Forgiveness

“In the place where repentant sinners stand, even the completely righteous cannot stand.”   – The Talmud, Berachot 34b

I was captivated by the profoundness of that quote. We know what a difficult journey our lives have been, but when we do recover, G-d, or our Higher Power, forgives us.

Why then shouldn’t we forgive ourselves?

When I first entered SAA, my shame and guilt was so overwhelming I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. The weight of the past was heavy on my heart, I had hurt and damaged the people I loved the most, including myself. I had gone against everything I believed in, morally and ethically, as I was taught as a child. My acting out had reached dangerous levels and the urges, compulsions and memories were eating away at me.

The Promises say that “We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it”, but I was full of regret and couldn’t bring myself to face my past. All I wanted to do was to shut the door on it, after all, what would regurgitating my past achieve? Why go there, I’m in recovery now and there’s nothing I can do about the past.

Then, at one SAA meeting I decided to share about the agony I was going through. I had been beating myself up so bad I hadn’t slept for days and I was losing weight because I wasn’t eating either. Not until a fellow SAA member came up to me after the meeting did I have a breakthrough. He said “you have to forgive yourself; a life lived without forgiveness is a life of pain.” Everything I was hearing at the meetings about living in the present suddenly made sense; I was still living in the past!

It was a G-D SHOT. By acknowledging that I am not perfect and that the wounds inside me needed healing, I was able to see that who I had become (a sex addict) wasn’t who I truly am. The baggage of my past needed to be confronted and dealt with, and forgiveness was the key. I needed a Sponsor and I needed to start my Step work to face that baggage in a structured, healthy manner. I also had to deal with real feelings of anger and betrayal for all I had done. This was going to be a long process of change and making amends but I had to forgive myself if I was going to move forward. So I did just that, I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “I forgive you”. I cried and reached out to my brothers and sisters in program. They comforted me and reassured me that my life would get better.

It has gotten better. The Promises have come true by working the Steps and forgiving myself and today I have found who I truly am, a person of honor, integrity and trustworthiness.

“Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.” – Anonymous

The Illusion

I think it was Styx,the singing group from the 80′s who sang a song called, “The Grand Illusion”, I could be wrong…at least I’m not just making it up. The song reminded me of my addiction. How cunning, baffling and powerful it is and it truly is. This thought keeps running through my mind, that all that has ever been in my life, from the time I was molested until the time I got into program, for the most part, was an illusion. My life wasn’t real. It was held together with lies and deceit and the walls were paper thin. This was my “House of Cards” and it was about to come crumbling down.

In all of the years of addiction I lived an illusion that my world was happy, fun, secure, spiritual and, of all things, loving. These adjectives were filled with holes and the water was pouring out from all sides. Even if I had a momentary minute of clarity, it wasn’t long enough to get me to see that the disease was in control. I was king of my domain and I ran my kingdom with an iron fist. If I was happy, I’d act out. If I was frustrated, I’d act out. If I was angry, I’d act out. There were times when I wasn’t acting out… I was asleep. The illusion kept me safe, so I thought. Gee, it wasn’t like I frequented disease infested book stores every day or had unprotected sex because I was immune from aids. The illusion said I was bullet proof.

Then on Febuary 24, 2005 the earth shook violently and my house of cards came crumbling down. That moment of clarity that I needed to see I was in danger showed up. My addiction’s date with destiny had finally come. In my clarity on that day, I admitted I was a sex addict and I was in trouble. Big trouble. I called out for help. I made that first important step. This wasn’t a fleeting moment I was in. This was God’s hand guiding me to safety. I cried out that night and God had answered my prayers. The very next day at 7:00 AM I was at a therapist’s appointment to discuss my issue. The illusion ceased to exist. I was speaking honestly, encouraged by my words, I spoke about the horrors of the last thirty years. Fortunately for me the therapist I was speaking to was an expert in sex addiction and compulsive disorders. He pointed me in the direction I needed to go and that night I was at my first SAA meeting. The illusion I called my life had finally met with the reality I call life.

Seven years later, I stand tall and proud that the fruits of my labor have paid off in spades. No longer do I look over my shoulder afraid of my past. Today, I live in peace and harmony with joy and happiness and the promises of the promises keep coming true. I invite you to join me and walk this path that countless others have found serenity on so you can find your own piece of heaven here on earth. God bless you all on your journeys.

