What is Lust?

Why in Step One do we say that we are powerless over lust instead of sex?  Is not some form of sex what we are addicted to?  Yes, we answer, but our problem is not simply sex, just as in compulsive overeating the problem is not simply food.  Eating and sex are natural functions; the real problem in both of these addictions seems to be what we call lust – an attitude demanding that a natural instinct serve unnatural desires.

Sexual attraction and arousal in the right context is a beautiful and good part of our human nature.  But when we try to use food or sex to reduce isolation, loneliness, insecurity, fear, tension, or to cover our emotions, make us feel alive, help us escape, or satisfy our God-hunger, we create an unnatural appetite that misuses and abuses the natural instinct.  It is not only more intense than the natural but becomes something totally different. Eating and sex enter a different dimension; they possess an unnatural spiritual component.

The addiction is thus to lust and not merely to the substance or physical act.  Lust – the attitude itself – becomes the controlling factor in the addiction.

This may be why people exhibit lust in more than one area.  Often, those of us addicted to substances or forms of behavior discover we are also addicted to negative attitudes and emotions.

“I remember when I came off lust, alcohol, and tranquilizers, resentment burst forth like a dammed-up volcano.  I remember thinking that controlling lust must be like trying to control a piece of jello; you press in here and it bulges out there.  Or like trying to rout a gopher; you plug up one tunnel only to have the beast go to work in another.”

People may not be allergic to food or sex in the sense some people are allergic to pollen, strawberries, or cats, but we do become “allergic” to lust for food and sex.   Misusing the natural instinct of sex for an unnatural end over and over again increasingly sensitizes us to the triggers of that association, until a simple thought or look elicits the compulsion.  Alcoholics understand that they have an allergy of the body, such that when they imbibe the first drink, they develop the phenomenon of craving and seek more and more of the substance.  In the same way, as sexaholics, we consider ourselves “allergic” to lust.  We can engage in healthy sexuality.  But when we lust, we lose control.

For the sexaholic, lust is toxic.  This is why in recovery, the real problem is spiritual and not merely physical.  This is why change of attitude is so crucial.



A personal point of view

Lust is not sex, and it is not physical.  It seems to be a screen of self-indulgent fantasy separating me from reality – either the reality of my own person in sex with myself or the reality of my spouse.  It works the same way whether with a girlfriend, a prostitute, or my wife.  It thus negates identity, either mine or the other person’s, and is anti-real, working against my own reality,  working against me.

I can’t have true union with my wife while lust is active because she as a person really doesn’t matter; she’s even in the way; she’s merely the sexual instrument.  And I can’t have true union within myself while I’m splitting myself having sex with myself.  That fantasy partner I’ve conjured up in my mind is really part of me! With lust, the sex act is not the result of personal union; sex doesn’t flow from that union.  Sex energized by lust makes true union impossible.

The nature of the lust-noise interference I superimpose over sex can be many things: memories, fantasies ranging from the erotic to revenge or even violence.  Or, it can be the mental image of a single fetish or of some other person.  Seen in this light, lust can exist apart from sex.  Indeed, there are those who say they are obsessed with lust who can no longer have sex.  I see my lust as a force that apparently infuses and distorts my other instincts as well: eating, drinking, working, anger…. I know I have a lust to resent; it seems as strong as sexual lust ever was.

In my experience, lust is not physical; it is not even strong sexual desire.  It seems to be a spiritual force that distorts my instincts; and whenever let loose in one area, seems to want to infect other areas as well.  And being nonsexual, lust crosses all lines, including gender.  When energized by lust, my sexual fantasies or acting out can go in any direction, shaped by whatever I experience.  Thus, the more I indulge in sexual lust, the less truly sexual I become.

Therefore, my basic problem as a recovering sexaholic is to live free from my lust.  When I entertain it in any form, sooner or later it tries to express itself in every form.  And lust becomes the indicator of not only what I do, but what I am.

But there is great hope here.  By surrendering lust and its acting out each time I’m tempted by it, and then experiencing God’s life-giving deliverance from its power, recovery and healing are taking place, and wholeness is being restored – true union within myself first, then with others and the Source of my life.


Another Personal Perspective

Lust Kills

Lust is the most important thing in my life; it takes priority over me.

Captive to lust, I cannot be myself.

Lust makes me its slave; it kills my freedom; it kills me.

Lust always wants more; lust creates more lust.

Lust is jealous; it wants to possess me.

Lust makes me self-obsessed; it drives me into myself.

Lust makes sex impossible without lust.

Lust destroys the ability to love; it kills love.

Lust destroys the ability to receive love; it kills me.

Lust creates guilt – unavoidably; and guilt has to be expiated.

Lust makes part of me want to die because I can’t bear what I’m doing to myself and my powerless over it.

Increasingly, I direct this guilt and self-hatred inward and outward.

Lust is destructive to me and those around me.

Lust kills the spirit; my spirit is me.  Lust kills me!


(Sexaholics Anonymous, p. 41-44)

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