We all know by now that when a person who is addicted drugs or alcohol stops using the chemical substance, that person will experience physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms. Similarly, when you stop your problematic sexual behaviors, you will also most likely experience withdrawal symptoms. While every person is different, some of the most common symptoms of withdrawal from problematic sexual behavior that we see are:
- Detached feelings
- Intense loneliness
- Intense boredom
- Too much sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Increased appetite
- Intense sadness
- Physical discomfort
It is likely that you have been using your problematic behavior as a way to handle your uncomfortable feelings as well as the pain and shame caused by the behavior itself. Therefore, when you stop the problematic behavior, the feelings that the behavior overshadowed and numbed will start to surface, and without the “self-medicating” behavior to soothe those feelings, you will begin to experience very intense feelings. Without the behavior masking your reality, you may feel grief and sadness as you start to face the consequences of your behavior.
During this time, you will feel yourself drawn back to the behaviors or to other types of destructive behavior to replace those behaviors from which you have ceased. Usually, we find that people will experience a great deal of loneliness and boredom because they are so used to being stimulated and activated by the problematic behaviors. It is therefore vital that you begin to engage yourself in the outer circle behaviors discussed in the previous section.
Now is the time to begin developing an outside support network. It is very important to bond with other people in recovery instead of bonding with your addiction. We find that attending 12-step meetings and becoming part of a supportive recovering community will bring you a sense of hopefulness, which makes it easier to deal with the pain of withdrawal.