Friday, December 19, 2008

Ten years ago today

Ten years ago today in a little chapel in the country, my husband and I exchanged vows we'd written just for us. The chapel perfectly held our closest friends and family and I remember being fully present, fully surrounded by love and support. It was a beautiful day ... that will always be remembered.

Little did I know that marriage is about far more than that first day and those vows. As we smiled for the cameras, neither he nor I knew what would transpire in the years ahead, the people we both would discover as our marriage progressed. Back then I was still living in numbness and denial about so much of my past and present. I was a sex and love addict even then, having had at least two lovers during the time I had dated my betrothed. Still, something kept propelling me forward blindly and as a result all the things that have progressed -- cross country moves, the emergence of a raging addiction, an affair that almost ended my marriage, illness, depression -- have been a part of our still relatively story. In many ways, I finally feel our story has a chance to begin.

Things are not perfect and the good news is I no longer expect them to be. I simply express gratitude for one more day to learn the lessons of being a present partner in my relationship. I no longer take for granted my marriage. I know that if it is the will of my Higher Power for it to continue, it will, and I will have received a blessed gift. And if it is not, then I will be facing the consequences of my past actions, and surrendering to the will of a power greater than myself, but I still will have received a tremendous gift -- the gift of learning to appreciate something more than I disrespect it.

My marriage and my husband matter to me, today. That in itself is a miracle. For much of my marriage, I was willing to break our vows and I was glad to get him "out of the way" so that I could act out. What an uneven tradeoff that was. Today I am willing to do the footwork to make it work, to make it valuable for us both, and to leave the rest to God. I am thankful that my husband has begun to ask me questions like, "What is at the root of that feeling?" whereas before he pretended like feelings never existed and ignored utterly questionable behaviors that allowed me to stay stuck in my disease.

To say I am humbled that our marriage has lasted and survived the intensity of my acting out in both my sex and love addictions, to say that I am humbled that I have even survived my dangerous and outrageous behavior -- would be a great understatement. I am humbled beyond words and grateful beyond measure.

My thanks to all who have been a part of our story through your support of my recovery. Your contributions have been invaluable and I am deeply honored to give you thanks.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Taking responsibility for the rage

I had an epiphany this week as I wrote the answer to one of my sponsor’s questions. The question came in response to me sharing some things I had read in Kelly McDaniel’s “Ready to Heal.” McDaniel states that a woman who is violated sexually carries the rage in her body, and that in the triangle of victim, perpetrator and rescuer – she can only be the victim for so long until she has to somehow reclaim some sense of power.

I shared with my sponsor:
All my acting out against men and women (by way of having sex with their husbands) is part of my rage. Yet, I've never been aware of the rage. All my anger has been sexualized or comforted with food (or in rescuing others)and it is so demoralizing to think that I have to deal with that original trauma of my incest before I can begin to stop this uncontrollable rage from killing me and damaging the lives of everyone around me too.

One of my sponsor’s responding questions was:
Does the compulsion to seduce the husband have anything to do with pulling a power play on the wife? Or is she merely the supplier of an object to seduce and act out the rage on?

My reply:
It's interesting that you ask this. One of the greatest blessings for me in recovery has been discovering the blogs of several women who are wives of sex addicts. As I read their pain, I identify so very much with them and also connect to the reality of what I have done in my active addiction. I've become friends with a couple of the women and I've found we have a lot in common. Even in acting out, I was always curious about the wives of the men I was sleeping with. Curious not in a comparison way, but in a way of thinking ... "What would they say if they knew what their husband really was?" Or sometimes I would feel sorry for them and think how lonely they must be living with men like these. It's almost humorous the way the addict mind works. At times I would convince myself that I was doing these women a favor -- because they didn't want to put up with their horny ass husband's constant demands for sex. And as I write now, I think of the conversation that I overheard one night when I was about 11 or 12 between my stepfather and my mother. He was trying to convince her to have sex with him, and she didn't want to. He was drinking a lot back then and he told her, "Well, if you don't give it to me, I'll go get in from Rae. I already did once today." For years, I tried to deny hearing this conversation, or rather disassociate from it. I would not allow myself to believe that my mother, who I loved more than anyone in the world, knew what was happening to me and did not protect me. But the truth is she did - and she was too weak, too scared to do anything. She needed my stepfather's financial support. She had already gone through raising three kids (my older siblings) on her own and it had worn her down. It had worn down her health, her spirit, and what facing life on her own with three kids hadn’t done, living with my stepfather’s controlling ways killed. The only thing that wasn’t dead was her ability to make each of us feel loved unconditionally. The problem was – there were conditions. In her own way, she said, “Keep your mouth shut,” too.

