Dr. Ley and “The Myth of Sex Addiction”. Dangerous Medicine

I regularly read the various scholarly journals and popular press on articles related to addiction. Psychology Today is regularly included in my studies. It is disconcerting to me that the major contributor at the magazine on articles related to sex addiction doesn’t believe that it is a bona fide diagnosis. To those who are suffering from this disorder, and looking for help, this can be a very dangerous message.

Dr. David Ley is the author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction”, a controversial book that is based on the premise that Sex Addiction, unlike substance abuse, is not a disease. It would not be fair of me to review the book at this time, because I have not read it. (I have requested a copy through my library, and will post specifically on the book after I do read it)

It is fair game for me to comment on an article that Dr. Ley posted on Psychology Today, titled, “The Profit in Sex Addiction”. where he views sex addition as being a diagnosis created largely for the gain of for-profit rehabilitation centers. He argues that because leaders in the field of sex addiction, like Patrick Carnes and Steven Arteburn make a living off of their work, that they are not objective advocates for the field of sex addiction.

Dr. Ley neglects to mention that he doesn’t do his own work out of the goodness of his heart, in fact, he is considered by the media as one of the “go to” people for the contrarian view that sex addiction is not a valid diagnosis.

The thesis that sex addiction does not exist because there are people making a profit off it is flawed and dangerous. Sex addiction does exist, without a doubt to all of those people who regularly attend 12 Step Meetings like those of SAA and SA. Denying that this is a problem denies people a chance at salvaging lives that were destroyed by inappropriate sexual conduct. Although these people are powerless themselves over their sexual compulsions, many have effectively changed their lives with the help of the group, their sponsors, and a Higher Power.

Many of those who are addicted need help, and those with the financial means may chose ways to replace or supplement the benefits they receive from being part of a 12 Step Program. Like substance addiction, some of these people enter for-profit programs. That a program is for-profit does not necessarily make it bad (it doesn’t necessarily make it good, however).

It’s not correct to write off sex addiction as fake because there are some charlatans out there. Nor is it right to write off sex addiction because some people who aren’t addicts hide behind the diagnosis to justify inappropriate behavior. There are many otherwise good people who struggle with this problem, and many who are able to change their lives with help. I sincerely hope that the thoughts of those like Dr. Ley. dissuade those out there who need help from getting it.

More work needs to be done in this field. As of yet, there are neurological studies that deal primarily with sex addiction. The arguments that pro sex-addiction therapists give regarding addiction and brain chemistry (affecting dopamine levels. oxytocin levels, and pathway changes) have not been studied directly with sexual addiction, because this research is not being funded.

What we do have are lots and lots of people, who, despite their own self will, are unable to manage their sexual behaviors. Lives are lost, marriages are destroyed, and financial hardship is endured because of sex addiction.

We also have lots and lots of people who find treatment works for them, with a 12 step program, and/or other kinds of therapy.  Let’s keep that door open, until the science proves otherwise. I’m almost certain it won’t.

Beyond the 12 Steps: Breaking Free from Addiction with the Slight Edge

What is the Slight Edge?

The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success, is a fantastic book written by Jeff Olsen, an expert in the field of personal development. For a while, Jeff graciously donated his book as a free PDF and Kindle file. Jeff now sells the book, and I feel it’s still a great investment of your money and time.

The basis of the Slight Edge is simple. Each day, we are given a choice. Our choice is to do something small to get slightly ahead or slightly behind. The choice to eat right one day, or to work out one day, in themselves may seem to be fairly minor, but over time, these choices add up.

Jeff believes that 95% of people will do what’s easy NOT TO DO.  This failure results in bad health, finances, low personal achievement, relationship failures, and career and business failures.

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On the other side, it’s the 5% of people who constantly do the small right thing that eventually will enjoy success in the areas of their life where the Slight Edge is applied.

The Slight Edge and Addiction

As I read the book, I immediately noticed how the Slight Edge philosophy can serve to compliment and augment the 12 steps.  I started the outline to this article before I even finished the book, before I read stories of addiction and recovery in the Slight Edge.

