Sex Addiction Addictions Family, Friends and Partners Seeking Help


For most people, sex addiction is not actually driven by sexual desire but by issues related to intimacy, the need to numb emotional pain, assert control, avoid emotional connection, balance moods or reduce anxiety. It’s a very real and rarely discussed disorder which can have a devastating impact on individuals, relationships and families.

For those of us grappling with sex addiction, it can feel like an overwhelming and unstoppable impulse, and because sex addiction is often hidden from family and friends in a shroud of shame or denial, it has the capacity to endure and escalate over time. 

“People who present for treatment because their lives are in chaos due to problematic sexual behaviours, are suffering in similar ways to an alcoholic or gambling addict who seeks treatment after a ‘rock bottom’,” says Jane O’Keeffe, Holistic Psychologist and Consultant with South Pacific Private.  

However, many people who are struggling with sex addiction do not reach out for help due to secrecy, shame, guilt and fear, which can all feel like insurmountable barriers. These feelings can be compounded if the addiction occurs alongside infidelity or confusion over sexuality and/or gender identity. 

“It is the seeking - the suspense, anticipation, obsessive search for sexual stimulation which ignites many different neural pathways, releasing a cascade of emotions that sex addicts can become addicted to prior to the acting out behaviour,” explains O’Keeffe. “Feelings of remorse, despair, shame are often experienced after acting out and so the addict returns to the preoccupation stage again to block these unpleasant feelings,” she adds. “As the addiction progresses, people will become secretive and lie to conceal the extent of their compulsive behaviour.”

Sometimes described as hypersexuality, porn addiction or sexual compulsive disorder, sex addiction – is actually very common.

Sex addiction is a process addiction, which means people are addicted to a mood-altering experience. A person alters their mood by engaging in behaviour which brings about an obsessive, trance-like state because they are in sexual fantasy,” explains O’Keeffe.

“The typologies can include compulsive consumption of porn, fantasy sex, (compulsive masturbation, intrigue, obsession), voyeurism, spending long hours at strip shows, anonymous sex, cruising behaviour, exhibitionism (eg driving a car with pants down waiting for someone to notice), compulsive paying for sex (including phone and cybersex), frotteurism (non-consensual behaviour of rubbing oneself up against an unsuspecting person), inappropriate sexual talk during a conversation, pain exchange- sex where physical pain is involved and or being humiliated (self or others), illegal behaviour and exploitative sex.”

Seeking help for sex addiction

According to O’Keeffe, it’s important to seek treatment because compulsive sexual behaviour is not healthy sexuality. “It is progressive over time, as are the emotional, financial, social, occupational and cognitive consequences that can accompany addiction,” she says. “Untreated, people can stay in the cycle of addiction for decades. Often, other substances may be involved and depression and anxiety can increase.” 

She says if a person is not emotionally available to themselves, they are not emotionally present to others, including their partners, children, friends and colleagues. “This makes it impossible to have emotional intimacy with others.”

South Pacific Private has pioneered the treatment of sex addiction in Australia. Clients are met by trained therapists who understand addiction and have lived experience. “It’s important to take a multi -faceted approach to treatment. For long-term recovery to occur, one must deal with the presenting issue (sex addiction and other co-occuring symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, or other addictions) as well as underlying issues (developmental trauma),” explains O’Keeffe. 

“Clients receive education about the cycle of sex addiction, including the learning about the neural pathways in the brain involved in the addiction,” she adds. “It is important that they identify their arousal template. To identify this, clients need to specify what their ideal fantasy would look like with the purpose of tracing back to the origins of the original arousal experience. For example, a client who only feels aroused when they are engaging in sex that causes them (or others) physical pain may trace the origins back to being a child who grew up with a violent alcoholic father.”

Partners of people with sex addiction

Those of us who have partners battling sex addiction, will understand the feelings of despair, anger, stress and betrayal. “If infidelity occurs, the breach of trust can create deep despair, a lack of safety and impact on the self esteem and sense of the value for the partner as the sex addict lies or manipulates (gaslights) their partner to enable continued compulsive acting out,” says O’Keeffe. 

As a partner of someone with sex addiction, it is perfectly normal to feel angry, fearful, upset and helpless. It’s important to take time out for self-care and seek help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re concerned you or your partner may have a problem with sex addiction, you can schedule a free, confidential, professional phone assessment with our team on 1800 063 332.

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Addictions South Pacific Private

We believe change is possible

Impulsivity is one of the key behavioural issues most closely associated with addiction, with a range of impulsive control disorders commonly co-occurring alongside addiction. The inability to self-regulate emotions and behaviours can be a major factor in why some individuals turn to addictive substances and behaviours to self soothe, and why they escalate as tolerance builds up. The same is true of individuals experiencing relational issues, mood disorders or developmental trauma, which also occur with high prevalence alongside addiction.

At South Pacific Private, we believe it’s vital to identify and address impulse control issues and other underlying issues as a core element in a comprehensive, trans-diagnostic approach to addiction treatment. Indeed, a growing body of research continues to demonstrate that addiction and its comorbidities – including impulse control disorders – often share common, deep roots in developmental trauma and Adverse Childhood Events. 

Trauma, abuse, neglect, parental addiction and less than nurturing developmental environments are therefore key drivers of addiction and concurrent conditions, and must be directly and effectively addressed in treatment to promote sustained recovery. 

Our treatment program is built around this understanding, and calls for a comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinical team including psychiatrists, group therapy facilitators and experienced psychotherapists. We follow an adapted interpretation of Pia Mellody’s Model of Developmental Immaturity, a model which traces dysfunctional and maladaptive adult behaviours and thought processes to childhood experiences and parental deficiencies. 

As well as delivering detox, rehab, group therapy, psychotherapy, family therapy, mindfulness training and psychiatric treatment, we teach the model directly to patients in educational lectures. We find that educating clients directly through the framework of the Developmental Immaturity model aids awareness, understanding and commitment to clear recovery plans. It helps clients understand where they came from, how they got here and the path needed for long term recovery. 