I know today that one of the things I was trying to do with my silence as a child was to hold my family together, and to protect my mother from further suffering. I hated my biological father for leaving her and causing her and my older siblings such a hard life, and for forcing us into this miserable life with the bastard stepfather. Like most child molesters my stepfather would tell me that if I told anyone what was happening "between us" my family would fall apart, that I would be taken away and that my mom would be left alone because he'd have to go to jail. Today, as I think of the curiosity I had about the wives of the men I acted out with, perhaps I still thought somehow I was protecting them from the pawing hands of their dreadfully horny and animalistic husbands. Maybe somehow I tried to take even their burden. I never connected those dots, so thanks for asking.


I think I'm still trying to figure out if this is a crock of shit my addict is telling me... blaming someone else, now my mother. I've blamed all the men in my life for everything so far -- so now am I going to start blaming the women? Perhaps it's called working through the resentments. I don't know.

I’ve shared before that I’ve always had trouble with relationships with women. I found them weak and whiny and superficial at some level. Either that, or I found them judgmental and bitchy. It’s not that I never admired women. I have admired many women. Being friends with them and loving them without judgment has been more difficult. It makes sense that if I felt somewhere in my subconscious that I had to protect them in order to maintain the relationship – my internal rage may have pushed them away and resisted that tendency to take on one more person’s responsibility. A therapist once told me that my added weight may have been a result of carrying such a heavy burden inside. "It takes a lot of strength to do that," she said. "You needed all that weight to carry the burden."

I welcome feedback on this, as I’m trying to process it all. I’ll be honest and say that I fear provoking the anger and rage of some of the women who have helped me so much here … my fellow bloggers, whose husbands, like me, are sex addicts. I would tell you that your anger and true feelings are justified, whatever they are, but it is not my place. I will only say that I take whatever responsibility I have in creating the rage that lives inside the women whose husbands have lived in the throes of their own disease, and me with them. We have all been victimized. And today I am willing to take responsibility for being a perpetrator as well as a victim. It is painful and shameful to admit these things, but I have to so that I can move on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My recovery story

While this entire blog is in essence my true recovery story, I don't think I've ever encapsulated my story in a single post here. This summary was originally published on a website I recently discovered called In the Rooms.

Hi, I'm Rae, sex and love addict. I came into the rooms of a 12-step program for recovery from sex and love addiction in 2004 scared to death and ready to drive my life into the back of a semi-truck. My therapist had suggested a few months before that because I was seeking out one extramarital partner after another (using online chat to connect) that I might be a sex addict. I told her I wasn't addict to sex, I just liked the thrill of the chase (and the satisfaction of acceptance). But her "seed of suggestion" stuck in my mind, and a few months later I walked into the recovery rooms. Ceasing the chaotic, dangerous and very painful behavior was not easy. It took me a long time to get sober, and then even longer to stay that way. I am sure that I learned as much from my relapses as I learned from my recovery -- but learning in relapse was certainly a more difficult lesson. This is especially true of the relapse I suffered in 2006 when I "fell in love" with an extramarital partner, who turned out to be a verbally abusive, manipulative alcoholic who almost wrecked my marriage and me.

While I had a few sponsors along the way (most of them male due to the lack of female membership and sponsorship), I never really worked the steps with an SLAA sponsor until the last couple of years. Today I have a certified sex addiction therapist, a sponsor and I'm gratefully working on Step 6. For the most part, I find that the desire to act out has been lifted. But there are times of high stress, high opportunity when the addiction reminds me that "the wolf is always at the door," and that while I'm working my program the addict is doing pushups, growing and finding new and conniving ways to sabotage my attempts to regain a better life.

One day at a time, I give thanks to my Higher Power that I'm still alive, that there is a greater purpose for my life, and that I am learning to live life differently through the 12 Steps. I am grateful to be using the Internet today to connect to and gain the experience, strength and hope of a worldwide fellowship of men and women seeking recovery from the devastating personal and family effects of sex and love addiction. I do that in a variety of places -- an online Yahoo support group, Sex Addict Support community, a compulsive overeating group on The Junky's Wives Club and now In the Rooms.

Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are you a female sex addict?

If you are a female sex addict and are looking for support, I would like to invite you to join the Sex Addict Support community started by fellow blogger, Ken over at My Sex Addiction.

