Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Just before going to bed tonight, my husband told me he had been approached about an opportunity to return to our home state again. I felt the heaviness settle in immediately. Already today I've been troubled at a core level by the current state of affairs in our country -- economically, politically, socially. And this just added to the pile of unsettled feelings.

The depth of my despair, the affair with R., the isolation and loneliness I felt when we returned "home" last time all came to mind, as did the possibilities of how I would want to do things differently this time if we did return. All of these worries are a million miles from premature, but they are with me. Thoughts of my family, of the strained relations, of the opportunities to spend time with old friends, of the lack of support systems in terms of recovery resources, of the lower cost of living, of hubby's leveraging power and long-term feelings of job security -- they all are swimming in my head. Nothing is concrete within me ... just restless feelings.

God knows what God has in store ... I guess the best I can do for tonight is turn it over to him and know that I will not be given more than I can endure.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A book review

It’s been a long time since I read an entire book within three days, but Kerry Cohen’s “Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity,” kept calling me back until I devoured every word. In the end, I felt something more than understood, more than kinship. What I felt was connected … to myself.

As the book closed, I sobbed with a hurting heart, but I sobbed for me.

There are few parallels between the writer and myself except for the overriding theme of the book – sexual addiction, and perhaps her love of writing, although even that is different than my own love for the craft. So unlike me, Cohen grew up in a rich family in the Northeast, used drugs, was Jewish, and most of all she was unmarried. Her awareness of her behavior and her battle with it began when she was young. I was middle aged.

Still, it is not the differences that kept me turning page after page of this relatively short work. It is our commonalities and finding myself hidden in the pages, in her words.

She writes about relationships with specific boys, Eli, Leif, Zachary, Toby and others, and then she will have sections like, “Inevitably though, I get distracted. This time the distraction’s name is Matthew …. Next is Kyle … Then Miles. Then Jack. Then Randy. Each one I hope will be something more than sex …” Like me, she sometimes even forgets the names of the men she sleeps with.

Of all the men Cohen writes about sleeping with in this autobiographical piece, only one was married. Very few, if any of the men I have encountered along my journey of addiction have been single. But just like the author, I was selfishly driven by acceptance, the need for one person to want me (my substitute for love) more than he wanted his wife. I craved love and acceptance, was obsessed with getting it. Some days I still am.

Regarding the married man she meets at an artists’ colony, Cohen writes, “I want to be saved from myself, from my hurting. I want a boy like Frank to lift me up like a dead thing and breathe me into life.”

“I lie on my bed … and feel how badly I want Frank with me. How I want his interest in me to mean something, to mean I’m worth something as big as ending his marriage. It’s so selfish, I know. Some time later when I’m married myself, I’ll know just how selfish. After years of tangling your lives, making compromises and concessions, of building a shared life, it’s appalling to imagine someone else, some outside person, dismissing all of this for her own gain. But I don’t think of any of that now. I feel the wanting in my bone marrow. It’s like a nasty virus that won’t die.”

As she wrote of those moments when the addiction takes over, she described herself as being “all body and desperation.” Those moments, for her and for me, are void of any sane thought.

By the way, Cohen never uses the word addiction nor does she ever talk about recovery. This is definitely not a story of how SLAA or some other recovery program saved her life. This is simply the story of Cohen’s journey through years of longing, craving and sacrificing everything good and real in her life for that one little taste of acceptance that could never be found.

After a particularly revealing and rare conversation with her mother, Cohen lays in bed and thinks of her mom. I cry with connection to her words, “I think about her – how, like me, she doesn’t know how to keep love in her life. It pains me to think of her like this, lost and wanting, desperate for love. … I’m like that too, aren’t I? That little girl inside, clawing her way through life, wanting, always wanting, never, ever getting enough to feel filled. It’s so ugly. So profoundly sad and ugly. I don’t want to be like this anymore.”