This comprehensive and holistic approach, which includes an integrated focus on teaching meditation and mindfulness techniques, is designed to address underlying issues including impulse control disorders. 

We work with clients to identify the key triggers of impulse control problems, help them understand that neural pathways have been entrenched by the repetitive nature of addiction, and assist by encouraging the practice of repeated, alternative options to promote emotional regulation. Our integrated Family Program, which brings parents, partners and close friends into the treatment process for several days, is designed to reduce relational triggers and build out a broader network of support and understanding. 

Taken together, we are firm believers that this comprehensive, trauma-focused, holistic approach to addiction treatment offers the strongest model for sustained, long-term recovery.

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Addictions Family, Friends and Partners

How Friends and family can support recovery

The family network – whether it be our biological family or chosen family of friends and mentors – is a critical part of everyone’s recovery.

We can help those in recovery by modelling healthy behaviour, providing emotional and social support, and keeping our loved ones accountable throughout their recovery journey. But when relationships are strained, communication is lost or trust has been eroded, we – the support network – can end up feeling hurt, helpless, frustrated, overwhelmed, manipulated, burnt out or isolated. 

Many addicts in recovery cite the pain associated with interpersonal relationship breakdowns as a leading trigger for relapse, says Leanne Schubert from South Pacific Private, Australia’s leading rehab centre for addiction, trauma and mental illness. “Nobody gives you a manual or teaches you at school how to help a friend, partner or relative through addiction or mental illness, so you can be forgiven for feeling like you’re flying blind sometimes,” says Schubert.

Figuring out how to best support a loved one on their journey to recovery can be a complex and difficult process, but you’re not the first person to go through the experience. As those who’ve helped loved ones through addiction and mental health issues before will tell us, sometimes we need guidance on communication and boundary setting skills, and support in our own journey of healing.

“Often the person that comes into treatment feels like they’re the problem, wrong and unworthy, but then they make shifts and attempt to return to the family system who are still there with the person prior to treatment. They are still left with the anger and hurt,” says Schubert. “This is just one of the many reasons we see it as important to involve the family in recovery.”

Those of us who are closest to a person with addiction, trauma or mental health conditions are often drawn into behaving in ways and doing things that we’re conflicted and uncomfortable about. Schubert says it’s extremely common for family members to believe that they are helping their addicted loved one, but, in reality, they are unwittingly enabling the addiction. “The family might be suppressing feelings, accepting excuses, trying to protect them and the family image, justifying their dysfunctional behaviour or lending the person money to get them out of trouble. It comes from a place of love and care, but I’ve worked with many families who haven't set boundaries and it allows the addiction to continue. They often find it challenging to set these boundaries, but it’s important to long-term recovery.”

Healing broken relationships

Our relationship to our family system is complex and in order to heal, it’s important to unravel the elements that do not serve us without laying blame or causing further damage. It’s also important to gain a greater understanding of how we grew up in our family system. “We might not have recognised when we were younger the stressors that were placed on the family system and how we adapted - did we thrive or survive? When a family system is under stress, our needs may not have been met,” says Schubert. “Or perhaps we grew up in a dysfunctional family system where the rules were - don’t talk, don’t trust, don’t feel. We may still be feeling fear or shame from this.” 

At South Pacific Private, many clients find the three-day family program to be one of the most profound and transformational experiences in their recovery process. According to Schubert, to move forward families must learn new ways of relating to each other and communicating effectively. “Here in treatment at South Pacific Private, we encourage families to be functional by sharing how they feel - without anger or casting blame. This helps build intimacy and strengthens the relationships. We want families to be supportive and the client to be successful in recovery.” 

She says approaching conversations with honesty and compassion, and being mindful of language is key. 

South Pacific Private is Australia’s only hospital to integrate a dedicated Family Program within our treatment plans. Our range of workshops and programs dedicated to families, friends and partners are designed to equip everyone with the tools and strategies necessary to set clear and effective boundaries, communicate effectively and to care for your own mental health and resolve prior trauma.

How to seek help

If you or anyone you know needs help:

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Addictions Recovery Seeking Help

Understanding The Addiction Cycle

Patterns of Addiction

It’s no accident people sometimes speak of an “addiction spiral” – it accurately captures the notion that addiction is often experienced as a repetitive cycle, and that it escalates over time. 
“Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of the brain – it hijacks our incentive systems and clouds our longer-term thinking, playing off our experiences of pain, trauma and neurological rewards,” says Di Young, an addiction specialist at Sydney's South Pacific Private.
While every person’s experience is different, Young says we tend to follow similar patterns when we’re experiencing addiction. This may include experiencing growing dependence, powerful cravings, withdrawal symptoms, a compulsion to keep using, increasing tolerance and escalations in frequency, substances, dosages or behaviour.
Whether we’re addicted to a substance (such as prescription medicationalcohol or drugs) or a behavior (such as gamblingsex or romantic entanglements) the addiction cycle often starts out as fantasy, often mixed in with denial that it’s a problem or justifications for getting a fix. Often, our triggers for this can be related to trauma and family or relationship issues.
“After fantasy comes obsession, when we can’t stop thinking about it or doing it,” Young says. "Then comes frustration, either because it’s not what we needed, we didn’t get ‘enough’, or because we need to escalate our behavior to get the same fix.
“Eventually, we get hit by the shame, guilt and remorse, often because the impacts of our usage are brought home to us by our thoughts or an event,” she says. “We’ll either promise we’ll never do it again or we’ll change how we ‘do it’ and the outcome this time will be different – but it won’t be, it’ll be worse.”
“Alternatively, we’ll start using again to avoid the shame and guilt - which will inevitably be followed again by the same out-of-control spiral,” Young says. “And around we go on the merry-go-round of denial, starting again with the fantasies. It can go on for years or even decades if left untreated. It continues until we break the cycle, which means we change our behaviour.”

