Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who knows?

After that last trumpeteering post about the spiritual experience in the 12 Steps and turning my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God ... I need to say that this is still hard.

It's difficult to let go of the stash after a relapse into sexual addiction. Yes, in some ways relapse into love addiction is even worse. Neither is a cup of tea.

Like a heroin addict who longs for that first push of the needle, women like me crave that first kiss, we remember the contours of our lover's bodies, and we yearn for the physical touch that is meant to be shared between two people who have committed themselves to one another and share far more than the cost of a hotel room and a few laughs about their physical escapades.

I know that the current loneliness that comes from my husband's extraordinary work committments is contributing to the difficulty of getting through the withdrawal. I am working to occupy my time with and energy with other things, healthy people, and examining my own life through a renewed 4th Step inventory. It helps most of the time. But some of the time ... not so much.

As I'm writing here I'm thinking of the many wonderful and wounded women whose blogs I read. Their husbands or ex-husbands are sex addicts. I often think of them and wonder if they know what a large role they have played in my recovery. How many times has it been their words that come to mind when I think of acting out? I wonder too how painful it must be for them to read my words and not want to slap the living shit out of me. After all, it could have been their man I was craving tonight.

But as the Big Book says ... "probably no human power could or would have relieved" my desire to get that sexual high. If it could ... I would have been "saved" by now from these relentless urges and compulsions.

I've given some thought as I dissect my cravings and hand them over to God to the question of why it is I seek and desire other women's husbands.

I guess the easy answer is because I'm an addict and I seek people who are emotionally unavailable, but for today that's a cop-out. I want to own this truth, and I want to have a bigger answer than that. I want to know how I got from the lie of trying to find something to "supplement" a marriage that "left me feeling empty in some ways" to desiring the attention of men who not only had wives, but also lovers. How did I become obsessed with being the one they told all their secrets to?

A part of the equation I know is that my sick self needs some external force to reaffirm that I have value. For me, being the kind of woman that anyone -- male or female -- can share their deepest secrets with, has meant that I am valued. But my addictive mind has turned even this basic gift of friendship into a tool of my disease.

What am I recreating? I'm regaining that child's sense of power that comes from being the person who keeps information that could tear apart families. Not only could I use it against someone, I can use it to protect myself too. Secrets keep us safe, keep families together, and keep people out of trouble -- that's what I learned as a child. As an adult, I've learned that they are poison. Yet, my addict self wants them, desires them and does not know how to live without them.

One day at a time, I'm learning to live in the light of truth. It's not easy. But it's worth it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A spiritual solution

As I continue to try to recover from this last relapse, I have been working on reviewing Steps 1-7 for my sponsor. As I consider the power of the Twelve Steps as a means of recovery from my sex and love addiction, as well as my compulsive overeating and codependency, and overall addictive personality something is becoming more and more clear to me.

What I have learned in therapy can help me understand my behaviors and thinking patterns better. Drugs can help with chemical imbalances that have occurred from the rush of my own natural hormones in the extremeness of my acting out. But the only place I find hope of truly overcoming the damage that has been done to me and for having a life that is worth living is in working the Steps that were first established by Alcoholics Anonymous.

It is true that those of us who were victimized sexually as children have been biologically and psychologically damaged by our abuse. But the SLAA program (which is based on the tenants of AA) gives me hope that there is a solution if I work for it. The solution is one that can not be experienced in my body or in my mind -- it is a spiritual experience. My spirit transcends my body and mind. Doctors and therapists can treat my body and my mind, but it takes a power greater than myself, and greater than any human power to give me hope that I will be free of the obsessions of my mind and the allergy of my own natural pleasure hormones.

I was listening to some of the AA Big Book lessons of Joe and Charlie yesterday (you can find the free downloads at and they were talking about how alcoholics are very proud of their Steps, but that it is important to remember where they came from. The First Step "We admitted we were powerless over (our addiction), that our lives had become unmanageable," came from Dr. William Silkworth, a neurologist, whose opinions on alcoholism can be found in The Doctor's Opinion of the AA Big Book. The Second and Third Steps came from Dr. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and brilliant thinker, who said that a "spiritual experience" was the only effective cure he had seen for the disease of alcoholism. The remainder of the Steps are based on some basic tenants set forth by an organization called the Oxford Group.

