Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I can still hide the truth

During a recent exchange with a new writer friend, I shared a couple of pieces of my writing. One of which is posted below. He wrote back saying, "Even with your education and world travel, your cultural and family ties run deep. Definitely sounds alot like The Waltons, something I can't relate to. I envy you what you miss. My house was somewhere to stay away from when I was a kid."

I had to smile when I read his words ... The secret was still hidden behind the laughter wasn't it?

I wrote back:
Thank you for your note, some keen observations. Though I must say, it's interesting to know that I can still fool people. I grew up in a home that I needed to escape as well. I did it every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night and as soon as I could I went to college. I was raised in a poor, uneducated family, filled with shame and a constant feeling of being less than. Some of my life, which I have written about in "Country Music," was filled with love, but there was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to get out quickly and go to college. I was never going to be as weak as my mother who had no choice but to stay with an emotionally abusive husband, and listen to the silence as I kept the family secret of what was happening to me while she wasn't around. Marrying a man who is brilliant, educated to the highest degree, and from a culture so different than my own, a set of values much different than mine was another form of escaping. I've been on the run for a long, long time. Now maybe you know what's really missing.

The writing that I sent him:

Country Music

“Country music singers have always been a real close family,” Hank Williams, Jr. told the world back in the 70s.

I grew up listening to the stories of love and the heartbreak told to the rhythm of the guitar, whine of the fiddle and beat of the drum.

I, too, have felt that country music singers were a part of my family, because their rhythms have defined most every step of my life.

My earliest memories revolve around watching Hee Haw with my grandma on Saturday nights. In my early days, I spent most every Saturday night at her house, and we’d just laugh and “have a big time,” as she would say. She loved Minnie Pearl, with her big hat – the price tag still dangling from the brim – and Grandpa Jones. Myself, I always loved to hear Roy Clark and Buck Owens when they’d declare, “I’m a pickin’.” “And, I’m a grinnin’.”

We’d watch the whole hour as if it were a new experience.

Generally, earlier in the day we’d watch Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner as they performed on their own show. Porter would be in his rhinestone-covered leisure suit and Dolly looked beautiful in her long, sequined dresses and big, blonde wig and “painted-on face.” But regardless of what they wore or even the songs they sang, it was just so good to be there with Grandma enjoying a country song.

Grandma also had an 8-track tape of Porter with songs about the “Carroll County accident” and a bear that was “big around the middle and broad across the rump.” She played it over and over on her old console stereo and we’d smile and sing along, laughing every time the bear song came on, and crying sometimes when we heard about the accident.

All we had at home, for most of my life, was a standalone record player, where Momma would let us listen all day long during the hot summer months to scratched up albums of Loretta Lynn and Lynn Anderson.

There were some old albums my older brother had left behind with funny looking singers with names like Herman’s Hermits and The Animals, but I never liked to listen to those.
I’d much rather sing along with Momma as we listened to Loretta Lynn tell us, “I was born a coal miner’s daughter.”

I loved that song because it sparked Momma to talk about her father and his days in the coal mines, and it reminded me of the first movie I ever got to see at the drive-in theater – “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

My mother and my grandmother were my two best friends in the world. They died a year apart in the early 1990s, but they live on in the country music that I used to hear and the music that I still hear today.

It’s as easy as pie for me to close my eyes and remember Grandma begging my oldest and dearest niece – the only one of our family blessed with a singing voice – to sing the words of Conway Twitty’s “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” or hear Momma’s voice singing along with Lynn Anderson as she reminded us all “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”
Grandma never wore a pair of jeans in her life, and Momma never had a rose garden – but they both got joy out of those songs that left a special smile on their faces and in their hearts that they couldn’t have found any other place but in a country song.

I find myself smiling those smiles sometimes when I hear a song that takes me back in time or holds a special meaning in my heart.

There are literally hundreds of country songs that touch me in those ways.

The late Charlie Rich sang a song, “Rollin’ with the Flow.” My oldest brother, Larry, has driven a truck since he was old enough to – which was before I was born. His trips all across the country delivering what other people needed usually meant he wasn’t home to visit Momma very often.
But every time I heard Charlie Rich’s voice over the radio, singing, “On and on I go, I keep on rolling with the flow,” I knew Larry was coming home.

Within a day, or at the most two, of hearing the song, Larry would call Momma on the phone and we’d all load up in our little Pinto and drive over to our small town's little haven for truckers, to meet him.

I remember other times when our family would go off on a day-trip, my younger sister, and my niece (who was just four years younger than me) and I riding inside the camper shell of Daddy’s pick up truck and singing the songs of Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers and anything ever recorded by Alabama at the top of our lungs.

As long as we live, those will be memories that only the three of us can truly understand or treasure.

