Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Growing some values

I've been alone at home since Sunday and have not felt the slightest urge to act out. I still don't. I am so thankful. I am also feeling a bit lost. It's not that I don't have things to do. There's a cluttered house to clean, a room I've been wanting to organize for months and reading that I want to do. There's even step work and real work to do. In fact, I just got some new "real" work today. My interest in writing has resurfaced. But my mind won't settle down. It's not racing, it's not focused on anything in particular. It's just unsettled and unfocused. When I was acting out, my mind had full focus every day, and I just had to work the rest of the stuff in between. Now, with no distractions it's difficult to navigate. I'm not complaining per se -- I'm just telling my truth.

I keep being drawn to the recovery literature -- more so than I ever was when I wasn't acting out. This verifies the theory that we stop acting out so we can work our program. Anyway, this afternoon I started reading a chapter in the SLAA text called "Living with a Sex and Love Addict." It is somewhat similar to "Lois' Story" in the AA Big Book -- written by and for those who love the addict. I had never read this chapter before and couldn't help but think of my blogging buddies who are the wives of sex addicts as I started the chapter. As I read through it though, I felt an even broader sense of pain -- one that transcended people whose stories I knew -- to the overall pain and horror of living in a desparate world trying desparately to be "enough."

"Many of us had the feeling of 'needing to be needed' that left us clinging to the addict, certain if we made ourselves necessary or indispensable to the addict we would be 'safe.' We, too, had sacrificed our personal dignity and hidden behind self-deception in order to make the relationship work, no matter what the cost." It goes on to talk about how partners want desparately to believe the remorse and the excuses and take on the responsibility -- thinking if they were only more sexy or wouldn't have made their partner angry -- it would have been different. "We were too afraid of losing the one we loved."

Whether as a codependent in my marriage and in my friendships, or as a co-addict with my acting out partners -- I have lowered myself, rationalized, and hidden feelings just in order to feel loved, in order to feel enough. I can even relate this to my stepfather -- whose love and acceptance I wanted so badly, and truthfully still want, that I carried the shame and guilt of his disease for all these years.

The things the chapter goes on to talk about makes me hurt for others -- for the wives of the men I know in fellowship, for women who have so kindly accepted me here in the blogosphere, despite what I represent. It talks of the addicts demands for sexual satisfaction and a feeling in the partner that they must meet it or risk the partner going elsewhere.

"We envy those in relationships who do not have to bear the painful intimacy of knowing about all the former lovers and each day's temptations. ... The need to be honest about how we really feel -- and to be willing to accept the same honesty -- demands trust and self-confidence that are often hard to summon, much less deliver. ...

"Even the addict's necessary involvement in SLAA has been a source of real discomfort for us at times. So much of our security has been based on being needed. Now it seemed the addict could and would go it alone, and if he/she needed anyone, it was the Fellowship, not us. It was painfully apparent that if we demanded that our partners choose between us and SLAA, we would be the losers. And yet the needs of every other SLAA member at times seemed to take precedence over ours."

This last sentence causes me to feel for my husband, who has to set back, put aside his own needs while I have taken calls, made calls, answered e-mails, gone to meetings and after-fellowships and done service work. I was thankful for the reminder that even though he doesn't have to live with all the details of my acting out, he does pay the price of my time in recovery -- time, if not spent, would likely mean, time acting out.

Reading on ... "Then, too, our privacy was always on the line it seemed. We cringed inwardly as we imagined these strangers hearing the most intimate details of our lives, of our sex lives being discussed at meetings."

I've never really thought of this much -- all the privacy boundaries that are broken in meetings and individual discussions between recovering sex and love addicts. I know that my husband is incredibly private and it is one of the hardest things for him even regarding me being in recovery. Without even knowing how very much I share with others in recovery, I know that it is uncomfortable for him. Likewise, I hear the stories, one by one of other women's homes -- the deep and intimate details. This must be very, very difficult to be on the other side of. I am thankful to have read this -- as I think it will make me more reverent and honoring to the stories I hear. There is great sacrifice in those stories being shared.

I found it interesting that the chapter said the thing that differentiates the addict from the co-addict is a sense of values. I have mourned my own loss of a sense of values, and even see that as I've laid out my story here on these pages for the past four years, I've had very little sense that doing so was invading my own space and privacy. Readers have commended me for the bravery to tell my story -- and I've not felt brave at all ... I felt I was doing what I had to do -- to get my truth out, to help myself. I guess I did have the sense to know that sharing it anonymously with an unknown audience was better than writing it in a journal that could be found at home and cause lots and lots of damage and hurt. And day by day I do feel a growing sense of values returning -- I can't say that feels better or worse. It just is. Life is slowly getting evened out.


The Traveler said...

I'm always surprised that in reading your entries one thing usually pops out at me.

Today, the fact that you married and INTENSELY PRIVATE spouse whacked me in the face, figuratively.

I shall go think on that.

Today's writing was beautiful to me, the way you painted the unfolding, the blooming, of empathy in your recovery process.


bella said...

This sounds like a new chapter in your own story, an ever expanding awareness.
And this I resonated with: not good or bad, it just is.
Keep telling your truth.

Mary P Jones (MPJ) said...

Thanks for sharing that, Rae. Makes me feel I should go off and get that book and read that chapter -- much of it does resonate with me -- too much to get into in a comment.

What I'm thinking of now are my own resentments about my husband's involvement in SAA -- how recovery or addiction always comes before family. It hurts.

Anonymous said...

I can really relate to what you write about "lowering yourself."

Hurting for the wives of the men you know in fellowship - that resonates with me too. So does worrying about journals being found, being grateful that I don't have the urge to act out, and struggling to fit recovery work (especially phone calls) into my life

Thanks for writing.