Sexaholism: Acting Out Versus Acting In

When studying addiction many years ago, psychologists realized that two behaviors are both part of the addiction:

  • “Acting out” is giving in to the addiction, using behaviors or substances inappropriately to deal with life’s uncertainties.  It was given this name because they theorized that all addictive behaviors were a way to reenact the past and somehow make it come out different.

  • “Acting in” is actively fighting the addiction, the tooth-and-nails hanging on to keep from giving in.  This phrase refers to the forceful suppression of the addiction into the insides of the addict.  It never works for long.

I cycled between these two behaviors for about 40 years of my life.  I’d go for a while fighting my urges, getting more and more miserable, and then throw up my hands in disgust and just give in for awhile.  Acting out destroyed relationships, career opportunities, and nearly took my life.  But acting in also destroyed relationships and career opportunities.

Sexaholics Anonymous gave me a Third Option (see SA page 84).  Instead of giving in to lust or fighting it, SA told me to surrender to the programme: get a sponsor and work the Steps.  The amazing result of working the Steps for me--under the guidance of a sponsor--is that the urges gradually became less urgent.  Years later, I can now live my life without that constant barrage of need, comfortable with myself and at peace with the wild fluctuations of the world around me.  And life just keeps getting better.

I see a LOT of newcomers who haven’t yet realized the difference between just “being a member of SA” and “working the programme.”  For those who are still "acting in" all the time--miserably fighting the urges--please know that there is a better way.  The end result of “acting in” for me was always to act out.  The end result of the programme is peace.