As I’ve grown older, country songs primarily remind me of certain times or certain people in my life. If I hear an old Alabama song, I think of those growing up years, thinking Randy Owen was the sexiest man I’d ever seen. If I hear Brooks and Dunn sing “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” I think of those college days when “Slappin’ Leather” was the craze and when I hear the Judds croon out, “Mama He’s Crazy,” I think of that first love and how I tried to tell Momma about him through the song.

When a new job for my husband uprooted me from the only home I’ve ever known, Kenny Chesney gave me company and made me smile with his song, “Back Where I Come From.” There was comfort in hearing “It’s where I’ll be when it’s said and done,” and knowing I wasn’t gone forever.

Alan Jackson captured almost every emotion that rushed through my veins September 11, 2001 when “the world stopped turning” and soon after Brooks and Dunn reminded me just how special it was to live in this great country with their song, “Only in America.”

Almost every step of my life can be directly linked to a country song or artist. There are songs that make me smile, inside and out, because they are funny or uplifting or remind me of a simpler time and life. And there are those that make me cry real face-wrinkling tears, either because they touch me or because they make me remember.

Country music has given me a voice, an understanding, and a friend.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

She said, he said ... now what?

I wrote to M. on Tuesday:

On Saturday when we talked something happened that I want you to know about. It was a profound revelation of an undeniable truth.

Within a second of you saying (you were going on a date that day) tears started rolling down my cheeks and continued throughout our conversation and turned into sobs when we hung up. The fact that they came to my eyes at the thought of you entering into a possibly "healthy" relationship revealed all the truth to me. I could no longer deny that for a long, long time, for much of our friendship, I have been using you as an object of my love addiction -- a "back up" plan if you will, a stash of some sort. Over the years, despite many "signs," I had pushed aside any doubts I had about the legitimacy of my interest in a deep and loving friendship with you. On Saturday I felt all the shame, pain, loss, and regret of the undeniable truths that revealed themselves in the stinging tears. I could only wonder how much pain and harm I had caused us both. I asked God to let me feel it all and I sat with it.

I am not at a point in my program to make amends, nor am I ready. There are more steps for me to take in my own life, more inventory, more to learn from slowly unpeeling the onion of all my dishonesty and mistrust with others and myself. But when the time comes, and my understanding is complete, I will owe you an amends. For now, I will simply say, I am sincerely sorry. There is no doubt I genuinely care for you and would never intentionally hurt you, or use you to hurt myself. Our disease doesn't live by intention though.

I am telling you this, first because I feel the need to apologize, to be honest, and second because I want you to know the truth.

Today M. wrote me a message:

I got your e-mail. There is no need to fret. You didn't do anything wrong. Your disease brings shame when there is nothing to be ashamed about. Nothing can hurt our friendship, nothing. Do you understand?

I'm relieved that he finally wrote, because I have been obsessing about his thoughts ... and now I am doing my best just to sit with my feelings about his response.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Life on Life's Terms

Speaking of being interviewed ... I had a job interview today. It went well and I didn't obsess over it like I did the last interview. This was for a job that I think I can easily handle. Am I more qualified than the requirements? Could I make more money? Yes ... but as I've said before, I just don't want to set myself up for failure. My life, my focus has changed, my ability to "lead" has changed ... even my desire to lead.

I'm at a point where my recovery, my healing ... those are the things that are important.

I am also at a point where I want to go back to school possibly and also to focus on my writing. Over the past week or so at least three people said ... "You need to write." I gave a friend the advice to write two pages a day, no matter what it was about, and I think I have to do the same. What comes of it, will come of it. I just have to keep the discipline. This is something that can fill my time rather than focusing on how I'm going to escape with food and sex and codependency. I can escape into my writing. At least I can be insane that way ... like all the other good writers.

I just have to note here ... I am shocked beyond belief that I went to PA and didn't act out and didn't break my food plan. I am shocked and filled with gratitude. This recovery stuff is working for me. They always said it would.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I've been interviewed ...

The Recovering Wino, http://stayathomemotherdom.blogspot.com/ offered to interview me for her blog, as a way of sharing a little blog love. Here are my answers to her questions:

1) I understand your situation because I have been there before. How do you work at dealing with the longing you feel for someone you are addicted to and are trying to resist? How do you deal with the anger? Is it working?

