, as being central to survival.
Some studies have found a higher frequency of addictive sexual behavior in people from dysfunctional families.
I am certainly from a very dysfunctional family. You?
A sex addict is typically a survivor of childhood abuse.
I was abused as a child. Were you?
Many people recovering from sexual addiction report some type of addiction among family members.
My family was addicted to sex and alcohol. What about your family?
Sex addiction can occur alongside another addiction. For me, sex and alcohol were best friends from a very young age.
Sex and alcohol were my go-to solutions to problems.
Sex and alcohol helped me survive by protecting me from feeling anything at all about all the abuse, rejection, manipulation, trauma, assault, humiliation, confusion, and violence I endured growing up.
Sex addiction was used by my brain to protect me.
Then, I needed to protect myself from sexual addiction.
I had to overcome it and heal.
Overcoming Sex Addiction
For me personally, sex addiction was also an identity problem.
In the video below, I share the intimate details of my journey and how my sexual addiction came about as I was growing up.
I also reveal what happened in 2014.
This 7.5-minute speech was delivered at Rising Phoenix Toastmasters on August 24th, 2019 when I was invited to be a guest speaker there.
As we begin talking about overcoming this eloquent tool used by the brain for survival, the most important thing to remember is this: overcoming sex addiction is a process and not an event.
You need to decide what kind of future you want for yourself and commit to building the life you want. You have to understand your why. You must promise to yourself that you will respect and honor yourself and do whatever it takes to build the life you desire, a healthy life filled with peace and joy. You have to do it because you deserve healing, peace, joy, respect, and honor. You must change your life for the sake of a better future. But before that happens, you must understand what happened to you in the past.
Ponder these questions.
The latter was the hardest question for me to answer.
Psychotherapy helped me the most with figuring all this out.
I want to share with you my path to sex addiction recovery.
Perhaps, it can also help you.
Here’s the path I took.
How To Deal With Sex Addiction: My Path
- Face your sexual addiction
I initially had avoided facing my sex addiction because it was so shameful and I preferred to believe that I was a good person.
Facing my addiction eye-to-eye empowered me: instead of it being in control of me, finally, I was in control of it!
From there, life got better and, eventually, I was liberated, though healing took a long time and much effort.
- Seek sex-addiction help
I sought help from a sex-addiction therapist, a sex-addiction support group, a friend who had been through the same thing, a church mentor, a church support group, a collection of helpful books, and three films about sex addiction. I saught to understand what was happening to me, why I was doing what I was doing, and what caused me to end up being a sex addict, as well as why I was powerless.
Seeking help was the key to my recovery.
God was the first source, from which I sought help.
- Talk with a sex-addiction therapist
I benefited from a sex-addiction therapist, though I also did a lot of work on my own prior and during my time with her.
Having a book club for the book called “Discovering Intimacy – Relating to God and Others as a Single Adult” changed my life. It opened up my eyes to see exactly what happened to me as a child. It was so painful and depressing, yet the truth was revealing and healing.
Having a book club for the book called “Safe People” was very helpful on my journey of healing. It taught me how I had no safe people around me growing up and I needed an escape. Initially, I escaped into my head, and ultimately, I escaped into sex.
All I sought was safety, acceptance, approval, love, and protection.
These are very basic human needs, and I tried to fulfill them the best way I knew how to, considering my upbringing.
Having the book club for the book called “How We Love” led me to a huge breakthrough: I was never loved and I didn’t know how to love. That answered many questions about my sex addiction because I was taught that sex was love and I was for sex.
A few therapy sessions I received in addition to my own work outside of traditional therapy were really helpful.
Especially, the last session was valuable to me, though my reaction was resentment at first.
The therapist asked me to grieve.
I resented her advice, but after all, it was the biggest and most important step on my journey to healing.
Deep grief and genuine sorrow helped me heal.
- Attend a Sexaholics Anonymous support group
I was terrified to go to a support group for sex addicts. It’s called Sexaholics Anonymous (SAA). My friend helped me find a list of groups to attend, and I visited one of the locations here in Atlanta.
It was so helpful, I don’t really know how to even begin putting the power of what I experienced there into words.
First of all, I knew the moment I walked in that I was not alone in my affliction. There were about 60 men and about three women there.
A small group of people had a conversation with me afterward, and they blessed me with “The White Book of SA,” the official 12-step manual for sex addiction recovery, which also helped me since then.
That group was where I received my sobriety chip, which I keep right before my eyes on display here at home every day to remember the misery, from which God delivered me and also that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
- Ask God to give you a new heart and transform your mind
I came to the end of myself, fell on my knees, wept, and prayed. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and make me a child of God. I asked God to rid me of myself and open up my eyes to the things unseen. And He did.
The Bible says that if you pray and ask God for help, He will take your heart and give you a new one. It also says that He blessed you with the power of the sound mind, which you can renew by taking your thoughts captive and thinking of whatever is praiseworthy and honorable.
God did all that for me, and He can do the same for you. Fall on your knees and pray, humble yourself and surrender to Him who created you perfect in His own image.
You are God’s masterpiece. Ask Him to help you.
You’re not walking alone through your journey of life.
Reach out and ask God for help.
- Replace your unproductive behaviors with productive ones
My unproductive sex addiction behaviors always started with masturbation. Everything else was the outcome of that. When I stopped my distractive sexual acting out, I turned to overeating.
I ate to calm down my anxiety. I ate to the point of vomiting. I gained weight. I felt sick. It was no way to live.
Drinking was also a problem for me. I know some sex addicts who turned into alcoholics, and I know alcoholics turned sex addicts.
When I committed to NOT overeating or drinking, I had temptations to smoke. I was a smoker from 10 to 17 years old. I quit smoking at 17, and I promised to never do it again. Yet, on my sex addiction recovery journey, I was tempted to smoke.
