Set Aside Prayer

Today I find myself plagued with some self doubt and negative thinking. The Set Aside Prayer helps to keep me present and to remind me that I’m a new person. There are different versions of The Set Aside Prayer. I like this one.

God,
Please help me set aside
Everything I think I know
About myself, my disease,
These steps, and especially You;
For an open mind
And a new experience
With myself, my disease,
These steps and especially You.
Please help me see the truth.
Amen

A New Year In Recovery

I remember this time two years ago, January 2011. A guy I met, who I would later end up sleeping with asked if I had any new year’s resolutions. I jokingly told him, “I want to make sure I can actually keep my resolutions this year, so I’m resolving to drink more and to have more casual sex.” Pathetically, I thought this line was so cute and clever, that I used it a few other times that month on other men.

Ironically, I ended up breaking that resolution less than six months later, in June 2011, when I went into recovery for sex and love addiction.

Before that time I had such resistance to 12-step programs. I had even looked up statistics about their failure rates, and would cite then whenever 12-step groups came up in conversation. “Those people are just trading one addiction for another. They might no longer be addicted to drugs or alcohol, but they are addicted to meetings.” Years and years before I had spent a few months in OA (Overeaters Anonymous). At the time, I didn’t feel like I belonged there. Although I was (and still am) overweight, I couldn’t relate to the obsession with food and the extreme body hatred. In fact, being in those meetings triggered more issues with food and body image than I came in with.

Soon after my OA stint I went to my first meeting of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. At the beginning of the meeting, someone read The Characteristics of Sex and Love Addiction. I had all twelve. Every share at that meeting, I could relate to. There was no way getting around it, I belonged at that meeting. So I went to a few more, but then I used my best worst thinking and determined that finding someone else to obsess over was a much easier way to get over whomever he was.

A couple of years later, after I had dropped close to 3 grand on a psychic that promised to reunite me with my “one true soulmate,” I was at a bottom and dragged myself to a couple more meetings. Again, I knew I was where I was supposed to be, but didn’t want to believe it. Instead of sticking around and waiting for the miracle, I chose my tried and true method for getting over an ex — getting under someone else. After that I put my heart in soul into acting out. I thought I was “cured” from love addiction because I went a few years without getting obsessed with any of the guys I was seeing. And as for the sex addiction? I was just a young, adventurous, open-minded woman, with an active social life, not a sex addict.

Then I met HC. I knew minutes after meeting him that I was fucked. Something in him triggered a chemical reaction in me that was like I had just shot myself up with heroin. Being with him was absolute ecstasy and I was instantly addicted. When I finally decided to get clean from HC, I knew I could not do it alone. I was desperate and fully recognized how absolutely powerless I was over my addiction to him.

Six months. Six months. Six months! That was the mantra that was going through my head all of the summer of 2011. I promised myself this time I would stick it out and go to meetings for six months, that I wouldn’t contact HC for six months, and that I wouldn’t date anyone for six months. I had many fantasies about what would happen at the end of those six months. Most of them involved HC realizing he missed me and couldn’t live without me. The rest imagined me meeting my future husband six months and one day later. All of them involved me being 100 percent better and living a life that was entirely problem free.

A year and a half later, and my life is far from perfect. It is nothing like I imagined it would be, but it is amazing. My life is filled with joy, love, and acceptance. I’m so grateful and so happy to be celebrating a new year in recovery.

When Fantasy Becomes Reality

Several months back, I wrote about my friend Ben. Only I didn’t call him Ben at the time, I gave him the highly inappropriate nickname of Mr. FCFW. For those of you who don’t feel like clicking the link, here is the quick backstory: Ben is a seemingly confident, well-off, older, charming man I had a brief fling with, despite knowing he was married. After the fling we developed a friendship.

When I wrote that post back in November, I was still pretty new in my recovery. Ben was someone I talked to a lot, even though I realized it was inappropriate. I now know that I was doing with him was called “intrigue,” which basically means I was trying to keep him interested, just in case. After I wrote about him, I ended up talking to him less and less. I never consciously decided to pull away from him, but as I got healthier and healthier the schism naturally occurred.

