Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seeking Surrender

On page 120 of the Big Book of AA, it is written, "If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything else, in God's hands."

I have fought for control in every way, shape and form I have known, for as long as I can recall. I live a "scared shitless" life when I'm not in control. Yet time and time again I have been shown the grace and comfort that can be found in simply letting go and letting my Higher Power take the reigns of my life.

This fear of what will come with a lack of control does not leave me for long. It is a part of my "thinking problem," and as an addict, I find myself in states of irritability, dis-ease, panic and obsessiveness before I even know what has hit me.

The answer to peace and harmony is always in surrender and acceptance. But that surrender and acceptance is so much easier to think about and write about than it is to actually do.

My prayer today is that I can remember, one moment at a time, that there's no need for my control, no hope or peace in it. There is only peace and harmony in gentle surrender to the God of my understanding. I don't have to know what it looks like or have God all figured out ... I simply have to let go. Just place whatever I need to hold on to in God's hands and let go.

I can accept that it's natural for this need for control to come up when I am stressed. I don't have to resent it. I can simply recognize it as part of a disease that I have been living with all my life and will continue to live with into the future. I will never be rid of the "stinkin' thinkin'" completely. It will try to use old coping mechanisms to help me get through tough times. But I pray that I continue to seek a more gentle path.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conflicting thoughts

As I begin to find my foundation, I have truly embraced the journey of life and become thankful for every part of my path. Occasionally, though, something stops me in my tracks and makes me ask if there is something fundamentally wrong with my thinking. That's when it helps to write through my thoughts and sort them out so I can look at them.

So, clearly, I had one of those "stopped in my tracks" moments recently when I was signed on to Facebook and saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a list of sex offenders in her county. The local sheriff's office had posted the names, addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders in the county. There were a few comments that made it clear that people felt safer knowing who the sex offenders were who lived around them.

Those who know I was molested as a child probably could reasonably think I think it's a great idea to expose all those "perverts." I suspect a few people might be aghast that I actually cringe at the notion of shaming people in this way. But it's not my job to think for anyone else. I'm just trying to think for myself.

As I looked through the names and faces, I saw men and women, old and young. Some of them even looked like the "typical" sex offender, if there is such a thing. But a few of them looked like exactly what they were before they got a big red label pasted across their foreheads that said "SEX OFFENDER." They looked like local grocery store clerks, fast food and factory workers, business professionals and teachers.

My sexual behavior, which was at one point outrageous by any definition, was a part of who I was. For a long time, I let the shame of that behavior and the shame of my past define all of who I was. I think differently now. I know that it is only by God's grace that I am not on a list of sexual offenders in my county -- not because I ever got anywhere close to a child (even the thought of that repulses me) but because in my county if a person gets caught engaging in public sexual activity then you go on the sex offender registry. I never got caught, but I certainly engaged. That's not something I'm proud of, it's just a fact. In a world where sex is the drug of choice, parked cars often become the "party room."

So, as I think of this fact -- I never got caught. My stepfather never got caught. There are people recovering from sexual addiction around the globe who have never been caught committing a crime. Then there are those 37 people on that Facebook page who did get caught. For every one of them, with terms after their names like carnal abuse, sexual assault, rape, solicitation, there are dozens more who are using sex in dangerous, inappropriate ways that never got caught, whose names will never be smeared, whose families will never feel the burning shame of their "outing." But these people, like me, like my stepfather, like the fathers and mothers and uncles and neighbors and teachers of so many of my friends and loved ones, have horribly hurt other people. Had we made it to those registries, we would have been looked at with total disgust too, because no one would understand or care that we were more than sex offenders.

I've been thinking of my stepfather recently. He was more than my abuser, more than the sum of all his horrible attributes. He was creative and talented in his vocation and avocations. Given the chance at an education, he could have been a very successful designer and engineer. Before my sex addiction took over my life, I was a glowing professional, filled with confidence and ability. It's taken me a long time to reclaim the parts of myself that are still useful. Embracing them is still difficult.

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating that we should let people free because there are far more sex offenders than will ever be caught. In fact, I don't think I'm advocating anything. I am just typing out loud, trying to sort through these feelings of sadness and confusion about the people whose names and faces I saw on that Facebook page, and show up in one too many I Phone apps for sex offender registries.