I was tempted to drink, smoke, and overeat in order to avoid my thoughts and feelings about the emotional pain I was faced with, yet, thinking was actually the most productive way to deal with my pain and trauma. Thinking, feeling, grieving, weeping – all those were essential to my better future, as long as I had the willingness to face my painful past.
Below are the eight short statements I wrote during my recovery as I was trying to help myself deal with the overwhelming memories, feelings, pain, and sorrow.
My Eight Life-Changing Breakthroughs
- Meditation instead of Masturbation
- Reading instead of Eating
- Thinking instead of Drinking
- Walking instead of Smoking
- Gratitude instead of Bad attitude
- Gladness instead of Madnesses
- Every season has a Reason
- My life is a Story for God’s Glory
I hope that this sharing about my own experience encouraged and empowered you as you embark on your journey of recovering from addiction to sex.
You’re not alone.
There’s help available to you.
Sex Addiction Help
From my experience, one of the causes of being addicted to sex is an identity confusion. The sex addiction help I received largely focused on establishing my true identity in Christ. Then, transforming my lifestyle in accordance with my identity was what I did next.
Here’s the process I went through.
I mentioned many resources that helped me with my sex addiction recovery journey. The books and church groups, as well as church mentorship and my own work I mentioned – all these can be grouped together and called “self-help,” though broadly and not exactly accurately describing what that work took, let’s just for the purposes of grouping overall resources generalize for a moment.
Generally, we can name four groups of helpful resources.
The Four Types of Sex Addiction Help
- Self-help organizations, such as Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. They offer 12-step programs to help you self-manage your condition.
- Residential treatment programs are in-patient programs, during which you live on-site at the facility and receive care from specialized therapists. They offer sex addiction recovery help. Often, you really need to be removed from your normal daily life for at least 30 days to help you regain control of your impulses and start healing. These programs typically include in-depth individual and group therapy sessions.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) covers a variety of techniques that help you change your behavior. This type of therapy can help you identify triggers for sexual impulses and, ultimately, teach you how to alter your behaviors. It’s achieved through 1:1 sessions with a licensed mental health therapist.CBT can equip you with the tools you need in order to reprogram harmful sexual behaviors and avoid potential future relapses.
- Prescription medication may be given to you to help reduce your sexual urges.
To be honest, I didn’t stick with an SAA group, only because the leader there didn’t appreciate my story of Jesus Christ. He demanded that I’d use the 12-step language, which I wasn’t even familiar with since my sobriety was the outcome of my encounter with Jesus and not 12 steps.
That being said, I assure you that the value in attending an SAA support group is tremendous. I recommend attending SAA at least to see what it’s all about because you’ll get helped just by witnessing how many other people struggle with this disease.
Here’s more information for you.
Sex Addicts Anonymous
Sex Addicts Anonymous is a twelve-step program for people who want to stop their addictive sexual behavior. There also exists a group known as COSA, for those who have been impacted by others’ sexual addiction.
When I went to SAA at Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Buckhead in 2014, right out of the elevator slight right led to the room for sexaholics anonymous and sharp right led to the room for Codependents of Sex Addicts (COSA).
Any time I went, most women went to COSA and most men went to SAA, though it doesn’t mean that women addicted to sex are unicorns. It means women who suffer from sex addiction are guilted and shamed by society to the point of not even asking for help.
Here’s how SAA describes itself.
Sexaholics Anonymous Statement of Principle
We have a solution. We don’t claim it’s for everybody, but for us, it works. If you identify with us and think you may share our problem, we’d like to share our solution with you (Sexaholics Anonymous, 2).
In defining sobriety, we do not speak for those outside Sexaholics Anonymous. We can only speak for ourselves. Thus, for the married sexaholic, sexual sobriety means having no form of sex with self or with persons other than the spouse. In SA’s sobriety definition, the term “spouse” refers to one’s partner in a marriage between a man and a woman. For the unmarried sexaholic, sexual sobriety means freedom from sex of any kind. And for all of us, single and married alike, sexual sobriety also includes progressive victory over lust (Sexaholics Anonymous, 191-192).SA.org
The only requirement for SA membership is a desire to stop lusting and become sexually-sober according to the SA sobriety definition.
Let me add something here: my sobriety is celibacy, which isn’t for everyone, especially if you’re married and can’t stop having sex. So, look up the definition of sobriety and choose wisely what you’re working toward as you embark on your recovery journey.
SAA Recovery for Women
Through long and painful experience, we came to realize that we were powerless over our sexual thoughts and behaviors and that our preoccupation with sex was causing progressively severe adverse consequences for us, our families, and our friends.
Despite many failed promises to ourselves and attempts to change, we discovered that we were unable to stop acting out sexually by ourselves.
Many of us came to this realization when we started attending SAA meetings. In that setting we heard stories similar to ours and realized that recovery from our problem was possible. We learned through the SAA Fellowship that we were not hopelessly defective.
Although we are not affiliated with AA or with any other organization or agency, we are, indeed, grateful for permission to modify and apply the Steps and Traditions to sex addiction, making recovery possible for us.
In Sex Addicts Anonymous we are a fellowship of women who share our experience, strength, and hope with each other for the purpose of finding freedom from addictive sexual behaviors and helping others recover from sex addiction.
Local meetings offer an accepting, non-threatening environment where we can share our common struggles and learn how to apply the principles of the Twelve Steps to our everyday lives.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop addictive sexual behavior. There are no fees or dues.
We practice strict anonymity and confidentiality, so that our meetings are a safe place for all of us. Whom we meet or what is said in a meeting is considered confidential.SAA Recovery for Women
I hope this was helpful. Let me share a list of ten helpful resources that I believe can change your life for the better.
One of the resources I recommend is a Find Free Biblical Counseling page. That was how I found my own free Biblical counselor to meet weekly over the FaceTime call and work on my behavior, beliefs, and lifestyle leveraging God’s Word.
When you click there, use whichever medium is most comfortable for you: email, call number, or an online form.
