Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting back up

I had a little Eureka! this morning. In addition to realizing that I don't have the courage to change some of the things I can ... and need to pay a bit more attention to ALL of the Serenity Prayer, I was listening to a CD of a new country group, Halfway to Hazard, and found empowerment in the lyrics of a song called "Got Back Up." The lyrics to the chorus are:

Life's gonna hurt you but you brush it off
Well, naw you can't quit, you gotta fight back son
When you find yourself on the ground, you gotta get back up

Sounds pretty country doesn't it? :)

Music has always spoken to me, and at this time when I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me, I am feeling like I'm finding myself face down on the ground, struggling to get up. I have always been against fighting, war and agressive conflict of any kind. To some degree I have a pacificist mentality at levels that extend beyond the political definition. My style has always been to kill them with kindness. But as I feel my anger, I realize it is a valuable resource that fuels the fire in me to fight back, to take back my life, to tell my disease to go to hell and to find peace, balance and comfort in the care of my Higher Power. In an effort to control everything, especially anger, I have been fighting so hard against myself, that I have been denying myself my own God-given resources, and misdirecting my anger all over the place -- most often to myself and the things that I am powerless over. Depression -- which is anger turned inward -- has paralyzed me.

I truly appreciated a question from a member of my SLAA group this morning -- how have my patterns changed? I am giving that a lot of thought, as it is true that my patterns have changed and it is valuable to see what progress has been made and what difficult changes I have survived. I certainly have been in a far worse place than I am today. There were times that I constantly "stayed ready" to act out, even after coming into recovery. Today, if I were to decide to cross my bottom lines and act out I would have to "get ready" to act out ... and considering the effort that takes ... the pay off is no longer worth it. I can recognize those as changes to be thankful for right off the bat.

I just want to say that yesterday I really was on the verge of wanting to cross those lines and act out, but instead I did the next right thing all day long, still thinking all day that today would be the day that I would act out. I was cut off from my Higher Power because of all the fear of my anger, but I connected myself to others in program, talking at length with sponsees, with program friends, participating in a telemeeting, showing up at an SLAA meeting I started that rarely has attendees, writing to my support group, writing here, praying for the willingness to let go of that part of me that I was desparately holding on to and afraid to release to my Higher Power, and following the advice of so many people I heard from, including one friend who said "I honestly don't know what to do, so I just keep doing whatever other people tell me to do until it's time to go to bed." I went to bed early last night because my body was aching so badly from the anger and feelings I was holding inside. My husband rubbed my aches and pains as long as I needed him too. (Again, he is becoming important to me, enough for me, good to me. I am so grateful.) This morning, I had a dentist appointment at 7 a.m. and at noon I have a meeting, then a meeting with my sponsor. In between seemed like a great time to meet a qualifier. But after all the work I did yesterday, proving to myself that I do NOT want to act out, no matter what my disease tells me, the obsession that has plagued me for days has been lifted.

I hope that my own struggles serve as a testament to anyone who struggles with the disease of addiction that recovery is not a perfect process, and that this is a lifetime disease, but it is absolutely true what they say ... this program works if you work it. And I'm glad to be working it ... because I am worth it.

Monday, April 28, 2008

I want to run away

Things are shifting for me, as they have been throughout my recovery. However, the shifts lately seem huge in proportion. I am feeling anger and frustration in ways I never have, my husband is becoming more important to me and he danced with me on Saturday night for the first time, I have some wonderful sponsees who depend on me, and service positions that require me to make decisions and be responsible. I want to run so fast I can hardly stand it, and even though I'm not running I sit paralyzed, afraid to move for fear of what might happen. Afraid that I will act out and afraid I won't. Afraid I don't have another relapse in me, and scared to death I do and it will be the nail in the coffin.

All of these shifts are a part of me "growing up" again, retraining my mind to accept love, refuse abuse, be honest and responsible, let go of the past and live in the present. Oh my goodness, do I want to act out in this present. And while the disease tells me, "Oh, won't it be sweet?" I'm smart enough to know that it will only delay my process even MORE than it has already been delayed, and for all I know ... might end it all.

No matter what I want to do ... I have to keep working my program, working on my step work. I have a meeting with my sponsor tomorrow. I still want to act out. But I don't have to. These feelings, like all feelings are not facts. They will pass. I just have to keep turning them over, walking through the fire that is coming up with my current therapy and the long-ass process of finishing this fourth step I've been working on for eight months, and know that the Promises do come true. Others have walked this path before me and are here to show me the way.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A place for God

I made it to a meeting yesterday at noon and walked away with a far greater understanding of myself than I walked in with. I walked in feeling down, depressed, and undervalued. I also walked in feeling the effects of wanting to act out for several days in a row, due to some triggers related to my therapy.