My point in repeating this is to emphasize that two medical doctors, both of whom worked with issues of brain function and performance, were a part of establishing the root program that has helped millions and millions of people find a better way of life.

Please understand -- I believe there is absolutely NO replacement for talk therapy for a person who has been abused as a child. But I also believe that the only hope of truly living a life that feels worth living to me is to become a whole person connected in body, mind and spirit. For me, that requires a spiritual experience that I believe I can find in working the Steps.

All this may sound empty coming from a woman who just had her umpteenth relapse after being in program for six years. However, please note that despite my relapses, I always have had the willingness to keep coming back, because I have seen the progress that I have made, and I have seen the progress of my disease. And I find that it is when I stop actively working on the Steps and practicing their principles in all areas of my life, those are the times the disease wins a foot race and gets the better of me. But in the journey of recovery, the progress I feel within myself is always moving forward and stays ahead of the disease and I don't give up, I keep coming back, because I want to experience the Promises and the Blessings. They are the things I cannot get in a therapist's chair or a psychiatrist's office. I can only get them in the rooms and fellowship of people recovering through the 12 Steps.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Honesty's role in the Steps

During my prayer and meditation this morning I realized that when I finally reached the point that I was willing to get honest about my recent slip, I had become willing to work the Steps again. Being honest that I had broken my bottom lines, rather than continuing hide the truth meant that I was admitting my powerlessness (Step 1), that I recognize my only hope to avoid full blown relapse into very dangerous behavior was to turn back to the program and its work (Step 2), and that I had made a decision to surrender my will and life over to a power greater than me and greater than my addiction (Step 3).

It felt fantastic for me to associate honesty with these three steps and I immediately felt prepared to do an inventory of my resentments and fears, and to better define the defects of my character that continue to lead me down that road.

I feel more humbled and more willing that I have felt yet, but my faith in myself is shaken. In saying this truth, I am invited to put my faith in God, and remember that I am not at the center of my recovery -- my Higher Power is. It is only those of us who have a spiritual awakening who do recover. And even then ... one day at a time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spinach & Eggplant Parmesan

It hasn't been that long ago that one of the women I sponsor said to me, "Rae, I'm going to remember how bad I feel right now so that I won't go back and make these mistakes again." I cautioned her that past pain, no matter how acute, no matter how scary, had never stopped me from acting out.

I guess this latest trip down acting out lane is proof positive that I wasn't lying to her. And today as I jitter around, frustrated, irritable and discontent -- unable to settle down to save my life (unless it is to sleep because I'm so damn tired) -- I am asking myself, "Did you think you were just going to feel like roses and sunshine when the withdrawal set in?"

I don't want to act out. There is no pull toward that. I've been focusing on recovery as best I can -- reaching out to others, listening to speaker tapes and I'm planning to go to an open AA meeting tonight. But there's not a single cell in my body that feels willing to vacuum the floor, clean the bathroom or wash the dishes. I tried going to see a movie, but drove off once I got to the theater, knowing there was no way I could sit in one spot for two hours, no matter how interesting the show was. I wanted to go to a coffee shop and read for a while. I have a new book I'm really excited to read. But my racing mind would have none of that, nor would it allow me to sit still long enough to truly (or maybe I should say 'perfectly' work on my steps).

The symptoms of withdrawal -- the racing thoughts and the acute feelings of depression -- remind me of the symptoms of bipolar disorder. It is nauseating and unsettling.

One of the speaker tapes I was listening to today encouraged addicts to write down a comprehensive list of the pros and cons of actively living in addiction. I've heard before and this speaker reiterated -- when we continue to act out, we are getting SOMETHING out of it. Off the top of my head, I know that I'm relieving a sense of loneliness, getting some positive affirmation (both of which are quickly deflated), reinforcing the lie that I cannot live without this behavior and the lie that I am fundamentally a bad person, so that I can continue to avoid responsibility for myself. I even get some sympathy from others. The cons are, of course, that I become detached from everything and everyone around me and feel more isolated and alone than when I started. I don't feel connected to my Higher Power, or to my husband or to my friends and loved ones. Instead, my connections are to the people I am acting out with. Then when I withdraw from them ... I'm left with nothing but emptiness.