I hope this list of resources helps your sex addiction recovery.
Sex Addiction Resources
- Sex Addicts Anonymous®
- Sexaholics Anonymous
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous
- Find a Free Biblical Counselor
- The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health
- Relativity at Elements Behavioral Health
- Don’t Call It Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction book
- The White Book of SA
- “Addicted” film
- “Thanks for Sharing” film
When I first watched “Thanks for Sharing,” I had to pause the film over a dozen times because I wept. It was literally my life on a big screen.
Adam, the male character there, resonated with me.
In 2014, when “Addicted” came out, I watched it on a big screen and was devastated as people laughed because the film was painful and very truthful.
In many ways, it showcased my personal sex addiction struggles, and the laughs in the audience revealed the ignorance and negligence in our society when it comes to dealing with this serious disease.
I then read “Don’t Call It Love” and “The White Book of SA.”
But I also mentioned earlier other books that helped me before I ever got my hands on any of the ten resources shared above.
If you have any questions regarding specific SA help, leave your comment below and I’ll try to assist you.
Now, as promised, here’s my story of sex addiction.
My Story of Sexual Addiction
My story of sex addiction is very simple: from a young age, my mother gave me porn to read and watch, which led to compulsive masturbation since I was in elementary school, and eventually mom instructed me to have sex with many men to achieve multiple orgasms so I could tell her all about it, which ultimately resulted in out-of-control sexual addiction lasting for years.
You probably want to know more.
Here’s my story.
Introduction to Pornography
When I was five, my mother taught me about sex, explaining to me that I was for sex and sex was love. It was 1988. She used to leave a hard-core pornography book called “Emmanuelle” on a table for me so I could read it.
“Emmanuelle” was also a film I was encouraged to watch to learn about love. This porn series, which was banned by the President of France initially until the new government authorities set it free, includes group sex, lesbian sex, sex with children and strangers, and even rape.
I was a little innocent girl when those images and videos were introduced to me as love.
In the first 14 weeks when this porn film was released, 2.5 million Frenchmen stood in line to watch it.
That film was shown to me causally to educate me about love and my identity as a woman.
I was taught from that point on that to be a woman worthy of a man, I must be as sensual and sexual as the Dutch model and actress Sylvia Kristel.
Why was she Dutch in a French porn series?
Because the pornography was so mind-boggling that the producers were unable to find French actresses to play Emmanuelle.
Here’s elderly Kristel herself explaining that “Emmanuelle” was not even expected to ever be released because it was such a hard-core-porn film.
Yet, to me, a little Russian girl, the film was shown very casually and presented to be about the kind of woman I must become teaching me what love is and how to love.
Released in 1974, the soft-focus French film was one of the first erotic movies to be shown in mainstream cinemas. Sylvia Kristel described the film as violent, humiliating, and disgusting.
She hoped her mother would never see it but it became the most popular film in France and other countries around the world for over a decade.
In Russia, my mother even took me to movie theaters to watch pornography. She was single and obsessed with sex. Emmanuelle was the book popping up everywhere I was. When I saw my mother reading at home, it was Emmanuelle she was holding in her hands.
My mother never wanted to hold me for comfort as other parents I saw did with their children. She would give me affection by gently petting my back with something soft if I agreed to do the same to her.
I experienced severe affection deprivation growing up.
There were days I’d beg my mom for affection but she’d reject me over and over again. Even as I’m writing this today, at 36, I feel physical pain in my stomach and I have a lump in my throat thinking about that cruel rejection of a child starving for her mom’s affection.
As children, we were left to our own devices.
So, we will talk about my cousins because they influenced me significantly when it comes to my sexual acting out.
Cunnilingus at Five Years Old
My mother told me that she was not good at sex and that women who were better at it had a higher chance of getting married.
Getting married and having a baby was the purpose of my life.
So, my mother couldn’t wait for me to get rid of my virginity.
I was supposed to be encouraged to save my precious purity for the one and only special man but instead, I was shamed openly for being “behind” since my cousins and neighbors had sex openly since a very young age.
A word about my cousins.
I was five when my cousins and I were practicing cunnilingus on each other.
We are one year apart.
My older cousin was the enthusiastic organizer of such kids-friendly activities as cunnilingus, mutual masturbation, and other interesting expressions of curiosity she witnessed inside our home.
This was all taking place within the four walls of our little condo with our parents and grandparents present.
That cousin was my mother’s golden child, and I was her scapegoat.
Giving Away My Virginity at Sixteen
My mother was obsessed with sex and always talked to me that I was for men and for sex. She was disappointed that at 16, I was still a virgin.
So, one night, my cousin Yulya and I went out. She had a boyfriend, Valik. We were at the lake drinking, and Valik brought his fried.
I just met the guy. After a few bottles of vodka, I remember us driving to some condo. It was rainy. There were a large TV and a futon sofa in the middle of the living room.
The guy I had just met and I were having my first-ever sex.
I don’t remember his name but I do remember how delighted my mom was, interviewing me about the details of that night.
Those interviews were the only time when mom showed me affection and acceptance or was interested in my life at all. Mother loved asking about my sexual experiences, and she wanted to know everything.
Eventually, I got pregnant.
Mom’s ideal future for me was to get married early on, have a baby, get divorced, and live with her for the rest of my life so she could raise my baby. She obsessively talked to me about her vision on a regular basis. I was scared that such a terrible scenario would actually come true for me. I loved school and learning and I wanted to have a better life.
However… I was pregnant at 17 and miscarried.
After that, I never got pregnant again.
From a very young age, I remember my mother’s conversations with me about the importance of sex, how much I needed a man, how essential it was for me to master my sex skills by practicing a lot, as well as how I needed to prepare myself for marriage by developing my sex-related abilities.
She literally taught me to be obsessed with sex, orgasms, lingerie, seduction, sex toys, and masturbation.
I was promiscuous in my teenage years.
