Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Peace and Prosperity

I am so grateful this morning to be fully aware of my presence in this body and my prosperity on this earth. I am thankful to have just returned from a walk with my loving dog, through my safe and diverse neighborhood, where I was able to connect through nature to a world much larger than myself. It's a world that whether hot or cold, wet or dry, flat or hilly has something magical to offer, a reminder of the perfection of an otherwise chaotic universe and its constant availability for my peaceful connection.

I am grateful to several years ago have had a Native American sponsor who taught me the beauty and connection of praying outdoors. I am grateful that I can say words like "prayer" and "God" and know that they are limitless expressions of my heart, unbound to the definitions others hold of them. I am grateful today to be working with a sponsor who is helping me to grow in areas much larger than the mere cessation of acting out, rather in the complex, but beautiful ways I connect with my fellow human beings, myself and my Higher Power.

I am grateful to have sat around a table in a small church last night, with six other sex and love addicts, from all walks of life, and shared our challenges and triumphs, and to read from our literature. I am grateful to have watched that fellowship grow from one to two, to three, and now a regular crowd of 5-7. And I'm grateful for a fellow addict there who I can love, support and pray for heartfelt peace, even though he incested his own stepdaughter, just as I was molested by stepfather. He is a gift, as are the beautiful women I sponsor in this fellowship. They inspire me and teach me and fill me with love, and I am humbled beyond words to have the opportunity to be one small part of their immense lives. And I am grateful for each and every person who has read this blog -- you've been with me in sickness and health.

I am equally grateful that I awoke in the night and couldn't go back to sleep because I was too warm -- not too cold like so many people who don't have the money to pay their heat bills, or who in the lower regions of the U.S. were without power last night because of an ice storm. And I was grateful to have the energy to get up and get a few things done before I had the privilege -- unlike most of the rest of the world who had to go to work -- to lay down and complete my rest. It goes without saying that I am thankful for a husband and a marriage that I disrespected, ignored and almost gave away in favor of living in my addiction, but which thrives today in friendship, acceptance and love.

I don't share any of this to brag. I share it because I feel it in my heart and I'm so very grateful to feel thankful, to feel present, to not be mired by a numbing and isolating depression just for this moment. And I share it because if an overweight, out of work, depression patient, raised up on a small town farm, where she was regularly molested and abused, who grew up thinking her only worth was sex and sought that worth with more men than she can count, who almost left her husband for an abusive alcoholic who she thought she loved can make it here ... can make it to this place of feeling fully aware of her presence and her prosperity ... you can too.

What will you do today to seek it?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

10 Honest Statements

How many ways can one woman write about honesty you ask? Let me count the ways.

My fellow blogger, Ken, over at My Sex Addiction, was recently tagged to write 10 honest things about himself. He chose not to tag anyone, but I chose to tag myself for this one ... because, after all, honesty is my favorite and most allusive pursuit. (Plus, I'm feeling a bit guilty for being so lax in posting here lately.)

So, here I go - 10 Completely Honest Things About Me

1. I'm currently procrastinating my work on Step 6 in SLAA for no reason that I can pinpoint other than I am a procrastinator.
2. Rae is not my real name and never was my nickname until I used it when I first started acting out online. Since then, I have also used it in recovery, and more recently when asked for my name for a waiting list at a restaurant.
3. I love country music, and my codependence sometimes lets me feel ashamed of that.
4. I sometimes worry that I'll never be better than I am now and I'm not happy with where I am now, even though it's light years ahead of where I was. It reminds me of the prayer, "I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I wish to be, But, by the grace of God, I am not what I used to be." In a recent prayer I said to God, "I don't like who I am right now." The response in my heart was, "Then accept yourself."
5. I miss the feeling of family and deeply desire to have people around me, yet I doubt I could stand it for half a day.
6. My house is filled with books I've never read, and quite a few I have no desire to read.
7. I still struggle with little white lies, that seem to help me manipulate others' opinions of me, or how much "flack" I hear from my husband.
8. I don't like to exercise, but I like the way it makes me feel.
9. I recently began to see how closely my compulsive overeating patterns are to my sexual acting out. I get the most pleasure from it when no one in my "real life" knows. I feel great shame afterward. I make pledge after pledge to stop and the next day I'm walking into the convenience store buying two king sized candy bars. And in most instances both forms of my disease are about "stuffing" my feelings, most usually feelings that I am never even consciously aware of.
10. I am afraid to reveal something that would disclose in some small way my real identity.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sunlight on the snow

It's a sunny day, but the temperatures are frigid. The sunlight looks beautiful on the untouched snow and the sky is the color of periwinkle. It's something out of picture postcard.

I'm not sad, but I'm not happy. I'm just here. I'm not sure if I'll ever understand myself completely. My efforts to be transparent aren't going so well, but I'm thankful that at least I'm not hiding acting out behaviors. Instead I'm saying I did things I didn't do, making up stories about going to the gym when I didn't, eating pieces of chocolate that I swore to myself I wouldn't eat and letting my husband believe that I'm making healthy choices.