Within the Sex Addict Support community I have started a Sisters in Recovery group for women in recovery from sex addiction. I look forward to seeing you there!

As an update to my recent post noting some triggering feelings -- they come and go, and I'm grateful that doing the next right thing helps me to move past the triggers, to search for the lesson in each episode.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

A blip on the radar

This is one of those thoughts that will pass, I feel pretty certain, but I wanted to write it down, just for the record. I'm feeling that sense of longing to be held and cuddled, to kiss and just feel good. It's not a sexual feeling. It's just a need for comfort.
The interesting thing is -- I've been having some of those very moments with my husband lately. Maybe they are triggering the dis-ease of "never enough." I'm not sure.
I don't feel like I am willing to act on these feelings by seeking some stranger out who would promise such kindness and then not give it.
Again, I'm just recording.


Update: These feelings have persisted throughout the day. They've shifted to more blatant ideations of acting out. Yet, each time they appear, I am simply saying to God -- take these, I don't want them. To be honest, at times it's pretty difficult not to just sit with the thoughts and let them linger long enough to give me a little buzz. But I know I can't afford that. I'm seeing this as an opportunity to practice turning over the urges to act out one at a time.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Sixth Step musings

Step Six: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Sixth Step Prayer: "God help me become willing to let go of all the things to which I still cling. Help me to be ready to let You remove all of these defects, that Your will and purpose may take their place."

I've been doing what I call a literature review on the Sixth Step this week. A literature review means I read from a variety of different texts the Sixth Step chapter. I am reading the step in the SLAA, SAA and SA texts, AA's Twelve Steps and 12 Traditions, and will search out a couple of daily reader readings on the step. I may even read from Paths to Recovery, an Al-Anon recovery book, and do some web searches for others who have written about the Sixth Step. As I read, I take notes on what stands out to me and write down any thoughts or questions I have.

This may seem a little excessive, but I find that my Higher Power has messages for me hidden everywhere, if I search for them.

What I find as I am reading through the literature is that my heart really is in Step 6. Occassionally, I've found myself working on one step in deed, while feeling my heart working on another (usually Step 3). I'm glad that my heart and mind are in sync now as I do the legwork toward completing this round of Step 6.

I've been pretty scared at the prospect of giving up dishonesty, and as I've shared before gluttony (by way of compulsive overeating). That seems ludicrous I know, to want to hold on to things that have hurt me. But as the SAA text says there's a big difference in wanting relief from the disease of addiction and wanting to let go of the old familiar ways of behavior. Both my overweight body and my lies have offered a veil of protection, at least to my addict's mind. They have both caused a lot of pain, as have the other character defects such as -- avoiding responsibility, living in fear -- which results in crippling perfectionism and isolation -- and ego-driven behaviors. (There's more, this is just where I'm focusing right now.)

So, for some time, after completing the Fifth Step, I have been praying around dishonesty, asking God for the willingness to have it removed from my character. I have seen my spirit shift from absolute fear at the prospect of being required to tell the truth as often as I can, to live an honest life, where there is no "alter ego," and abandoning my lies, to a willingness to let God do his work in my life. As far as I'm concerned, he's got a mighty big project turning me into a truthful, honest, whole person whose life is transparent, but I'll leave that up to him.

One of the things I read in the SAA text was that for every character defect, there is a character asset and that in order to prepare our hearts for the defect to be removed, we should begin to practice the character asset. That made a lot of sense to me. I am thankful this step calls on me to leave it up to my Higher Power to remove my defects. I am not able to remove them myself. But as the SLAA text says, "It was enough that we be willing to do the legwork, and be open-minded about what the end result would be. God's grace would give us freedom from the burden of our old self. In humility, we understood that we were only being asked to get out of God's way, so that, with our cooperation, God's work could be done in our lives."

Apart from that wonderful news that I just have to be willing to do the work, the most helpful message I've read thus far also came from the SLAA text, explaining that in working Steps 1-5 we addicts are walking away from the disease of sex and love addiction. Step 6, it says, is where the rebuilding of our lives begins. I felt such hope in reading that.

I also loved this passage from the SLAA text, "We came to understand that sex and love addiction appears to be a disease of actions when viewed from without, but is really a perversion of moral and ethical values as experienced from within. The spiritual dimensions of our dis-ease were now clear." As Don Henley says, "I've been tryin' to get down to the heart of the matter." I think I've found it, here in Step Six.