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Think back to your childhood. Do you remember displaying any worrisome signs such as experimenting with drugs and then finding relief from your emotional pain in them? Did you show signs of being self-destructive or self-harming, such as cutting yourself or having risky casual sex? Did you drive drunk with your friends, or steal your parents’ car for the thrill of it? While a certain amount of rebellion is normal, and part of growing up is testing boundaries, learning independence and pushing against authority, some of these behaviors can actually function like gateway drugs to addictions. They can, for example, be the beginning of an addiction to self-harming behavior, or the early onset of sex addiction. They can be a sign that we are looking for ways to make ourselves feel better, to avoid loneliness or boredom, or to find excitement. Many of the self-destructive behaviors we associate with our addictions as adults we actually started doing as children.

Let’s use sexual behavior as an example. It is totally normal for children to start to explore their sexuality in adolescence. They are going to start being curious about their own sexuality and want to explore it in relationships with other young people. Sexual urges are normal and part of being human. Sometimes those sexual impulses become compulsive, however, even as children. We can feel like our sexual energy is out of our control. We do things we don’t want to do. We choose partners we’re not happy with. Children can start to exhibit signs of addiction, in many of the same ways sex addiction functions in adults.

Sexuality is a confusing and complex thing when we’re young (and when we’re adults), and it can be tough to know what’s healthy and what isn’t. Our natural sexual urges make us struggle against societal norms that tell us sexuality is wrong. We feel shameful, immoral and embarrassed about our normal sexual feelings. When we believe something is wrong, we’re more likely to hide it. When we’re taught that our sexuality is a bad thing, we don’t learn healthy ways of expressing it. We don’t learn to manage our sexual impulses in ways that are good for us. Suppressing our sexuality and associating it with shame contributes to our self-destructiveness. We choose risky behaviors as outlets for our sexual energy, such as casual sex with partners we don’t know very well, but then we’re filled with regret, sadness and loneliness.

When analyzing your childhood, do you think you were showing signs that an addiction was developing? It can be helpful to process the whole story of our addiction, from the earliest onset of our addictive behaviors.

Treatment at Riverside Recovery includes therapy, support meetings and recreational activities, all of which are designed to aid in your healing work. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.