Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Honesty is the only way out"

These are the words my therapist said to me this morning, and they sit on my heart like a steel beam.

Tears rose in the absence of words to describe the gravity of what I felt as she said them. Inside I thought, "He is all I have and I'm all he's got. We are everything to each other. What a mess."

The "he" I was referring to was my husband, whose work is his "exit" from our intimacy and commitment to one another. My exit is sex and love with men who are married. In this way, we co-exist, quite painfully, but somewhat comfortably. Harville Hendrix, developer of IMAGO therapy, says until we both close up our exits, our relationship will always be damaged and never intimate.

My therapist says until I fully disclose to my husband the truths of my acting out, I will continue to use sex and love as a way of survival -- a way to avoid feelings that I now compartmentalize, feelings like guilt.

I had told her again, with tearful regret, that the reason I don't want to tell him that I have been beyond unfaithful in our marriage, is simply I don't want to ruin his life. I don't want to crush him with the truth. The truth seems so dangerous, so painful to me. It seems easier to carry it on my own, rather than think of shattering the spirit of yet another innocent victim of a horrible disease.

Still, she says, "Honesty is the only way out."

I am not hurting enough yet to be honest, she said. I can act out and say that it felt good and let the addiction wash away the painful truths of my deception.

She asks me how guilty I would feel if my husband had walked into the room the last time I acted out. I couldn't even bring the image into my mind. When I think about the reality of actually experiencing all the guilt that I have not felt while engaging in sexual and love relationships with other men, I honestly think I could not endure it. She says that enduring the guilt will set me free.

"So, what," I ask her, "I self-inflict the pain of the guilt by disclosure in order to heal myself, while I ruin his life?"

"Yes," was her response, adding that the truth comes out one way or another, whether we reveal it or not.

I argued with her ... people are and have been having affairs for centuries and taking the truth to their graves.

Yes, but to what cost? Living in painful marriages without the freedom of true intimacy, she responded.

I told her I heard what she was saying and even believed it to be true, but I know that I am not willing to be honest with my husband about how many horrible deeds of transgression I have done in our marriage without his knowledge. I simply am not willing to hurt him that way.

Pray for the willingness, she said.

I'm afraid I'm going to have to pray for the willingness to pray for the willingness.

It is not for selfish reasons that I don't want to disclose, I told her. But she challenged me. You don't want to feel the guilt.

When I think of that guilt and what it would be like to feel it, she's right. I don't want to feel it, and I feel certain it would destroy me.

As I drove to her office, I had a moment of consciousness, a brief second when I connected to that part of me that still feels alive. As I was turning the corner from one street to the next, I realized that at some point in my life, I learned to drive. It wasn't inherent knowledge. Someone taught me. And I practiced, and I learned to feel comfortable driving, even in major cities.

She encouraged me to remember I can take the wheel with this addiction also.

"Honesty is the only way out."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The way is dark

In this world I walk alone
With no place to call my home
But there's one who holds my hand
The rugged road through barren lands
The way is dark, the road is steep
But He's become my eyes to see
The strength to climb, my griefs to bear
The Savior lives inside me there

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

In these trials of life I find
Another voice inside my mind
He comforts me and bids me live
Inside the love the Father gives

In Your love I find release
A haven from my unbelief
Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

Take my life and let me be
A living prayer, my God to Thee

Monday, September 21, 2009

Random Thoughts

* At a recent meeting, someone broke down Step 1 into two parts: First, I am powerless over my addiction and second, my life is unmanageable. My life is unmanageable whether I am acting out or not. The rest of the 12 Steps are an invitation to regain some manageability in life.

* Step 2 says, "Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity." Lately, I find I am faltering in the belief that anything can restore me to sanity. I feel as if I am my own worst enemy and have doubt that anything can save me.

* The dreary weather has started and so has my depression.

* The longer I live the more I recognize that life is just one big cycle of attempts to manage our emotions. I just wonder what makes emotions so destructive and hard to handle? I read a book recently about a group of women who healed from various trauma by knitting. By sitting quietly together and telling their stories, and by sitting alone and mentally counting "Knit 1, Pearl 3, Knit 1, Pearl 3" they learned to sit with their emotions and to survive them. In 12 Step Rooms, by using standard formats, prayers, slogans and by sitting around and telling our stories, we learn to survive the emotions that feel as if they will kill us. Some people go to church, some people exercise, some people paint, some people meditate or sit next to the water ... but it's all a way of keeping the emotions in proper perspective. We let go of the all or nothing thinking.

* I haven't let go of all or nothing thinking. I don't want to feel anything, yet I long to feel everything.