One step at a time, one moment at a time ... I just have to remember this phase will pass, that it is a natural physical and emotional reaction to what my body and mind have been through. Withdrawal and abstinence are required to be able to move forward with my recovery from here.

By the way, in case you are wondering, this post got its title as a result of my effort today to stay in the moment. As I sat down to write, I was eating my dinner -- some delicious spinach/eggplant parmesan from Whole Foods -- on a paper plate, with a side of Gatorade. Cheers!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thinking Aloud at 4 a.m.

I rarely sleep through the night and I often awake with thoughts I think it is important to write down. Occassionally they will be things I want to say to others - perhaps in an e-mail, and sometimes they are things I need to say to no one in particular.

What I need to say this morning may need to be said to someone specific in the future, but for now, I'll just put my thoughts down to words here.

Last night I shared with my sponsor and with my face to face group about my slip. I cried in the meeting and I felt like an idiot, but was thankful for the support I got. My sponsor was also supportive and offered some good suggestions. But it is a statement by my certified sex addiction therapist way back in July 2008 that keeps coming to my mind.

When I told her that my husband knew of my sexual addiction, but not the specifics of my acting out, she said, "Until there is full disclosure, you have a sense that you can get away with something. There is no accountability." As I look at other people try to control the information their spouses get about their acting out and how closely they protect that information, I see myself in them. I also see how their sharing has opened the doors for more intimate and loving partnerships with their spouses. These people have found they don't have to face their demons alone. Not only do they have the support of their group, and sponsors, they also have the support of their spouses.

I certainly have the support of my husband. He supports my recovery, and he knows that I am a sex and love addict, but he has no idea the extent and content of my triggers and behavior. And I wonder how I could tell him -- "Hey honey, while you were away, working 12-15 hours a day, I felt lonely, vulnerable and afraid and had sex with a few other guys to numb the feelings. And, while I'm at it, I might as well tell you that I've been numbing every uncomfortable feeling I've had the same way for about six years."

Have I even tried to change, he might ask. To which I could respond that Yes, I had. In fact, I had made some great progress. At least I hadn't used the same hotel key more than once in at least five years. Oh yes, and did I mention that what was once a rabid sex addiction seems to be more of a search for the allusion of love these days? And isn't it true sweetheart, that our own relationship has changed, I might ask.

The AA Big Book says we must be willing to go to any lengths to get sober. We must take off the masks. So the question becomes how willing am I to destroy someone else's life in order to save my own? How long can I stay sober when the voice in the back of my head says ... "What he doesn't know isn't hurting him." When will the "next time" be the time that all this luck -- no STDs, no pregnancy, no fatal attacks or obsessive stalkers -- runs out?

Sobering thoughts at 4 a.m.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Appreciating another's honesty

Eli Hornby over at Eli's Addict told a very powerful truth to his wife early Monday morning. Then he told it to his readers. His honesty is helping to keep him sober. I want to commend him for doing the next right thing.

I've not been nearly as honest with my husband, my sponsor or my readers. I've slipped a few times over the past few months, given in to those lower urges, lived to regret it, walked away, went back again, walked away. Through it all, I haven't told anyone, until a month or so ago when I said I had to walk away from a friendship that had become addictive. The truth is that relationship had become sexual.

The cycle of dishonesty and secrets is ugly. It's painful. It truly is painful to act out now. I know there's a better way, a clearer path, but I have to stay on it long enough to find my way. I know that honesty is the friend of my recovery, and the enemy of the addict.

Thank you, Eli, for helping me find the courage to tell the truth. Thank you, God, for planting that courage inside.

I heard recently:
Step 1 tells me there's a power that wants to destroy me.
Step 2 tells me there's a power that wants to save me.
Step 3 tells me I get to choose which power wins.

I've been allowing self-will to seek the power that wants to destroy me. God, I've made the biggest mess of my life, please grant me the willingness to turn it over to you. Just for today, I'll settle for the courage to hit "Publish."