As I have blogged here, I recently had to come face to face with the invasion of my disease into a close friendship with a male friend. I had an expectation, otherwise known as a premeditated resentment, that even though we agreed that we could not continue to pursue a "love" relationship, we would continue to be close friends. And, of course, I had the outline of what such a close friendship would look like and in retrospect it looked very much like it had when it was running in a dangerous direction, except it would allegedly be void of the planning for sexual liasons. Well, surprise, that's not what happened. My healthy friend had his own expectations and they didn't involve spending every waking hour hanging on to my every word and reassuring me that all was going to be fine. He has a family and a job and a life ... and those things need his attention as well.

My resentments stirred in me a feeling of having no value as a friend or really as a person. That core belief that I really only have a sexual value to men is never far from my door. Thankfully I have enough recovery to know that's a bunch of horseshit, that my value is not determined by others. So I made up my mind yesterday to stop wallowing in resentment and self-pity and to get to a meeting.

What was revealed to me during the meeting was a pattern that might have been clear all along had I been ready to see it. Over my life I have consistently put the majority, if not all, my energy, into one person. I become intensely intimate with and dependent upon them and they become my everything. It's not that I don't have other friends, even ones I care deeply about, but they are at nowhere near the "level" of this one friend in whom I put all my trust and energy. Everything I think about, I think of routing through that one person. All my advice and feeback needs to come from that one person. Yes, I may talk to others, or hear others ... but I seem to focus on this one singular voice.

There is only one power that belongs in such a position in my life ... and that one is the God of my understanding. And that God of my understanding has blessed me with many, many people who love me and care for me and want to be a part of my life. However, I have diminished their importance, isolated from them and closed them off from me so that I would have the energy and attention to devote to one person, whoever that person might be in my life at the time. I can name them off, one by one, the people who have filled this void in my life. And, regardless who that one person was I just needed to be able to make them into a god and so intensely turn my attention to them (become so enmeshed with them) that they become at first flattered by the intensity, and then overwhelmed. We are only humans after all ... we are not meant to be God. No one is meant to be used or drained in this way.

Bringing this into my awareness is huge. Now that it is with me I feel like banging my head against the wall and saying, "Why couldn't you see this before?" It is so obvious. But when the student is ready, the teacher and the lesson appear.

After the meeting, which was held at one of these megachurches where you can hardly find your way around, I stumbled upon a prayer room that I had spotted upon entering the building. I walked in and began to pray to the God of my understanding, which I define as simply the living force that moves through all living things.

I often write my prayers in order to both give and receive thoughts. This is what I wrote:

"Spirit Divine, please help me to surrender myself -- all of me -- to you. I have for so long surrendered myself -- my goodness, my sexuality, my friendship, my self-worth -- I have given it all to other people. And as I surrender myself to you, help me to recognize and accept that it is not what I give away to others that determines my value and my worth. Help me not just to push outward in hopes of being enough, but to open myself and accept inward the love and energy that is your grace as it comes to me in full abundance. Please let me accept the power and strength and courage that you offer to me daily, and help me not to channel it through one person, but through the multitudes of people who are in my life. There are people who want my friendship and love who I have closed off because they were not "the one." In doing so, I have closed myself off to your power, strength, courage and love. Help me today to open my soul, so that I may accept others and myself as no less and no more, let me not set expectations, but rather give up my need for perfection and accept the perfection that is offered. Thank you, God, for opening my heart to all that I have discovered today. I feel immensely blessed. All that I am is within you and all that you are is within me. And so it is. "

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Living in the dark

I had another one of those nights last night as I was walking the dog. I was flooded with feelings of extreme unrest, feelings that I simply am empty and there is nothing left. I feel that all that is left is severely damaged and that anything I touch, no matter how innocently, becomes damaged as well. It's like having leprosy. I have to admit to trying to numb these feelings throughout the week by not eating, or gorging on sweets or spending long periods of time on the computer looking for human connection. I make to do lists and plans and it seems like to get a list of 10 simple things done it will take 10 days. I got angry with myself as well because it still feels like I am waiting for something or someone to "save me" from this mess and I know it is all on me. It's a vicious cycle -- I know I need to do certain things each day to manage my life, then when I can't seem to force myself to do them, my life feels even more out of control.