I also cry when she writes about a particular moment when she realizes with clarity that no matter what she thinks of him, her drug addicted, love avoidant father who had no idea how to parent her other than to buy her things, really just didn’t want her to turn out to be like him.

But it is in the end, when after she has married Michael, and sits through her fears that he will reject her when he knows the truth of her behavior, or worse that she “will do something stupid” that I find the real connection to my own recovery.

One night not long after her wedding she is sitting in a bar watching a band with her friends, when a man in a booth across the bar catches her eye. “I’m back there, the yearning, the hoping,” she writes. But as they reach the door to leave, he makes his move and she has the courage to tell him, “I’m sorry. I’m married.”

As she curls up next to Michael that night, “he slips an arm around my middle and nuzzles his face into my neck. I close my eyes and listen to him breathing. How lovely that sound is. Maybe, I think, I don’t have to be great at this; maybe I just have to be good enough.”

Perfectionism has at times eroded all hopes of my recovery. Cohen’s final sentence was a beautiful example of self-acceptance. Just as I am, the best that I can be, that is enough.

Laying in bed, my body curled against my husband, the longing subsides, the void is filled. I am alive. I am at peace. Even if it’s just for tonight.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Practicing self care

The first question my therapist asked me yesterday morning was "Give me an example of how you have practiced self care since I've last seen you." It often takes me some time to pull up examples from the long ago past so I shared with her how I had returned a phone call that morning that I really wanted to ignore in favor of isolation. It was a small victory -- but a victory nonetheless.

Her question -- as it was intended to -- has prompted me to look at self-care and think about how I practiced it since our session. One way I did so was by going immediately to the library and journaling about what we had discussed during the sesson, writing out the thoughts while they were fresh in my mind. A second way was that during the session I asked her to help me process my anxiety surrounding taking a couple of classes this semester to explore the possibility of a second career. I also got honest with her, and then later at a telemeeting and then an evening face to face meeting about how these anxieties had caused me last week to become "emotionally needy" with a male friend to a point of distraction for me and irritation for the both of us.

Another form of self-care that I have practiced over the past couple of days has been to allow myself to feel the feelings from a terse but honest e-mail from that same male friend and to ask myself what the lessons are to be learned -- there are multitues. During that same period I have responded only briefly to say thank you and that I would let things settle in and then write back later. I found myself practicing this same sort of self-care last night when just at bedtime my husband decided to get in a huff over something that hadn't been done and get all irritable and snappy. I don't feel good going to bed like that. So rather than engage him in a fight, or try to change his behavior, I prayed and asked God to release me from my need to control the situation and to have his will not mine. As a result I began to rub and scratch my husband's back, as I do most nights before we sleep, and just show him love. It released the tension for both of us and I woke up in the middle of the night to feel him closely snuggled against me, something that always feels like a sign of sweet intimacy and love.

I woke up with another thought of self care on my mind. I have a pattern, even a disease, of wanting to constantly care for others. The truth, however, is I'm operating without a net. I provide a network of support through service in the SLAA fellowship, sponsorship, starting meetings, leading meetings -- all the while operating without a truly active sponsor myself. Yes, I have a sponsor in another fellowship, but honestly she does not provide me the wisdom of the steps or even regular fellowship. I have come to depend on my Higher Power, my therapist, and the fellowship itself as my sponsor. Those are places I can go to seek feedback and guidance. Still, I am there on a daily basis for my sponsees, for others who seek my counsel, without thought that no one is really there for me on a daily or weekly basis. This makes me susceptible to feeling alone, which can in turn lead to a desire to act out. I think another area of self care I can exercise is reaching out for the supportive fellowship of a sponsor.