Not so funny

*warning - potential triggers for sex addicts*

The other day I picked up Chelsea Handler's autobiography, "My Horizontal Life, A Collection of One Night Stands." As I skimmed through a few of the colorful stories, I thought of how much money she was making writing about the men she had bedded over the years. This queen of late night talk -- who has written about her love for vodka as well as sex -- is not wallowing in self pity or despair. She's just laughing and causing others to laugh with her.

As I flipped through her book, I thought of the funny facts I could share with others about my own set of one-time encounters, and even what others might write about their escapades with me. Sex addicts do gain a lot of insight about the underbrush of people's lives. We share fantasies, and discover kinks. Sometimes we tell one another secrets that we've never told to others. A lot of times we lie -- for stupid reasons and legitimate ones. There is no bar to our age, race, size, socioeconomic, religious, political or marital status.

In my active addiction I've learned that certain professions attract a higher percentage of sex addicts, and that certain body types yield smaller penises. I've learned that true addicts rarely think of their spouses while engaged in addictive behaviors, but as soon as the passionate shudders end, there is a sense of loss, and a desire to move on.

Today as I was driving I saw a quote from Edward Abbey and it made me think of R. He was obsessed with Abbey and his writing, and was a political pacifist of his own sort. I've slept with others who were activists, others who were trusted public servants with buildings named after them. I've had sex with men who've been to prison and men who have put them there, with dominants and submissives, with immigrants and natives, impotents and long lasters. They each have their own story -- some they've shared with me, others I've found out on my own.

So, is there a book in my escapades?

Not a funny one I'm afraid.

Mine are stories that weren't meant to be told. They are dirty secrets that silently bond two people together. Chelsea can drink and fuck all night, and laugh about it in the morning. I won't try to judge whether she laughs to keep from crying. I won't even judge whether I should laugh more and cry less. All I will say is that my liasons have been mid-day steal aways with other women's husbands, who were stealing a few moments or hours with someone else's wife. I have used them like Chelsea uses vodka. And they have used me like cocaine. In addition to their stories ... they have been fathers, brothers, sons, and even human, but that rarely mattered. In fact, many times our names didn't even matter.

An act held so sacred within the covenants of a marriage, is nothing more than a drink of whiskey to a sex addict.

There's nothing funny about that. Nothing at all.

Monday, August 17, 2009

What I fear most

My message from God today from Facebook:

God wants you to know that what you are most afraid of is where your greatest rewards are.

If all you had to do was wish for something and you would have it, life would be pretty boring, wouldn't it? God placed barriers between us and what we want, so we can enjoy interesting and satisfying lives. God hid our biggest rewards behind the highest barriers - our deepest fears. God wants us to face our fears, and hold ground in their presence, and let them go, and that's how we get out biggest rewards. What are you most afraid of? Say it, just start by saying it.

OK, I'll say it.

The three things I fear most:

1. That I am on the wrong path and that I have no idea how to get straight again.
2. That I will spend the rest of my life knowing that I am wasting my God-given resources and talents, but feeling powerless to engage them.
3. That I will become so self-absorbed that there will be no concious left.

How about you? What do you fear most?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Stuck in a Moment

I had never really "heard" this song before. One of my friends posted it on her Facebook page last night and it spoke to me in many ways.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hate-filled and thankful

This morning I read a story from Chicken Soup for the Recovering Soul, and as it ended, something inside me cried out "God, I need your help. At my core, I hate myself. I hate who and how I am, the way I look, the way I feel. I hate what I've become and that I can't seem to move past it on to something more. I hate that I wake up every morning and life seems to have no purpose at all. I hate that following three simple daily rules - take a shower, exercise, and make a list - seem to be too much for me. I simply hate my life."

I knew I needed to come here to write. But as I stepped out of the room where I had been reading and into the hallway, there was my dog, sleeping peacefully, not yet fed. I said, "Thank you God, for this one daily reason to live."

I looked at my house ... it needs to be dusted, decluttered, vacuumed, there's dishes that need to be washed. I remembered that my husband will be home this weekend, and I said, "Thank you God for the incentive to clean, something to look forward to."

