Returning to the windmill analogy, we need to understand what the wind is. This is another one of those things that will require you to rethink some beliefs and assumptions you’ve had for a long time. If I asked you what the wind might represent in relation to the sex addict’s windmill, I bet you might say it was something like internet pornography, trashy movies, inappropriate television shows, and magazines that glamorize immorality. In other words, the temptations of the world create the wind. Wrong. The windmakers are surprisingly not what you think they are.
The wind is actually caused by debilitating negative emotions or feelings such as resentment, negativism, anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, humiliation, remorse, loneliness, anger and rage. Take a good hard look at that list again. When these emotions clog our spiritual and mental circulatory systems, they cause us spiritual, emotional, mental and even physical pain. For the addict, the way to deal with the pain is to medicate with his “drug.”
Several years ago, I contracted viral meningitis. It started with a headache that proceeded to develop into a pain in my brain and spine so severe I could taste it. I ended up in the hospital with doctors and nurses coming and going with masks on their faces to avoid exposure. At first, I didn’t think I needed anything for the pain. I’m one of those guys who think a little pain is a good thing—it builds character. When it grew unbearable, however, I finally accepted the morphine offered by my doctor. I think this was the only time in my life I ever had morphine. Although I did not have any addictive reaction to the drug such as an overwhelming urge for more, I did notice how the drug affected me. It didn’t take the pain away completely, but it did take the edge off so that it was bearable. I still hurt. I was still uncomfortable. But now at least I wasn’t writhing in pain. It made it so I could endure the pain.
For the addict, his “drug of choice” is like morphine, taking the edge off his emotional pain. Thus, an alcoholic drinks alcohol, a drug addict shoots up his drug, a shopaholic shops, and a compulsive eater seeks solace in food. Similarly, a sex addict medicates by acting out sexually to release chemicals in the brain that produce the pleasant, narcotic effect that accompanies sexual intimacy. Basically, the God-given feelings and emotions that should be reserved only for intimacy between husband and wife are hijacked by the addiction and used to take the edge off the perceived emotional pain through which the addict is suffering. I say “perceived emotional pain” because often the cunning addiction will fabricate painful emotions in an effort to propel the addict down the pathway to acting out and self-medication.
My addiction’s favorite fabricated emotion seems to be resentment. I find myself generating resentment against other people based upon real or perceived slights, snubs, conflicts or disputes. Back before I knew anything about addiction, I would begin a downward spiral into despair and emotional pain and would eventually find myself acting out. Now that I know about my addiction and recognize its triggers, I am aware of resentment. When I feel it, I can often break it down and analyze it. Why am I feeling this resentment, I ask myself. More often than not, I find the resentment to be smoke and mirrors, of no substance at all. I recognize that it is my addiction trying to get me to give it some of the drug it craves.
For your husband in his sex addiction, it is not the pornography or the magazine or the movie that entices him. It starts in his head long before the sexual material ever hits his eyeballs. Something is going on that makes his addicted brain want to medicate. His addicted brain then goes in search of its drug. When the opportunity to view pornography presents itself, he has no defense because his addicted brain won’t allow a defense, and he acts out. If no opportunity to act out appears imminent, the addicted brain becomes first anxious and then desperate, eventually fabricating the circumstances necessary to justify acting out. Fantasy and obsession are huge parts of addiction.
This is why simply resolving to avoid pornography does not work. The addicted brain goes to work to come up with reasons, situations and justifications for acting out and the addict is drawn to the drug as surely as metal shavings are drawn to a magnet. Pornography is just the drug of choice that “medicates” your husband’s broken and addicted brain.
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