Making Amends Sex Addiction
Making Amends Sex Addiction When You’ve Made a Mistake
Has your sexual addiction ever caused you to harm or disappoint someone you cared about? Have you ever wanted to apologize but didn’t know how? It is never too late in the making amends process to say you are sorry. But saying you are sorry requires that you be honest with the person you hurt. And to do so means first being honest with yourself.
Make a list of all the ways you have hurt people because of your sexual addiction that you have not apologized for. Think back through the years, and don’t let feelings of shame stop you from recalling anything. Your focus should not be on making yourself feel guilty for having done these things in the past. Your focus should be on the fact that, right here right now, you are addressing the mistakes you made and taking responsibility for them. Your past is your past. All you have is your present.
Now make a list of all the times you hurt people because of your sexual addiction and then did apologize. If you can’t think of any, use any mistakes that you took responsibility for, even if they were not related to your sexual addiction.
Now look at each list. They are both full of some of your most regrettable moments, but do they trigger the same feelings? Or does the first list make you feel much worse? If so, then taking responsibility for your actions does indeed alleviate your feelings of guilt. And that means that, as difficult as some mistakes will be for you to face, making amends for those mistakes will make you feel that much better.
Now start thinking about the nuts and bolts: how can you apologize for each incident? If the person is a loved one, then you can probably call them or talk in person. Your apology does not have to be anything fancy; just use simple words that convey how sorry you are: “I know I hurt you when I did “X, Y & Z,” “I imagine you must be feeling “A, B & C” and I’m very sorry for it. You did not deserve it.”
The arguement can be made that sometimes people are better left no knowing all the details because it would be too much information. Unless asked for more, we recommend stating the where, when and how, and refraining from discussing the specific sexual acts / fantasies that you engaged in. If you feel confused by what we mean, we strongly encourage you schedule an appointment with us and speak with one of our sex addiction therapists to help you put determine healthy boundaries in the share process.
If the person is not blown away by your apology, don’t be disappointed. Remember that these apologies are mostly about making you feel better, about healing yourself. They may have long forgotten the incident, but clearly it has stuck with you. So even if your apology is not groundbreaking for the other party, you have still done something you should be proud of.
If, on the other hand, someone refuses to accept your apology, you should be respectful of that as well. Not everyone can forgive easily. Though it may hurt to have your apology rejected, at least you will know that you did everything in your power to make things right. And this process is not about forgiveness, anyway. It is about being honest with yourself and others and taking responsibility for your actions. Nothing they say or do can stop you from being honest and responsible.
The goal of this tip is to start the process of making amends. The road to recovery for people with a sex addiction is long and hard. Help is available. If needed do not hesitate to contact a sex addiction therapist at Sex Therapy in Philadelphia / Center for Growth.
If you are no longer in contact with a person, apologizing face to face might not be an option. But, remembering that this exercise is mostly about you coming to terms with your own past behaviors, thus there are a number of ways to approach this issue.
- Just sit down alone and think about what you did. Envision the person sitting across from you and deliver the heartfelt apology you feel they deserve. They may not hear it, but you will. And if you ever run into them again, you will have already practiced your apology.
- Write a letter of apology to anyone you can not apologize to in person. Discuss what you did, why you did it, and what you are doing now to change. Keep all of the letters, so that when you finally do run into them you will have your apology ready and waiting. In the meantime, the letters will serve as tangible reminders of your quest to better yourself and take responsibility for your actions.
- Tell a friend, family member or therapist what you did and role play the scenario and you be the person you hurt and explore how your behaviors made them feel. Then role play and apology. Lastly role play how you might handle yourself differently today.
Making amends may mean apologizing to an ex-lover who you cheated on or otherwise mistreated. If this is the case, they might (understandably) be very upset. But don’t let your anxiety deter you; this is an important step in healing yourself and may mean a lot to them.
You should decide whether you are going to label your behaviors as part of your sexual addiction / sexual compulsion in your apology. If that is a step you are not ready to take, you can certainly apologize for your inappropriate behaviors without mentioning your addiction / compulsion. If you decide to talk about your behaviors as an addiction or a compulsion that is great. After all, this process is all about honesty. But remember that an addiction / compulsion is no excuse, and that you are responsible for your actions — your addiction / compulsion is not.
Each time you make an apology, cross that incident off of your first list and add it to your second list. The goal is to eventually have every single item crossed off your first list. In the future, try to take responsibility for you mistakes right away. That way, you can add them to your “amended” list without ever adding them to your first list.
The best gift you can give yourself is permission to learn from your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. However, some people are so shamed from their mistakes that they shut down, as opposed to using them as teaching moments. In long term relationships, healthy people are routing for your success. Thus, the best way to move forward, and regain their trust, is by learning from the incident and not make the same mistake again.