* I am willing to believe there is a bigger purpose and that my life is a part of it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Pain as the Pathway to Peace

As I continue on my journey to healing and recovery, I recognize more clearly than ever that it is the core underlying issues of self-esteem, insecurity and much more that is actually being addressed as I learn to care for myself, refrain from using old, ineffective coping mechanisms and keep my side of the street clean while giving others room to grow. This does not mean that I never want to act out. In fact, the desire to seek comfort (what food, sex and love are for me) can be far greater when I'm doing work on resolving the trauma of my childhood, which I have been doing lately.

This weekend I was preparing for a few trauma healing exercises and my body began to ache with physical pain, stiffness and discomfort just reading about the various stages of healing we go through when recovering from childhood sexual abuse. The pain, which has been carried in my body since childhood, deserves a chance to be felt and experienced, and released. No one wants to hurt unmercifully. Still I know that if I can endure the pain while it is here -- being experienced in its fullness -- rather than eating it away or losing it in the numbness of sexual/romantic intrigue and pursuit, I will be releasing it and making room in my body for comfort and growth. I pray for the strength to feel the pain and to face the future with a new perspective.

I thought this reading was perfect for me today. I share it in hopes that it helps someone else.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009
From the book The Language of Letting Go

Stopping Our Pain

Some of my feelings have been stored so long they have freezer burn.
—Beyond Codependency

There are many sources of pain in our life. Those of us recovering from adult children and codependency issues frequently have a cesspool of unresolved pain from the past. We have feelings, sometimes from early childhood to the present, that either hurt too much to feel or that we had no support and permission to deal with.

There are other inevitable sources of pain in our life too. There is the sadness and grief that comes when we experience change, even good change, as we let go of one part of our life, and begin our journey into the new.

There is pain in recovery, as we begin allowing ourselves to feel while dropping our protective shield of denial.

There is the pain that leads and guides us into better choices for our future.

We have many choices about how to stop this pain. We may have experimented with different options. Compulsive and addictive behaviors stop pain - temporarily. We may have used alcohol, other drugs, relationships, or sex to stop our pain.

We may talk compulsively or compulsively focus on other people and their needs as a way to avoid or stop our pain.

We may use religion to avoid our feelings.

We may resort to denial of how we are feeling to stop our pain.

We may stay so busy that we don't have time to feel. We may use money, exercise, or food to stop our pain.

We have many choices. To survive, we may have used some of these options, only to find that these were Band Aids - temporary pain relievers that did not solve the problem. They did not really stop our pain; they postponed it.

In recovery, there is a better choice about how we may stop pain. We can face it and feel it. When we are ready, with our Higher Power's help, we can summon the courage to feel the pain, let it go, and let the pain move forward - into a new decision, a better life.

We can stop the behaviors we are doing that cause pain, if that's appropriate. We can make a decision to remove ourselves from situations that cause repeated, similar pain. We can learn the lesson our pain is trying to teach us.

If we are being pelted by pain, there is a lesson. Trust that idea. Something is being worked out in us. The answer will not come from addictive or other compulsive behaviors; we will receive the answer when we feel our feelings.

It takes courage to be willing to stand still and feel what we must feel. Sometimes, we have what seems like endless layers of pain inside us. Pain hurts. Grief hurts. Sadness hurts. It does not feel good. But neither does denying what is already there; neither does living a lifetime with old and new pockets of pain packed, stored, and stacked within.

It will only hurt for a while, no longer than necessary, to heal us. We can trust that if we must feel pain, it is part of healing, and it is good. We can become willing to surrender to and accept the inevitable painful feelings that are a good part of recovery.

Go with the flow, even when the flow takes us through uncomfortable feelings. Release, freedom, healing, and good feelings are on the other side.

Today, I am open and willing to feel what I need to feel. I am willing to stop my compulsive behaviors. I am willing to let go of my denial. I am willing to feel what I need to feel to be healed, healthy, and whole.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Upon seeing what others see

Today a friend of mine sent some photos taken of me and her together this summer. I was appalled at how fat I have become. I do not have full length mirrors in my house and even when I'm looking in them at the gym or at a restaurant -- I'm standing up, have my shirt carefully pulled down to hide the width and breadth of my stomach and simply am not able or willing to focus on the "whole" picture. These images captured with the lens of a camera on warm summer days, however, don't hide a thing. I can see the swollen face, the stomach bulging out on all sides, the rolls of fat that form my short legs. I am thoroughly disgusted and ashamed and repulsed. I am cringing at the thought of the person other people see me to be, their comments whispered in their minds or aloud.

