You Aren't As Alone As You Feel (Dear Me)

This is an excerpt from the end of my self-help book. It's a letter I wrote myself three years after disclosure. It took me a long time to fully heal from the Relational Trauma I went through with Devin. I would've healed sooner had I listened to those around me. Had I not been so bullheaded. Please don't be like me. 





Dear Me,

            I’m sorry you just found about Devin’s online affair.  I'm sorry it wasn't just porn. But I’m glad you found that backbone of yours again because unfortunately you’re going to need it again soon. Please listen to your guardian angel when she says Devin is a sex addict because he is, I’m so sorry. Elsie your world is about to be turned upside down but know you can handle it, you’ve been through some tough shit in your life but now is the time to stand strong and focus on you and your children. Listen to your guardian angel, she’s been put in your life for a reason and won't be here long. She is telling you about S-Anon for a reason. Every fiber of your being wants to focus on Devin and his behaviors, his problems, soon you will want to focus on his affairs, yes there are more. You’ll want to focus on the women too. Trust me, they aren’t worth your time and they sure aren’t worth neglecting time away from your kids. They were objects to Devin, nothing more, nothing less and it is you that is making them larger than life while damaging yourself in the process. Trust me, the images you see will come back to haunt you along with all the words and details you will learn. They will pop up when you least expect it and at the most intimate moments and ruin far too many days ahead.
            There is a piece of wisdom you don’t hesitate to share with Devin yet you don’t seem to see the wisdom in it for yourself. You tell Devin if he spent as much time on his recovery as he did on his addiction he’d be so much further along by now. Take a look in the mirror, Elsie. After your second disclosure day, again, I’m sorry you’ll have another, you spend far too much time obsessing on the other women, then you move on to obsessing over Devin’s recovery.  If you spent that time working on YOU, you yourself would be a healthier person too.
            I beg of you, give one of the twelve-step programs a chance. You walked in with such a chip on your shoulder despite your relationship with God. You couldn’t admit your life was also out of control, you couldn’t admit you needed outside help from others because your massive pride was in the way – take help from others. These women will help you. They understand like no others can. The programs work. It’s not about “their” religion, it’s not a cult, there’s not some bizarre motive. It just works. 
            If you don't reach out to a program, reach out to a healthy place like church, a counselor, or someone who doesn't bash your husband for being a sex addict. He's a sick person, not a bad person. Don't let people tell you otherwise.
            Trust me. I’m not going to lie, you’re in for some pretty messed up times, but you’ll get through it and I think if you had a better network of friends, like S-Anon, you’d get through it much better. Oh, and one last tid bit of advice…don’t tell your friends. You think it’s a great idea.  I assure you, it’s not.  It changes everything, even years later.
            I'm happy to say things do get so much better! You become a much emotionally, healthier person - through the help of a twelve-step program. As they say, it works if you work it.

Love,


Me.

For those of you who lurk, I hope that this gives you a sense of hope. You aren't as alone as you feel. Don't be afraid to reach out to others. We're here to listen. We're here to provide our experience, strength, and hope.

God bless.

Have you ever felt alone in something you were facing in your life? Were you afraid to talk about it for fear of judgment? 

Saying the Right Thing

from Google
So, yeah, if you guys didn’t already know, I like to ramble. Some days I go on and on and on and well, you get the idea. Many of you recall the days before I learned how to edit myself. When I used to post long word vomits. Paragraph after paragraph filled with emotional rants and raves that really didn’t do much for the reader, but it sure helped me get through the emotional turmoil of finding out my husband was a sex addict. (Thank you for sticking around during those dark times!)

You can imagine how hard it is in real life for me to contain myself once I really get on a roll. Here I can hit the delete button when I think a post has gotten too long. Too TMIey. But in real life, not so much.

When a person in crisis from my program calls me, my instinct is to gush out all sorts of information. I want to fill their traumatized brain with as much valuable stuff as I can because who knows if they’ll ever have the courage to pick up that 500lb phone again?

I remember not knowing what to ask the person who answered my first phone call. I could barely speak through my tears. I was petrified. I felt alone.

