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.
5 months ago