The addiction cycle:

  • We fantasise about alcohol and/or drugs, gambling, sex, food, relationships.
  • We obsess – you will tell yourself: “I need them now”.
  • We become frustrated – you might ask yourself: “What will I do?”
  • We use – alcohol and/or drugs, gambling, sex, food, relationships.
  • We experience shame, guilt and remorse.
  • We promise – “I’ll  never do that again.”
  • Eventually, we end up back at the fantasy stage 

Breaking the Cycle

Just as addiction often follows a pretty regular process, so does breaking the cycle, Young says. Not only has she helped hundreds of clients through recovery, but she's been through it herself and is now decades into her sobriety. 

“The process for recovery also follows a pattern, but it can often be a fragile one. People often get to stage two or three but something happens or they lose their nerve and can slip back into the addiction cycle,” Young says. It can take us a few goes to get it to stick. It can take us time to settle into the recovery way of life – but if we stay with it, we can create a life so fulfilling that we don’t want to use again or numb our feelings. We are walking into freedom.”


The Recovery Process:

  • We contemplate changing – thinking about changing is terrifying for us.
  • We prepare to change – we take action to mentally and physically prepare to stop.
  • We take action – we reach out for help, to family, friends or professionals.
  • We create a new lifestyle – maintain what we have learned as we begin our recovery – this usually includes connecting with a 12-step program.

“It’s important to make sure you’re supporting yourself and getting the support you need during the recovery process,” Young says. “Bringing family members and loved ones into your recovery and sharing your learning can be an important part of that.”

Making a new lifestyle stick can be an enormous challenge, she says. We need to adapt to new habits, avoid old triggers, work out new forms of self-care and social support and maintain our connection to others who are also in recovery.

Young says it’s also important to realise that relapse happens, and it’s not the end of the world. “Any addiction treatment centre worth their salt will help you prepare a relapse recovery plan,” she says. “They’ll help you to avoid and manage triggers and identify the warning signs that the cycle might be starting again, and make sure you know what to do to get back on the recovery cycle as soon as possible.”

If you're seeking support to end the addiction cycle, South Pacific Private is here to help. As a fully accredited private hospital in Sydney's Northern Beaches, our rehab program provides comprehensive, holistic treatment for addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma. Visit our support page to learn more or call us now on 1800 063 332.

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Recovery Seeking Help Sex Addiction

Surviving Valentine’s Day

Tips from an expert on love addiction

For those of us experiencing codependency and love addiction, Valentine's Day can be a challenging moment. Luke Jesionkowski, Primary Therapist with Sydney's South Pacific Private and an expert in love addiction, helps us understand why, and offers his advice.

Valentine’s Day has become an increasingly prominent and increasingly commercialised holiday, but the messages and pressures it throws up – which can be unwittingly reinforced by our friends and family – can be extremely unhelpful for those of us experiencing the end of a relationship, withdrawal, loneliness or the pangs of desire for a relationship. 

On Valentine’s Day, we may find ourselves confronted with the idea that to be seen as successful, we must find and experience romantic love. Love appears to be all around us as others celebrate and businesses cash in. Being alone could be seen as a failure. We may feel that we are alone on Valentine’s Day because we are not ‘worthy’, there is something wrong with us, or we are simply unlovable.

For anyone who’s sought treatment for love addiction, been to rehab or attended a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting (SLAA), you’ll immediately recognise these as the very worst thoughts we tell ourselves. The need to define and validate ourselves by either saving another, or being adored by another, is a key driver of the problems we experience. The amplification of those thoughts on February 14 is deeply unwelcome. 

On a day which is supposed to celebrate love, we can instead find ourselves feeling old, painful wounds. These are the types of statements we tell ourselves (usually beliefs developed in childhood if we have grown up with dysfunctional family relationships):

  • I’m unlovable
  • I’m going to be alone forever / there is something wrong with me
  • I am better off alone
  • Being in a relationship is too painful
  • I can’t live without this person
  • My partner isn’t good enough for me / my partner doesn’t love me like that 

Surviving ‘V Day’

Below are some of the top tips and tricks for self-care which I share with clients and groups.

If you’re in relationship:

  • Manage your expectations – Don’t live in the fantasy, live in reality.
  • Have a conversation with your partner about how you honestly feel about the day – Be sure to include fears and concerns.
  • Set internal & external boundaries – Declare what is acceptable/healthy for you and/or your partner and hold to the boundaries you set. 
  • Practice healthy forms of self-regulation – Mindfulness, meditation, connecting with nature.
  • Self-affirmations – Whether in the mirror, in a journal, or in your mind, affirm yourself that you are enough just the way you are.

If you’re single:

  • Practice healthy forms of self-regulation – Mindfulness, meditation, connecting with nature.
  • Self-affirmations – Whether in the mirror, in a journal, or in your mind, affirm yourself that you are enough just the way you areDo something loving for yourself – Have a nice bath, a walk-in nature, order your favourite meal. 
  • Connect with family, friends and social circles – To ensure you don’t feel alone and trapped with your thoughts.
  • Have some fun – Spend the day/time doing what you actually enjoy and don’t take the day or yourself so seriously. 
  • Attend a support group – There are hundreds of support groups out there in various forms; AA, NA, SLAA, group therapy etc.
  • Speak to a therapist or support line – Don’t be afraid to reach out and speak to a professional (Our supportive team at South Pacific Private is available every day on 1800 063 332).  

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Recovery Seeking Help Sex Addiction

Love Addiction Q&A

Freedom From Toxic Relationships

Luke Jesionkowski is a counsellor and psychotherapist at Sydney's South Pacific Private who specialises in eating disorders, trauma, substance addiction and relational disorders, including sex addiction, love addiction and love avoidance. 