I came to the computer and began to hate myself again as I checked five e-mail accounts -- three of them legitimate, two used for the purpose of medicating my pain. But when I opened up my "official" e-mail, I was thankful for the reminder that tomorrow I'll have my weekly meeting with a group of wonderful women who make me laugh and smile and feel loved and nurtured and appreciated. And I was thankful that as their "organizer," I had a task to complete before tomorrow's meeting. Thank you, God, for giving me a reason to take one more step toward one more day.

And now, here I am finally writing, and willing to say, God I do need your help. I know I cannot live with this self-loathing. I know that even in itself it is a defect of character. But, God, I also want to thank you for your help, for carrying me through these rough times, for helping me to see today that you are with me, that there are reasons to live. I can only trust that there is a reason for where I am today, for the emotional pain that I feel, for the call of my sexual addiction, for the absolute shame I feel about my body and the way I've used it. Please help me have faith that in your time, I will find the strength and courage to move past this point. I want to serve you and to serve others. If that is your will, please give me the faith and the courage to go on, not in self-hatred, but in self-love, so that I might share your love with others.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

A risky path

Yesterday, I ran into an old acting out partner. I'd love to tell you that it was by accident, but I walked right up to him and said hello in a restaurant. He was alone and I was alone, and he asked if I'd like to join him. Like an alcoholic who slips when one day someone asks, "Would you like a glass of wine with your meal, sir?" without hesitation, I said yes.

This man is one of the few acting out partners that I told about my addiction when I walked away. I told him back then because we were together three times and each time he shared with me how much he struggled with himself, with his God, how much self-hatred was created inside him. He shared with me about his trips to massage parlors, strip clubs and such and it was clear that he was an addict. I didn't try to save him -- I just told him of my disease and of the concept of the 12 steps.

So as we sat across from each other yesterday and I looked into the most gorgeous set of eyes ever given to a man, my addict was buzzing. That buzz only got stronger when he told me that like my husband, his wife was out of town. The battle was on within me. But we both acknowledged that we were experiencing those feelings, and we talked about them and what we weren't willing to give up, what we weren't willing to experience for the hit. We talked about what clarity had been with us, the struggles that exist from day to day, he shared his religious approach to his disease, and I shared the 12 steps -- which interestingly mirrored one another.

Both of us battled interally the entire conversation -- "do it" vs. "don't do it." Only by the grace of my Higher Power, and frankly his too, were we able to walk away. Things could have gone the other way in a split second ... if one of us had made the move toward "yes," there is no doubt the other would have followed.

I would never "recommend" doing what I did yesterday -- walking up to an old acting out partner alone in a restaurant -- to a newcomer in recovery. It simply could be suicide for recovery efforts. However, somehow I can accept today that there was a reason I went up to him, a reason why my Higher Power helped me to say, "It's best for both of us to just go on our way," rather than "Let me show you the way to my house." I can humbly give my Higher Power the credit for that strength and ask that the lesson of the day be revealed to me.

I was vulnerable yesterday. I have been vulnerable for a few weeks to acting out. I even toyed with it last night. That usually means my spiritual condition is suffering. It doesn't mean I have to act out. It means I have the opportunity to improve my faith and my partnership with my Higher Power. However, it may also mean that I took a bite into the diseased apple and tomorrow I'll be on a downward spiral. My life didn't begin or end yesterday. Lessons aren't always revealed right away. Six months or a year from now, I may be writing here and saying -- my spiral downward, back into relapse, all started with that innocent little hello in a restaurant. I can only deal with what's right in front of me and do the next right thing.

My sponsor is reminding me that while I often label myself an addict, my addiction is only a part of me. I am much more. And while I cannot expect "normal" responses to situations like yesterday. I can be thankful that five years in the program, many, many mistakes and lessons hard won, make it easier to choose the path of recovery, rather than the path of my disease. But my disease does not go away. It just sits, waiting and hungry.

I may face another trigger today. Today I will call on my Higher Power, not to save my ass, but to help me remember that I am more than an addict. I am a human being with values and a desire to live a better life. I have no chance at a better life if I don't make better choices.