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party like it’s 1999…hmm maybe not May 28, 2010

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Day 50/51 of sobriety

I just bought a plane ticket to go to my good friend Tommy’s* engagement party.  Tommy is a good friend from college who has always been there for me.  Another thing about Tommy is that his personality in college was akin to James Belushi’s character in Animal House and so were all of our other roommates.  So his  engagement party may not be the best place for a recovering sex and love addict. 

In recovery everything feels like it’s happening for the first time, because when you are sober you interact with the world in a completely new way.  I am constantly trying to make sure that I am doing “contrary action.”  If you are not familiar with 12 step speak, that means I am constantly going against what has been my addict nature to do.  For example, if I am in a group of men at a party, I have to go against my nature and NOT make an off-color joke that draws attention to me in a sexual way.  This can be exhausting, and frustrating, and a daily staple of recovery.  But a necessity if I want to change patterns of behavior that have been in place for decades.  And the prospect of going this on a trip with old college friends is frightening!

There is an inevitable regression when you hang out with people from your past, especially under the guise of a party.  You want to relive all of the fun memories, and go through all of your exploits together.  And if you are in controlled setting, you let loose, and act as if you are 21 again.  This is an easy task for my friends and I, partially because I think all of my friends are addicts NOT in recovery. 

This trip is going to be my greatest challenge thus far.  But I don’t want to live my life in a recovery bubble.  Life does not exist in my strict program schedule, it exists in using the tools I learn to live the life that I want, and that means seeing where old people fit into my new life.  I know that some people will be lost, but those losses are part of the process.  The relationships that you lose are toxic in some way, and I have realized it is okay to say goodbye to those people.  I am not saying that I am going to sever ties, but I am considering this a reconnaissance mission and a test.  Tommy has a cousin, Jason, who is someone I have acted out with on several occasions.  And he is still unattached.  He pursues anything that moves, and I have been on the other end of his scope many a time.  I have resisted him before, and I have also succumbed.  He has beautiful blue eyes, dark hair, he can make you laugh so hard you cry, and can charm the pants off of you – he at times was my kryptonite.  And he is why I am having reservations about this trip.  But I don’t want my disease to affect me being there to celebrate a new chapter in Tommy’s life.  I want to be there and be a part of that.

After a great trip to my parent’s house, and not having acted-out even when triggered, I know I am stronger in my recovery than I give myself credit for, but I am not stupid.  I have already set up allies on my trip to Tommy’s.  I have clued in a few of my friends that I am no longer drinking, and not to give me a hard time about it.  I have also made sure that I have access to meetings via phone or online when I am traveling.  And although I bought my ticket already, I am going to let myself have the option of not going if I really feel that I am not ready, rather than feel obligated.  So AMEN for travelers insurance!  And for me this is growth, because the addict still lies within, and I have no preconceived notions that I am healed because of my little victories here and there.  They just let me know that I am on the right path. 

Partying like it’s 1999 is no longer an option, but enjoying the party in 2010 is still a possibility.  There is no drinking or acting out, but there is real joy, and that is more appealing to me than getting drunk and making bad decisions.  And thank God for that.

*All names and places have been changed to maintain anonymity, but it’s annoying to me to have just letters for people’s names, so I assign people names I think they should have 🙂

paging dr. feelgood May 25, 2010

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Day 47/48 of sobriety

Being sick sucks.  I feel awful.  After coming back from a very successful visit with the family, I can’t even enjoy my victory.  I was not triggered at all, when I was at home.  I didn’t let myself get dragged into family drama.  I didn’t break my bottom lines.  I didn’t drink, even when tempted.  I felt joy when my cousin got married.  I was happy for him, even though there was a part of me that was envious of his marriage.  I laughed and cried, in happiness, and in fear.  The fear of maybe never experiencing that beautiful event, was sad, but at the same time I was happy for someone I loved.  I let myself be in THAT moment without escaping, and it was amazing.

But now in THIS moment I am sick, and can’t enjoy anything.  I hate being alone when I feel sick.  No one to take care of me.  Not that I ever had anyone to baby me when I was growing up, but for some reason I always feel more alone when I am sick.   I want someone to bring me juice and make my tea.  But as I type this I realize that I don’t NEED someone to take care of me.  The addict in me NEEDS someone to be here.  So I choose to be still, and not reach out to a to anyone, and take care of myself.  I will find strength in that today.

I will remind myself of the victory over this weekend.  And the amazing gift of my mother’s understanding and support.  This weekend for the first time in my life, I felt protected and cherished by her.  When I had my phone meeting* and people kept trying to interrupt me, she told them I was on an “important conference call.”  She has changed, and her support makes me feel strong in my recovery, because I am learning to trust her like I have never let myself do in the past.  Learning vulnerability is a gift of this program, and I am thankful to receive it.  If nothing else, that is making me feel better.

*SLAA has phone meetings you can call into to, when you are too far from a live meeting.

the mile high club May 22, 2010

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Day 44 of sobriety

I am posting from 35,000 feet in the air.  The marvels of modern technology can be dumbfounding.  WiFi in flight is amazing.  Although I have been getting strange looks from a man two seats away as he saw the words “Diary of a Sex and Love Addict” flash across my computer screen.  I wonder if he has finally looked away because he sees that I am writing about him.