Like many of the experts and community leaders at South Pacific Luke has personal experience with the pain, shame and confusion of addiction and recovery.

“Sex and love addiction can be especially personal and challenging to talk about,” he says. “But when someone knows that their therapist and others at their rehab have been in the same situation, when they know they’re speaking from experience and know recovery is possible, it creates an instant bond of trust and understanding.”

This Valentine's Day, we asked Luke to share his expertise and experience in recognizing, treating and recovering from love addiction.


What Is Love Addiction?

As defined by sex and love addicts anonymous (SLAA), love addiction is an obsession broadly defined as “an unhealthy fixation on another person with whom we may or may not have a relationship or even have met.”

A person experiencing love addiction might identify with:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • A fear of abandonment or being alone
  • Difficulty with internal and external boundaries
  • Confusing love and neediness
  • Patterns of staying in, and returning to, painful or unhealthy relationships 
  • Emotional or sexual manipulation and dependency
  • Romantic or sexual intrigue, obsession and fantasies
  • Assigning somewhat magical qualities to others in hopes of them fulfilling our fantasies


Like any other addiction, love addiction tends to follow a pretty harrowing cycle of chaos including:

  • Preoccupation: Obsessions (thoughts) and fantasies of the perfect lover, ideal relationship or sexual experience.
  • Ritualisation: Including things such as messaging and contacting people we have identified as being triggers or targets of our ‘addiction’,  repeatedly visiting their social media pages, objectifying strangers in public, overuse of dating apps, excessive reading and watching of fantasy-based romance novels/movies etc.
  • Acting Out: Compulsions (actions) and behaviours such as going to meet with the person despite consequences, infidelity, pursuing multiple partners, emotional intrigue, excessive pornography, prostitution etc.
  • Shame and Despair: A self-realisation of the actions taken and being faced with the consequences of the unhealthy decision i.e. Partner finding out, being broken up with again, divorce and so on.

Love addiction also often occurs alongside attachment trauma and relational disturbances in childhood. As kids, our parents may have had anxious or avoidant parenting styles that shaped our sense of self worth and relational patterns.


Can You Walk Us Through Your Personal Experience Of Love Addiction?

While everyone experiences addiction differently, there are many recognisable features of sex and love addiction and love avoidance that we all tend to share.

In my addiction, I would pursue relationship after relationship. It saw friends and family members perpetually roll their eyes in the disbelief: “Seriously, another girlfriend?”

Caught in romantic and sexual obsessions and compulsions, I would constantly outsource my sense of self to another, either demanding they “save me” or attempt to become the “saviour” myself – swooping in with the pursuit of being the “knight in shining armour” trying to save the damsel in the distress.

The harsh reality though, was that I was being held prisoner or taking hostages myself whilst externally trying to find some sense of self-esteem, which I now know can only be derived from within. Coming not only to know this theoretically, but to actually feel and understand it, is essential to recovery.

This cycle continued for years as I tried to find myself and to find pleasure and joy through other people. I was using them as a way to treat underlying depression until it all came crashing down in a failed engagement that left drowning in debt, almost totally friendless and isolated, and contemplating suicide.

That was my rock bottom, but thankfully it’s also what led me to start my recovery.


Walk Us Through Your Recovery Journey, What Steps Did You Take?

Recovery for me has been progressive, but hasn’t been without its ups and downs. I started in the way that any desperate addict does when they needed serious help, I went to rehab. Remaining sober free of drugs and alcohol – and proactively working a 12-step relational recovery program – has been essential in maintaining my recovery.

Post rehab, I continued to attend 12-step meetings in various fellowships. I got home-groups, sponsors, service positions, completed step work, read literature, made outreach calls, prayed, meditated and journaled. Eventually I went on to become a sponsor and to start groups myself, and to carry the message to hundreds of newcomers at hospitals and meetings. 

Alongside this I continued therapy in various forms, studied, built “top line” behaviours which involved finding the things that gave me joy in life, explored my passions and creativity such as music, photography, yoga and connecting with nature.


Why Is Love Addiction Something That You Address At South Pacific Private?

Unfortunately, love addiction is an area that gets limited focus in the lens of mental health as it’s a relatively new field. Very few clinicians and treatment centres have the skills and training to identify and treat the condition effectively. 

The frightening truth is that, in reality, love addiction is extremely common and needs on-going and expansive attention in light of cultural developments which have made hook-up sex more common. The more depersonalised and emotionally distant we become due to trauma but also technocracy, the more we desperately seek out and yearn for love and intimacy, hence the growing emergence of the love addict. 

That’s why South Pacific Private prides itself on being one of the few treatment centres in Australia with the training and resources equipped to treat love addiction. We’ve spent decades caring for thousands of clients that have walked through the door.



Can You Share A Little About Your Experience With Love Addiction Professionally?

Sure. Time and time again we see client after client stuck in the cycle of love addiction which finally does enough damage to land them in our therapy room, where they begin to divulge the torturous ramifications – separations, divorce, loneliness, depression and suicidality. 

It often presents alongside another co-occurring disorder such as drug and alcohol dependence or depression and anxiety. 

It’s quite common for clients to come to us with drug or alcohol addiction, or depression and anxiety, only to realise that their relationship with substances is being driven by this underlying issue. 

I spend a lot of my time in the first phase of the recovery process cultivating awareness of just exactly what's playing out in the client’s lives to identify the patterns and cycles – and then uncovering what's driving that.

In these conversations there are lightbulb moments as you see jaws drop and false realities shatter, as clients become aware of what has been wreaking havoc in their lives for years.

Common childhood themes also regularly emerge like, “my mum gave me everything, but my dad was never really there”, or “my mother was an emotional wreck and my father was aggressive/dismissive.” This often occurs alongside early romantic or sexual experiences that gave an endorphin / dopamine hit that took away the underlying pain, and gave validation to a person’s fragile sense of self-esteem. 

