Sex Addiction: What is Setting Bottom Lines?

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A bottom line can be seen as a traffic light. It is a useful way for people recovering from sex addiction to monitor their behaviors on a daily basis.

What is a bottom line in sex addiction recovery? The recovery process requires that sex addicts identify and set boundaries for sexual thoughts and behaviors. The boundaries come through a self-awareness of the impact of various thoughts and behaviors. A bottom line is important to the recovery process because it can prevent an addict from engaging in activities that will lead to a relapse. Different “S” fellowships define “bottom line” behaviors differently. In the end, they all focus on behaviors the sex addict does not want to engage in.

According to Healthy Mind’s article “Recognizing/Setting Your Bottom Line,” in recovery from addiction, the concept of “setting a bottom line” is a common one. However, it might be more accurate to say that one does not so much set a bottom line as recognize it. A bottom line exists for each person whether he or she acknowledges it or not. It has a life of its own.”

Therefore, it is important that sex addicts don’t force their bottom line. It should be something that they come to an awareness of over time. Awareness can come from meditation, self-reflection, counseling or therapy. Practicing mindfulness in everyday life will help addicts to discover their bottom line and be mindful of it in their daily life.

Think of your bottom line as a traffic light. It consists of three separate behaviors, red, yellow and green. Red light behaviors are the ones that you must not engage in. Yellow light behaviors should be approached with caution. Green light behaviors are healthy behaviors that you should seek to normalize in your daily life. (SAA refers to these as Inner, Middle and Outer Circle behaviors)

The “Recognizing/Setting Your Bottom Line,” states that red light behaviors are “sexual behaviors that are destructive and addictive, leading to sexual preoccupation and out of control behavior. At minimum, they include behaviors where one instance of the behavior could cause drastic consequences (arrest, transmission of HIV, loss of job or primary relationship, etc.). They also include any behavior that “makes you crazy,” i.e., starts an addictive acting-out cycle. These are the behaviors that (for today) you will not engage in…your bottom line.”

Yellow light behaviors are ones that should be viewed as a warning or approached with caution. These behaviors can be divided into two separate categories, boundary behaviors and cautionary behaviors. Boundary behaviors fall into the “no” category, but aren’t as severe as red light behaviors. You don’t have to reset your sobriety date if you engage in these behaviors, but you should be aware that you are close to crossing a dangerous line. Caution behaviors are ones that are in a gray area. You need to monitor them so that they don’t get out of control.

Green light behaviors are healthy sexual behaviors that you should be trying to engage in throughout your daily life. These behaviors include courtship, dating and healthy sexual activities.

Take some time and sit with your sponsor, therapist, fellow or trusted advisor and set your bottom line behaviors as a guide to your recovery.

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