2009 - September

Today, many parents know the basic tips on how to protect their children from predatory adults on the Internet. But few parents understand what to do if a child or teenager repeatedly seeks out pornography, phone sex, or risky physical encounters. How can parents distinguish between sexual curiosity and a serious problem, growing more unmanageable each day?

“Tom” and “Maggie” (not their real names) found themselves asking this very question, and initially believed the answer was clear. Their son “Jason” was a bright kid with excellent grades. “Through his early years, we never had to discipline him for the same offense twice,” Tom recalled recently. “He was in seventh grade, and in a car pool with a group of older boys. His interest in the computer turned from hot rod cars to soft core pornography sites which – I believe – he learned about from the ‘big’ boys .…We caught him and confronted him. His remorse [was] so genuine…that I thought the problem was solved. I vastly underestimated the seductive power of porn.”

Tom and Maggie slowly saw the addiction revealed through Jason’s behavior. Tom remembers, “He was soon drawn to sites that portrayed rape and bondage – images that went far beyond normal curiosity.”

They placed the computer in a public area of the house, and disabled it whenever they were both gone. “But we had an old computer, stored in pieces in a back room… [Jason] figured out how to put it together, download and print the images he wanted, then take it apart again. This was so blatantly the behavior of an addict – someone who knows the consequences of their actions will be severe, yet can’t stop themselves – that we sought the help of a highly recommended psychologist.”

They also looked for recovery resources online. The Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (www.sash.net) defines sex addiction as “a persistent and escalating pattern or patterns of sexual behaviors acted out despite increasingly negative consequences to self or others.” Therapists familiar with the problem of sex addiction can help parents develop a contract for acceptable sexual behavior in their home.

Contracts specify accountability measures, such as random room searches or STD tests, as well as appropriate rewards and consequences. By working with specially trained sex addiction therapists, teen sex addicts understand how their inappropriate behavior painfully affects themselves and others; and parents learn new ways of communicating and maintaining the boundaries they set in their home.

Because most parents are unfamiliar with how to address sex addiction in a child, couples often differ about how to handle the problem. For instance, one parent may take a more strict or reactive approach, while the other may be more permissive. Parents who are divorced may have different standards of behavior in each household. Blaming or shaming one another or their child can be a particularly painful and confusing barrier to recovery.

Tom and Maggie learned that their early efforts at control were typical of many parents in the same situation. “Because I’d been fooled once, I became hyper-vigilant. My wife constantly monitored the computer, while I regularly searched his room.” Hyper-vigilance can take on a life of its own and become part of an escalating pattern of co-addiction between parents and their child.

Tom recalls, “We became spies on our own son. Whether he lied or not, he had already destroyed the bond of trust. I simply assumed that he was lying, and acted accordingly. We went through a period of secretly recording his phone conversations with his girl friends. If he said he was going to the movies with a particular friend, I’d wait until after the film started, then buy a ticket myself so that I could see with my own eyes where he was, and who he was with.” Like Tom and Maggie, by the time many parents reach out to helping professionals and Twelve Step support groups, they are already exhausted from monitoring or “snooper-vising” (as it is sometimes referred to in recovery circles).

In addition to working with a psychologist, Tom and Maggie attended meetings of COSA, a Twelve Step group for friends and family of sex addicts, where they could discuss their concerns with other parents. COSA meetings do not center on how to control the addict’s behavior. Instead, parents share their feelings of powerlessness and confusion, establish or deepen a connection with their Higher Power, and support one another as they each grow and change in their own unique way.

In COSA, parents learn what are known as “The Three Cs Plus One.” For instance, parents learn that although they did not Cause the addiction; they cannot Control it; and they cannot Cure it – they can Contribute to their family’s recovery. Parents do this by making their own recovery a top priority. Tom explains, “However much we might wish to spare our children the hard work required by a commitment to a sober life, only the teens themselves - by daily and constant effort - can accomplish what must be done.” Parents support one another to be clear, consistent and patient, to reduce the chaos and drama in their households, and to be available for their other children – no matter what the addict chooses to do.

While Tom and Maggie attended the COSA parents meeting in one room, Jason attended a separate Twelve Step meeting for adolescent sex addicts in another room down the hall.