At times when I've considered future career options, I've thought of pursuing a career that would allow me to help women who have survived incest. It took me only a very short time to realize that it is not the victim we should focus on helping. Once the abuse, the incest, the violation -- whether covert or overt occurs -- it is too late. The damage that will take years and years to overcome has been done. It is the fear of what will happen as a result, just how fucked up one will become as a result of what has happened that is the worst damage of all. But what if more was done to help those "would be" sexual offenders to begin to live lives they could be proud of, lives of self-awareness that prevented them from making that first move to ruin the lives of others? I don't know what help -- other than therapy -- there might be, but I know there must be something more helpful than this horrible shame.

Monday, February 07, 2011

There is purpose

My thanks to fellow bloggers and followers who continue to check in now and then. I write here rather infrequently now, despite my best intentions. In this digital age, there is so much technology to distract all of us and me specifically, that writing short tidbits of thought in social media has become the daily norm, as opposed to sorting out my thoughts through lengthy blog posts. And while I think I need to make it a habit to journal and share my thoughts with others in the recovery community, I have found that sharing thoughts via Facebook with people who I know or have known is helping to bring together the pieces of my life into a whole person.

I have shared here many times about the pain and confusion of living parallel lives. It goes beyond simply having a public life and a private life. For as far back as I can remember, I have lived a compartmentalized life. As a child, I had my family life, I had the secret life of abuse and a parallel life of my own escapism, I had my school life and I had my church life. There's always been a part of me that excels and seeks to lead and a part of me that I long to live undetected.

After many years, I am coming closer to living a more integrated life. I have friends who I allow to see my flaws, and I have made a conscious effort to become more humble and less manipulative. Rather than trying to shape others opinions of me by "leading" them and wowing them with my "perfection," I am learning to be myself, accept myself as perfectly imperfect and flawed, and let others be themselves. Perhaps they are in a place to form opinions of me, or perhaps they really don't give a shit about what I think or do -- despite my once grandiose ideas that I was the center of everyone's universe. Either way, I have no stake in what others think of me. Instead, I have a vested interest in how I feel within myself.

It may sound as if I am being a little too harsh on my past self. Trust me, I love myself more today than I have in a long, long time -- maybe ever. And it's not because I'm so much better than I was before. It is because I accept this journey that I am on as my pathway, my journey. I am simply at peace with what is.

In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness... I see what people call God in all these things. Pablo Casals

This is not to say I don't struggle with non-acceptance and self-hatred and feeling overwhelmed at times. I most certainly do. These are emotions that sometimes show up every day. But those are not the places that I dwell. I seek, today, above all things, peace in my soul -- peace with all that is around me. And I find it not in complacency, but in acceptance and and immense gratitude that, thus far, the God of my understanding has found a purpose for me.

I may be a fat, depressed, sex and love addict, without a real job, with more questions than answers sometimes -- but despite those things, God has found things for me to do in this world. The AA Big Book talks about "We had a new employer." And I am grateful beyond words that among the work that was meant for me was the task of making peace with myself. It seems to be making all the difference in being at peace with the world around me.

Again, I don't mean to imply in any way that my life is perfect. It is not, and I am learning plenty of things the hard way. I am simply saying, I know more peace than I have known in a long time, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just a sip