I hadn’t talked to him in months, so it was odd to see a text message from him last week when I was getting ready for work. Odder still, was the content of the message, “I need help.” The first thing I thought was that someone had stolen his cell phone, and was texting everyone in his address book in some attempt to scam money. That far-fetched scenario sounded more probable to me, than confident, self-assured, has-everything-going-for-him Ben actually needing my help with anything.

“What’s going on?” I texted back.

“My wife found out everything. I’m out of control. I need help. What do I do?”

Let me pause this story in order to briefly tell another one.

When I first started in recovery I fantasized about this very thing happening for months. Only I wasn’t fantasizing about Ben, I was fantasizing about HC, another married man who I was completely, devastatingly, irrationally fixated on. HC is the reason I started coming to 12-step meetings. He was pretty much all I talked about in meetings for the first few months, and almost all I wrote about when I first started this blog. I was OBSESSED.

The fantasy was that HC’s wife would find out he had been cheating on her throughout the entire course of their marriage. He’d realize he had a problem with sex addiction. He’d contact me for help. I’d tell him about the program I’m in. We’d started going to meetings together, and then when we were both fully recovered, he’d realize he was in love with me and we’d live happily ever after. Totally healthy little fantasy. Also, totally probable, right?

I feel awful for this, but when Ben sent me that text, my thoughts weren’t, “I feel so terrible for Ben and his family,” they were “ohmygodohmygod it’s finally happening!!!” The addict in me didn’t even care that it was happening to the wrong person, I was just so excited it was happening. I hate admitting this, but I got a major buzz off of the drama. Ben’s life was falling apart, and I was getting a contact high.

My addict wanted to jump in, and save the day. Fix all of Ben’s problems for him. Make his drama my drama. But I took a step back and realized that this reaction I was having was nothing but addiction. Is there such thing as a drama addict? Yes, and you’re reading one’s blog.

Once I had gotten ahold of myself we talked on the phone. My addict wanted to tell him to start coming to SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) meetings with me; wanted to tell him that I would take him to a meeting, but instead I told him to look up  another S-program, Sex Addicts Anonymous. There is some crossover in my area between these two programs, and I’ve heard that SAA is almost 100 percent men, and many of them are married and trying to save their marriage. The program I attend is both men and women, most of whom are single. I also told him to call a marriage counselor. My addict wanted to look up the meeting schedule and send it to him, as well as look up a list of therapy referrals. But my authentic self stepped in and said, “Come on Imperfect, he can google just as well as you can. Back off!”

So I pointed Ben in the right direction, but kept my distance. My addict wanted to call him later that day to see how he was doing, but my authentic self told her to chill. Ben called me the next day to tell me he attended his first meeting and we talked about it. He sent me a text yesterday and told me he was in therapy and had started reading Patrick Carnes’ book on sexual addiction, Out of the Shadows.  His life is in a lot of turmoil, but I trust that if he continues on this path, he’ll be okay. I don’t need to rescue Ben, just like I don’t need anyone to rescue me. That’s the beauty of surrendering to a Higher Power. I know it will all be okay.

Nobody Loves You

“Nobody loves you,” “No one wants you,” “You are worthless,” “You don’t matter to anyone,” “You don’t deserve love, protection, happiness, success or anything else that’s good,” “You are shit!” This is what my addiction says to me. This voice formed long ago, probably before my conscious memory. It could have been formed by something as uneventful as belong left to cry a little too long as an infant. Who knows how it originally formed.

In my later childhood this voice was fortified by abandonment, death, and abuse. It lodged deep in my subconscious, then grew with each subsequent trauma. Every unfortunate event in my life gave it more fuel. I deserved it when my boyfriend hit me. Had it coming when I was raped. I believed this voice so much that I sought out further evidence to prove it right. Choose men that would beat me. Asked them for it. Choose men who were unavailable and would therefore eventually abandon me. Became addicted to those men.

This voice is somewhat quelled by the sexual act. In those short moments I know that I am intensely wanted, desired, valued, maybe even loved. I am validated by the focus and the attention. Then it’s over, and all I want is to feel that validation again, and again, and again.

Nowadays I know that this voice is a liar. I am loved, valued, and worthy of all good things. My friends love me, my family members love me, my sponsor and my fellows love me, and most importantly, I am loved by myself and my Higher Power.

