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Living Through the Discomfort of Withdrawal

If you become abstinent from addictive sexual behavior, you may experience withdrawal, just as you would from alcohol or any addictive drug.  Withdrawal is not a metaphor.  It is a physiological phenomenon with emotional and mental compo­nents.  You may experience physical pain, depression, anxiety, anger, exhaustion, irrational thinking, or mood swings.  You may find yourself drawn to new ways of acting out sexually or to problematic behaviors that never appealed to you before.  No one can predict what your experience will be.  Try and be patient with yourself.  It took time for us to develop the sexual compulsions that came to rule our lives.  It also takes time for the power of those compul­sions to drain away.

Withdrawal is a stage in recovery that does not last forever.  It is important to remember that no matter how uncomfortable your feelings may become, as long as you stay sober, they will pass.  As addicts we unconsciously developed strategies to medicate our feelings.  Withdrawal is often our first attempt at letting our feelings be without trying to change them.  While this stage of recovery may be challenging, each time we turn back to our addiction and our old way of life, we interrupt the process of withdrawal instead of moving through it.

Few of us can weather withdrawal on our own.  Most of us need many program tools to get through this stage of recovery.  Attend meetings, reach out to program members, make phone calls, and keep sharing your experience with others.  Special attention to self-care will alleviate some of the stress of withdrawal.  Also, don’t underestimate the healing power that may come from doing service and being of help to others.  The support of the program enables us to tolerate the discomfort of withdrawal.  We survived it, and you will too.

By being active in SAA, we can draw inspiration and support from the newcomer and from those who have put together longer sobriety.  Willingness to live through withdrawal is the cornerstone for recovery.  Our continued abstinence is the foundation upon which all subsequent personal growth depends.