On a similar note, I woke up thinking, I have started a telemeeting, a step meeting, a face to face meeting in this fellowship, but I need to practice simply being a member in recovery. As the leader I get great satisfaction out of helping others, but I don't get the humility of simply "being." Being a leader puts me in a position of feeling "better than", which keeps me from feeling "less than," all the while opening the door for me to be less than willing to share honestly in meetings about my own vulnerabilities -- which is a great detriment to my recovery. I see this lack of humility as a character defect that is standing in my way of progress. I see recognition of this character defect and the willingness to get honest and examine it as a form of self care.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A quiet day for reading

I'm thankful to have had some time yesterday to catch up on reading blogs. I was reminded today how helpful it is to my sobriety to read the blogs of the wives and ex-wives of male sex addicts. Reading about the pain they have been through reminds me that sexual addiction has many victims, and also renews my committment to do as little additional harm in my life as possible. The unfortunate thing is that reading those blogs and making a heartfelt committment to never hurt a woman like that again does not erase the fact that I am an addict. Sex and love addicts, according to their very characteristics, "sexualize stress, guilt, loneliness, anger, shame, fear and envy. We use sex or emotional dependence as substitutes for nurturing, care, and support." My committment has to be more than not hurting other people -- because that binds me to the shame of all the people I have hurt in the past, which I will without fail attempt to cover with the insanity of taking a sexual or romantic holiday from my emotions. If I truly had to bear all the guilt I "should" feel at once ... it would be equivalent to plugging the entire electrical system of New York City into the outlet that runs this computer. Everything inside me would be fried. So my commitment has to be learning healthy ways of relating to others and taking care of myself, joining with these women who have been hurt in the process of healing.

I am also reading, at the suggestion of my new therapist, a book by Kelly McDaniel called "Ready to Heal," written specifically for female sex, love and relationship addicts. The reading has raised a number of questions about the messages society sends to women about sex -- and the ones I have picked up on. McDaniel asserts that women hold one or more of four cultural beliefs that cause them conflict with sexuality and relationships. The four beliefs are: 1. I must be good to be worthy of love. 2. If I am sexual, I am bad. 3. I am not really a woman unless someone desires me sexually or romantically and 4. I must be sexual to be lovable. McDaniel contends, and it makes sense to me that holding two or more of these beliefs puts a woman in a double bind -- If she sexual to be lovable, then she believes she is bad. And if she is bad, then she is not worthy of love, and if she is not worthy of love, then she must not be a real woman. There is very likely a corresponding theory for men -- as men are often raised to think that they must be good too be loved and if they are not sexual then they certainly are not REAL men. Likewise there are cultural messages that say men are nothing more to women than sperm and cash donors. Reading this book is causing me to really look closely at the subliminal messages I have picked up on regarding sex and love. One more layer of the onion being peeled away.

I should also note that I'm getting a lot of what can only amount to Higher Power messages that are opening my heart more about more honest disclosure about my addiction to my husband. I am willing to wait and listen and continue to be open to God's will for our lives.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A day's difference

Two days ago I was feeling so sad, crying, hurting. I had picked up the bottle of love addiction I leave sitting on the table and taken a drink. That was supposedly easier than dealing with my feelings of self-doubt, fear and frustration surrounding continued struggles with concentration and self-discipline. Rather than accept my lack of perfection and give thanks for my assets and opportunities, I allowed myself to be pulled into a self-created, self-absorbed drama so that I could escape feelings of inadequacy.

Today, after proving to myself that while I might not be perfect, I am functional, worthwhile and loved. I am grateful this morning for some quiet time to read, to get some extra rest and to enjoy the gentle flow of life. I'm thankful that my life feels lighter and that I don't have to worry about getting what I need. I know my Higher Power will provide it to me.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

One by one

I've written before that I probably never should listen to country music. Of course, I keep going back and listening to it and thinking about things that end up in euphoric recall.

I've already had my share of struggles today with feeling sort of triggered, and listening to some music about romantic love and sad goodbyes just doesn't help. If I'm honest, the underlying "jonesing" for a "fix" has been going on for a few days. When I ask what I'm needing to medicate it's probably a feeling that I'm just not capable of discipline, responsibility, and success. I know at some intellectual level that is not true, but when my behavior seems to indicate otherwise the floor slowly falls out from under me one little twig at a time. I've had some reading to do to keep up with a class I'm taking -- I'm way behind, I just don't seem to be doing "perfectly," and I'm having trouble accepting that.