I’ve come up with the basics I try to bring up during our initial conversation if the person is a newbie to the program and has an interest (and time) to listen:

1.      You’re not as alone as you feel. There are a ton of us out there. We might not have the exact same story, but we understand your pain like no one else can. And there's no one right way to do this.
2.      Boundaries. Odds are you need to set some, so start thinking about some reasonable ones. It’s time to protect your emotions and your wellbeing. Boundaries can help you do that.
3.      Don’t make any rash decisions right now. Unless there is physical abuse, you don’t have to decide what to do about your relationship this very second. Take some time to think first. My counselor suggested a year. Things are very fluid in the beginning and emotions are raw.
4.      Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: Yes, sex addiction sucks ass. It’s not for every couple. However, some couples, myself included, make it. Not only that, like Devin and I, through hard work and determination, they come out stronger. There is hope although right now things seem so hopeless.
5.      Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. One day you’ll feel like total and absolute crap. You’ll hate the addict. The next, you’ll love them and feel like you can conquer the world. Heck, sometimes it’s not daily; it’s hourly. Hang in there, with time, those emotions can settle down.
6.      Unfortunately not all addicts are immediately forthcoming. Many of them stay in some form of denial in the beginning. However, if the addict is willing to commit to their recovery/counseling, the denial can subside.
7.      The program worked for me and I wasn’t exactly a willing participant…at least not at first. I walked into the rooms with a chip on my shoulder just wanting to be around people who’d been through what I’d been through. Not only were the people kind and receptive, they shared their experience, strength, and hope with me and helped me get back on my feet. I’m stronger now because of it. So, if it can work for me, it can work for you too. Attend at least six meetings. Each one has a different vibe, so be sure and give them a fair shot.
8.      Don’t be afraid to try different ways to heal. Counseling, twelve-steps, journaling, yoga, etc. Whatever works, do it. And if it didn’t work the first time, go back and try it again later. You’d be surprised.
9.      Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone again. One of the biggest fears I had was reaching out to others for help. I didn’t want to be burden or a bother. In our program, there are people available for those in crisis for a reason. We get it. We want to be there for you. Let us.
10.   Be patient and kind to yourself. Make some “me” time. You deserve it. If you need a nap, take it. If you want to take a warm bath, do it. Maybe you enjoy reading, if so, than take the time to so. The important thing is that you’re doing something other than focusing on the addiction. Give yourself and your brain a rest.
from Google

Do you tend to be a verbal gusher or are you more reserved?



An Apple A Day


I’m an addict. This is not news to many of you. I’ve been chemically sober from cocaine for close to twenty-five years, but I’ve only been emotionally sober for a little over four years. That’s a big gap. It happened because I was clueless that I even needed to be emotionally sober.

I was mostly happy on the outside. Good job. Great kids. But my relationships never seemed to fulfill me. I didn’t know I wasn’t happy with myself. I had some major issues to resolve that stemmed from childhood trauma that I swept under the rug…numbed with drugs…then swept under the rug again…and I needed to deal with them.

It wasn’t until my husband’s sex addiction disclosure that all that childhood trauma came back, along with the Relational Trauma, that forced me to look myself in the mirror and say, “It’s time to do something about the inner chaos you’re ignoring.” Or, maybe at that point, I was blaming it all on the PTSD. But by then, those symptoms had started to abate. I wasn’t fighting them on a daily basis anymore.

It wasn’t fair to blame my husband or his addiction for my lack of action in fixing me and the trauma that happened to me. Yes, he was partly to blame, but what was I going to do? Blame him forever for it? He couldn’t repair me. Only I do that. He couldn’t give me what I wanted. I wanted peace. I wanted serenity.

I started to work my S-Anon program. I made a promise to myself, one that I still keep today. I do at least one thing each and every day that’s recovery related. Just like an apple a day keeps the doctor away. One recovery thing a day keeps slips away. (Don't care if it's drugs or hypervigilance!) It wasn’t easy, especially in the beginning because I was still focused on my husband’s recovery and what he was up to. Not to mention, I still had the responsibilities of kids, work, and a home, but I made the time. I found the more I worked on me, the less concerned I was with him.

There are days it takes work, lots of work, to do even just one thing in my recovery. Other days, I can dedicate several hours to reading, writing, sponsoring, volunteering, etc., but as long as I know I’ve done something, rather than nothing, I feel good that I’m not headed into a place of stagnation and complacency.

And some of you know, I’m in handful of programs, cause one just ain’t enough for this gal, so it makes it easier to choose from several different options each day.

Is there something you do everyday to stay on top of your game?

(Scheduling note: I'm taking next week off. Enjoy the hazy, hot days of July!)


 

Better Than Tinfoil

from Google somewhere
My counselor scribbled something in her steno pad before she asked me, “Do you have any plans in place in case you start to trigger?”

