By Eddie Capparucci, LPC, C-CSAS, CPCS
Long before I became a counselor working with men to help them manage their sex and porn addiction, I was mired in my own addictive behaviors. From an early age when I was first exposed to sexually suggestive material, I was hooked.
Why? That is a question I have spent a great amount of time ponder and researching.
Why do some young boys become so engrossed in sexuality while others are not quite as captivated? Many believe the answer is certain boys (and girls too) have less of a moral compass than others. But that is not accurate.
The reason individuals get caught up in sex and porn addiction is due to pain points suffered as children, adolescents, and teenagers. These are unresolved traumas that become repressed (subconscious) or suppressed (refusal to acknowledge them).
And as I came to find out when I embarked on my own recovery, the road to recovery from sex and porn addiction goes through your childhood.
That sounds strange doesn’t it? But it’s true. Let me explain using my own story. Here are some highlights:
- Father died when I am 5.
- Mother, who is left with 4 kids including an infant, suffers a nervous breakdown.
- I am shipped out again to live with other relatives I don’t know.
- 9 months later mom believes she is healthy enough for all of us to come home — she is not and suffers another nervous breakdown.
- I am shipped out alone to live with “different” relatives I don’t know.
- My older sisters had to raise me while mom goes off to work to support us. Being teenagers they really don’t want to be watching a 7-year-old. So I spend a lot of time alone in my room.
- We lived in a deteriorating neighborhood so I was not allowed to go outside and play until we moved when I was 10. That is when I made my first friend. But I was socially awkward and friends didn’t stay.
- Mom remarried an abusive man was I was 11. Life was hell until I was able to leave.
Now, this is not a horror story but there are many traumas littered throughout it that I simply brushed aside until I did my recovery work at age 38. These traumas include abandonment, neglect, isolation, loneliness, and abuse. What is a child to do with these hurts especially when there is no one available to walk him through the pain and explain what is happening and that things will be ok?
Well, let’s look at the short-comings of children when it comes to decision making. First, they lack worldly experience and don’t have a wealth of knowledge about how to navigate negative events. Second, they are more emotionally-based in their thinking than cognitive.
So, as a child, what is the natural solution when a frightening situation occurs and there is no one to help sort through it? The answer — distract yourself so you can forget about it. And that is what I did.
At first, it was by engaging in fantasy pretending to be a superhero or sports star. These fantasies would last for hours, days, weeks and months. Eventually, I was caught up in these worlds of make-believe because they were the only worlds that didn’t cause pain and disappointment.
When I stumble across sex at age 13 it changed everything. I didn’t need my fantasy worlds as often to distract myself. I found a new distraction that was more stimulating than anything else I had ever encountered. It was a drug and it kept me high.
So, what does all of this have to do with the inner child?
He is a storage unit filled with past pain points I had suppressed. But when a negative event occurred in my life that reminded my inner kid of past trauma (emotional triggers) he became activated and led me to run off using sex to distract myself from the emotional distress. The reason this worked so effectively for decades, is the fact I wasn’t aware my inner child existed. He was running the show.
My recovery involved understanding the core emotional triggers that activate my inner child. These triggers include:
- I feel left behind
- I feel ignored (invisible)
- I feel I have no voice
- I feel like a fraud
- I feel bored
- I feel disrespected
When I was in my addictive stage, if an event occurred that involved any of those core emotional triggers my inner child was activated, and I was off and running to distract myself with destructive sexual behaviors.
Understanding all of this led me to develop the Inner Child Recovery Process. Recovery using this process includes:
- Awareness of the inner child and his capabilities.
- Identifying the core emotional triggers that activate the kid.
- Learning to process the emotional pain associated with those triggers instead of avoiding them.
- Focusing on slowing everything down and becoming less compulsive and more responsive to situations and people.
- Using “wise mind” to understand how the current situation doesn’t present the danger(s) associated with past trauma.
- Identifying positive lifelines that are used to make healthy choices after triggers have occurred.
In using this process, I have been sexually sober for nearly 20 years. That is not to say I don’t get triggered, I do (we all do). But with mindfulness and on-going self-reflection I have learned how to stay one-step ahead of my addiction. My inner child is no longer running the show. I am. And he’s happier because of it.
I have been using this Inner Child Recovery Process with great success in my private practice and now it’s available to everyone who is struggling with this disorder. It is the subject of my latest book, “Going Deeper: How the Inner Child Impacts Your Sexual Addiction.” It is available at most online book retail outlets including Amazon and B&N. There is also an online recovery course that can be found at http://www.innerchild-sexaddiction.com.