For the longer term, my struggles have been for a desire for someone to be madly in love with me -- even though such episodes have proven to be very painful in the past. When these desires go unmet then my addict mind begins to believe that if I can't have someone love me, at least I can get them to treat me like they love me for a while, and give me a bit of an emotional holiday, with a round of intrigue and sex.

This afternoon as I was walking the dog, listening to this country music I spoke of earlier, I thought how one by one I have resolved the "issues" with the men in my life and have finally started to make female friends. I have always had a man to blame for something -- my biological father, my stepfather, my husband, E., J., R., M. others ... but as I said, one by one, I've resolved my feelings/resentments about them. But every time I pick up a "new man"... there's a whole other cycle of emotions to deal with that are so hard to put down. Today I recognize that emotions surrounding the friend who I went through a period of longing and loving with back in March -- I just went back to reread some e-mails to check the date and now I'm crying -- seem to still hover in my heart, demanding to be dealt with. Over time, due to solid friendship with this man, we have worked through our emotions, guilt and recognized that the loving and longing was more about our addictive qualities than a true committment to one another romantically or sexually. We both agreed that our marriages were important to us, and we have done our best to continue our friendship, sans sexual and romantic intrigue. Yet for the past couple of weeks I have felt the longing creep in again. I listened to the songs this afternoon and longed to hold him and hear him say that he was longing too. It hurts. And I suppose these tears are an indication that I haven't properly grieved what was lost. I don't know. I just know I needed to write about it. Thanks for listening.

I see some new readers commenting -- thank you for your notes and for being here.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Perceptive discomfort

Being an addict my antennae are tuned to what might otherwise pass under the radar of a non-perceptive observer.
The man who scans the entire body of a waitress in tight jeans; the thin woman whose teeth have rotted, whose skin is colorless and who tugs at her hair as her fingers quiver; the obese woman who looks around to see who's watching as she nearly inhales the chocolate pie for dessert -- these are just a few signs of an addict walking around among the "normies."
Likewise I can spot an abuse victim in most any crowd. Just this afternoon, my heart ached for a little Asian girl in the grocery store whose face was bruised in all the wrong places. An overly obese female most always has a story of sexual abuse. A bodybuilder and an overachiever, almost always have some wounds of powerlessness they are trying to overcome.
In program we have a saying, "If you spot it, you got it." My beloved grandmother, who found no greater amusement than bodily function, had her own hillbilly version of the saying, "The smeller's the feller." It's almost easy for me to spot addicts and abuse victims in a crowd.
But occassionally I have a perception that I relate to addiction, that really is a sign of an increasingly difficult society to accept.
A few days ago, one of my anti-depressant meds rolled out of my hand and down the drain. It occurred to me that my insurance company will not pay for that lost pill. It's gone. If I want to replace it, the cost is pretty high.
My first thought was an addict's thought ... I need that pill to survive. Obviously, that's not true, and it wasn't a thought that lingered.
I'm in a position to pay for that capsule that rolled into the sewer, or at least smart enough to work the system so that one lost pill is not going to send me back to the treatment center. There are millions of Americans, however, who are not in such a position. Their health and their lives are being dictated and governed by some asshole in a cubicle at an insurance company whose main objective is to make sure the numbers line up at the end of the day.
As I look out at a world that has turned to addiction to numb the realities they can't accept, and men, women and children who not only are abused by others, but who can't stop hurting themselves, I pause to reflect on the emotional abuse and harassment, even sometimes the physical abuse, inflicted by a health care system dictated by money crunchers and legal eagles. I am angry and I am sad -- not so much for me, but for those who are losing their lives, their homes, their hope, while profits are rising among those who crunch the numbers.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Gratefully human

I felt an incredible sense of sadness last night and found myself asking God to show me the lessons he had for me. I'm thankful that this request for "the lesson" is becoming a more automatic response. Rather than wallowing in the self-pity, I go to the lessons. I believe I was sent here on earth to learn, that we all were.

