Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Seeking Surrender

On page 120 of the Big Book of AA, it is written, "If a repetition is to be prevented, place the problem, along with everything else, in God's hands."

I have fought for control in every way, shape and form I have known, for as long as I can recall. I live a "scared shitless" life when I'm not in control. Yet time and time again I have been shown the grace and comfort that can be found in simply letting go and letting my Higher Power take the reigns of my life.

This fear of what will come with a lack of control does not leave me for long. It is a part of my "thinking problem," and as an addict, I find myself in states of irritability, dis-ease, panic and obsessiveness before I even know what has hit me.

The answer to peace and harmony is always in surrender and acceptance. But that surrender and acceptance is so much easier to think about and write about than it is to actually do.

My prayer today is that I can remember, one moment at a time, that there's no need for my control, no hope or peace in it. There is only peace and harmony in gentle surrender to the God of my understanding. I don't have to know what it looks like or have God all figured out ... I simply have to let go. Just place whatever I need to hold on to in God's hands and let go.

I can accept that it's natural for this need for control to come up when I am stressed. I don't have to resent it. I can simply recognize it as part of a disease that I have been living with all my life and will continue to live with into the future. I will never be rid of the "stinkin' thinkin'" completely. It will try to use old coping mechanisms to help me get through tough times. But I pray that I continue to seek a more gentle path.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Conflicting thoughts

As I begin to find my foundation, I have truly embraced the journey of life and become thankful for every part of my path. Occasionally, though, something stops me in my tracks and makes me ask if there is something fundamentally wrong with my thinking. That's when it helps to write through my thoughts and sort them out so I can look at them.

So, clearly, I had one of those "stopped in my tracks" moments recently when I was signed on to Facebook and saw that one of my friends had posted a link to a list of sex offenders in her county. The local sheriff's office had posted the names, addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders in the county. There were a few comments that made it clear that people felt safer knowing who the sex offenders were who lived around them.

Those who know I was molested as a child probably could reasonably think I think it's a great idea to expose all those "perverts." I suspect a few people might be aghast that I actually cringe at the notion of shaming people in this way. But it's not my job to think for anyone else. I'm just trying to think for myself.

As I looked through the names and faces, I saw men and women, old and young. Some of them even looked like the "typical" sex offender, if there is such a thing. But a few of them looked like exactly what they were before they got a big red label pasted across their foreheads that said "SEX OFFENDER." They looked like local grocery store clerks, fast food and factory workers, business professionals and teachers.

My sexual behavior, which was at one point outrageous by any definition, was a part of who I was. For a long time, I let the shame of that behavior and the shame of my past define all of who I was. I think differently now. I know that it is only by God's grace that I am not on a list of sexual offenders in my county -- not because I ever got anywhere close to a child (even the thought of that repulses me) but because in my county if a person gets caught engaging in public sexual activity then you go on the sex offender registry. I never got caught, but I certainly engaged. That's not something I'm proud of, it's just a fact. In a world where sex is the drug of choice, parked cars often become the "party room."

So, as I think of this fact -- I never got caught. My stepfather never got caught. There are people recovering from sexual addiction around the globe who have never been caught committing a crime. Then there are those 37 people on that Facebook page who did get caught. For every one of them, with terms after their names like carnal abuse, sexual assault, rape, solicitation, there are dozens more who are using sex in dangerous, inappropriate ways that never got caught, whose names will never be smeared, whose families will never feel the burning shame of their "outing." But these people, like me, like my stepfather, like the fathers and mothers and uncles and neighbors and teachers of so many of my friends and loved ones, have horribly hurt other people. Had we made it to those registries, we would have been looked at with total disgust too, because no one would understand or care that we were more than sex offenders.

I've been thinking of my stepfather recently. He was more than my abuser, more than the sum of all his horrible attributes. He was creative and talented in his vocation and avocations. Given the chance at an education, he could have been a very successful designer and engineer. Before my sex addiction took over my life, I was a glowing professional, filled with confidence and ability. It's taken me a long time to reclaim the parts of myself that are still useful. Embracing them is still difficult.

Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating that we should let people free because there are far more sex offenders than will ever be caught. In fact, I don't think I'm advocating anything. I am just typing out loud, trying to sort through these feelings of sadness and confusion about the people whose names and faces I saw on that Facebook page, and show up in one too many I Phone apps for sex offender registries.

At times when I've considered future career options, I've thought of pursuing a career that would allow me to help women who have survived incest. It took me only a very short time to realize that it is not the victim we should focus on helping. Once the abuse, the incest, the violation -- whether covert or overt occurs -- it is too late. The damage that will take years and years to overcome has been done. It is the fear of what will happen as a result, just how fucked up one will become as a result of what has happened that is the worst damage of all. But what if more was done to help those "would be" sexual offenders to begin to live lives they could be proud of, lives of self-awareness that prevented them from making that first move to ruin the lives of others? I don't know what help -- other than therapy -- there might be, but I know there must be something more helpful than this horrible shame.

Monday, February 07, 2011

There is purpose

My thanks to fellow bloggers and followers who continue to check in now and then. I write here rather infrequently now, despite my best intentions. In this digital age, there is so much technology to distract all of us and me specifically, that writing short tidbits of thought in social media has become the daily norm, as opposed to sorting out my thoughts through lengthy blog posts. And while I think I need to make it a habit to journal and share my thoughts with others in the recovery community, I have found that sharing thoughts via Facebook with people who I know or have known is helping to bring together the pieces of my life into a whole person.

I have shared here many times about the pain and confusion of living parallel lives. It goes beyond simply having a public life and a private life. For as far back as I can remember, I have lived a compartmentalized life. As a child, I had my family life, I had the secret life of abuse and a parallel life of my own escapism, I had my school life and I had my church life. There's always been a part of me that excels and seeks to lead and a part of me that I long to live undetected.

After many years, I am coming closer to living a more integrated life. I have friends who I allow to see my flaws, and I have made a conscious effort to become more humble and less manipulative. Rather than trying to shape others opinions of me by "leading" them and wowing them with my "perfection," I am learning to be myself, accept myself as perfectly imperfect and flawed, and let others be themselves. Perhaps they are in a place to form opinions of me, or perhaps they really don't give a shit about what I think or do -- despite my once grandiose ideas that I was the center of everyone's universe. Either way, I have no stake in what others think of me. Instead, I have a vested interest in how I feel within myself.

It may sound as if I am being a little too harsh on my past self. Trust me, I love myself more today than I have in a long, long time -- maybe ever. And it's not because I'm so much better than I was before. It is because I accept this journey that I am on as my pathway, my journey. I am simply at peace with what is.

In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness... I see what people call God in all these things. Pablo Casals

This is not to say I don't struggle with non-acceptance and self-hatred and feeling overwhelmed at times. I most certainly do. These are emotions that sometimes show up every day. But those are not the places that I dwell. I seek, today, above all things, peace in my soul -- peace with all that is around me. And I find it not in complacency, but in acceptance and and immense gratitude that, thus far, the God of my understanding has found a purpose for me.

I may be a fat, depressed, sex and love addict, without a real job, with more questions than answers sometimes -- but despite those things, God has found things for me to do in this world. The AA Big Book talks about "We had a new employer." And I am grateful beyond words that among the work that was meant for me was the task of making peace with myself. It seems to be making all the difference in being at peace with the world around me.

Again, I don't mean to imply in any way that my life is perfect. It is not, and I am learning plenty of things the hard way. I am simply saying, I know more peace than I have known in a long time, and for that I am immensely grateful.