That voice is quieter now, but it’s still there. And sometimes it kicks up a fuss that is difficult to ignore.

White Knight Fantasy

Some days anxiety descends on me, like heavy mud burying me in a pit I have no idea how to even start digging myself out of.

What do I do first?

The bulk of my week is spent at a job that I’m overqualified and underpaid for. It’s also a job that takes a lot of preparation and energy. At the end of the day I’m tired. I know that I should be applying for other jobs, that that should be my first priority. But applying in itself takes a lot of time and effort, and I’m short on both at the end of the day. My job has no paid time off, and I barely make ends meet as it is, so taking a day off isn’t a possibility.

I know there is more to it than just being exhausted. Psychologically there is some kind of block that’s preventing me from applying for the kind of jobs I’m certified for. Part of it is probably fear of rejection. I usually apply to jobs that I’m overqualified for because I know I’ll get them. When I put a lot of effort into applying for a good job and don’t even get called for an interview, I’m crushed. I usually end up talking myself out of applying before I even start.

Another issue is that I’m not really sure I even want to be in the field I’m in. The real reason I went back to school to get certified in this field was because I thought it would just be something to do until I met the guy. You know, the guy that would make life bearable and give it meaning. That was my real career, finding him. My job was just a way to make money until my “real” life started.

I also have a lot of shame and embarrassment over the state of my career. I’m at an age now, where most of the people I went to high school and college with have actual grown-up jobs with 401Ks. Fuck, most of them are married. A lot of them even have kids and own their own houses. I mean if I’m going to compare myself to other people, I might as well throw all of it into the pity pot.

And it’s not just the job and relationship stuff that is stressing me out, I also get majorly overwhelmed by everyday things like washing dishes and folding my laundry. I moved into this apartment more than six months ago, and still have some boxes I haven’t unpacked. I don’t even have a couch yet.

Even if my life were just coming home everyday from work and cleaning my apartment, I probably wouldn’t be able to keep up. Luckily, though, my life isn’t that simple. There are self-care things I do to keep sane–going to yoga and meditation, going to meetings, going to the gym, doing step work, writing, praying and checking in with my higher power, having a social life with friends and family.

I’m grateful that I have all of these topline behaviors in my life, but I’d also like to not be embarrassed by my apartment and lack of career. I look around and it seems like the world is full of women who manage to have kick-ass jobs, amazing husbands, and fabulous homes that are clean and tidy all while raising kids, staying fit, and leading full social lives. I’m not even doing 20 percent of that and I manage to be overwhelmed to the point of paralyzation.

I know it’s not productive to compare myself to other people, and I have no idea of knowing what someone’s life is really like from the outside. But it’s so freaking tempting when I’m in this kind of mood and looking for ammo to abuse myself with.

Today is day 8 of no contact with men. I know that’s contributing to my foul mood. I’m in withdrawal. I want to use another person to sooth myself. I want to call up Mr. FCFW, Anthony, Carson, or some other guy and cry on his shoulder. I want him to magically make everything better. Realistically, though, I know that would be a pointless exercise. Mr. FCFW has his own wife and kids to deal with and doesn’t need a 33-year-old adopted daughter to drain him further. Carson is even worse off than me. And Anthony has his own troubles to deal with, ditto for all of my other male friends.

The only “guy” I should be calling up right now and asking for help is my Higher Power. I know that’s really all I can do–ask God for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, for the courage to change the things I can, and for the wisdom to know the difference.

A Subtle Addiction

Not so subtle

My sex and love addiction can be bold and blatant, like a belligerent drunk getting kicked out of a bar. More often than not, though, it’s subtle, like a functioning alcoholic who drinks all night and still manages to show up every morning for work and do his job.

It sneaks in.

“You went more than three years without talking to Anthony, you can be friends with him now,” it says. Then, “It’s okay to talk to him every single day. You’re JUST friends.” “Phone sex isn’t real sex. It’s fine,” it whispers in my ear.

So now I have this thing going on with someone I thought I had completely exorcised from my system a few years back. We’re not fucking, and that’s how I justify staying in contact with the guy. But it’s just as bad, if not worse. I talk to him every day, and sometimes for hours on end.