Consistency …The Flow of Recovery

In recovery we adjust to a new way of being. We shift our thought processes and actions. We, in effect, are born anew. I know for me it was a daunting task to even look at the scope of things that needed to change in my world, but as stated in “How it Works” , I had to be willing to go to any length for this change to occur. I had to open myself up to a new way of thinking, Positive Thinking. I had to allow myself the opportunity to interact with people in a whole new light, Letting Others Help Me, and finally, I had to be in action with these new found ideas. No longer was I allowed to isolate, make stuff up in my head or shirk responsibilities.

I was now going to be coached to become the best “Me” I could be. True, I would stumble along this new path, however, through the guidance of my Higher Power I learned to stretch and grow even when it was uncomfortable. The one word I would come to learn was, CONSISTENCY. Putting actions into play on a daily basis, day after day. This consistency became the electrical flow that powered my tools of recovery. It was a feeling deep inside my bones that made me vibrate with energy. My mind began to look and feel differently.

For the first time in my life I was accomplishing tasks in a rhythmic fashion. At first it was simple tasks of just getting up from bed at a specific time each day. Next, I would add to that, making myself read “Answers in the Heart” once I was awake. Soon I added more responsibilities like feeding myself a good breakfast to nourish my body. From this little effort I was able to capitalize on the great feelings of accomplishment that I had rolled into a consistent rhythm. Days turned into weeks and then to months and I had found myself building up evidence that I was once again becoming a responsible, accountable adult. Consistency, I was guided to understand, was definitely the “Flow of Recovery.”

Today, nearly seven years later, I still use it in my daily life which has blossomed into this magnificent, amazing world of love and joy. Even though I started out small and gradually increased the number of tasks I eventually did, I did it all, one moment at a time. This turned into one day at a time. This is the rhythm of recovery. Thank you Papa.

The Gift of Recovery

Recovery, it may not come in a pretty package with a sparkly bow but it sure is a gift.

Rigorously honest recovery is tough, it’s painful and it’s hard.  But it is still 100% better than active addiction. My recovery in SAA has not only shed light on sex addiction but it has given me a roadmap on a healthy way to lead my entire life.

I have the gift/terror of feeling feelings again.  For the most part it has been incredible to thaw out and feel emotions again, especially love, joy, fellowship, self-pride and gratitude. The terror comes in when I feel vulnerable, scared, angry, sad and disappointed. Those feelings were so overpowering in active addiction that I went straight to my “drug of choice”.  Are those feelings any less painful these days in recovery, not really but through the honest shares of my brothers and sisters in SAA I have learned two key things, “Feelings are not facts.” and “I am not a bad person trying to become good, I am a sick person working to become well.”

One of the gifts recovery has given me is the ability to choose.  After my brain calmed down and I had a little bit of time away from active addiction, the obsessions and compulsions were less, they were less not gone mind you.  After they were less, I was able to have a split second to use my tools and reach for help before I acted on whatever obsession or compulsion I was feeling.  And, if for whatever reason I chose to relapse, I have the amazing gift of knowing that in the rooms of SAA I am unconditionally loved and I am welcomed back as long as I simply have the desire to work on sexual sobriety.

Coasting…And Its Consequences

“It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcoholism (sexual addiction) is a subtle foe. We are not cured of alcoholism (sexual addiction). What we really have is a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition.”    AA Big Book, pg. 85

This is my third time in sexual addiction recovery. The first two times I came into the rooms I worked the steps and acheived around 1 year of sobriety and recovery before once again giving into the insanity of using sex, in some form or another, to medicate feelings of fear, resentment and abandonment. At the time I was confused and befuddled as to how I could’ve ended up “going back out” when I had made such a good start. Looking back now, it’s not hard at all for me to see what brought on both of my relapses…it’s what my sponsor likes to call “COASTING”. Coasting in recovery is when one stops working the Steps and, instead, uses the tools of the program (meetings, phone calls, etc.)  to keep themselves sober. For me, this happened at two very common places in the Steps..step 4 and step 9. Upon arriving at these two steps I paused rather than courageously moving forward and doing the work assigned in them. I was terrified of taking a “…fearless and moral inventory” of myself, and I was even more terrified at the idea of facing those I had harmed in the past and taking responsibility for my actions. The problem with coasting is it’s a subtle lie from a cunning, baffling and powerful addiction. At some point in my program I was willing to believe that I could take a rest from working the steps and not lose ground or relapse. I had all kinds of wonderful rationalizations for this belief…”I’ve worked very hard, I deserve a good rest from all this recovery work”; “It’s no problem, I’ll just attend a few more meetings and make more phone calls over the next few weeks”; or, my favorite, “I feel so much better, I’m definitely strong enough to handle a break from the work”. I can attest from my own bitter experience that the relapse the AA Big Book assures us will occur is more terrible, more debilitating, more heartbreaking than anything we can imagine. Boundaries I never thought I’d cross, acting out behaviors I never thought I would participate in quickly took hold, crushing my spirit spirit and stealing anything and everything good about my life. It is said that working the program of recovery is like walking up a down escalator…you have to keep a certain pace just to stay where you are and have to exert some effort to actually move forward. When we coast the escalator actually propels us backwards whether we notice or not. Soon we find ourselves in trouble and wonder what happened. Usually it’s that we fell victim to the belief that we can ever rest on our laurels and be safe…i.e., coasting.

