Many times, a sex addict shows up for treatment declaring that he’s ready and willing to stop his problematic sexual behaviors, only to continue acting out and lapsing in his sexual “sobriety.” With every intention to do the right thing, he may show up to therapy week after week declaring that he wants to stop his sexually destructive behaviors, yet he repeats his patterns over and over again rendering him frustrated and hopeless. He’s probably admitting to his therapist that he’s not completely complying with the treatment recommendations leaving his therapist feeling like he’s banging his head against a wall and asking himself, “What am I doing wrong?” because the techniques that have worked to keep many other sex addicts sober just don’t seem to be working for this one. This scenario can be terribly frustrating for both parties and may have the client feeling shame about not being able to “do it right,” raising the question, “Does an addict have to hit “bottom” before he’s really ready to get serious about his sobriety?”
In addiction terminology, an addict hitting “bottom” means that his addictive behaviors have created such destruction, pain, and unmanageability in his life that the only way out is “up.” For example, if an addict loses his job, family, and friends as a result of his addiction and ends up homeless, he’s said to have “hit rock bottom.” Every addict has a different “bottom” though. Some people have “high bottoms,” meaning it doesn’t take much for them to recognize they’re in trouble and need help, while others have “low bottoms,” meaning they have to lose everything that has meaning to them before they realize they have a problem. Some people say that hitting a “bottom” is the only way that an addict can find the motivation to do whatever it takes to remain sober. For some addicts this is true, and for others it’s not.