From here, we continue to help by filling up client’s recovery toolkits with techniques and strategies to fortify them for the journey ahead, and instil hope that a new and better life outside of addiction is possible. 


What Power And Benefit Is There From Group Therapy And 12-Step Fellowships (SLAA) For This Particular Addiction? Why Is It Important To Speak With People Who Have Been Through The Same Thing? 

Group therapy and 12-step fellowships are invaluable resources for treating love addiction for a variety of reasons – many of which are the same as for other addictions. 

Due to the nature of love addiction – an addiction wrapped in shame, fear and loneliness – the connection, support and community provided by group work is especially important. They show we are alone and we continue to hear a message of hope and empathy as we become better at dealing with it.

I often say, “in order to heal it, you need to feel it” and these safe containers of group therapy allow for just that. It’s an opportunity to look inwards at what’s been happening underneath the surface and express the pain and discomfort we’ve been feeling the whole time. 

Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous is often described as a “black and white program that deals with the grey areas of living,” meaning that what was once murky and unclear is doused with awareness to create clarity and order with the guidance of mentors and community members.

It is crucial that people who suffer from sex and love addiction, share their experience with others who are going through it in order to cultivate acceptance and identification, along with being held accountable to those that have done what the person has likely have done themselves. As addiction is “cunning, baffling and powerful”, deception and denial are usually allusive barriers that stop people from their recovery, hence being held accountable by therapists, sponsors and others addicts that know the pitfalls are a must for recovery. 

As the saying goes, “the opposite of addiction, is connection,” and SLAA and group therapy provide the perfect antidote to this dilemma. 


What Has Changed For You Now? What Are The Gifts Of Recovery? 

These days the general underlying hum of depression and existential angst has vastly cleared with only ripples remaining as I continue to give back to people and being of service to the community. My mental health and wellbeing have drastically improved not that I’m not caught in the endless cycle of torture that perpetuated the pain.

I’m now able to form healthier relationships, set boundaries and have become more disciplined. I’m more independent and derive my own sense of self-esteem internally. I’ve regained self-respect, healed extensive amounts of the pain of previous lovers, forgiven those who have hurt me and have learned to love myself.

As a byproduct of these internal shifts, my recovery has given me the stability and confidence to make much desired life alterations including career changes, new social groups, more travel. I’ve been able to move to the beach and built a new, healthier, happier lifestyle and have been able to pursue lifelong hobbies and dreams, such as comedy and videography. 

Freedom is possible. Healthy relationships are possible. My life is unimaginably better.


Luke’s Recommended Reading:  

Facing Love Addiction: Giving Yourself the Power to Change the Way You Love, Pia Mellody, Andrea Wells Miller & J. Keith Miller.

Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous Basic Text, The Augustine Fellowship

Luke is a registered counsellor and psychotherapist at South Pacific private. Luke has run hundreds of trauma-focused recovery groups and lectures across vast areas of the program. Due to his personal and professional experience, he has spent significant time specialising in the treating of men and women with sex and love addiction. 

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Addictions Family, Friends and Partners Seeking Help

‘We Need to Talk’: Raising Addiction Treatment Options with a Loved One

A guide to raising addiction treatment

Having a friend, family member or loved one who’s struggling with addiction can be a uniquely scary, anxious and lonely experience. It’s likely a position you never expected to be in, and for which you find yourself entirely unprepared. 

Many of us will find it daunting to have a conversation broaching the subject of addiction and raising the possiblity of seeking treatment or attending rehab, commonly described as an 'intervention'. We may feel as though we’re intruding, or be fearful of an angry response. But if approached correctly, these conversations can be turning points in the addiction cycle. At the very least, they can help us set healthy boundaries and ensure we are not enabling an addiction. 

Below, experts at Sydney's South Pacific Private treatment center outline 10 tips for maximising your chances of success, and avoiding common pitfalls:


1) Center yourself, understand your aims

Make sure you’re clear-eyed about your aims and ensure your approach and responses play a constructive role in achieving that outcome. 

If you enter this conversation in a moment of anger, frustration or stress, things are likely to veer off course. Your loved one may shut down or shut you out before you are able to share your perspective. Similarly, if a person is heavily under the influence, you’re not going to be able to have a productive conversation, so wait for another time. 

Your aim is likely to depend on a few things, including how serious the addiction is, the type of relationship you have with them and whether or not this is the first time you’ve raised the issue:

Aims may include:

  • Letting them know you’re aware of their addiction
  • Helping them understand their behaviour or addiction is escalating
  • Helping them understand the impact of their behaviour
  • Helping them understand the need to seek professional support
  • Setting clear boundaries in your relationship
  • Helping them overcome fear and shame related to seeking support


2) Be prepared for a range of outcomes

To help maintain your cool and to ensure your responses are as rational, thoughtful and helpful as possible, you should take a moment to think through the range of responses you may receive. Your loved one may not be ready at all to hear what you have to say, may be gripped by denial and excuses, or might be aware of the issue and open to your support to work through it. 

Think about how you will feel if faced with an angry or distressing response, and plan a few 'go-to' phrases which can de-escalate or pause the conversation. Make sure you have a friend, therapist or healthcare professional you can confide in afterward to debrief and level-set. 

If you find yourself struggling with intense feelings of frustration, anxiety, powerlessness, you should also consider seeking support for yourself as well. One of the first things we teach in our Family Support Workshops is that to be functional support networks, we need to be supported ourselves.

Note: If you’re dependent on the individual for housing or financial support, or if you fear there may be a reasonable risk of violence, you should stop and reach out for help and support first. You might seek advice from the Australian Domestic Violence Hotline on 1800 737 732 or the Kids Helpline (which offers support for anyone under 25) on 1800 459 975. 