I began carrying this weight to protect myself. It increased as I held in the emotions and feelings. I used my girth for the strength to carry the responsibility of my mother, my sister, and for my badness. I have eaten and avoided taking care of myself as a form of self-hatred and self-abuse. Compulsive eating and living life as an obese woman is a slow form of suicide. All of these things are things that therapists, former fatties and books have told me. I haven't connected a single bit of it to my soul. I believe it ... but I don't feel it. Why? Because if the feelings come -- I stuff them inside with cookies, cakes, candy, hamburgers, ice cream, anything my body craves. I consume mounds of rich, sweet, fatty foods -- almost always in solitude, and almost never walked, ran or swam off. It has all just gathered on the bones and around the organs and muscles of my body, enveloping me, hiding me, protecting me, strengthening me. Those last three things are a lie that my inner child believes.

I remember in her book, "Make the Connection," Oprah Winfrey talks about hitting rock bottom when she was accepting an Emmy nomination and was embarrassed to go on stage. She recently talked about another bottom, where she began again to feel embarrassed to live in her own skin, despite her magnanimous success. I watched the preliminaries of the show "Dance Your Ass Off" earlier this week. Men and women shared how they wanted for the person who lived behind the fat to be revealed. The Battle of the Bulge it's called -- this war humans fight to reclaim the person who lives behind the blubber.

TT commented on a previous post, "I just can't help but wonder, Rae, whether you first need to find your rage toward those who damaged you, and go through it, THEN find forgiveness, then move on. It seems to me you have skipped a critical step, never having experienced that rage."

I can't help but wonder if all that rage is wrapped around my midsection, under my chin, and across my ass. I feel as though waging war against the fat is waging war against myself ... and maybe I'm right. I feel weak to wage a war.

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the Courage and Strength to change the things I can, and the Wisdom to know the difference. I surely cannot do this on my own. God, help me. I've failed so many times, I am afraid to even say I'll try again. I feel the resistance even as I fall at your feet in total surrender -- searching for a way to hold on to my way of living, hoping by some miracle that I will not have to go through the pain of taking off all this armour I've put on.

Help me to be humble, help me to be strong, help me to let this matter when darkness breaks into dawn.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reconciling the feelings within

I just read JBR's blog entry about the deep emotional pain she is experiencing. Like me, she lived through the pain of childhood sexual abuse. I really identified with her statement, "I just feel no one understands the ferocity of my emotional pain." Adding to this truth for me, I am not even sure I understand the ferocity of my pain. I'm not always sure if I am experiencing my feelings or if they are swallowed up in a chocolate brownie or in codependent conversations with others. If someone were to ask me to sort out my feelings into tiny piles, I'm not sure I could even find them all, much less identify them.

Right now, at this very minute and for what has felt like several months, I have felt very disconnected from myself. In psychological terms this is known as disassociation. The problem is -- I'm not sure how to reassociate.

Recently I was talking with someone else who is in recovery from sexual addiction and he was sharing about the decisions he and his current girlfriend are making about their physical intimacy based on the Christian values to which they both subscribe. Again, I feel so disassociated from any sense of moral values.

I know that I have feelings. A personal incident over the weekend left me feeling extreme nauseau-inducing anxiety. I stood in the middle of an office and cried like a child. I have felt fear, shame, guilt, anger, regret, love and gratitude in the past few days. So, I know there are feelings that exist within me and I even experience them at times. But most of the time I feel a sense of numbness and wonder where the feelings that are making me feel uncomfortable are hiding. Is God protecting me from them?

Lately I have these long, lingering feelings and cravings to be held and comforted. I can lay in bed at night and simply ache for someone's body to spoon up against mine, to feel the skin of another person against mine. I'm not talking sex here -- I'm talking physical comfort. Are those cravings suppressing the real feelings that I'm having? I don't know. They feel as real as anything else and I have no idea if they are healthy or not.

They physical feelings seem to be seeking to calm the emotions that I don't even know how to express. I loved Practical Addict's post from this weekend about emotional sobriety. It seems to capture a bit of what I am trying to say here ... that I may be outwardly avoiding the actions of acting out, but inside I feel like a jumbled mess. I also found myself in the final paragraph of Enigma's post today as she described the need to find herself in the midst of all this recovering. It sometimes feels as if I've lost all sense of myself, my hopes, my dreams, my values somewhere between living in my addiction and trying to recover from it. I stopped seeing my therapist for seven weeks because I wanted some time to think for myself. In that seven weeks all I accomplished was another dance back into the malady and melody of my addiction.

I read this post at Being Made New and could really connect to his feelings of being a part of rather than a part from the people around him. Yet, those feelings seldom come across my path. I always feel as if I'm sitting somewhere just outside the circle.

I'm praying for reconciliation tonight. I know it won't come tonight. But I have faith that it will come. One day at a time.