I became aware at last night's meeting that I was trying to control everyone and everything around me. I was telling someone else to lead the meeting, then taking over by telling that person everything they needed to do. One member suggested to me that we cut the reading short to accommodate more shares. I said no, then changed MY mind and told the leader to cut the reading short. Some of the men in the meeting were acting silly and I was feeling so chaotic ... I just was ill at ease with myself.
One of the things I am working on in my recovery is humility. A part of that is stepping back from being "the leader." With the help of working the Steps and the revelations of my Higher Power, I discovered I always put myself in positions of authority or leadership so that I can be in control of the outcome of most any situation. In doing this, I also separate myself from other people. I can cause others to feel intimidated. I can appear busy and inaccessible thus leaving me alone. And, oh how my addicted self loves the misery, loneliness and self-pity it finds in isolation. For it is in that isolation where I long for just a small foray into my diseased behavior. I rarely feel any desire to really get fully involved in my disease, but there are times on a regular basis that I feel so uncomfortable in my skin that I just want some release from the discomfort and pain of feelings and emotions -- simple ones even -- that I don't seem able to deal with.
Unfortunately, in sex and love addiction, like all other addictions, there is no such thing as "just a sip." If I go on to one of my old websites "just to see" what people are looking for or engaging in, I am participating in middle circle behaviors that will no doubt -- NO DOUBT -- lead to acting out. It's like an alcoholic sniffing the bottle of whiskey. I cannot begin conversations with past lovers or potential new lovers pretending to just want someone to talk to -- the equivalent of taking a sip of whiskey from a completely full bottle -- without finding myself fully involved, making plans, and eventually feeling deep regret and being forced to start all over again searching for some semblance of peace and serenity in an otherwise chaotic world.
Because of the cyclical nature of addiction, I have to be hypervigilant about maintaining my spiritual condition, identifying those moments when I'm feeling that life is spinning out of control and compelled to stop it by grasping anything and everything that can cause me to feel in control. It's important that I'm fully aware of those impulses, so that I can remind myself to give the reigns to my Higher Power. In order to do that, I need to get quiet and humble and prayerful and let the storm pass. It won't last forever. If I give in to that voice that says ... "Take just a sip, it will relieve the pressure. It's not going to hurt anything," I lose all access to my Higher Power, all access to manageability, and I find myself taking a sip that might never end.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and thank you for the wisdom to know the difference. May thy will, not mine be done.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Goals, Smoals

Forgive me a moment while I express some emotions that aren't really that positive, but should be expressed nonetheless.
I've heard all the theories that we are what we think, the things we focus on are the things we manifest, negative thoughts yield negative results, blah, blah, blah. The variations of the same message are endless. They even include the story of the Cherokee elder, which I love.
One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. 

He said, “My son, the battle is between two ‘wolves’ inside us all. One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, greed, and arrogance. The other is Good - It is peace, love, hope, humility, compassion, and faith. ”

The grandson thought about this for a while and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

 To which the old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I was listening to an audio presentation by Brian Tracy called "Goals" this morning. His basic premise, which is not a new one, is that without goals we are directionless. You know, the old adage, "If you don't know where you are going, you're going nowhere."
So as Tracy goes on and on about the process of getting clarity about what you want from life and doing one small thing every day to work toward those goals in all areas of your life, all I can think is, "What's the point?" I can set goals until the sun rises in the west, and tell myself I am going to work toward them every day, but in the end I know I will just give up. It will require more effort than I want to give or I will be more inclined to sleep than to exercise or go to class. I will get to work at my dream job and the computer will be sitting there, drawing my attention away from the things I want to achieve and before I know it, I'll be right back to square one -- feeling like absolute shit.
Clearly, I'm having an issue with self-confidence at the moment. It's been quite a battle for a long time. The disparity between the confident, ambitious, dependable, capable person and the person who simply feels like the only thing left to do is to give up is growing wider and wider, as my ass does the same. It is so frustrating. That higher self KNOWS that setting goals and achieving them and getting recognition for them builds self esteem, but the lower self asks herself again, "What's the point?" I suppose I believe that no matter what I work for, no matter what I achieve, it will never last, it will always be stolen from me and in the end, like all things, it will never, ever be enough.
Inside me somewhere right now is a voice crying out, "Challenge those negative thoughts! Ask them what right they have to be in your life? They aren't true and they sure aren't helpful." And when I "hear" that faint voice, still fighting for life, right now at this moment, all I can feel is tired. I just want to close my eyes and forget about these struggles, to slip into the nothingness that doesn't include goals or ambitions, the place where there is no fight left. I am sad to say that at this moment, that is the place that feels safe.
Truth is, I know that in that place I go much deeper into darkness, into the place where the attempts to feel alive become desperate and more risky. Risk is the only thing that brings a spark of life in those moments. Then comes incredible regret, that insatiable desire to just be "normal," the resurfacing of the struggle, even stronger and more insistent than before. The addictive cycle, the clinicians call it.
As I sit here, I struggle with a dozen things: whether to go to a meeting or stay home with my husband who I am sure will be too tired to deal with me once he gets home, but not too tired to be irritated that I chose something else over him. I struggle with my lack of desire to fix a healthy meal and my guilt in ordering some overpriced takeout that is not healthy. I struggle with the need to go to the gym, fix dinner, get ready for the meeting, take care of my pets, return program calls, and again, the desire to just lay down and say fuck it all.
I know I won't feel these things in an hour or two, but I do know they will be back. I suppose my true desire is that I live at peace with myself and my decisions and that I be happy with life no matter how much effort it takes. I'm not there today and the best I can do is acknowledge that and get up and do the next right thing and realize that nothing is going to go wrong today that is going to kill me and if something does kill me, the struggle will be over and I can quit bitching.
Grateful to be alive one more day. Grateful to be honest with myself and others. Grateful that my life is filled with all kinds of feelings, and I can experience them as they come without overreacting.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Searching for me