3) Plan your language, avoid accusations

Broaching a conversation about addiction can be confronting, so it’s important to think carefully about our language to avoid derailing the conversation or veering into argument. Here are some potential ways to broach the subject and keep the conversation moving:

  • “I wanted to check in because I noticed…”
  • “Have you noticed that you’re drinking / using X more than usual?”
  • “When did this start, do you think there was something that prompted it?”
  • “Do you feel like you can stop? Could you try to stop for 48 hours or a week?”
  • “Have you thought about seeking professional help or going to an Alcoholic/Narcotics Anonymous meeting?”
  • “What scares you when you think about stopping / getting clean?”

It’s important that your loved one sees that you are speaking to them in good faith and are not trying to make accusations or guilt-trip them. This risks provoking defensiveness and shutting the conversation down. A great way to frame our speech is to use “I” sentences instead of “you” sentences – to share observations rather than make accusations. 

Say: “I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking more, and I’m concerned about the way it’s impacting the family and our relationship.”
Not: “You’ve become an alcoholic and you’re destroying our family and letting the kids down.”

Say: “I feel like this is getting worse and I worry it’s only going to be harder to stop if we don’t act now.”
Not: “Your behaviour is getting impossible, you can’t function properly and it feels like you’ll never stop this.”


4) Engage with compassion

Remember that you’re there for a two-way conversation, not a lecture. Much of your engagement may be geared towards asking questions, listening, responding and demonstrating compassion. People in the grips of addiction can often feel intense shame, unworthiness and hopelessness, take care not to reinforce this in your responses. 

Use phrases like:

  • “I want you to know that I love you, care for you deeply, and want you to get through this.”
  • “I know that you can get through this, I know that even if you feel hopeless and don’t believe it, you can find a way out of this.”
  • “You’re strong enough to get through this, you are loved, and you are worthy of help to work toward a better future.”


5) Monitor your responses

As well as listening, you should also be aware of your own responses – both words and body language. Slipping into anger or raised voices isn’t going to help, and may just give your loved one an excuse to shut down. Open body language which leans in to listen and displays no judgment is ideal. Folded arms, scowling and scoffing is to be avoided.

One method of avoiding anger is by redirecting it. As frustrating as your loved one's behaviour may be, remember that you’re angry at the addiction cycle and the substance/behaviour itself, and that your anger is motivated by care for your loved one and how it is hurting them.

Be wary of the temptation to bargain, lecture, cast blame, use guilt or make threats, none of which will be productive. Setting boundaries and outlining consequences for behaviour is important, but we shouldn’t confuse this for threats against a person if they don’t take action.


6) Avoid reinforcing roadblocks for recovery

Most people suffering addiction will tell you that fear and shame are often key roadblocks to reaching out for help, so it’s important we don’t reinforce them.

A person may think they can never live without the addiction; they may fear the thoughts and feelings they’ve been numbing with the addiction; they may fear the unknown of a treatment center; and they may fear they will fail. A person may be ashamed of the losses they have sustained through their addiction; they may be ashamed to be labeled an addict; they may be ashamed of letting down others; and they may fear that seeking help makes the problem ‘real’.

Even if you’re frustrated, avoid venting your anger with statements like “I can’t deal with this,” “you’re pathetic,” “you’re a junkie,” “this is hopeless,” or “you’re letting everyone down.”

7) Know the difference between support and enabling 

It’s important to know the difference between supporting a person with an addiction, and supporting the addiction. Making excuses, accepting excuses, minimizing the problem or participating in the addictive behaviour are clear examples of enabling an addict. 

If you’re struggling to articulate your support, or find yourself accused of being unsupportive, try a variation of: “I support you and I support everything I love about you and I will support you seeking help to end this addiction, but I do not support you taking drugs / gambling / etc. I don’t support the impact it is having on our family / relationship / friendship.”


8) Have Rehab and support options ready

While a loved one may be tempted to say they can end the addiction on their own, the truth is that professional support is often necessary, especially in resolving underlying issues. Ending substance use can also trigger strong withdrawal symptoms, and a medically supervised detox may be required.

If your loved one gets to a point where they are open to seeking help, it’s important that you can outline their options immediately. Being able to make, agree and act upon a clear plan will be important.

More details about South Pacific Private can be found here, and this link outlines our three-week inpatient program. You and/or your loved one can call us any time on 1800 063 332 or contact us here.


9) Offer to participate in recovery

The thought of going to group therapy, a psychologist or an inpatient program alone can be intimidating, so you can offer to participate in some way in your loved one’s recovery plan. 

You might offer to drive them to an AA or NA meeting and have a meal afterward, you might offer to join them for a family or group session with a therapist or to drive them to their inpatient program.

The South Pacific Private residential inpatient program is unique because we embed a participatory family, friends and relationship program within our treatment plan – so if your loved one is admitted, you’ll likely be joining us for a few days as well. We also offer a number of other workshops and sessions for friends, partners and families.


10) Keep intervention expectations realistic 

While ideally you’ll at least make some progress toward your goals, you may find yourself spinning your wheels – and you should be prepared for this.

Your loved one may be overwhelmed and need time to process things, in which case you can pause the conversation and offer a breather. If they ask for a delay, it may be an excuse to avoid the issue, but may also be because they need the space to make a decision or feel backed into a corner.

If things are going nowhere, you can end the conversation by asking what options they will consider, and what action they’ll take. If you encounter outright rejection, it may be that they’re just not ready to face reality. There may be little you can do to shift this. 

It’s important for you to understand that you do not own any failure. You are not responsible for any other person’s actions or decisions. No matter how much you love someone or care about them, it’s never enough if they’re not ready for help. Be aware that when gripped by addiction we may say things which are manipulative and hurtful. No matter what happens in your conversation, you should not let the experience make you feel unloved, unworthy or hopeless. 


11) Make sure you have support too

Having a loved one gripped by addiction or a mental health issue can put you at risk of unhealthy behaviours as well – including codependency, addiction or anxiety. At such a stressful time, boundaries can be difficult to set, and even more difficult to hold to.

