After completing a residential treatment programme for sex addiction, it is strongly encouraged to spend as much time in a structured, clinical environment as possible where abstinence is advocated. At least six months of sexual abstinence of all kind is recommended for those in treatment for recovery sex addiction. Abstinence is a way to make sure the brain is healing from its habitual chemical responses to sex and sexual activity. By maintaining abstinence, a patient is able to focus on their therapy and recovery while continuing to define their sex addiction as well as their recovery from sex addiction. Sober living or lower levels of care are ways to continue gradually introducing elements of independent decision making while maintaining the enforcement of healthy rules, boundaries, and abstinence.
Slowly transitioning into independent living assists patients in their journey to recovery by helping them develop all the tools they need to make healthy decisions about sex, sexual activity, and access to triggers like the internet, magazines, or more. Independent living doesn’t necessarily include luxuries which could lead to sex addiction relapse. Before gaining access to independent luxuries, many patients find it beneficial to first gain independence in life responsibilities. Often, adjusting to these life responsibilities is equally if not more challenging than adjusting to life luxuries. Chores, cleaning, cooking, shopping at the grocery, budgeting, finding a job, maintaining a job, and other life responsibilities have to be slowly introduced.
Taking time to transition into independence is also important for keeping patients in a structured environment as they experience ongoing symptoms of withdrawal. Sex addiction is a behavioral addiction, sometimes referred to as a process addiction. Even though sex addiction is not a chemical addiction, there are symptoms of withdrawal for sex addiction:
Psychological cravings: obsessive thinking, inability to sleep due to obsessive thinking, feeling compelled to take impulsive action to relieve the obsessive thinking
Physical cravings: sweating, tossing and turning at night, tightness in the chest, headaches, physical discomfort, hyperproduction of hormones