I shook my head. “Not really. I’ve been reading my S-Anon literature and even been reading the Big Book but aside from a bad dream a couple of nights ago, I’ve been doing really good. It's hard to believe that time of year is upon us again. Five years since finding out Devin's a sex addict. Time just flew by and I've been doing great lately.”

And I was. Maybe it’s because I expected the worst but hoped for the best. Perhaps it was the passage of time. I’m not sure. But last week when the anniversary of disclosure week was upon us, it was present but it wasn’t present. I really felt good about Devin and I. We were, and still are, on a healthy path. We've been communicating well. We've been sticking to our own recoveries and been working on our marriage and doing things as a couple. Just doing great overall. I can't complain. No. Really. I can't. All really is going well in our corner of the world. (And it's nice not to be in the mindset of waiting for the other shoe to drop - what a nice change from a few years ago, huh, long time readers?)

Devin and I talked about disclosure week before it arrived. I told him to be on the lookout for me being extra sensitive or snarky (who me?). Or if I was withdrawn, don’t be afraid to ask why a few extra times, cause you know us ladies; sometimes we don’t like to answer the first time we’re asked.

There was a moment when I had to take a step back and dive into my recovery work, reflect on where we were rather than where we had been, but when that was finished…maybe thirty minutes…I was right as rain again.

That’s just as it should be too. It’s been five years since that dreaded week that I found out about his sex addiction. That's a long time. I shouldn’t be focused on what happened during that week. I should be focused on how far we’ve come as a couple and the fact we are celebrating ten years of marriage. How awesome is that?

The traditional ten-year gift is tin. Does that mean we should’ve exchanged tinfoil? I’m thinking no. Instead, we decided to look at Christmas lights. It was beautiful. Much better than tinfoil. 

How about you? Have you done anything holiday related yet?













Why Ruin Lunch?


“What’s wrong?” Devin asked.

“Nothing.  I’m fine,” I answered.

“Bull. Something’s wrong.  I can see it in your face,” he stated.

The waitress came over and took our order.  I hoped her brief interruption would force Devin to change the subject.  It didn’t.

“Well?” he asked.

“I don’t want to talk about it right now.” 

I busied myself with the silverware.  He took out his cellphone and checked his email. Several minutes ticked by.  After a few more minutes, we were finally ready to move on with our lunch date.  The awkward moment a thing of the past.

On the car ride home, I told Devin what happened in the restaurant.  I triggered and I didn't want to ruin lunch talking about his sex addiction.  He figured as much but it took him by surprise, it’d been so long since I’d had one.  I agreed, I hadn’t had a trigger in months.  But, that’s how they work, they just pop up out of nowhere.  Usually at the worst times.  Like when I’m trying to enjoy a lunch date with your hubby.

So, now what?  

Well, I guessed I needed to take a look at what I’d done this summer with my recovery work.  Ugh, that was painful.  With no meetings to attend, I allowed my recovery to grow stagnant.  And, since Devin’s recovery was going well, I hadn’t worried about my own.  I was complacent.  Not good.  Not good at all.

I needed to get myself back on track.  For me, that means helping someone who is going through what I’ve been through.  I checked our S-Anon email and answered several inquires about our meetings.  One of the women responded back to me in minutes.  I assured her she wasn’t alone.  Several years ago, I walked the same path she was navigating now.  I let her know that things did get better.  All it took was work.  It was a great reminder for me.

That done, I set to work on my self-help book.  The more I do, the closer I’ll be to getting it published so I can make it easier for others in this crazy world of sex addiction. That’s my hope anyway.  

Do have a project you've been putting off?  How do you motivate yourself?


As you know, I was on vacation and as tempting as it is to bore you with pictures, I’ll spare you.  At least with this post.  I make no promises for any upcoming posts.  So, please bear with me while I catch up on everyone’s blogs.

Is it the end?


“All good things must come to an end.”

Or, so the saying goes. 

I guess in my case it’s more, “All good things may come to an end.”

Don’t worry.  You’re not getting rid of me so easily.  I’m not talking about my blog.  I’m talking about my S-Anon meetings.  The meetings are on a pause for the summer due to low attendance and I miss them terribly.  For me, it’s not only a safe place to share my experiences but one that reminds how things used to be in my world.  They serve as a reminder how important it is for Devin and I to stay in recovery.