My therapist is helping me to understand that my dishonest and judgemental ways are all a part of trying to control everything around me. For as long as I can remember I have taken people to task for being less than perfect. I've always had someone to rail against. I've usually attributed that to my low self-esteem. The therapist is opening my eyes to the kind of person I really am behaving like underneath -- a manipulative, controlling dishonest person. Don't get me wrong -- she's not saying those things about me, nor am I saying I'm a horrible person. Rather she is revealing to me ways that my negative feelings are coming out sideways.

A woman in program said to me recently, "I don't want to be the person I am." Isn't that why all addicts use? They are trying to avoid being the person they are, the person they can't stand.

One question that came up in the course of my reading over the past few days was "If you saw someone behaving the way you are behaving what would you say to them?"

Well, if I saw someone writing what I'm writing right now -- I'd probably tell them that beating yourself up is not going to help. The whole point of this lesson you are being presented with is that you must first accept yourself as you are. Rejecting who you are is your first and foremost problem. Stop running away from who you are and work, practice each day to become the person you want to be.

That is my message to myself today, this sunny day in frigid cold.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A model of transparency

Yesterday I met with my therapist who is quite wise in the ways of sex addicts and their problems with honesty and transparency, and shared with her my goal for the new year to become less of a leader and more of a participant.

I told her that I have subconsciously sought out leadership roles in order to support the facade of "having it all together." I fear judgment, because I fear rejection even more, and to compensate for that I like to pretend that "everything's fine and dandy!" I do not like to talk about myself, even to myself. I'd much rather be in a position of examining other people's lives and giving advice.

But this is not what recovery is about. Recovery, as I have so aptly told others, is about self discovery, self-acceptance and cultivating a fulfilling relationship with a power greater than myself.

My therapist told me that real leadership would mean working toward becoming a "model of transparency." My mouth dropped open. I thought, this woman clearly does not know who she is talking to. Transparency? As in a life lived in a glass house, free for the world to see? Are you kidding me? But I've done such a good job of setting a fine example without all that full disclosure.

This means that I have to admit my weaknesses, share when I have slip ups, let the world see my vulnerabilities! This means I have to be who I say I am and do what I say I do. Are you sure this is the only way, boss? I've made the shell of a life out of showing people the person I think they want to see and controlling their emotions by avoiding conflict and averting the truth. What if they find out the person I really am is not as good?

This is scary stuff, folks. Really scary stuff. So if you start scratching your heads and wondering where that other Rae went ... just remember that she's trying to expand her comfort zone and learn a little about this transparency stuff. On the other hand, feel free to ask me a bunch of questions in order to support my attempts to be transparent.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A new start

As a school-aged child I used to love the fall, because it meant a chance to start again and as an adult, I have always loved the new year, because I see it as a chance to renew my commitments. I'm not one for making "resolutions" anymore, but I do take advantage of a fresh calendar to set some goals for the upcoming 12 months.

For many years, on New Year's Day, I would take time to write in my journal about the past year and to write down my goals for the upcoming year. I always found it helpful in honoring the passage of time and the growth in life.

As I reflect on my recovery in 2008, I see more progress than any other year since entering the program four years ago. I broke through some barriers that kept me stuck in a constantly revolving, reworking, procrastinating Step 4. Essentially I had been stuck there for almost three years -- at least one of which I was in complete relapse. I chose someone I trusted with whom to share my Step 5 and I am now working on Step 6 with a new sponsor.

I am no longer beating myself up for being a slow learner in the program. I am accepting my journey as my unique path. Likewise, I released the unrealistic expectations that recovery meant that God would take care of everything and I just had to wait for my Higher Power to show up and erase all temptations to return to my old patterns of acting out with anonymous partners or seeking out a new extramarital "love." I accepted, as a gift of Step 4, that I do have a part in my recovery, that ours is a program of awareness, acceptance and ACTION. I also began to anticipate the temptations that arise when my emotional immaturity doesn't know how to handle what it's facing. Today, I expect addictive temptations to arise, just as a diabetic expects to crave sugar. I take responsibility for my actions, and recognize that giving into temptations has dire consequences. I have a choice -- the quick high or the enduring consequences. I see this as a major step in letting go of the role of victim and embracing an inner strength that is real.

In the past year, I have added to and began to use more fully my recovery toolbox, not just for dealing with temptations, but for improving my life one day at a time. Our program draws on five major resources (sobriety, sponorship/meetings, service, steps and spirituality). I'm learning to use all of them. Being fully involved in service has been a timely reward. I've really gained a lot from service to my home group, this group and to four wonderful sponsees.

Some general goals for the upcoming year include:
* taking a step back and seeking less to be understood and more to understand
* to experience humility and inclusion by being a part of fellowship rather than always a leader
* to work toward embracing outreach rather than hiding in isolation (specifically making more phone calls and pressing my comfort zone by expanding my circle of support)
* to continue to nurture and grow in my relationship with my Higher Power and my sponsor.
* to experience acceptance and detachment more fully.