26 February 2014

Please don't say the "S" word!

You wanna talk about what?

Things have been going well with Pete since his last relapse.  He works hard at recovery.  He sees his therapist- who is really in tune with sex addicts.  He attends meetings at least twice a week.  He makes daily phone calls to his buddies to “stay current.”  (Not exactly sure what that means…)

We haven’t quite got back to the level of emotional connection that we were before the relapse, but we are closing the gap.  Unfortunately this time of year is demanding for him at work and we haven’t had the quality time I need for any kind of intimacy.

But last night he approached me and said he wanted to talk about sex. He’s been asking for better communication about sex and I’ve been trying. But honestly I’m terrible about it.  I hate talking about it.  It is all so complicated in my brain and I’m trying to sort through it all. 

When he brought it up last night something happened inside me.  A physiological response.  A trigger.  I listened to him share his frustrations and let him talk.  I choked out an


He started to back-pedal a little bit, probably because once he said it he realized it wasn’t “right”. But it was honest, and he was trying to communicate.

But my adrenaline kicked in. It was fight or flight and this time it was flight. I couldn’t get away from him fast enough.  I locked myself in the bathroom and lied down on the floor.  Breathe in, breathe out.  I was reasonably calm.  I wasn’t sobbing or slapping walls. But something inside me was saying

“Get AWAY from him. He is not safe.  He is a threat. He will hurt you.” 

Scabs told me once that triggers can be lies. And this one was. I was in full-out trauma mode.  My instincts were shooting flares. 

It sucks when he brings up sex. I really wish he wouldn’t.  I have sex when I feel safe having sex. End of discussion.  And maybe it was insensitive of him to mention it.  But he’s not what he used to be, and yet I’m responding to the way he used to be.  I’m conditioned.  

I think the ultimate goal is that someday he can bring up sex and I won’t have a meltdown.  Someday he will be able to communicate his feelings (right or wrong) and I won’t personalize them.  Someday I won’t feel massive anxiety about how I’m handling our sexual relationship.  Someday.

Despite the setback last night, and the way my body told me that my husband was poison, I feel optimistic today.  I see it for what it is.  I see the trigger. I see the lie.  He isn’t totally safe, and he hasn’t completely earned my trust.  Be he isn’t poison anymore.  And I can call out my feelings and fears- I can label them for what they are. Feelings and fears.  Not facts.  Not reality.  I can process them on the bathroom floor if I need to.  And then I can tell myself truths. 

I am okay where I am. 
I am enough. 
His frustrations aren’t about me.
I can hear him. 

I am enough.   

15 February 2014

Step 7 - Humility

Humbly ask God to remove my shortcomings. 

We've been reading the chronicles of Narnia with our kids for the last couple years and recently finished The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  There is a scene in that book that just pierced me.  The symbolism is powerful and I really couldn't think of a better way to explain Step 7.  So I'm just going to share the passage here.  [It will be a condensed version but it will still be long.]

For background- Eustace is the boy cousin of Edmund and Lucy Pevensie. He is obnoxious, selfish and arrogant.  He ends up being transported to Narnia with his cousins and they find themselves on board a ship.  The ship makes landfall on an enchanted island, where Eustace drinks from a pond and is transformed into a dragon.  As a dragon, he is miserable and lonely, and his heart is softened and changed.  He describes to Edmund being transformed back into a boy.

"I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected; a huge lion.  I shut my eyes tight.  But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it." 

"You mean it spoke?"

"I don't know. I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And so I followed it.  And it led me a long way into the mountains where there was a garden and a well.  The water was clear and I thought I could bathe in it.  But the lion told me I must undress first. I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over.  I scratched deeper and my whole skin started peeling off beautifully.  I stepped out of it and I could see it there lying beside me, looking rather nasty.  It was a most lovely feeling.  

But just as I was going to put my feet into the water I looked down and saw that they are all hard and rough and wrinkled and skaly just as they had before.  So I scratched and tore again and this peeled off beautifully and out I stepped.  

Well exactly the same thing happened again. So I scratched away for the third time. But I knew it had been no good.  Then the lion said 

'You will have to let me undress you.' 