Two Sexual Assaults
I was raped twice as a teen. My mother advised me to consider it a blessing. She advised me to focus on how lucky I was to have more sexual experiences than other girls because that was a sure sign that I’d get a good husband soon.
The rape was never talked about again but I did learn that I was on my own in life. Also, I began to realize that perhaps something was wrong with my mom whom I had worshipped since I was little.
An Enmeshed Mother-Daughter Relationship
It was an enmeshed and awkwardly confusing relationship where my mother brainwashed me and required inappropriate things to be done in order for me to earn her love and approval.
I worshipped my mom and loved her, I wanted to protect her because she was the scapegoat of her family, and I was rejected by the family at large, so I never felt like I belonged, which made me attached so much to my mom. Also, growing up I only had school and home. No one ever paid for me to go to extracurricular activities or classes. I tried many things I thought were free but as soon as supplies or trips were required for the clubs I tried to join, it was the end. My mother discouraged me from trying dancing, painting, writing, or anything because she herself competed with me.
When I tried to pursue anything creative, such as cooking, drawing, painting, knitting, sewing, etc, my mom would tell me that I was incapable and she’d declare with confidence “Your hands are growing out of your ass! Look at me, I can dod this so much better”
I felt anxious, fearful, rejected, and abandoned every day growing up. To deal with my anxiety, I found some comfort through masturbation, like in those movies mom showed me early on as a child.
I was still in elementary school when I placed my little orange jacket on my chair and was moving my little butt in circles masturbating in front of my teacher.
No one ever addressed this or offered me any help. No one ever questioned my mother’s parenting, the pornographic literature she offered to me, or the hard-core porn films shown to me as a child.
Here’s what I learned from therapy and support groups on my journey of healing.
Little Anna had a need for attention and acceptance. Her mother only gave her love when talking about men and sex.
So, that little girl was thinking: “Want attention and acceptance form your mother? Talk sex and men!”
That led to the feeling of obsession with sex and men in the heart of the little girl who was simply starving for her mother’s love. She was scared to be rejected again and again by her mother if she refused that mentality.
That feeling led to the development of obsessive-compulsive sexual behavior.
Because the model that was developed in that girl’s head was this:
“Want to feel loved by your mother? Have a lot of sex and talk to her about it, so you two can bond.”
The pattern was reinforced for years, and that’s how I ended up suffering from sexual addiction, giving myself away for the sake of the opportunity to bond with my mother.
In 2014, I was diagnosed with sex addiction.
Also, in 2014, I gave my life to Christ, embarked on a celibacy journey, went to sex-addiction therapy, and attended Sexaholics Anonymous here in Atlanta at Peachtree Presbyterian Church.
I wrote this poem about the experience.
When I was five years old, my mama told me
That I was born to be a mother and a wife.
I was taught how to make men want me
And that sex was the best key to my best life.
When at six years old I strived to study,
Mama told me that instead I needed men,
That their focus of attention was my body
And I’d better master sex to live in zen.
When at 15, graduating with high honors,
I left school to go to college and to work,
Mama told me that my wasteful life her bothers,
That my oddity and fancy were a quirk.
When at 19, graduating with high honors,
After college, I went on to Busines School,
Mama told me I was crazy and went bonkers,
She was hateful, she was violent, she was cruel.
At 24 I graduated with high honors
From two good schools with two degrees in law and business.
I mastered also sex and men to meet my mothers
Expectations and demands for my life’s richness.
I got married to Prince Charming and left Russia.
And I strived to be a mother and a wife.
Domestic Violence was my marriage daily crushing.
I had to run away to save my life.
When police took me away to homeless shelter,
I was crushed, I was confused, I was in pain.
In a foreign country I life entered.
To survive, I had to daily use my brain.
Within 18 months, I learned the language
And I passed the Academic English Test.
As an immigrant, I had a disadvantage,
So I went to school to prove my best.
MBA from GSU was good decision,
Only mama was still living in my head.
She continued my identity collision:
To be mother, to be wife, or stay unwed?
Mama’s voice remained the strongest, so I married.
He was doctor. I was student. We had kids.
Her ideas of myself I always carried:
I’m for men and I’m for sex. Mom’s voice mine beats.
When I got my MBA and started working,
That second marriage quickly also got dissolved.
As I was hustling a lot and money earning,
My identity and purpose both evolved.
But Mama’s voice was surely ever-lasting:
You’re for men, you are for sex, you must be wife.
In confusion and in pain my purpose wasting,
I went on to live a very furtive life.
Slept around, drank like crazy, I was sinking.
My identity collision was a burden.
To avoid my pain and life, I was just drinking,
Who I was and whose I was, I was uncertain.
It was April, it was dark, and I was crying.
There was carpet, there were stars, and I was kneeling.
I was praying - to surrender I was trying.
And that night I did experience deep healing.
I asked Jesus: change my mind and my head’s voices.
I asked Him to lead my life, to guide my journey.
Ever since my soul is healed and it rejoices.
Mom’s and mine beliefs on life no longer tourney.
Jesus taught me that I am, in fact, a royal.
Child of God, I am, in fact, King’s Princess.
Ever since, to Him I’m being loyal.
Trusting Him, I am becoming fearless.
Mom’s beliefs and my beliefs no longer matter.
Jesus tells me my life’s purpose and desire.
Single life for me, He says, is better.
His commands today my life inspire.
4/27/19 © Anna Szabo, JD, MBA
My sex addiction was the outcome of extensive severe trauma. It was my brain’s defense tool to protect me from being crushed by the pain of my terrifying life at home growing up. It was a way to escape my life as an adult, too. And it had many negative consequences.
The Consequences of My Sex Addiction
The consequences of my addiction to sex were not obvious to me. What I’m sharing here took years to process and put into words after I understood all this. As I was going through the misery of sex addiction, I was in denial.
