Thursday, December 06, 2007

In pursuit of power

I went back to the therapist who doesn't know shit about sex addiction today, full of myself that this would be the last appointment and that she was of no use to me. I forgot that God sometimes has lessons for us in places we think we'll never find them.

In the early parts of her conversations she asked me what I got from my compulsive overeating and what I would gain from letting it go. I told her that letting it go would help me to regain my health and self-esteem and that what I gained from it was protection and comfort. In regard to protection, she responded, "But that's a lie, you don't get protection." Her response (considering my already pissed off state of mind) made me even more pissed off. Of course, I don't actually get protection from all this extra weight, but that is the lie that I began to believe deep down inside. Anyway, I stood my ground on that and realizing my anger wasn't going to get me anywhere I said a short prayer, "God, please let me hear what I need to hear and give me the peace to hear it."

Almost immediately the defensiveness of sitting there with a thin, tall blonde woman disappeared as we began to talk about my sexual addiction. To the question of what I gain from recovering from the addiction, I answered that I would be able to regain my life, that it has become unrecognizable, that very few things or people actually interest me anymore, I am filled with shame and guilt. As for what I gain from the addiction -- she began to ask questions that again made me feel like she didn't understand, but as we talked I began to express that in the beginning of my acting out I told the anonymous sex partners I sought out over the Internet that I was looking for an intimacy that didn't exist in my marriage -- one that transcended just a physical act and was more emotional in nature. However, my actions were just the opposite of that. I went from one man to another, sometimes a different one every day, sometimes more than one a day, seeking a feeling of worthiness and value from them. If I could make them feel good, the best they'd ever felt, then I had some value and worth. I had no concern about whether I felt good. Their praise and acceptance was enough. But as my disease progressed, so did my motives and the needs of my addict. I began to actually need to be something to these men more than just a free whore, more than good sex.

While this was not cognizant behavior, looking back at it now, I know that I began luring men (usually men with some form of power -- whether it be physical strength, intelligence or business success) into emotional situations, giving them things (attention, acceptance, understanding, a willingness to explore) that they could not get otherwise and truly trying to "hook" them. I was like a spider, weaving a web, exploring and extracting every part of these men's psyches, while keeping my own self at bay, never letting them in, or at least only enough to manipulate them. I remember literally thinking about one acting out partner who I actually cared for very much, "You may think you can deny me, but I know how to bring you to your knees in a second."

What then? Nothing. I didn't seek this power in order to blackmail or get my way with them. I never accepted gifts from them. I simply relished the power. That was the high that fed my addiction. Even worse, was that in luring these men in ... I knew that at any minute I could drop them, leave them, as I had so many others, and never care at all. That is the coldness that is addiction.

In most people, addiction feeds a need that was never met, or addresses a matter never resolved. For me, wielding this power was a way of reliving my childhood sexual abuse in two ways, well really three, if you consider that it was all done in secret. First, it was revenge. I wasn't the one who was powerless and vulnerable any longer. I wasn't the child who couldn't say no. In fact, I could (at least in my addict's mind) say no at any time and never think twice. That was the power trip. But what corroded my system was the fact that in pursuing power in this way, I was reiterating the message that the only value and worth that I have to others, especially men of power, is of a sexual nature. I could not deny that I could never have lured these men into any situation without the promise of sex. And after all, I was keeping my emotional self completely separated from them, which was my own way of reaffirming that my feelings and needs were irrelevant.

From my early adulthood, I always knew that knowledge is power. It's probably why I pursued a career in journalism. I loved knowing things that other people didn't know, and telling people the parts that I wanted to share, then using the inside information to essentially manipulate others to like me or give me more information. I remember when I was promoted from reporter to editor and it was part of my duty to write a weekly column, I hated it. I didn't want to share my thoughts and opinions with others. I wanted to keep those to myself. I felt vulnerable putting myself out there like that. I preferred it that everyone around me tell me everything that they thought and did, so that I could tell others and use it for my advantage, for my career success, for my feeling of power.

All of this is so ugly and arrogant and quite sickening to look at ... but wow, is it good to get in there and really see the truth. I have to drain these sickening truths from me in order to make room for what's to come. That, as I discussed with my therapist, is the hard part. When we take something away, we have to replace it with something equally meaningful. We can't just leave a gaping hole. That's why change is so hard. Until recovery, and even pretty far into recovery, this pursuit of power, denial of my emotional self, was the only way I knew how to live. Finding a new way to live and being courageous enough to accept it requires a decision -- the decision that comes in the second step.

It is no wonder that I have had difficulty succeeding in a program where the very first step, "admitted we were powerless," strips away the very thing that has been the mainstay of my inner child's (my addict's) existence. Thank God the rest of the steps follow.

“Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point. We asked His protection and care with complete abandon.”


Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Speaking of power, Rae. This is all powerful stuff. Lots to think about, but no time now to comment more than to thank you again for putting yourself and your insights out here.

bella said...

I resonated quite profoundly with your words here.
Sex and power have been very linked for me as well, form my childhood on. And it is tangled, murky, not always clear.
Your awareness, your willingness to put your honest words out here, feels to me a very big step in claiming your own life, living from your own power, rather then seeking it everywhere else.
You are thoughtful and brave and it is a privilege to bear witness to these parts of your journey you share here.

vicariousrising said...

I really needed to read this today. Thank you for your generosity and candor in sharing it.

Texaco said...

Admitting powerlessness to oneself seems particularly problematic when it's clear that one has power. That has been one of the greatest hurdles for me. Just because I was halfway smart I thought I could 'figure it out'; that somehow, someday, I would be able to control and enjoy. I still have trouble with discerning the boundary of personal power, that line between acceptance and courage. The intuitive thought is not always there. The wisdom is lacking. Very often all I can bring to the table is willingness.

Nice post. Thanks.

Recovering Wino said...

I had a lot of power issues with, so many.