I was afraid of his claws, but I was desperate so I just lay flat down on my back and let him do it.  The very first tear was so deep I though it had gone right to my heart.  And when he began pulling the skin off it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt.  The only thing that made me able to bear it was the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off.  

Well he peeled the beastly stuff right off- just as I thought I had done.  And there I was, smooth and soft.  Then he caught hold of me and threw me into the water.  It smarted like anything but only for a moment.  After that it became perfectly delicious.  And then I saw that I'd turned into a boy again. 

What do you think it was?" 

"I think you've seen Aslan," said Edmund.  

"Aslan! I've heard that name mentioned several times.  I hated it.  But I was hating everything then.  And by the way, I'd like to apologize. I'm afraid I've been pretty beastly.  

But who is Aslan? Do you know him? 

"He is the great lion, the son of the Emperor. He saved me."

Change can be excruciating.  There is a quote from Step 7 that I love.

"We begin to notice that behavior.  We bump into it, over and over again. We begin to feel the pain from that behavior, the helplessness, the hopelessness, our own inability to change.  And we wonder how things will or can ever be any different."

I think that's what Eustace went through as the dragon. Finally he realized how horrible he had been, and yet now he was totally helpless to do anything about it.  I think for many addicts when they hit rock bottom and realize their powerlessness, they feel like Eustace.  It is totally obvious that they can't change on their own.

But for me, I hadn't been totally horrible, it wasn't so obvious that I even NEEDED to change.  But Steps 4-6 filled me with awareness of my own behaviors that were making me miserable and sabotaging my relationships.  And with a little humility I realized that I wanted to change.  Becoming refined and feeling redemption is precipitated by pain and suffering, the only way is through. But ultimately I'm looking for some joy and "delicious" relief.

11 February 2014

Nobody but Myself

In Honor of Black History Month

Everywhere we turn people have answers.  Aren't we all so good at answers for other people?

I hope whenever someone reads something here, they read it through the lens of this quote.  These are my experiences, thoughts and conclusions.  They belong to me.  They ARE me.

Find yourself.

Be brave.  Have the courage to answer your own questions.

09 February 2014

Step 6 - Change of Heart


"This is not a do-it-ourselves program.  We are not abdicating self-responsibility, but we are learning to trust God, trust the process, and trust ourselves.  When it is time to change, we will become changed.  We will receive the power, help, and ability to do that.  For now, our part is becoming ready to let go." 
- Melody Beattie


My dad majored in English in college.  He was a high ranking officer in the grammar police force.  As kids he would pay us a quarter if we used an impressive vocabulary word in appropriate context.  In junior high and high school I would take my essays to him for proof-reading.  He would pull out his red pen and go to town, making all kinds of marks and corrections and questions.  I would walk away and look at my paper, all messy and chaotic and feel so discouraged.  I wrote like a 14 year old, and not a bad one, but I felt like he expected college level academics from me.  I would make the corrections and take it back to him and he would mark it up again.  He didn’t mean to, but he was creating a perfectionist.  A belief gradually settled into my soul, that I could always do better.  I don’t mean a belief in the moral sense of the word, but rather an idea that takes hold in us.  Not all beliefs are noble, in fact many are lies.  Eventually I quit asking my dad to proof-read my papers. 

In the meantime I came to view God like my dad.  Each time I came to him, I was always met with the response “You can do better.  You can always do better.” When I went to church I would come home feeling like that messy, marked-up essay.  Work on this, develop that more, improve here, work harder there.  This left me feeling discouraged in my heart, but motivated in my head.  I WILL improve. I WILL work harder. DO more. 

So I always resented it when people told me I was doing my best.  That’s a lie, I would think. I can always do better.  Which is true, right? I COULD be a little more patient with my kids.  I SHOULD spend less time on social media.  I OUGHT to be more kind and compassionate.  It was all on me.  DO more.  So I would.  If criticism was my vice, I gave it up for lent.  Anything that kept me from reaching my potential became a self-improvement project.

When I began step 6 someone in my group suggested this talk/article.  From the minute I heard the following question I knew I was going to learn something life changing. 