Sexual addiction resulted in my inability to:
- Stay away from the addictive substance (a release of oxytocin and increases in dopamine)
- Practice self-control and set healthy boundaries (I was both the subject and the object of unstoppable daily booties calls feeling trapped and helpless to resist both my own temptations and those of men who preyed on me)
- See how the behavior is causing problems (in short, I thought it was all normal and “everybody” lived the same kind of lifestyle)
- Produce an adequate emotional response (my response was a persistent pattern of failure to control my intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behavior, despite adverse consequences)
My sexual addiction impaired my functioning to the point of jeopardizing my career, mental and physical health, and my relationships with friends.
I was late for work. Repeatedly. I wanted to leave early on a regular basis to satisfy my temptations. I was confused because I loved my job so much. Yet, even throughout the day, pervasive sexual ideation would carry me away someplace else. I was foggy-minded and ashamed of myself.
Shame led to many lies.
I lied to myself that I was ok.
I lied to my friends on a regular basis. When we had a get-together scheduled and I chose a bootie-call instead, I’d lie and lie. I’d also bring different guys to spend time with my friends, in one day, and I’d beg them to pretend like it was normal. But it wasn’t so my friends began to avoid me.
The Ten Signs of My Sex Addiction
My addiction to sex was all-consuming. I sacrificed a lot in order to satisfy my sexual desires. I was obsessed with sex. I suffered and I knew it, only I wasn’t able to figure out what was causing my suffering. I was ignorant and oblivious. I was also arrogant and even when a friend tried to talk to me about what my problem was, I felt defensive of my “good” persona.
Here are the signs of my addiction she was able to witness.
The Ten Signs of My Sexual Addiction
- I repeatedly and compulsively pursued sexual activities. One time, after a night of indulgence in sex with a guy, upon waking up, after he was gone, all I thought was sex right now, so I called and demanded him back, and once he returned, I continued that indulgence. It was very early in 2014. The same scenario I recall from 2005 with a man who was married and had a lake-house where we used to spend time together. There were times, we’d go away from the world for days, and just indulge in sex. I’ve stayed in so many hotels in my life… And one thing I remember: more sex led me to want more sex.
- I had obsessive sexual conversations and fantasies and I shared them with my classmate in business school – Katya. I remember after those conversations, I’d dial my bootie call and disappear from school. We’d go away and indulge in sex. And we’d drink a lot of alcohol, too. That was a good way to silence my conscience.
- I had compulsive relationships with multiple partners and strangers. How did it all start? My mother was obsessed with sex and always talked to me that I was for men and for sex. She was disappointed that at 16, I was still a virgin. So, one night, me and my cousin Yulya went out. She had a boyfriend, Valik. We were on the river, drinking, and Valik brought a fried. I just met the guy. After a few bottles of vodka, I remember us driving to some condo. It was rainy. There were a large TV and a bed in the middle of the living room. The guy I had just met and I were having my first-ever sex. don’t remember his name but I do remember how delighted my mom was, interviewing me about the details. Those times were the only ones when she showed me affection and acceptance. She loved asking about my sexual experiences, and she wanted to know everything. It was not the only time I slept with a stranger. But you get the picture. It was the start of a path that continued to destroy me for almost two decades.
- I deceptively lied to cover up my shameful behaviors. I lied to friends, employers, and myself. I feel sad and remorseful as I write these words to share my story, but I don’t feel shameful. Jesus died on the cross for me and washed me white as snow. That’s what I hope YOU can get out of my story. YOU don’t have to continue condemning yourself, drowning in shame, and feeling trapped. YOU can run to Jesus, as I did, and He will set you free.
- I experienced abnormal preoccupation with sexual ideation during work hours, and that goes back as far as when I was 17 years old. It fist became a problem when I was a school teacher. I remember sleeping with two men there at school where I worked. The constant preoccupation with sexual ideation led to many problems in the workplace, and I was the only one who didn’t know what the issue was…
- I suffered from high tolerance for just about any sexual activity and need for more, and that goes back to very deliberate instructions I received from my mother. Her words were not many but they had a huge impact on my life, even thousands of miles away from Russia. These were her words: “I haven’t had much sex and I never had an orgasm, so you go out there and have as much sex as you can and orgasm for both yourself and me!” And so I did. I knew nothing else but this because no one was there to confront my mother or to question her instructions. I was young, and she was my only parent. Her influence was significant, and she held me accountable to ensure I followed her instructions.
- I promised to myself that I’d stop the behavior but I couldn’t. Those promises were broken over and over again, and that’s how I came to Christ. I came to the end of myself, and there, on the rock-bottom, Jesus was the rock on the bottom. I gave my life to Him, and stopped, yet the withdrawal was painful and it lasted for a long time.
- I carelessly pursued sexual satisfaction despite any dangers or risks, especially career risks and health risks. I already admitted to you my sexual conduct at work. I also had sex with various men many times without any protection. It’s a miracle I’m alive and healthy today. It really is by God’s grace only that I’ve been kept protected from STDs.
- I genuinely expressed remorse and felt guilt after my sexual encounters, yet I did it again and again because I was so sick and had no idea.
- I experienced apparent withdrawal symptoms when stopping the behavior. That was actually HOW my reliance on God had begun. I’d repeat day and night: “I can’t but YOU can and YOU can through me.” It was a phrase taught by Andy Stanley in one of his sermons. He gave me a card to look at and to run to Jesus every time I feel powerless. I did that, and it worked. I recommend YOU run to Jesus when you come to the end of yourself and are ready to surrender.
A Lack of Conscience
Lack of conscience describes individuals who are too preoccupied with their own agenda, often to the exclusion of the needs and concerns of others.
That was me.
Many married men took me to many expensive hotels, bought be many buckets of roses, and gave me many luxurious gifts. They had wives and children. I thought nothing of it. I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was doing. I had “needs” and I worked on satisfying those needs. Everything else didn’t really matter to me.
When I look back and remember those times, I have chills all over my body. The only way I can describe that to myself today is in terms of being spiritually dead while appearing physically alive.