As I read Bernadine's letter to her trauma recovery therapy (TRT) group at Et tu husband? I thought how good it was to witness someone come out on the other side of the struggles of a recovery cycle.

Bernadette wrote in her departing letter to her TRT group,"I had known about (my husband's) addiction for a year and a few months when I started the group.
By then, the person I had been -- was gone."

Later in her letter she wrote, "I realized, just this last weekend, that I’m back to me now."

Oh how I long to be "back to me."

I had occasion recently to correspond with several people from a life before the one in which I've found myself for the past seven years. They know someone I once was -- a confident, testy, fun, hard-working, competent and talented leader and fellow employee. They know the person I long to be again, and would be so surprised to know this depressed, fearful, struggling individual that sometimes loses sight of hope.

By the time I came here to write my confessions in May 2004, the person they knew was long gone. I had no idea where she had gone or how she got lost, but OMG was she gone.

It occurs to me almost fleetingly here that perhaps the fact that I am pursuing a lost dream rather than a brighter future messes with my ability, at times, to be satisfied with the present and encouraged by the journey.I idolize that upwardly mobile young professional that I once was, and see myself today as a mere shadow of what I once was. I literally fucked myself into a feeling of worthlessness and self-pity that I grow so tired of, so restless with, and at times so attached to, I don't now how to move on.

I was talking yesterday afternoon with a recovery friend about this issue, about the fact that I felt a whole lot better before my recovery began than I have felt during its process. Don't get me wrong, I am very grateful that I am in recovery, that I am trusting the process, that I am experiencing a "balancing out" of life. Without the tools of recovery to guide me as I have worked with (and at times against) my Higher Power and support system to put my life back together again, I have no doubt I would not be alive. No doubt. I feel grateful that I am alive even with the recovery process and support to lift me up.

Through a whole series of metaphors, my friend helped me connect to the fact that I am not recovering from a series of bad choices and behaviors -- I am recovering from a system of values and beliefs that have been my means of coping with deep-seated underlying realities that were too painful to bear at some earlier time in my life.

My friend asked me "If you were to vow to never let anything pass your lips again that would prevent you from achieving and maintaining your healthy weight, would that be hard or easy to achieve?" Silly me took a while to think about that question. As usual, I was trying to find the "right" answer. But, of course, it would be as hard as hell. I love food. I love sweets. I love sharing food with friends and sharing the pleasures of new restaurants and new tastes. Throw in all the factors associated with my attachment to myself as a fat person, and you've got a complete revamping of my entire life. There is no way that is going to be easy. No way. And my skewed relationship with food and fatness barely even scratches the surface of the massive jumble of misguided, disproportional, and damaged thoughts, feelings and forces that I have absorbed and incorporated into my life over the years. There is so much more.

So, for today, I give myself, my recovery process and my God the time that is required, the patience that is needed to go through these fundamental changes.

Monday, October 25, 2010 Interview

In my last post I posted the answers to some interview questions that had been posed to me. The interview was conducted by Brandon Yu, managing editor of

Brandon has posted the interview on the AllTreatment site today. Check it out here.