Addicts don’t make simple errors in judgment. They make major errors in judgment, which compound greatly over time. The downward slope on the chart above for the addict is even greater than that of a non-addict, and the end result for the addict is a life that has spiraled out of control, hurting themselves and those around them, often leading to the direst of consequences.

The model of the Slight Edge is the inverse of the model of addition. The addict chooses instant gratification, risking long term destruction in the process. As time passes, this gratification decreases, and the addict fruitlessly risks more and more to get that high. Eventually, the addict loses control over the addiction, and is unable to stop his personal destruction.

The Slight Edge practitioner chooses short term sacrifices in pursuit of long term gain. These sacrifices compound over time, providing not only rewards but a greater degree of control in one’s life.

 

Benefits of the 12 Steps

There are ways out for those addicts who wish to remove themselves from the cycle of destruction. Many addicts recover through detox centers and therapy. Arguably the most well-known way that addicts recover is through the use of a 12 step program. The 12 Steps allow the addict to escape the cycle of dependency and rebuild their lives:

Steps 1 through 3 involve acknowledging powerlessness over the addiction, and turning the addiction and the will of the addict over to God.

Steps 4 through 7 involve the repair of the addict, by taking inventory of the addict’s character defects, and asking the Higher Power to remove these defects.

Steps 8 and 9 involve repairing the lives of others, by making amends, directly when possible, indirectly when not.

Steps 10 and 11 involve continuing to manage the addict’s faults, and deepening the relationship with God.

Step 12 involves passing the message on to others.

The 12 Steps serve to reverse the path of destruction of the addict, and bring them back to a state of recovery. Like the Slight Edge, this change is incremental, taking “One Day at a Time”

But the 12 Steps Could Be Better

 

The 12 Step Model is designed for recovery, getting the addict back to a “normal” life, one free of addiction. While this in itself is extraordinary, the 12 Step Model doesn’t pursue moving from an ordinary life to one that is extraordinary. Where the 12 Steps stop, the Slight Edge picks up.
The Slight Edge can take the recovered addict, and propel her into a “super recovery”.  Adding the Slight Edge principles to those of the 12 Steps compliments recovery for the addict.

The Slight Edge contains a series of 7 principles, when followed, moves the follower to success. It’s easy to see, when lined up, how these 7 Slight Edge principles line up with the principles of sobriety given in the 12 Steps.

Principle 12 Steps
1: SHOW UP Often, the addict comes to his first meeting because he has to. Life has gotten to such a point where the only way he can possibly save himself is by walking in the doors of a 12 step meeting. Just walking in the door takes a major effort, and that effort is the first step on the road to recovery.
2: BE CONSISTENT   Perhaps no phrase in 12 step programs is more universally known than “One Day at a Time” 12 step programs change lives radically, but that change is done incrementally.Sobriety involves working a program. Attending meetings, working the steps, and reaching out to other recovering addicts consistently is essential to maintaining sobriety.
3: HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE The acceptance of a Higher Power in one’s life is the substitution of negative for positive thoughts.
4: BE COMMITTED FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME Sobriety is a journey, not a destination. The addict must commit themselves each day to be sober.
5: HAVE FAITH AND A BURNING DESIRE 12 Step programs are about submitting an addiction to a higher power, and using that faith and a burning desire to accomplish what was once thought impossible.
6: BE WILLING TO PAY THE PRICE There is a big cost to sobriety. It involves fully implementing the principles of the 12 steps into every facet of the recovering addict’s life. The addict knows that this investment is far less costly than continuing the life that she led.
7: PRACTICE SLIGHT EDGE INTEGRITY In order to be successful, an addict must shed themselves from the world of lies. Practicing rigorous honesty is a cornerstone of the 12 steps.

 

The 12 Steps are about recovery from addiction, hopelessness, and pain. Committing to the 12 steps with fullness of mind and spirit will make the addict whole. But once whole, can the addict become even better, even more than just normal.

The Slight Edge provides a path from a normal life to an optimal one. It’s a great compliment to continue on the path given by the 12 steps.