Today, I have high sensitivity to the walking dead: a few simple questions can reveal whether the person I’m talking to is actually alive or rather dead. This ability developed with experience.
When in April of 2014 I came to the end of myself, fell on my knees, and prayed to God for a new life, He gave me conscience and a new heart. He opened up my eyes to the things unseen.
And with that came depression because I finally saw who I was and how much hurt I had caused to other people.
I felt so many feelings… I was suffocating.
What I Felt when I Learned that I Was a Sex Addict
I felt ashamed of myself, my actions, my motives, and my lifestyle.
I felt confused as to why my mother made it her life’s priority to train me for sex addiction.
I felt sad. I experienced deep sorrow for myself and for everyone who got hurt in my pursuit of sexual pleasure.
I felt anxious: being alone with myself was awkward because I finally saw who I really was, so facing myself was not only uncomfortable but truly scary, I was questioning myself and what I would do next, I felt unstable and unreliable.
I felt betrayed, and not only by my mother, who was supposed to take care of me and prepare me for a productive life as an adult, but also by ME. I betrayed myself. My sexuality was precious, and I gave it away for years as if it were a commodity.
I felt objectified: I used myself, my body, my personality, my smarts, my talents – all to chase sexual pleasure, as if I were a pan to fry potatoes, a thing to use, a tradable something to help me get sex.
I felt terrified: will I stop, am I able to, what will I do next, am I a monster, what else am I capable of, do I even care about humans and myself as a human, can I live with myself for the rest of my life, can I trust myself?
I felt traumatized: all the things that were done to my body and mind were so traumatic. I had to get some serious mental health help to grasp what had happened to me.
I felt disgusted just thinking about all my sexual experiences.
I felt angry: at God, at mom, at my cousins, at the men who raped me, and at myself for giving my body away.
I felt grateful that God brought me out of deadness into His loving arms, gave me a new heart, renewed my mind, and revealed to me my identity. He showed me that I came to earth not from my mother but through her, I came from my heavenly Father God. He made me, not my mom. And that truth allowed me to begin replacing her harmful teachings with Biblical teachings. I shared about the experience in this speech:
To process all these feelings and trauma is taking years but my shame was lifted and taken away by my lord and savior Jesus Christ who asked me to go into the world and share my story with you and let you know that there’s hope out there.
As I’m writing this, I’m weeping and shaking. I did not want to share any of this with you. It’s hard to share something so intimate and tragic. But sharing is exactly what encourages and empowers us in life.
So, here’s my story for God’s glory.
My Life after Sex Addiction
My life sometimes rocks and sometimes sucks. I am a human woman who struggles just like everyone else. Most of the time, I behave and sometimes I don’t. I procrastinate and avoid dealing with life, I pretend like everything is great when it isn’t, or I get scared and hold back on my story, trying to protect my reputation (lol).
For example, I was called to write this article eight weeks ago, yet I procrastinated all this time, avoiding the pain associated with remembering the events of my story shared with you today.
I was avoiding sharing it all with you because I didn’t want to feel the pain again. Also, you may judge me, you may troll me, you may bully me…
Of course, you also may be healed by God through my story, you may decide to get help for your own addiction, you may even decide to NOT commit suicide after reading this article because you will have hope again.
I called my friend Felicia today and wept. That’s how much I didn’t want to write this article for you. But God’s calling is inescapable, so I obey and share, all the time, even when I chock from pain and cry publicly, I still share my story to encourage and empower YOU.
Sharing is caring.
Today, my life is committed to sharing vulnerably and openly.
Sometimes, people avoid me because I’m so bold. They get uncomfortable around me because I skip the small talk and dive into the real stuff. And sometimes, I receive letters from people who say they decided to hold on to life because my story encouraged them and they don’t want to commit suicide but want to live empowered instead.
That’s why I share from the heart through my ministry.
Ministry is hard work. Not only physical work (I do website, podcast, videos, pictures, everything myself) but also emotional and spiritual work (processing my past and verbalizing it to you is extremely difficult).
My podcast called The Anna Szabo Show is where we have real-life conversations about God, Gospel, and life matters. You can subscribe anywhere podcasts are available. Beware that you’ll often hear me cry there. There, I pray for you often to lift you up to God and to comfort you.
YouTube is where I publish videos about the six pillars of joyful living: faith, food, fitness, finances, felicity, and fortitude. Subscribe here.
My book “How Princess Lana Developed Faith and Fortitude” is a collection of three autobiographical Christian fairytales that share the lessons I learned in life: lessons about faith, hope, perseverance, and God.
My dream is to get a book deal with a major publisher to write a book about hope. Why? Because the purpose of my life is to help alleviate suicide among women globally.
We need a truthful book about hope revealing that sometimes life rocks and sometimes it sucks – for everyone – yet, life is worth living, and God’s plan is good after all, we just don’t see the big picture, so we lose hope easily.
Celibacy, Singleness, and Sexual Temptations
I’m single and celibate and I don’t date. My life is dedicated to Jesus Christ. This commitment allows me to serve God, have peace, experience joy, and fulfill my life’s purpose.
This was not an easy decision. I held on to my box of sex toys for a long time. Eventually, I organized a burial service for my toy box and let it go.
I do have temptations sometimes but I starve them. It’s like when I became a vegan, I had temptations for cheese and steak but I starved those urges and they were reduced significantly to a manageable size. Same with sexual temptations: whatever you starve won’t grow.
I love living alone, so I never feel lonely.
And I guard my mind.
I don’t watch unexpected affection scenes in movies. I cover my face or turn away. I don’t read anything romantic or erotic.
Yet, writing this article, especially looking up the links about sex addiction resources and also about Emmanuele, that’s been tough for my mind.
While writing this article, I took many breaks to go for a walk, to cook, to nap, to meditate, to play with my dog Bruno, to pray, and to breathe.