Recognizing the burden addiction can place on loved-ones, South Pacific Private offers a one-day Family Day Program. Being able to speak with professionals and those who have gone through this before can be a deeply rewarding experience. The cost is often completely covered by private health funds and direct payment is also possible. Learn more about support for families at South Pacific Private >>


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Eight Roadblocks to Recovery

...and How to Overcome Them

Even if deep down we know we have a problem with alcohol, drug or medication addiction – or a behavioural addiction such as sex or gambling – the idea of getting sober, going to rehab or attending addiction treatment can provoke intense feelings of fear, shame, anxiety and worthlessness. 

These feelings can be debilitating. Our apprehension can lead us to delay treatment, to deny we have a problem, to deny treatment is necessary or even to increase our intake of a harmful substance to try to get over those feelings or block them out. 

At Sydney's South Pacific Private, many of our staff who work on our addiction recovery programs have been through addiction themselves, so they know exactly what you’re going through. They’re walking proof that recovery is possible. 

Here are eight fears we’ve seen about entering addiction rehab, and how you might reframe your thinking to help beat them:



1) Fear of withdrawal symptoms

If your body has become dependent on alcohol, drugs or prescription medication, stopping usage can provoke intense physical and emotional symptoms of withdrawal as your body readjusts. These symptoms can include anxiety, fatigue, nausea, depression and even seizures or hallucinations. Fear of this process is understandable. 

The good news is that at a drug and alcohol treatment centre which offers medically supervised detox, you won’t have to go through this process alone. Undergoing supervised detox means you’ll have a team checking on your symptoms and monitoring your progress, and you’ll have access to withdrawal medications to reduce any pain or other symptoms. 

Withdrawal can be tough, but it will only get tougher the further down the addiction cycle you travel. The very best place to experience withdrawal is in a setting where the reassurance and support of experienced medical care is on hand, and the best time to start is now. 


2) Fear of living substance-free

If we’ve been using a substance or behaviour to cope with intrusive negative thoughts or painful emotions, the idea of living without that substance can be daunting. We worry those feelings and thoughts may come flooding back if we don’t have an addiction to keep them out. In reality, however, substances are not a sustainable way of managing anxiety, depression, trauma or intrusive thoughts. In many cases it will only make them worse longer-term. 

At a comprehensive treatment centre, staff will aim not only to end addictive behaviour, but to help equip you with tools, strategies and techniques to manage and minimise intrusive thoughts and painful emotions. With expert psychologists, therapists  and psychiatrists on hand, the conditions causing distressing thoughts and emotions can be diagnosed and treated. It is possible to live both substance free, and free from emotional pain.


3) Fear That You’ll Be Alone

Addiction can be an incredibly isolating experience, cutting us off from friends and family and making us feel like nobody can understand the pain, pressure and forces we’re experiencing. In reality, however, addiction is a condition experienced by people across all socioeconomic levels and all personality types. 

At South Pacific Private, a number of our founders, directors and clinical staff have experienced addiction and trauma themselves and are living proof that recovery is possible. Their lived experience, and the experiences of others you’ll meet in rehab, can be a powerful point of connection and understanding. There are people out there who understand what you’re going through – and who understand the pain, loss and destroyed relationships which addiction can cause – because they’ve been there themselves. 


4) Fear that you’re not worthy of help

In the grips of addiction, we can feel utterly worthless and completely defeated. Trauma from our past can leave us with little self-respect and a distorted perception of ourselves 

We’ve been working in addiction treatment for almost 30 years though, and we’re yet to meet anyone who isn’t worthy of recovery. For individuals suffering from addiction, trauma and mental health issues, the substances we use and the way we’re thinking can warp our reality and distort our sense of ourselves. 

Feelings of worthlessness don’t have to be permanent, they can be treated and our self-perception can be readjusted and repaired. Everyone deserves the gift of recovery. 



5) Fear of the unknown

If you’ve never been to rehab or a treatment centre before, apprehension about not knowing what to expect is completely understandable. Then again, most people who walk through our doors have never been to treatment before, so you’re not alone. We pride ourselves on helping people quickly feel comfortable, welcome and at home. 

If you’d like to learn more about our treatment and what to expect, take a look around our website. We’re available to answer any questions on 1800 063 332


6) Fear of failure

If you’ve tried and failed to end your addiction before, or if you’ve never tried before, it’s understandable that you may be anxious about failure and what that may mean for you. First, it’s important to understand that even with professional support, the recovery process isn’t always a straight line. Relapse may happen, it’s how we deal with it that matters.

Effective addiction treatment will deliver you the tools and strategies you need to sustain recovery longer term, and help you identify warning signs and how to address them. You’ll develop a relapse plan, with a course of action to follow if you feel yourself verging into relapse. It’s also important to understand that even if it takes a few tries – as it does for some people – each attempt will help build resilience, expand your awareness, develop skills and help you start a step ahead next time.

It’s a cliché, but it’s definitely true that trying and failing is far better than never trying at all.



7) Fear of admitting you have a problem

Admitting we have a problem, to ourselves or to loved ones, can make our addiction feel very real and we may worry about the impact it will have on others. In reality though, our addictions are real whether we acknowledge them or not, and they will almost certainly escalate and accrue increasingly significant damage – becoming more and more inescapable. The best way to truly minimise an addiction is to intervene as soon as possible.

Often, we’ll find that our friends, family and even colleagues are aware that we have a problem, and may be harbouring their own deep concerns about your behaviour and wellbeing. Rather than surprised, loved ones will likely be relieved to know you’ve acknowledged the issue and have a clear plan to get better.  


8) Fear of facing the consequences

Getting clean and sober, and dealing with the impact of our actions, is an important part of recovery. This can be daunting, particularly if our addiction has resulted in damage to our families, our relationships, our careers and our finances. But there’s no better place to deal with guilt and remorse than in a supported recovery environment, surrounded and supported by people who have gone through the same thing and can guide you toward healthy, productive responses.