I am in a 12 step recovery program for sex and love addicts, I'm also in other 12-step programs, and I use the tools of those programs to help me get the focus off other people and back on myself. But those programs or the people in them are not my saviors ... they can't take away my desire to have sex with a stranger or to carry on an extramarital affair. My brain is broken, I don't think clearly when it comes to intimate and sexual relationships. I'm trying to heal old wounds. So ... in order to deal with the longing, I have to use all the tools I have to "prevent" the longing from coming on -- I have to go to meetings, call recovery friends, read literature, eat properly, stay present in the moment and when the cravings get really bad, I know that I have messed up somewhere along the way and for now the only thing I can do is either one go to bed or two get out and move. Whatever I do, I have to get out of my head.
How do I deal with anger ... this is a good one. I have trouble with anger. I don't feel it or I feel it extremely. My anger is usually misdirected and I have to admit that I simply am a work in progress when it comes to anger. Many of the same tools I mentioned above, as well as the Serenity Prayer, help me to deal with anger.
Is it working? Well, lately, I don't get all worked up about the bad days like I used to. And I feel a greater connection to my Higher Power, feel more like I'm on a path and have choices, so yeah, I'd say it's working. Not to mention, I have not met a complete stranger for sex in almost a year. (As opposed to a regular daily dose for several years.) I have had only one "casual" sexual encounter in that same time and was able to end a year long affair that I truly thought was going to do me in.

(2) How long have you been married? What initially attracted you to your husband?
I have been married for almost nine years. I think I was initially attracted to his intelligence, and I liked that he was attracted to me. Through therapy I have come to realize that I was also attracted to him because he comes from a background so different than mine and I just wanted to run away from everything I'd ever known.

(3) What is one of the most significant moments in your life?
One? There have been many changing points ... but I'd mention one here that has been in my mind lately as its anniversary is coming up in three days. My mother died when I was 25 years old and the aftermath of that has been incredible. I was very close to my mother and her death was devasting. On the day of her funeral, I saw my biological father for the first time. He had never acknowledged me. Later after everyone left the house, my stepfather, who had molested and abused me from the time I was three years old, tried to seduce me, telling me that I wasn't actually his daughter, so it was OK. Today, 14 years later, I realize that my mother's death was a gift. No longer did she have to live with my horrible stepfather, I also could begin the slow and painful process of healing from my abuse. I never told a soul about what happened to me until after she died. It was hiding the secrets that made it the hardest to live with.

(4) Do you believe in God? What do you believe?
Yes, I believe in God, but most likely not the same version of God that you will take on your mission trip. For me, God is in every living thing, and I am also a part of God. When I can feel the strength of the wind, I know that I am in that wind and it is in me. When someone shares something deep and meaningful with me, I know that they are a vessel of God's message to me. I don't believe I have the omnipotent powers of that higher being, but I believe that the powers of that omnipotent being are with me.

(5) What is your favorite website and why?
I love the web and blogs. I guess if I had to pick a favorite website I'd say it's mail.yahoo.com, because it's how I keep in touch. But I also am lately loving a blog by a young man in Alabama named Andrew. He's an addict and a schizoprenic who writes about his daily life. You can find him at http://4thavenueblues.blogspot.com/

Checking in after a brief hiatus

Wow! It felt good to come back from my trip and find some comments. It's nice to be read and to get your feedback.

So... a few things going on here, but mostly good. I just returned from a weekend trip to visit some friends in PA ... the state where my sex addiction first started to go haywire. I had my first extramarital affair there in 2003 (read all about it right here at Rae's Confessions) and what a crazed and blessed life I have lived since. It was the onset (or resurfacing) of my disease in my marriage that led me to seek counseling and begin dealing at a professional level with not only my latest "symptom" (my SLA issues) but also the grueling effects of my childhood sexual abuse. And I can see how my recovery program in SLAA has lead me to the work I'm now doing in OA. I can look back now and see the ways addictions and compulsions have been a gift to me. But, damn, it's been a tough road to get here. Still I am thankful for the awareness, the healing and the friendships I have made along this path. And I am also glad that there is more to come. -- Remind me of that, will you?

While I was visiting this "old stomping grounds," it was impossible to avoid reminders of my sexual escapades, and some diseased temptations to reconnect with some of those old acting out partners. I remember that it was one of the hardest things about continuing to live in that area after I got into recovery. On every corner, every exit, every street there was a reminder of one of the countless men I met on the Internet and acted out with. Some of them were "regulars" -- regular enough that I could have gotten their phone numbers this weekend and contacted them and gone right back to where I was years ago -- used and disrespected, using and disrespecting.

However, I've learned this little prayer that is so helpful to me. It goes "Please give me the willingness ..." I was thankful that I didn't have to use that tool a lot because I spent a lot of time with an old SLAA buddy and it was as if we had a 24 hour meeting, sharing experience, strength and hope with one another, reading to each other, and living life on life's terms. Likewise, I spent some time fully present with all the friends I was able to see on this short trip, and was amazed at how good it felt to be present and truly enjoy the company of others.

While I was in Pennsylvania, R married S. He had called me about two or three weeks ago to tell me that he was getting married. At the time I was sad and angry because I couldn't believe I had gone through such emotional turmoil over the past year and put myself in so many compromising situations, almost left my marriage, only to be hit head on with the reality that he is a love addict too and I was never really the point in his diseased mind. Finding someone who was willing to say yes, was the point. Anyway, I spent a few days after his call really struggling ... thinking "Oh God, just wait til the day he gets married. I'll be miserable."