After the walk with the dog, I was feeling very tired, numb and again, just completely empty. So I decided to go to bed early. My husband fell asleep on the couch and came to bed much later. I woke up before he came into the room, but just laid there silently. As he crawled into bed, he did what many husbands do, he spooned up next to me, his interests apparent in his body as he began to get mildly sexual. I grabbed his wrist firmly to stop him from touching me that way. He sensed there was a problem and that it was more serious than, "Not tonight, honey, I have a headache." He asked if I was OK ... and I simply said, "No." Of course, he pressed for what was wrong and I was at least able to tell him that I was scared to tell him, so I was struggling to find the words. He was very patient and said it was OK... just to take my time. I'm not sure I was able to relate to him fully, though he got the picture, that his coming into the room in the middle of the night and touching me with his erect penis and his hands had evoked a childhood terror that had not happened to me since I was a child. There was dread and disgust and my body ached from the way I was holding it so stiffly. I also felt such shame for bringing this past into the bedroom with my husband who had nothing at all to do with my abuse. I told him how sorry I was, and of course, he was understanding. But I have to think that no matter what he says, this has to be horribly frustrating for him. I am doing my best just to be thankful for his patience and support and relieve myself of one less burden. In the meantime, I just have to say it was horrible to feel those feelings of late-night violation again and I hope this EMDR shit is over soon.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Handling my feelings

One Day at a Time
April 9, 2008


:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:

Few are those who see with their own
eyes and feel with their own hearts.

Albert Einstein

:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:. .:~*~:
Before working the Twelve Step program,
one reason I used to overeat was that I
couldn't manage my feelings. My feelings
were overwhelming and incapacitating to
me. I would also overreact to feelings
and this would make them truly more than
I could handle. So I would then overeat
to make the feelings stop. I would stuff
myself, to stuff them down!

In working the Twelve Step program, I
got a chance to work through past hurts
and resentments that intensified my
feelings. I learned to feel my feelings,
just as they are, and how to stop
overreacting to them. I learned to sort
through messages my family gave me about
feelings, that it's not okay to have or
feel or express them. I learned to
decide what is true for me, today, about
feelings. I also worked through my
codependency issues and learned how to
communicate feelings in an appropriate,
effective and loving way.

Now feelings are a part of my life and
not something overwhelming and
incapacitating. In fact, they have
become something beautiful that enrich
my life and give it color and texture
and even pleasure.


I honor the blessing of having my
feelings returned to me. I enjoy them,
and I respect my feelings and those of
others. I thank my Higher Power for this
wonderful gift.

This daily meditation from an online recovery group spoke to me. The AA Big Book says "Alcohol was but a symptom." Whether it's food or sex and love, the truths of my addiction are parallel. And if I replace "eat" with "intrigue" in this meditation ... the same sentiments still apply. The most prevalent thought here to me is I don't know how to manage my feelings. They baffle me and confuse me.

I used to think it was ridiculous when people said this -- What do you mean you don't know how to manage your feelings ... just deal with it! But the longer I live, the more I realize how little I understand and know.

I've had so many feelings and emotions come up in my latest round of therapy and I have no idea what to do with them. It's not like they are things I can just sit on a shelf and look at and decorate with. They are things that feel foreign and all I can think to do is run away from them. Whether it is by eating or intriguing or simply letting them overwhelm me to the point that I feel completely isolated and beaten -- I am not handling them, not really even accepting them as part of me. All of this IS an overreaction. I don't need to have sex with some stranger or eat three candy bars in order to deal with the emotions that come up. What good would that do, for goodness sake!?! I have felt myself numb out this week, using peripheral acting out behaviors to fill the void where feelings would usually reside.

The 12 Steps are a simple program for complex people ... people like me who can overreact and exaggerate and act out over the smallest of things -- but can't see the simple truth that feelings cannot kill me, they are not the big bad wolf, they are just a part of the human experience. It is my actions and inaction that can get me.

As an aside, my sister called over the weekend to tell me that the doctors had found a spot on my stepdad's lung that could possibly be cancer. As usual, she gave the most dramatic version of the story, which had him likely living on a respirator for whatever life he has left. I chose not to engage and wait to respond until the doctors have made the follow up review of the spot some time next week. I am thankful that I have learned a few things along the way. I acknowledged my sister's anxiety and worry and told her I was sorry she was hurting. And I let it go at that. A short time ago in my recovery, I would have started to have panic attacks about needing to resolve the issues of my abuse before my stepfather kicks the bucket. Today -- I know that either dead or alive, his demons are his and mine are mine. Neither of us can take on the other's stuff.