Fear

“Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” - Japanese Proverb

During addiction my biggest fear was getting caught. Secrecy and lying was paramount to keeping my addict alive so I could get to my next high. The stresses and fears of my double life were brought to the surface and manifested themselves in many ways: health issues, nightmares, escapist behaviours such as procrastination, indecision or the tendency to leap into or out of situations without a plan just to get the whole thing over with.

After hitting bottom and coming into recovery, I soon began facing all the fears I had suppressed and medicated through acting out. My Addict’s survival skills  were now becoming core survival fears.

What if I continue to hurt myself or the people I love?

How will I live with myself if I make the wrong choices and relapse?

Where do I get the skills to deal with the confusion and seemingly overwhelming process of recovery?

Will I make it through today?

These and other questions could have paralyzed me and kept me lingering in a stagnant situation or painful condition. I learned that change is scary, but necessary. If I wanted to be healthy I had to embrace the transformation from addictive, compulsive, obsessive behavior to a manner of living filled with honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. But how?

The biggest fear I had to face was myself. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t come to terms with who I had become. I couldn’t accept the damage I had done to others and myself. I couldn’t forgive myself. I was afraid of pain and feared the unknown. I feared change.

The answer was SAA of course. Under the guidance of my Sponsor I have slowly faced my fears one day or one moment at a time. Sometimes with some hand-holding and often with tears but always with gentleness and compassion. That’s how the 12 Steps work.

Fear is still present in my life, but as I develop my self-esteem and put more trust in my Higher Power it becomes more apparent that I truly have nothing to fear. I’m only limited by my willingness to change.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
- Eleanor Roosevelt

Meetings…Why do I need to go ?

Meetings. Meetings. Meetings That’s all I hear about. Meetings, meetings, meetings. In the beginning of my recovery I was a scared rabbit just to attend. Who were these people. They’ve got to be psychos, why else would they be here??? Well, I know right off the bat I’m not like them. I just like sex. So what, I can’t enjoy masturbating in public if I feel like it. I don’t understand what the hoopla is all about. I’m in a booth all alone. No one will recognize me. Just because I have a specialty license plate doesn’t mean people pay attention to the cars in the parking lots. Boy was I delusional. So there I was at my first meeting. Listening like I was told to by my therapist. As I sat there, I felt uncomfortable being there, then the people started to share. At first, I was comparing myself to them as they spoke and I found that I related to what was being shared. I started listening with both ears and I heard bits and pieces of my life being shared right in front of me. I started to feel less of an outsider and more and more like I had found a home. How could that be…I thought I was terminally unique. I genuinely felt better after being at that first meeting.

Afterwards, the members introduced themselves to me and suggested that if I was serious about wanting recovery and changing my life, then I better commit to coming to at least a meeting a week. Then someone chimed in and suggested that I go to as many meetings as I could, 90 meetings in 90 days. I swallowed hard when that was said and asked what was the big deal about meetings. One old timer shared that if you attend one meeting a week all you’ll do is survive. If I went to two meetings a week then I would grow and if I attended three or more meetings a week then I would thrive. I chose the thrive concept and never looked back. I was looking at my life at that point and all I had was chaos and pain, however, if I wanted to have the happiness and joy that I saw in those people then I needed to make some drastic changes.

