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Once an Addict, Always an Addict?

“Once an Addict, Always an Addict”

This phrase has been widely used to stereotype addicts for many, many years.  It is almost a “common” phrase whenever someone speaks about their loved one being addicted.  This term is also mainly used by those who don’t always understand the recovery process from addiction and what the actual term “addict” references.

Keep in mind that the following is only my own personal opinion on this subject of the use of the phrase “Once an addict, always an addict.”  In my own recovery process, this statement was said to a loved one about me.  I took quite a bit offense to this statement only because it made me feel like there was no hope, that I would always remain addicted to the chemicals produced by my brain during compulsive sexual behavior, and that I would continue to act out sexually the rest of my life.  It also scared my loved one, because they did not know much about the addiction at that time.

In looking at this term, one needs to distinguish between an active sex addict and a recovering sex addict.  An active sex addict, obviously, is one who is not in real sexual addiction recovery and continues to act out sexually.  This sex addict, although in “recovery,” could still be in a minimized state of denial where they see some sexual issues as acceptable that are typically unacceptable to even Christian non-addicts such as viewing pornography (I could spend hours and pages writing about how pornography affects the brain but this post is not about that topic).  The active addict will continue to seek out their high, usually through non-traditional acting out behaviors, until they break through the denial, live in honesty, and finally put a stop to the compulsive sexual behavior.

An addict in recovery, however, is no longer seeking ways to “beat the system” and is either living or trying to live a life of recovery.  An addict in recovery understands that recovery and life is progress not perfection, continuing to progress in their recovery, not continuing to live in their addiction.  When a sex addict finally breaks through the denial surrounding his life and truly gives himself to the program (including practicing rigorous honesty), then they are a “recovering sex addict.”

Furthermore, when one studies the brain scans of addicts versus those of healthy individuals; one can see an obvious difference.  However, with abstinence from drugs and alcohol, one can see through the brain scans that the brain of the addict slowly begins to resemble the brain of a healthy individual.  This healing of the brain will take time and abstinence from addictive behaviors, but it can and will happen.

Brain on drugs                    Brain 1 Year Sober              Healthy Brain

Finally, when a sex addict enters recovery, they are asked to take a Sex Addiction Screening Test (SAST) questionare that is then given to their therapist for them to review and score.  This questionare typically determines if the individual truly suffers from Sexual Addiction and if they do, the individual’s level of sex addiction.  Based on the behaviors from most of my life, I scored a 19 out of 20.  Now that is pretty bad.  But God has used that measure to show me His grace and the miracles only He can peform.  Although most sex addicts don’t retake the test, last year I decided to retake it based solely on my sexual activities in the first 2 years of my recovery.  The results are written below.  In theory, I am no longer a “sex addict” as defined by the International Institute for Trauma & Addiction Professionals (IITAP) based on the six categories that define Sexual Addiction.  I am by no means stating I am cured from sex addiction.  It is my personal belief that I will never be cured, but the disease has been slowed down enough where I can function as a healthy human being.  This is by no way “scientific” but it shows how a life of recovery from sexual addiction can actually be non-addictive and non-destructive.  If we are to become healthy, we must live a life of recovery.  The thumbnail chart at the top left of this paragraph is my score at entering recovery.  The thumbnail chart to the right is my score based on the first two years of working my recovery program.  A healthy sexual lifestyle is possible for all those who earnestly desire it!

As a recovering sex addict, I must always acknowledge the fact that if I let my guard down, I could fall back into the addiction either through a slip or relapse.  In understanding this fact, I realize that I will not always be an addict, but I will always be vulnerable to the addiction.  This being said, the correct term to be used for addicts should be as follows.

“Once an addict, always vulnerable”

I would ask that from now on this phrase be used when speaking to family, friends, spouses, or loved ones of addicts in recovery.  This phrase should also be used when speaking about yourself and your addiction recovery!

Take what you like and leave the rest.

2 thoughts on “Once an Addict, Always an Addict?”

  1. What an awesome article. Thanks for the new phrase too. One criticism I frequently hear, “Aren’t you ever going to be cured”? Or, “Why must you always identify yourself as an addict”? I’m not acting out anymore either, but, I know I’m always vulnerable. This article gives a good perspective.

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