Thursday, December 31, 2009

As 2009 closes

When I came into recovery, I was completely empty, filled only with tears, hopelessness and stories that turn my stomach. I was so happy to have found other people who could help me understand what was happening to me. I still hated myself, but I knew I wasn't alone. That was in 2004.

Since then, one day at a time, recovery and relapse have taken me in many directions -- most of it is outlined in this blog. I've given lots of advice, most of which I didn't follow myself. I've had answers to other people's problems when I couldn't take care of my own. I've been emotionally, physically and spiritually sober and I've been completely high on the triggers of my addiction. I've done service in recovery and I've been unwilling to do a damn thing, including show up.

In recovery, I've thought I had to do things perfectly, or give up entirely. I've thought I was one of the "unfortunate" ones they talk about in "How It Works" who cannot recover because they lack the capacity to be honest. I thought I had to act on every desire to act out, and when I finally got it that I was powerless over the disease but not my own actions -- I thought that if I were truly recovering the desire to act out wouldn't come at all. All that was wrong.

What is true is that I am a sex and love addict of the real variety. I cannot break my bottom lines or it sets in motion a release of chemicals into my body that trigger an obsession of the mind that neither allows me to think or act in a sober or sane manner. I am not able to adhere to my bottom lines alone. I need the tools of the program, which includes the help of others. I need my sponsors and I need the literature we are given to learn how to work the program -- for me specifically I need the AA Big Book and the 12 and 12. I need to address the disease of addiction in all its manifestations in my life -- I can't be sober in one program and drunk in another and expect for sanity to be restored. And I have to live life on life's terms -- not as I would have it, but as my Higher Power would have it. Acceptance truly is the answer to all my problems today.

The SLAA Promises say they will be manifested in us -- "sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly." I've taken the slow route, but as 2009 closes -- five years and two months after I found recovery, I feel better about myself, my life and my future than I ever have. I have hope and proof that my Higher Power can and has used me to help others and has sent others to help me. I believe in love as a "thoughtful, committed decision." I no longer accept sex as a substitute for love and in my relationships I know that love is unconditional and involves nurturing, care and support that is not sexually based or manipulative. I do not feel deprived of anything. I "know a new freedom" and that is the freedom from endless, never ending desire for something "more." Most of all, I have humility, and I can tell you unequivocally that my life today, my hope today, is mine because I follow 12 simple divinely inspired rules which instruct me to turn my will and life over to a power greater than myself, to examine myself and ask for relief from my defects, to seek to the right the things I have wronged, to seek my Higher Power and to share my program with another suffering addict. I don't have to cry about yesterday, or worry about tomorrow. Those things are in the hands of my Higher Power. I just have to follow these 12 Steps today.

As 2009 closes, I give thanks to my Higher Power for my entire life, my sickness and my health, my despair and my elation, my friends and my enemies, and most of all the grace that allows me to be sober today, to be a part of a recovery community that loves me and to laugh instead of cry.

With loving and humble gratitude, I wish you all a very happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

For the first time

Last week, while traveling for the holidays, I returned to the place where the disease of sex and love addiction first began to rule my life. By the time I found my first SLAA meeting in October 2004, acting out was an obsession that had me so spellbound I wanted to die. Going back to that geographical location where every exit along an 80-mile stretch of highway held some memory of acting out, has always been acutely painful and extremely shameful.

However, I am grateful to say that I was able to return to that beautiful valley last week, and and for the first time feel none of those old painful attachments. I was able to call up an old friend who I knew from the meetings and ask him to go to a meeting with me, rather than spend weeks planning a tryst with an old lover and ruin my whole trip with a relapse. I was able to drive right past a particular no-tell hotel that was my 'home office' for acting out, and for the first time, never even notice it or recount the shameful memories. I was able to spend the night alone in a hotel not far away without obsessing over who or how I could act out.

These things may seem minor, but when I tell you they are monumental, I am not exaggerating. For the very first time, since I moved (aka ran kicking and screaming) from that area, I returned and felt peace and serenity and gratitude that it was where my healing began. I felt the miracle of recovery and I felt that the Promises really can and do come true. I felt the presence of my Higher Power with me and around me. I was safe, not just from others, but from my own self-hatred.

Before I went into the valley where I had lived, I visited for the first time since I had left the office building about 45 miles away where much of my online intrigue happened. As I walked through the doors of that building, I immediately began to feel all the feelings that I had numbed with my acting out -- the sadness, the dark depression and despair. It was not that I experienced the feelings again, but rather that I felt their heaviness. I walked into the restroom where I had "hid out" and cried and felt such utter despair, and could feel, as if for the first time, that I had lived a very, very painful experience in this building. When I left my job there in 2005, I was so numb I didn't feel a thing. But as I walked out last week, after having shared with a friend who still works there who is experiencing serious depression, just how difficult my days were there, I left it all behind. For the first time, I felt that all that sadness was a part of my past, and I could leave it where it was. I did not have to bring it with me. What an amazing blessing.

To add to the blessing, I remained abstinent in my OA program throughout my trip and the holiday gatherings. As I left that building where I had worked, I touched the vending machine that had served as a stand-in friend in times of need back when I worked there and simply said, "Thank you, God, that I don't need this today."

It is not enough for me to say that recovery through the 12 Steps has saved my life. It has made living possible for me.