“The group sessions helped him put his own actions into a context that was unavailable any other way. He realized that he wasn’t a freak, wasn’t alone, and – in fact – wasn’t in as deeply as some of the others in the group.” While few Twelve Step sex addiction recovery meetings accept underage members due to safety concerns, both parents and teens can benefit from reading the literature of Twelve Step programs, such as Sexaholics

Anonymous (SA), Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA) and Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA). In fact, many helping professionals incorporate the same spiritual principles of these Twelve Step programs into their task-centered therapeutic approach.

Today, Jason is in college, and Tom and Maggie have gone on to support other parents in COSA all over the country. Recovery for their family is an ongoing story – one that has made each member stronger for having walked through it together.

For general information on sexual addiction, parents can contact: Society for the Advancement of Sexual Health (SASH)
www.sash.net, 706-356-7031
Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
713-869-4902 / 800-477-8191
COSA www.cosa-recovery.org
713-685-7503 / 763-537-6904

( 7 Votes )
Comments (9)
9 Friday, 16 September 2016 19:27
Claudia CBS
My son is a 17-year-old gay sex addict. He has anal sex with anybody who will sleep with him. I feel like I'm going crazy trying to stop it! I'm only posting this because I'm so scared and frustrated and there doesn't seem to be help anywhere. He thinks there's nothing wrong with it he could sleep with three or four different men in one week. And believe me I try to watch where he is every minute but of course as it says in the article you can't. I could use some advice anybody out there??
8 Sunday, 11 September 2016 10:48
Hey guys I'm 17 years old and I love sext I had chlamydia twice and I'm scared because everything hurts my body and I feel sick all the time and none of the medicine is working for me I told my mother to the doctors but it just seems like nobody is trying to help so I'm just thinking about just giving up because it really hurts me and I don't know what to do
7 Thursday, 10 March 2016 21:02
Yeah but, if you are a teen... With let's say a serious case of addiction to masturbation. And you can't stop. Your family know you masturbate but, they don't know it's an addiction. Sometimes they even joke about it. And it hurts your feelings. WTF Are you supposed to do!!? What are you supposed to do if you can't stop even if it hurts....
6 Saturday, 05 September 2015 02:49
I live in London . I just found out why my son was suicidal and other problems his being having.
Can someone tell me where I can get help for my son whos nearly 18 and is addictive to porn and masturbating
5 Thursday, 10 October 2013 13:40
alex mcalkich
I can help anybody with sexual addiction ;)
4 Saturday, 08 June 2013 12:20
I need help my teen daughter is sexual with so many im scared for her idk where help come from
3 Sunday, 23 December 2012 00:58
Wow the parents did go a little bit overboard with the stalking...I mean seriously their son still needs privacy & he will learn things about life during his youth...by himself!
2 Wednesday, 07 July 2010 04:44
Troubled Teens
Abstinence is most important thing to maintain for any boy or girl. Teenage sexual addiction causes pre teen pregnancies, depression, and other sexual transmitted diseases. Many troubled teens are involved in unsafe sexual abuse and get harmful health problems and consequences. For getting detailed information on sexual problems and precautions several counselors are there.
1 Monday, 19 October 2009 15:52
iam a latino 25yr.old woman my son is15 yrs.old && i love him to death. He is my earything && more i rased him all his && my life, i had him at 11. Yes, i know (omg) but i was younge. He is addicted to sex, && i knoe this for a fact he has told me my son has had many problem's (sick) problem's && right know my 15yr.old is going to be 16! And he has (aid's) that is very hurtfull to me also my son has a 2yr.old boy his is also a blessing to me this hurt's to say but my son my no longer say in this world to be 20 && that can hurt me && his beautiful son. Iam 25 year's old, && im here to say please younge one's becarefull...PLEASE! This is a crazy world. My son goes to docter's almost everyweek, my son is not well he will not be around to much longer && that hurt's a mother. To all the younge one's be safe && wait! Untill the time is riqht i been through alot in my life time && so has my family! But life is something to thank god for.. LIFE, is a great thing && you do not want to lose LIFE! Keep my word's in mind they may/may not come in help.

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