Remember: Entering treatment doesn’t mean you have to solve all your problems in one go. Rehab is often the start of your recovery journey, and a place which will equip you with the tools, awareness and long-term support to be successful. 

At South Pacific Private, we understand it takes courage to reach out for help. If you’re ready to start your recovery journey and break free of addiction, call us now on 1800 063 332. 


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12-Step Programs Work

The evidence is in

In 2006, a headline-grabbing report which collated data from eight studies emerged suggesting the 12-step model for addiction recovery – advanced by groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous – was no more effective than other recovery approaches. The report concluded with a call for more evidence and further study. Those results are now in. 

Released in 2020, a more recent, comprehensive study which collated over 27 studies involving more 10,565 participants has corrected those original findings, concluding that 12-step programs do actually provide a measurable superior chance at recovery. 

“Clinically‐delivered 12‐step facilitation interventions designed to increase AA participation usually lead to better outcomes over the subsequent months to years in terms of producing higher rates of continuous abstinence,” the report concluded. “This effect is achieved largely by fostering increased AA participation beyond the end of the Twelve‐Step Facilitation intervention.”

Studies show that addiction treatments tend to result in 15% to 25% of individuals remaining abstinent, though with Alcoholics Anonymous between 22% and 37% of people studied remain abstinent. 

“For people already in treatment, if they add AA to it, their outcomes are superior than those who just get treatment without AA,” Keith Humphreys, a Stanford University professor and co-author of the study, told the New York Times.



For Alyssa Lalor, Clinical Program Director at Sydney's South Pacific Private, the research is confirmation of the program’s framework and the focus on group therapy and ongoing group participation past the point of discharge. South Pacific incorporates participation with external AA groups into its inpatient rehab program, and encourages continued attendance longer-term. This group-work can bind participants to their recovery, providing social validation, reducing feelings of isolation and encouraging improved relational skills.

“We’re constantly monitoring research and refining our program based on the latest findings, so it’s welcome news to have the 12-step approach backed up by such a prominent study,” Lalor says. “Our experience tells us that maintaining a connection with the recovery community, working through a long-term recovery plan, and incorporating group sessions into that plan are key factors in long-term success.”

“That doesn’t mean AA is for everyone,” she says, “but it’s critically important for all treatment centres to help design an long-term support program for everyone who comes through their doors, and to make sure it’s a plan which works for them.”

“Some of the more complex theories might seem debatable, but when you zoom out, the overall concept of intergenerational trauma is rather obvious,” Lalor says. “If a person has been through severe trauma or is struggling with addiction or mental illness, their ability to parent will be compromised. Their children are less likely to see the modelling of healthy adult behaviour, and they’ll be at a higher risk of challenges stemming from that experience as they progress into their own adulthood.”

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From Meth Addiction To Recovery

The medicine had become my poison

I came to the front door for rehab at South Pacific Private in Sydney's Northern Beaches with a $500 a day ice addiction and pot dependency which I needed to get myself to sleep each evening. Despite the severity of the situation, I had little idea how sick I was back then. 

I didn’t come because I had some spiritual awakening, I didn’t have a light-bulb moment, it was simply that the drugs stopped working. There is a saying in Narcotics Anonymous that “chemicals medicate pain.” For me, the drugs had long stopped medicating – the medicine had become my poison. 

I didn’t use ice to enhance my Saturday nights, I used so I wouldn’t think, feel or dream. For a while, the chemicals ticked those boxes. For a while, I thought I was the puppet master changing my world both instantly and dramatically. I didn’t notice that I had morphed into a slave to a substance I thought I needed more than oxygen.



On my third night in rehab, during a medically supervised detox, I went into a psychotic fit of involuntary spasms. An ambulance was called and I was taken to Manly Hospital. The next few days were spent having brain scans to determine whether I was epileptic and was suffering fits. They proved negative, it was the beginning of my body detoxifying.

Recovery isn’t always a straight line. I stayed clean for three hours after my first admission. After my second admission, I stayed clean for seven months before a single case of relapse. I came into my third admission after three months clean, and was sent back to rehab by my GP who said I was on the verge of a major relapse and needed to go somewhere safe.

“The only courageous thing I did was ask for help and admit that if I had no idea how to stop using, maybe someone else did.”

My diagnosis for that third admission was 'complex grief.' In the space of just a week, my ex-wife had died prematurely of a rare cancer, an intimate relationship collapsed and my best friend moved overseas.

That third visit was significant because of the depth of the work I was able to focus on to resolve issues of intimacy, avoidance and relationships. Once I was clean, I was able to focus my attention on addressing more substantial issues. I had the opportunity to ‘re-parent’ my inner child, which raised my awareness of how my childhood experiences had led to destructive coping mechanisms in later life.

I learned more about my issues with avoidance and adapted behaviour, and how I could work on them going forward. After that inpatient stay, I was fortunate to engage with the Transitions Program for three months, four days a week.

Writing this now, I am nearly six and a half years clean. I worked through a 12-step program and began my journey by doing a meeting a day for two years, and ringing my sponsor every day for that period. 



I thought recovery from addiction was a 10-day detox focused on switching from extreme use to a more manageable diet of substances. I never signed up for abstinence nor for a deep searching personal inventory, but that’s what I got. I now recognise that it’s the only way I could have found freedom from the addiction cycle, which had become a soul-destroying nightmare.

I learnt at South Pacific Private that early recovery takes about five years, and have discovered that this is a journey you should never travel alone, that it demands a comprehensive support network. The only courageous thing I did was ask for help and admit that if I had no idea how to stop using, maybe someone else did.

If you’re at the beginning of your journey and thinking about rehab for the first time – or struggling with relapse further down the track – reach out today. Freedom is out there, if you take that first step.

Australia’s Leading Treatment Centre

Learn more about addiction and recovery with South Pacific Private.