“I know that I have to do my part and then Jesus makes up the difference and fills the gap that stands between my part and perfection. But who fills the gap that stands between where I am now and my part?”

Step 6 is all about grace.  But perfectionists don’t buy into grace.  I will fix it. I will fix ME.  I will DO whatever it takes until I am polished and perfect.   

But the truth, the REAL belief, is that I AM a rough draft.  And I am still enough. 

My weaknesses are many and my Step 4/5 brought a painful awareness of my shortcomings.  But it was time to back off the DOING.  It was a new heart I wanted, not just a set of new behaviors.  

"When you choose to follow Christ, you choose to be changed.  The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature." 
- Thomas S. Monson

04 February 2014

Keep Calm and 12-STEP On

POST EDIT: I am currently not reading other WoPA blogs for reasons I'll have to explain later.  But it came to my attention that the 12 steps have been a theme of late in the WoPA blog world.  I just want to be absolutely clear that this post was written with COMPLETE unawareness of this theme.  It is just what happened (seemingly randomly) in my life lately.  Anyway- just another disclaimer. 

My old sponsor that I shared my Step 4 with a long time ago texted me a couple weeks ago and asked if we could get together.  I didn’t think much of it, and invited her over.  I hadn’t seen in her in months, my group meeting attendance has waned big time and it seems like the times I go she isn’t there either.  So she came, and we talked for three hours. It was really nice, she lives and breathes recovery and vulnerability. She is honest and wise.  She asked me about how my recovery work was going and I said that I felt like I’d made good progress but I’d stalled out at Step 8/9 and never “finished” the 12 steps.  She encouraged me to get back to it and talked me through some fears and excuses. 

I still didn’t really think a lot of it. But the next morning I was dealing with some hard feelings related to something else, and all of the sudden all my recovery awareness and steps came flooding back to me.  And it felt both familiar and peaceful, and a little nagging at the same time.  The 12 steps have done so much for me, and I’ve let them slip out of my life.  Self-awareness is really hard and painful, but it is also the absolute key to my inner peace and self-confidence.  Self-awareness is like a window into grace and the doorway to a clear conscience.  Taking responsibility for the way I contribute to any misery and frustration in my life is the best way for me to get out from under said frustration.  Own my stuff, surrender the rest.  Relinquish my efforts to control outcomes and perceptions, let go of pride and love people. 

I had a good talk with my therapist about the ways I try to control things in my life and he gave me some good insights.  Sometimes it’s easier to forget my codependency, to live in everyone else’s behaviors and victimize or criticize.  But it’s the way I used to live and I don’t want to be that person anymore. 

It’s always been easy for me to be complacent when Pete is doing well.  But I feel like I've made progress surrendering him to God.  But there are dozens of other relationships in my life that would benefit from the kind of acceptance and recovery that I’ve worked so hard to apply to my marriage.  

Here I go again.  

01 February 2014

Camp Time & Story Time

Sooooo it's time for another Camp Scabs- or three!

There will be two sessions in Salt Lake City in March - see here:

I know those two are filling up fast, and I have a personal connection to the Island Park camp so I'm going to share a little bit about that one.

I have a dear friend who I shared my story with about a year ago.  She has been an amazing support.  I've only ever told two other "real life" friends and neither have been as compassionate, proactive and accepting as this friend.  She has educated herself so she could better understand, she has taken up the cause in her own community and she has felt strongly that there needs to be a camp in Island Park. She won't be attending camp but she has pulled some strings to make it more affordable and just really amazing.

It's close to Rexburg, about an hour away and I know that some of you dear WoPA are from eastern Idaho. It's about four hours from Salt Lake (in case either of those weekends don't work out) and five hours from Boise. It will be on Thursday April 10 to Saturday the 12th.

Please come. Read more about what we do at camp here and here.  If you are interested or have any questions email me hisstrugglemystruggle @ gmail dot com


I have a fabulously inspiring and proactive WoPA friend who has started a blog of sharing stories.  If you would be willing to write your story, or if you would just like to read others, go here.