I sometimes think that if Anthony were 15 years younger and just a little bit less… weird, he would be my soulmate. We would probably be married by now and have three kids. I told this to a friend in program recently and she said, “So if he were a COMPLETELY different person he would be your soulmate?”

Um, well, when you put it that way…

The thing is, I don’t even believe in soulmates. But my addiction does. It tells me that it doesn’t matter that insert name here is married, or that he is a sociopathic liar, or that he is 21 freaking years older than me and he’s a swinger. He (whomever “he” happens to be at the moment) is the ONE!

This is bullshit.

I care about Anthony probably more than I have ever cared about any man I have been romantically linked to. That’s why it’s so fucked up that I am using him for a high. The last time we talked Anthony (who knows I’m in a program for sex/love addiction) said something like, “I guess I’m flattered by all the attention you give me and how fixated you can get.”

“Don’t be, because it’s bullshit,” I replied. “You could be anyone. I have given this level of attention to men that I hated. Obsession is nothing to be flattered by. It’s all about me and has nothing to do with you.

“Once I stop contacting you, then you should be flattered. Because that will mean that I authentically care about you enough to stop using you.”

But it’s not that easy. I do authentically care enough about Anthony to stop using him. I genuinely care about him so much. But true affection isn’t enough to override addiction, obsession, and compulsion. No matter how much I care about anyone, I am still powerless over all this shit. I can’t stop on will power alone.

It’s now been just over 24 hours since I last had contact with Anthony. And to anyone who thinks love addiction isn’t a real thing, well fuck you, because I’m currently going through a physical withdrawal. I’m shaky, I have a headache, and I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Maybe some day in the very distant future I will be healthy enough to have an appropriate friendship with Anthony. I hope so, but I can’t think about that right now. I need to concentrate on filling the space in my life he took up with my higher power, and getting through one minute, one hour, one day at a time.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, Author: Landii

What Addicts Really Want

On kink and casual sex sites it’s common to see terms like “cock worship” and “pussy worship” bandied about. I never quite understood exactly what these terms meant, but my best guess is amazing head delivered by someone who cannot get enough of the receiver’s genitals. While not everyone on these sites is a sex addict, many of them are. I’ll go out on a limb and say I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone talk about worshipping genitals who wasn’t an active sex addict (sorry if I’m offending any non-addict genital worshipers who will undoubtably find their way here after googling “cock worship” and/ or “pussy worship”).

It’s interesting that worship, a term which literally means reverence or devotion to a deity i.e., a higher power, is used in this context. I picture religious pilgrims knelt down in prayer between a stranger’s legs. Why not say “I’m into cock adoration” or “pussy devotion,” or maybe, “I want to venerate your genitals”? These words all have the same meaning as “worship,” without the spiritual element.

I was never into worshiping sex parts, but this reminds me of other behavior I did have. When I was active in my love addiction, I spent most of my free time looking for that perfect partner. I thought once I found the man who would take care of me and make me feel whole, then I could start living my life. Having this man in my life seemed almost as essential as oxygen. Once I found him, then I could work on my career, my finances, my writing, and all my other hopes and dreams. I didn’t realize it then, but what I was really looking for was my Higher Power.

Similarly, on the BDSM sites I used to frequent I was quite literally looking for a man that I could turn my will and my life over to, which is basically Step 3. Except instead of making a decision to turn their will and life over to a dominant, 12-steppers turn it over to the care of a Higher Power.

This all seems so obvious to me now. The whole time I thought I was searching for an amazing lover I could lose myself in, who would take away all my pain; a boyfriend that would save me from myself and make life tolerable; and a dominant who would take over and make all my decisions for me; I was actually looking for a Higher Power.

I don’t presume to speak for all addicts, but it seems like this could be a major component in most addictions. We’re trying to fill a God-sized hole with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, men, whatever we can find. It’s an impossible task. There will never be enough of anything to fill that hole. Note: I don’t think Higher Power and God have to be synonymous. For me, they are, but I know many atheists and agnostics in 12 steps who put their faith in a non-god higher power—nature, for example.

The more work I do on my recovery, the greater my relationship with my Higher Power becomes. And with that relationship comes hope, peace, and serenity, and everything else I thought I would gain once I found the perfect man.