If you’re considering single and celibate life, you’d need to also manage your mind, protect it, but if temptations come, simply refocus.
Habits and routines help me with celibacy.
Habits and Routines
Addiction is the result of trauma. Trauma leaves us feeling uncertain. Habits and routines get us grounded and add certainty to our lives. Same with goal-setting. Goals give us a roadmap and help us get to where we’re going. I have written goals. My habits and routines support those goals.
Over the years, as women addicted to sex, we failed ourselves often. We no longer trust ourselves. Habits and routines developed on purpose help us rebuild the most important relationship ever – that with ourselves.
My goal is to abide in Christ instead of walking through life in my own power. This was one thing I desired to start with as I began to heal. Yet, it was hard to maintain this habit. But understanding my purpose and why this is so important, I eventually, over time, negotiated with myself this: to help my goal, the first thing I do as soon as I get up is I pray.
Prayer. I get on my knees next to my bed, I thank God for His blessings, I declare His goodness and my surrender, I cast my cares on Him and ask for help, I pray for my friends (and enemies) by name, and I do all that in Jesus’ name. This habit helps me remain in fellowship with God and hear from Him daily so that I don’t wander off and go astray.
Meditation. I meditate every day, especially before bed, but sometimes I need to meditate in the middle of the day and I do it. My meditations focus on Biblical truth. It’s a way to take every thought captive, to renew my mind, and to think about whatever is honorable and praiseworthy.
Journaling. I journal every day, and this one habit helps me witness God’s goodness. First, it helps process my life. Most importantly, when I go back and read my journals, I see God’s plan and blessings. It renews my faith and empowers me. Journaling helps me stay true to my goals and remember what I’m doing with my life and why.
Reading. I consider reading as essential as breathing. If it wasn’t for the wisdom of the Bible, Dale Carnegie, Jim Rohn, Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins, Dave Ramsey, Daniel Goleman, Greg Laurie, and Jordan Peterson, I don’t know where I’d be today because there wasn’t anyone teaching me anything good growing up, but books. Reading a book is a magical experience. It’s peaceful and transformative. It’s very intimate and sacred. Good books influenced my life in a good way.
Writing. I was always good at writing, I mean in Russian and in a secular way. This kind of vulnerable writing is not something I ever pursued or studied but God called me to write and so I do. He also gave me poetry, so I’ve written 200+ spiritual poems since 2017. This year, God asked me to start speaking about the bold and painful topics of abuse and my brokenness, so I’ve been writing speeches as well. I wrote two books, 52 devotionals, 700K words of content for this ministry, and it’s been amazing. Writing is living for me. It helps me stay present and grounded, remember what life is all about, cry out to God and praise Him, and share everything I know about living. Writing is therapy. It is something I can’t live without. Writing is my air, food, water, and nutrition. Writing is the key to mental health.
Speaking. I speak openly about my life story to give God all the glory. My goal is to reach as many women as possible and share the truth, the Gospel, in order to alleviate suicide among women globally. I am working on my speaking skills through Toastmasters. Speaking is a mission-critical activity to my ministry, and it’s an essential leadership skill for anyone. Defining my speaking topic, developing my speaker style, and devoting myself to helping the audience who hears my speech – these three things help me grow daily.
Painting. I paint abstract art, and all my paintings come with tales. That’s why my collection is called #PaintingsWithTales. Click here to view my work. Painting is my communion with God and one of the ways I hear from Him. Creating art helps access the deepest and the most forgotten parts of who I am and bring them to life so I can be more whole. Through art, I share the lessons learned from my life’s journey. Painting is new – I started painting in April of 2019 and by June, I had a collection of 22 paintings with tales. Learn here how I became an artist.
Cooking. I mistreated my body for decades. My body resented my lifestyle, it was sick, it was crying out for help through inflamed ovaries, pelvic inflammatory disease blocking my fallopian tubes, vaginal yeast infections, and rectal bleeding. I had a lot of sex with many men under the influence of a lot of alcohol. Bronchitis, ear infection, sinus infection, and on and on the list of health issues goes. Cooking healthy, plant-based vegan meals with intention and love allows me to slow down, pay attention to my life, resp[ect and honor my body and its nutritional needs, give it the proper care it deserves, and heal. I serve most of my meals to myself at a dining room table, with candles, beautiful setup, and calm relaxing music. I eat some of my meals on the river. When I do, I cook, organize a beautiful tray, take it to the river outside my front door, and eat on the floating dock watching kayakers and paddleboarders passing by waving hello.
Exercising. I care for my body. I appreciate my body. I love my body. I value the body God blessed me with, which never failed me, though I failed it. Working out is essential to maintain my healthy body, and it deserves my intentional care. Exercise also helps boost my mood because depression is something I dealt with and want to prevent as much as possible in the future. Exercising gets my heart rate up, allows me to prevent heart disease, obesity, and many other health issues I don’t want to experience. I work out in the morning, after which I immediately take a really cold shower. It makes me laugh because I never want to do it but I dod it anyway because I promised to myself I’d do it. Cold showers are a huge part of why I’m healthy and don’t get sick.
Swimming. I was never a swimmer, it’s something I learned recently. Holding my breath underwater was tough to learn but now I’m able to do 75-second long handstands underwater. Handstand practice allows me to challenge my body, improve its balance, which of course optimizes my overall wellbeing. Watch this 75-second long underwater handstand.
Kayaking. I was scared of kayaking but once I tried, I was hooked. It’s such a peaceful activity, and the benefit is also really well-shaped arms. Making lunch, getting in my boat with Bruno, my Cocker Spaniel who must wear a safety jacket because he’s afraid of water, and going up against the current – this is something I love doing in the mornings or afternoons where there’s not a lot of tube-traffic on the Chattahoochee River. The sound of water is soothing. The rocking of the boat is soothing. The animals I get to see and observe are precious. The creation of God’s masterful work is something I enjoy with deep gratitude.