The source of my sadness was an incident that occurred on an online forum which I have participated in since early recovery. There is a person there, I'll call him GF, who is filled with wisdom, a constant presence, always sharing all sorts of good stuff with the group. Despite his sarcastic tone and occassional gruffness, he's adored by many. Well yesterday this "godfather" of the forum, posted a very tasteless and potentially triggering joke to the list. Many people were offended, but those of us who've been around for a while were truly shocked. Then when he apologized and said he'd been dealing with some mental health issues -- the weakness of this man, who (like me) tries desparately to portray an air of confidence, strength and recovery, just caused me to feel so sad and such a sense of hopelessness that I began to cry. I reached out to my support and also to God and asked, what's going on inside me? What's the lesson here?

The response (inside me) seemed to be that we are all human and I can find reason to put others above me and below me -- in order to feed my ego and my diseased need to continue that feeling of being less than. God's truth is we are all capable of fallacy and weakness, just as we are capable of wisdom, leadership and greatness. No matter how we "act" -- we are all human, we all need prayers, support, humility. On a simpler note, the incident reminded me that I often times put expectations and "assign magical qualities to others" without even realizing it. I have given GF some of those magical qualities just because other people look up to him. This was a good reminder to examine my relationships and attitudes for this very thing, protecting myself and others from future harm. I'm so good at making "gods" out of other people while ignoring the still, quiet voice inside me.

One of my friends reminded me: "I think as addicts online we can hide things that are going on inside of us. It's easy to come across as all healthy, all-knowing and shit but the truth is we are all just addicts. GF is no different. In my opinion, addiction IS a mental illness, so I think we are all nuts. Some of us just hide it better than others." That is ME in a nutshell. When I share with anyone that I had to go into treatment for depression they are stunned. I am able to hide behind this computer and be the queen of all knowledge. Like GF, I want to appear all knowing. But I'm just as terrified and fucked up as the next guy. Why do I try so hard to show only the positives? I grew up believing and being reminded with the straps of a switch or the slash of the tongue that weakness was not allowed, that it was despicable. In response, I learned to hide my weakness and beg for attention and acceptance with my positives.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

God granted me some serenity

I have been struggling lately with feeling irritable, controlling, and just not very serene. That has shown up in my life in a desire to want to "save other people," including a couple of sponsees who are going through some rough times. Now, intellectually I know very well that I can't save anyone's ass but my own, and I have to depend upon Higher Power to do that. So, I've known all along that Higher Power was trying to teach me something and I was just waiting for the lesson to be revealed -- driving a few people bonkers in the meantime, not the least of which was myself.

As I was walking this morning, I prayed the Prayer of St. Francis -- asking to be used as an instrument of my Higher Power -- and the Serenity Prayer -- as I was going over the Serenity Prayer in my head ... I had an epiphany -- I cannot change my sponsees, their behavior, the outcome of their behaviors, their thoughts, committment to recovery -- NOTHING. The worrying I do is fruitless. Higher Power has a plan and I can accept it and embrace it. If Higher Power chooses and finds it fitting I will be used as an instrument of peace and understanding in these women's lives. I just have to show up and work with them through the steps, and get out of Higher Power's way. That's all.

So, as I began to give thanks for that revelation and other blessings in my life, I began to recognize the presence of gratitude in my life is a form of a power greater than myself. Living in gratitude, expressing fervent and sincere gratitude -- these things lift me up, elevate my mood, give me a new outlook on life, empower me, cause me to walk tall (or as tall as I can at 5'1) and with a smile on my face. That is a great power with which I have to face the day!