I'm grateful to be alive today.

A prayer from Debbie Ford

Debbie Ford, one of the few self-help gurus whose work really resonates with me, sent this prayer in her weekly column this week. I thought it was beautiful. I can pray it today because I feel some of the heaviness that has been with me is lifting ... and for that I am thankful.

Dear God, Spirit, Divine Mother,
On this day I ask You to grant this request --
May I know who I am and what I am, every moment of every day
May I be a catalyst for light and love
and bring inspiration to those whose eyes I meet
May I have the strength to stand tall in the face of conflict,
and the courage to speak my voice, even when I'm scared
May I have the humility to follow my heart,
and the passion to live my Soul's desires
May I seek to know the highest truth
and dismiss the gravitational pull of my lower self
May I embrace and love the totality of myself --
my darkness as well as my light
May I be brave enough to hear my heart --
to let it soften so that I may gracefully choose faith over fear
Today is my day to surrender anything that stands between
the sacredness of my humanity and my divinity
May I be drenched in my Holiness
and engulfed by Your love
May all else melt away
And so it is

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Thy will, not mine

God, I feel myself spiraling downward, sometimes at an incredibly fast pace, to a place where a silent, sane part of me sits in a corner and watches my mind and body become overtaken with the actions and obessions of my disease.

Something inside me is so afraid, it is craving what I now know it believes is that safe place of total acceptance in my sexuality. When my counselor talks about going to "a safe place inside my head" as I try to process the feelings that come up as a result of EMDR ... she means I should breathe into images of that quiet morning sitting on a bench watching the ocean and the tide and hearing the birds. But that is not the safe place my mind is taking me.

Every day it feels like a miracle that I didn't act out. If I make it through today without acting out it will be another miracle. I am in such a place of surrendering to my disease.

I prayed this morning saying "I'm trying to feel the feelings," and the response thought was, "Are you really trying?" OK, so let's try, "I want to feel the feelings," to which the response thought is, "You have to really try then, like a sportsman training for a race, you have to push yourself and not give in to the temptations to quit."

I pray for the willingness today to try. That feels like the best I can do.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

False Evidence Appearing Real (FEAR)

Over the past month, at the advice and direction of my counselor, I have began undergoing EMDR therapy to help treat my PTSD. The most accurate way I've heard EMDR described thus far is "talk therapy on steroids." It is certainly stirring up the shit that has been eating me alive underneath for a long time. To say it is unsettling is an understatement. To know there are underlying feelings that I've been avoiding is one thing, to begin to feel them all at once is a whole other ballgame. But I'm not complaining -- I'm ready to begin to live with some level of freedom. I have struggled and fought against myself for so, so long. I'm willing to walk through whatever this therapy brings to the surface in order to feel it and recognize that past trauma is over with, so I can live fully present in today.

One of the most surprising realities that has surfaced as a result of the EMDR is the fact that I felt some sense of safety when I was being molested by my stepfather. In the "outside world," where we weren't hiding everything from the rest of the family, he was constantly yelling at me, telling me how I could do nothing right, hitting me, all causing me to feel afraid and so very small. But, during the acts of molestation, all I had to do was show up, endure, get it over with and I never had to face any of his chaotic berating or anger. From the time I was three until I was 13, that was the only time I felt safe around him, otherwise I felt worthless and like I was in the way. I carried that definition of safety with me into adulthood, and into the secrecy of my acting out in this addiction. While I might never feel I could do anything right in the eyes of the world, while I might not be good enough, pretty enough, or smart enough ... there was one thing I could do that was right ... do what Daddy taught me. I'm ready to put an end to this lie at all levels of my psyche. I have violated myself in ways my stepfather could never have thought of, and put myself in more dangerous situations than anyone ever would consider "safe." I am tired of being used by men who have a skewed view of acceptance and of using my sacred sexual self to gain a false sense of acceptance, safety and control. I am ready to accept myself as an imperfect human being, who doesn't have to control the world around her in order to live.

One day at a time, I am getting better. I could never have tackled it any other way. It was simply too much. It still is and always will be. I thank God for these 24 hours and the opportunities that lay within.