One more thing. My life after addiction has had many ups and downs but I know for a fact that it’s been a good life, a much better life than when I was addicted, avoidant, afflicted, and unconscious living the life of the walking dead. I’m fully alive. I love living. Nothing is perfect, trust me, but I have a purpose and I’m able to experience genuine joy, peace, and passion.
Processing Life by Talking to Myself
When issues come up, when bad things happen, when PTSD hits me hard, when I experience a panic attack or anxiety, I do not escape into masturbation or porn or sex. I face my situation.
For example, there was a big conflict I had with Amazon. Here’s what happened. In 2017, I wrote a book of 52 devotionals.
I used four of them to make really cool merch designs that would encourage and empower me and other women.
I uploaded one of the designs to Amazon Merch, after I was approved for the program. The first T-shirt I ever published was ugly because I didn’t know how to properly use their merch software. I didn’t like it, so I left it there and forgot all about it. Then, I deleted that design later on.
When I was ready to design my full collection and spread the word, I spent many days creating 125 products, all of which I wanted YOU to find by simply googling my hashtag #52Devotionals.
Well… As my hard work continued, I quickly learned than anyone who’d google #52Devotionals immediately saw that old grey ugly T-shirt which I created as a test and later deleted. So, clicking on that image and link led to Amazon’s error page. That was not good.
I needed Amazon to establish a 301 redirect to lead that well-ranked page to my new Christian apparel collection.
It takes about 45 seconds to do it. I contacted Amazon through support, I told them how to do it, I explained what happened, and no matter what, Amazon refused to do it even after the request was escalated to their leadership. I was first pissed, honestly, I was furious!
In the next few seconds, I started my self-interview.
My Typical Self-Examination
What is so upsetting about this?
I’m pissed off because Amazon needs to fix the error page, and there’s no reason not to fix it. They lead people who want to see my actual Christian apparel to a non-existing page. Why can’t they set a redirect as I asked them to?
Ok, I understand. Can you control Amazon?
Have you tried your best to persuade them to fix it?
Good job! Now, what is the real problem and where is the problem?
On Google, in search. I don’t want people who desire to check out my Christian apparel to be led to the deadend by a non-existing link.
I got it. Thanks for explaining. So, the issue is on Google?
Yes. I want Google to lead people to my actual Christian apparel collection, not to a broken link.
Ok. Great! Can you then reach out to Google since Amazon doesn’t want to help?
Yes!!!!!My Actual Headspace Conversation
p.s: I contacted Google by reporting the broken Amazon URL and submitting a new one. Within 24 hours, the issue was fixed.
I recommend self-examination and actual productive conversation with self out loud, through questions and answers, leading to helpful problem-solving instead of avoiding emotions and challenges by escape into sex.
And as I’m sharing this with you, let’s talk about story-sharing now.
Sharing My Sex Addiction Story to Help Others
This article has been the most painful story I ever shared. Honestly, I’m overwhelmed right now, and I also feel a lot of fear sharing these intimate details of my life with you. But I do it anyway because God called me to share and because I know my story will help you. I want to help.
When I went to SA and heard people’s sex addiction stories, their sharing helped me so much. It helped me to know I’m not alone, my life can be rebuilt, there’s hope, and I can recover.
Story-sharing at SA encouraged and empowered me, and I want to encourage and empower you.
As far as your story goes, sharing it may be the first step to a better future, so consider opening up and releasing all that darkness, shame, and pain. Start small and see where story-sharing takes you. There might be someone out there whose life might be saved by your story.
Here’s a story about sex addiction and suicide. Sharing my story might be considered foolish by some but it’s not for them. I consider it courageous and I appreciate all the work I put into this article, though it took weeks of hard emotional, mental, and physical work.
It is courageous and healing to open up about your addiction.
Share your story!
This article discussed all aspects of sexual addiction. We answered the question “what is sex addiction?” and we analyzed sex addiction symptoms, as well as the signs of sex addiction.
I shared with you my experience of being a woman addicted to sex and walked you through my personal experience with Sex Addicts Anonymous.
Addiction to sex is the result of trauma, and I explained my trauma so that, perhaps, it can help you figure out your own sex addiction causes.
Facing my pain from childhood abuse, sexual assaults, suicide attempts, family violence, and broken heart allowed me to gain an understanding of my issues, grief my unfulfilled dreams, and forgive everyone who hurt me, including myself.
Addiction is a tool to escape the pain from hurt, and I shared with you what I was escaping and how I faced my “giants” eye-to-eye and grieved.
Sex is not a need, it’s a sacred miracle invented by God for a man and a woman to experience deep physical, emotional, and spiritual intimacy in the context of a marriage. Sexual sin is unique because the one who’s hurt the most by it is the one who is sinning sexually.
I hurt myself, and I’m rebuilding trust with myself. I abused my body by acting out sexually, and I’m nurturing my body to heal it. I was confused about my identity and thought that sex was love and that I was made for sex, but I now know that I was made by God to glorify Him and that He is the one who loves me. God is the giver of identity.
Everything that helped me on my journey is captured in the book of my 52 devotionals that are based on what God says, not what culture says about who we are. If you want to find out what God says about you, download my free book called #52Devotionals now.
Writing this content took a lot of time and effort. I wrote it to help encourage and empower you so that you know you’re not alone, your life is not over, there’s hope, and you can have a better future.
If this article helped you in some way, please share it with a woman who needs this information now.
Dear #TruePrincesses! I’m Anna Szabo, the founder of Online Discipleship For Women. This Christian ministry was founded in 2017 when I was struggling with severely suicidal depression. God grew my faith and hope and asked me to share the Gospel with you.
My mission is to alleviate suicide among women by encouraging YOU to grow in faith and hope.
My vision is to help YOU create a joyful life by embracing God’s word.
My goal is to make the Gospel practical and applicable to YOUR daily experiences.
Share this message with a woman who needs it now.