Regardless if he sees my face or sees what I am typing, I am still Anonymous Smith sitting next to him.  It is astonishing to me that our society has led us to isolate in a crowd of people.  I used to love meeting people on the plane, but I have noticed in the past few years that people are less willing to make small talk with strangers inflight.  I don’t know if it is fear of terrorists or fear of H1N1 that has led us to be comfortable living parallel lives with people near us without intersection.

But at the same time I am at fault because I am isolating into my computer, so I guess I am as much to blame as they are.

I am on my way “home” for the first time since I have started recovery.  Home being my parents house.  My therapist says that I shouldn’t call it “home” anymore, because it isn’t, and when I identify it as such there is a sense of regression that I attach to being there.  I think she is right.  I am definitely afraid to go back, since my family is the most triggering thing in my life.  The drama that they bring can always set me off.  I am not concerned about acting out sexually, but I am scared that I will not be strong enough to abstain from drinking.  Because if anything can drive me to drink it is my family.  But even with all their faults, they can be such the source of so much joy and laughter.

I am praying that this weekend will be a testament to the latter.  I am trying to go into this experience without expectations.  I am not going to expect them to be drama.  I am not going to expect them to be the perfect shiny happy family either.  I am bringing my program with me.  And for this day I am not going to act out no matter what my family may throw my way.  I am choosing to live differently and I hope that through interacting with me, they will see that, and act accordingly.

I am not without allies when I go home.  I have told my mother about my program, and everything that recovery entails for me.  And for the first time in 30 years she has actually shown up for me.  She is being the mother that I have always wanted and I am eternally grateful to God for that.  Because I have been praying for this so wholeheartedly that it can be nothing else.  In past every time I have gone to her, I have been rejected over and over again.  Ten years ago when I told her that I was raped when I was in highschool and I needed help, the first thing she told me was that it was my fault that I was depressed because I didn’t ask for help sooner.  Not exactly what you want to hear, but we move on.  I am letting that go because the person that is before me now is completely changed.

And if I believe that an addict can change, so can my mother.

Another day another dollar May 21, 2010

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Day 43/44 of sobriety

Sometimes it is so hard coming to work.  Sitting in an office, smiling politely to co-workers, going about my business as if nothing is different about my day,  this can be excruciating to a recovering addict.  No one knowing the internal struggles going on inside my head.  I feel isolated, and completely alone, especially working in a corporate office, where propriety and decorum are paramount.  In the past this disease has caused me to break down at my desk, sobbing in despair.  Thankfully I work for two amazing bosses, who do not pry, but will give me amazing support regardless of what I am going through.  They take the time to check in with me, as they run a multi-million dollar company.  And for that I am eternally grateful.

I can not share this part with everyone.  When people hear the words “sex and love addict” there is this deviant connotation to the addiction.  The other spectrum of people find it intriguing and would love to find out about the freak that lies within and entice me to act out.  And as I learn more of my addiction I see that for most of my life I have been public about everything, too public.  I relished the scores of hot guys that I associated with, and everything that went along with them.  Now I have to learn how to be private, not secretive, which is completely foreign to me.  Private meaning, I don’t have to invite everyone into my recovery.  Part of me always wants to tell everyone, to prove to myself that the people in my life will reject me.  But for now, privacy is key.  God is teaching me patience, and to be still to take the power away from the self-defeating addict that lies within me.

In the beginning… May 19, 2010

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Day 42 of sobriety

So not REALLY the beginning.  I still can’t believe that I have been able to stay sober for that long.  In sex and love addiction, sobriety is the length of time that you are not participating in your self-assigned bottom line behaviors.  (These are all subject to change as you grow in the program)

My bottom lines are:

  1. No sex until I am married
  2. No masturbation
  3. For the first 90 days of sobriety I am not allowed to go to bars or parties where the primary activity is drinking
  4. No drinking for the first 90 days
  5. If I catch myself fantasizing about a guy I have to redirect my thoughts instead of letting myself get lost in the fantasy.
  6. No intriguing with men that can be potential enablers to my addiction.

These are strict by the program standards, but they are necessary for me to stay clean.  I am also in the process of doing 90 meetings in 90 days, which has been my saving grace for the last forty-two days.  Forcing myself daily to examine my life under a magnifying glass, but also doing it with the support of people suffering from the same affliction.

Many people have a misconception about S programs.  People think that they are filled with sexual deviants and disgusting people, grouped in a room so that they can meet and cavort with each other.  The complete opposite of that is true.  Everyone that I have encountered in the rooms is truly seeking sobriety.   They are mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, and sisters, who are meeting in secret to recover from an addiction that has ruined their life in so many ways.  And I can honestly say that as a group they genuinely want to heal from this disease, and care enough about people to go through this rigorous painful process of recovery so that they can live in truth.

I know that is true for me.  I have this amazing life that I have not been able to enjoy because I am haunted by my past,  the person I have become in my addiction, and the perfectionist in me that sees myself as not worthy.  Thankfully I have been blessed by a supportive group of friends that have encouraged me in my recovery.  I refuse to give up on my life.  I want to live in my present, instead of my past.  And with each day of sobriety, I will remind myself that life is long, and most of my story has not yet been written.