Meetings are the energy I need each week to recharge my life batteries. I’ve learned so much about myself, my disease, about people and relationships that I never knew existed while I was in my addiction. I learned to trust others, find joy in others and how to relate to others who suffered from the same disease as I had. These are people I’ve come to love, appreciate, support and just have fun with. The meetings became my focal point for healthy living. I learned to really listen to others and pull out the needed energy to recharge my batteries and leave the rest that I didn’t need. I learned how not to be judgemental and to relate to the topics at hand that we would discuss. Basically I learned how to live a joyful, wondrous, amazing life, all from going to meetings.

To date, I don’t know how many I’ve attended, but I can say, “I’ve never left a meeting feeling worse than when I arrived.” I encourage all my fellows to attend as many meetings as is necessary to keep a healthy, functional recovery intact and then attend one more for good measure. Be brave, be strong and keep coming back.

Promises Promises

“The physics of building – or rebuilding – trust is simple: Trust grows as we generate data that demonstrates trustworthiness. Trust will never exceed the cumulative data to date.”
- Joseph Grenny

How often have we made a promise to ourselves saying, “this is the last time! I’m never going to do this again”, only to be acting out the very next day?

After years of telling myself not to to on Internet Porn sites my disease had progressed to the depths of despair and my life was completely unmanageable. I was acting out during all hour of the day, including working hours, and all hours of the night. I neglected my job and almost lost my business, I neglected my wife and kids and almost lost them, and I neglected myself and almost lost my life.
Every time I descended into a darker place in my addiction, I made another promise I couldn’t keep. This disease is cunning, baffling and powerful.

After getting caught, I found SAA and started the process of rebuilding. Integrity could only be attained by my actions. Apologies and promises were empty, hollow words. ONLY by working the program could I show that there was substance to my words. Slowly I made progress.
The key was rigorous honesty, using as many tools and putting as many boundaries in place as necessary to stay sober. It was hard, emotional and sometimes painful work.

To put it simply, ACTIONS speak louder than words.

Because of SAA, the support of its members and my Higher Power, today I am a person of integrity and I am trustworthy once again.

Keep Coming Back

Keep Coming Back

Today is a new day. The sun rose. The winds of freedom were blowing and I was once again writing on Recovery Monologue. The quote “Keep coming back” is the message I feel closest to today. Even though the original blog was dismantled and blown across cyberspace into a million pieces. I just said, “Okay we can rebuild this and with safeguards that weren’t in place in it’s first life. People kept supporting me to “Keep moving forward. Fight for it. Just keep the flame alive.” So with all the support from everyone, we are back. And we’ll keep coming back just like I do with my recovery. If God was done with me and didn’t want me to breathe a second life into RM, then I would never had found GoDaddy.com or this blog. But I kept my faith in my Higher Power and waited patiently for the answers to come and here we are. A blessing to be sure.

Like one sister in group always says, “Keep coming back.” I love her for that steadfastness she has to program. She empowers me everytime she spells it out for all of us to hear. God I love her. Thank you. So for me I’ll keep coming back to get empowered by all the incredible love and support I get from my program, the group and fellowship. Thank you all for the support you have given to Recovery Monologue and please KEEP COMING BACK so we can once again be a light to those still in the darkness of addiction and give hope that the miracle still exists for those who seek it…God bless you all on your journeys.

You Have To Give It Away To Keep It

My biggest fear was being alone.  In my active addiction, I made my fears come true.  Through my acting out and my addictive behaviors, I pushed people away and isolated and in the end I was alone.  If I was not alone actually isolating, I was alone surrounded by people because no one really knew who I was anymore.  Today I am not alone.  Even when I am by myself, I am not alone; I have my Higher Power by my side.  Today as a result of working this program I am not afraid anymore.  I am grateful for this gift that I have been given from my Higher Power and my sponsor and from many others in the fellowship who have been there for me over my journey so far.  Without them I don’t know where I would be right now.  But what I do know is what they knew: that in this program, “you have to give it away to keep it.”  They had to give it to me so that they could keep it and I need to pass it on so that I can keep it.  I need to give back what was so freely given to me.  Some newcomers wonder why I might do it and some feel that they might be a bother, however, they have no idea how much they are helping me.  They are probably helping me more than I am helping them.  They are helping me stay sober one more day.  When I work with a newcomer I ask for God’s assistance and ask Him to work through me and allow me to provide whatever He feels I need to provide.    I am there to listen and to carry the message of the fellowship and to help another addict.  In the end, if two addicts stay sober one more day, then we are successful and that is a miracle and for that I am grateful and for that I will continue to work with others as much as I can.