A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Update On My Progress

It's a moody gray day today, not too hot and a fair amount of rain.  I heard there might be a couple of tornadoes touching down somewhere in this state.  No thunder and lightning here.  Very quiet and peaceful.  I began my day as I usually do, taking my daytime medications, sending out a prayer for guidance for the day from the mysterious Higher Power, asking for help with what I need help with this day, reading from several daily readers and eating some breakfast.  A few hours later I visited a friend who is also following the way of life suggested by the Twelve Steps.

Last year she was my temporary sponsor for a few months before I went into my breakdown in the Fall.  I awkwardly got through most of the first five Steps.  The Fifth Step is where you tell your life story to someone you trust revealing very honestly what both your strengths and your weaknesses were during your lifetime.  The Fourth Step is where you find out exactly what your strengths and weaknesses were and are by doing a "moral inventory."  All this work is possible after you've done the first three Steps:  admit that you are powerless over your addiction, come to believe in some Higher Power and commit to staying open to the guidance of that Higher Power in your day to day existence.

About fourteen months ago I returned to a Twelve Step meeting after a long absence and committed to going to it for six months.  I had wanted to go to an Al-Anon meeting but I couldn't find any close enough to me and this AA meeting was right in my town.  So each Friday when each person would introduce themselves or reacquaint themselves with everyone there that night, I would say -- "Hello, I'm Kate, a codependent addict in recovery."  Sometimes I would say a codependent/love addict in recovery which was a truer description of me, for what else could I be, a person who had put her life in danger to stay in a very addicted relationship with another addict?

I picked up on labeling myself a "love addict" sometime in the last couple of years.  I found a group called Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous and I bought their primary text and read some of it.  I learned of a word they use in the meetings that I strongly identified with: anorexic, not about food, but about sex, emotions and social activity.  There are people like me who have been hurt and who have not been in a romantic relationship for decades.  Not only not in a relationship, but also very reclusive.  Here are eight questions that I answered yes to in an SLAA pamphlet:

Do you choose unavailable people to have affairs/relationships with?
Have you noticed that you stay in a relationship which you know is not good for you?
Do you notice that you are mostly alone?
Do you prefer to masturbate rather than have sex?
Do you yearn to achieve some dream or career but find that somehow you never quite seem ready to pursue it?
Do you seem to have acquaintances rather than close friendships?
Are you always 'busy' doing something (usually alone)?
Do you have an obvious history of being alone and not in a significant relationship?

The first daily reader I read each day is called Answers in the Heart: Daily Meditations for Men and Women Recovering from Sex Addiction.  It's a book that has a lot of wisdom in it not only for sex addicts, but for love addicts and I get guidance and comfort from reading it aloud to myself.  I've also bought audio recordings of SLAA meetings and some of them are really great.  I have a lot of respect for the men and women committing to their recovery programs and speaking openly about what they've learned from their experiences.  There's also a phone number you can call called "The Inspiration Line" (215-574-2120) where every couple of days there's a new message from a sex and love addict in recovery that lasts 3-5 minutes and gives you the option to leave a message in return.  I've called that number three or four times and left a message once.  It's a great idea and helped me.

I found by searching online that there are three SLAA meetings about an hour and a half away from me.  I've set a short term goal to go to one of those meetings by the end of this month.  If I can get the courage up to walk into the meeting room and stay there for an hour and a half, I would be quite proud of myself.  I did find an Al-Anon meeting forty minutes away that I've been going to once a week for the last two weeks.  First challenge: go to meetings each week and get phone numbers/email addresses.  Second challenge:  use the phone and reach out to members of the group.  Third challenge:  Ask someone to be my sponsor.

I might seek out two sponsors, one for Al-Anon and one for SLAA.  At SLAA I would have to choose a woman who also suffers from sexual/emotional/social anorexia and has at least a year of sobriety.  There is a woman in the Al-Anon group who seems very wise.  I did get her number and asked her if I could call this week.  Tomorrow I've committed to giving her a call.  It sounds so simple, giving someone a call, but for me it is hard.  Like many addicts I have trouble reaching for help and trouble with taking on responsibility for helping both myself and others in recovery.  I think I'm ready now.

People are teachers if you let them and now I want to let them teach me.  It means taking a humble position without losing my integrity.  It means really listening and respecting another's life experiences.  It means offering support in return.  It means learning about how to be in a mature relationship with another human being.  I want that.  After my recent breakdown when I cut off contact with people, I was relieved initially to be alone again.  I still felt a strong connection to the Higher Power and despite the psychosis, still felt a lot of happiness compared to the horror of my first breakdowns.  I remember saying that I didn't need anyone; all I needed was the Higher Power.  For a time, while I healed, that was true.  It is not true anymore.

So, like a child, I have to learn to walk in the company of others and love them and myself.  The irony is that I really respond to people.  I see right away what's good about them and love to appreciate that goodness.  The problem has not been so much with the people in my life, which has not been a lot of people, but with myself.  That is a relief because while I can't change others, I can change myself.  This awareness gives meaning to my life.

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