Hell no, I wasn't miserable at all ... I spent the whole day laughing and talking with "real" friends and strengthening real friendships. I even had the chance to share some 12-step stuff with a friend who is dealing with an alcoholic spouse. And when there was no one around and I might have had the chance to wallow around in self pity that day, my brother (who is recovering from triple bypass surgery) called and we had a great long conversation. After we hung up there was another chance to get down in the dumps ... but the phone rang again and an old college friend called to catch up. All of this is to the credit of my Higher Power. I asked for him to help me and he did. Pretty simple stuff, but it took me a long time to ask, a long time to trust and a long time to be aware of all the ways God was helping me when I could not help myself.

Likewise, I was not very trusting that I would be able to make it through those five days out of town, away from the hawk eyes of my husband and not eat like a pig. BUT ... I didn't. I stuck to my food plan of three meals a day. I didn't eat exactly as the doctor had told me to last week in terms of eating on a palm size portion of meat and the rest fruits and veggies, with a limited amount of carbs. I ate pasta and pizza and rice and I didn't eat enough vegetables and I did eat dessert (which keeps me from claiming pure abstinence), but I am thrilled that I passed by literally dozens of opportunities to gorge myself with food. I think I was so happy to actually have the feeling of being "present" in the world that I didn't want to mess that up.

I got to share about OA with a couple of my younger friends who have both gained a whole lot of weight since I last saw them. At 23 and 25, they are both significantly obese, and one of them is considering surgical options of weight loss. I just told them how I was feeling about my program. If they go, they go. If they don't, they don't. I doubt i would have gone at their age. But in retrospect, I sure wish I had.

There were some other profound truths that were revealed to me while I was away as well -- including eliminating some denial in my life surrounding my close friendship with M -- my former sponsor, longtime recovery friend, who I had a phone sex relationship with and then became close friends with again. We talked on Saturday and he told me he had a date. Without any warning, tears began streaming down my face and after we hung up they turned in to sobs. Those first tears confirmed something I had been trying to deny for so long -- maybe as long as I had known him -- I have been using M. as a object of my love addiction. I am thankful for all the feelings I was able to feel surrounding that revelation, and thankful for the betraying tears that lead me to say to myself, "You cannot deny this any longer." I wrote a letter to him this morning and am doing my best not to obsessively check my e-mail to see if he responded. Even if he doesn't say a word ... I felt it was important for me to come clean and let him know what was going on in my mind. He's not always so good about being that honest.

Last night at home was also a little rough ... sometimes it is so hard to make a decision to stay in a marriage and not expect it to be perfect. Well ... mine is far from perfect and I sometimes feel inadequate to even get started on fixing it. I think for now, I'll just work on fixing me.

Oh ... and today R. sent me a text to say that the wedding went well ... just in case you all wanted to know. (Hear the gagging reflex in the background?)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

All I can do

I woke up this morning and I really don't feel good. I have a headache. I feel tired, and I feel vulnerable to using the Internet to connect with unhealthy people and food to bring me comfort.

I'm upset because I'm really not losing that much weight even though I've given up the comforts of sugary foods and the convenience of drive throughs.

I feel disconnected from the world, as if I have no friends, and even those friends I have ... I don't want to, don't feel like connecting to them.

R. is getting married this week and I suppose that is weighing on my mind. I wrote him a letter yesterday saying among other things ...

"And as good as we were, as much love and feelings as we shared, as much determination as we both had -- there was something more for both of us. More revelations, more healing, and a clearer path for me. For you, a shining love with a full commitment and a full life. Honesty for both of us. We were the catalysts for unleashing in one another what had been locked away for so long. I am thankful we had the chance to take those first steps together toward progress and life. I know, despite the pain and the outcome, that you were a gift from God to me and I will be forever grateful."

I'm obsessing a bit over my friend M. -- the one who used to be my sponsor until we started having a phone sex relationship. Then we became friends again. And now it feels like I want to connect to him, but I'm feeling the toxicity of the relationship. I think I want to connect to him for "sick" reasons -- not that I want to act out with him sexually, but that maybe he's just been a love interest in disguise all this time. I don't know. I do know he's ignoring me for a reason -- and I suspect it may be because he's acting out in some way himself. Oh well, as I'm trying to learn in recovery ... that's none of my business. I have enough to focus on right here inside my own little hoola-hoop.

I've been half-heartedly trying to look for a job, but I get these spurts of energy and then I have to force myself to do anything.

I think I'm going to go back to bed for a little while. If I end up staying there all day, so be it. If I wake up feeling better ... that will be great. I am trying to do my part these days to make my life better. I don't know how well I'm doing at that. I feel like today I am willing to wallow in pity and isolate. That's not exactly my part. But it feels like all I can do today.