I was the trusted servant for our small group for close to two years.  I was also the treasurer, the contact person for newcomers and the WSO, performed local outreach, and a meeting facilitator.  It was a lot for one person but I wanted our meetings to thrive so when no one volunteered, I took on the responsibilities.

Last fall I got help from another member to be the meeting facilitator and that allowed me to get a break every other week. But, even with that help, I was burnt out.  Two years was just too long to do it all, no matter how I loved the meetings.  I knew I needed to step down as a trusted servant when I started to resent not getting additional help for the other positions I held.  It revealed I was in the wrong place mentally.

In May I stepped down from being a trusted servant leaving all those positions vacant.  We sent out an email and text to the members asking for volunteers.  It wasn’t fair that the other woman take on everything I was leaving behind.  Sadly, only one person stepped up to help lead meetings and she wasn’t able to do any in July.  

Six weeks after I stepped down, I was asked by the two volunteers what I thought about stopping the meetings until school was back in session.  As difficult as it was for me to say, (control freak that I can be at times), I said it was up to them since it was their time they were donating to the group.  

I wanted to persuade them to keep the group running.  We never know when a newcomer may come along.  I wanted to tell them to send out texts to those we haven’t seen letting them know we were thinking about them.  I wanted to ask what kind of outreach they were doing to maintain attendance.  But, I didn’t do any of that.  Those were things I chose to do and I shouldn’t expect them to do the same.

As my favorite saying goes, “A high expectation is a premeditated resentment.”  I needed to lower my expectations and let the meeting go.  If it’s meant to start up again in the fall then it will.  If not, I am happy with the work I put in and those who have helped me on my journey.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t still miss them.  I’ll just have to find another anon meeting to attend.


Have you ever had something you loved end abruptly?

"R" is for Reaching Out: A-Z Challenge

R is for Reaching Out
From Bing!
Years ago, I watched a commercial that made me feel like a jerk.  Yes, I’m easily influenced by sappy television commercials.  They sucker me in all the time.  Don’t judge.

It was a commercial for Wounded Warriors.  (They assist military vets returning from conflicts overseas.)  It’s no secret my husband is a retired vet so these commercials hit home.

I donated to Wounded Warriors every few months and felt all gushy inside knowing I’d done some small part.  But, really, I felt like a jerk for not doing something more. Then it hit me.  I could reach out to someone in need with a personal gesture.

They sent thank you cards with the receipt of a donation but I never took time to fill one out.  This time, I did.  I reached out and personally said “thank you” to a vet.  Now with each receipt, I send out the card.

Bing!
This made me realize I could do the same thing for others in my situation.  Rather than be a bump on a log at my S-Anon meetings, scared what others thought about what I shared, I opened my mouth and spoke.  Those words led to nods of understanding from those around me. 

In turn, it helped me pick up the phone to see how people were coping.  Those phone calls helped me too.  It made me understand I wasn’t in this crazy disease of sex addiction. 

The calls allowed me to live outside my own needs.  Reaching out helped my recovery process.  It became a circle of giving and receiving, leaning on someone other than myself.

I’m amazed how much I gain from reaching out and helping others.

Do you reach out to anyone in need?
 ~~~@

This post is part of the A-Z Challenge.  Wanna see more?


Keep Coming Back...

The other day I was cruising along, reading my Facebook posts, when one caught my eye.  It wasn’t the typical, “I hate my alarm clock” post or “delay the Common Core curriculum” I’ve seen a ton of lately.  Instead, it was a link to this video (click "post" if it doesn't pop up):


Post by The Five.


The above man is Bob Beckel.  He’s on a television show called The Five on the Fox News channel.  Beckel is the lonely liberal on a panel of conservatives.  Normally, he takes being the sole democrat with ease but I’ve seen days where it’s been a bit much for him.  He’s dropped the F bomb twice on live television – which I found hysterical.

But, this isn’t about politics or his brash demeanor.  Rather, it’s about what he did during the recent snowstorm.  He made his way home than found out he was needed to help chair an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at LaGuardia airport.  Out into the storm Bob went, to help his fellow AA members.

At the end of the show, one of the other panelists decided to do a, “shout out” for Bob and his good deed.  When I saw the post, my initial reaction was one of appreciation.  Bob is really a teddybear on the inside.  I respected his dedication to his recovery program, and how he helped others work their own recoveries.  I felt the shout out was well deserved.  It takes a special kind of person to volunteer at twelve-step meetings.  I felt he exemplified the slogan, “Keep coming back. It works when you work it.”

Then, I read the comments.  I felt somewhat discouraged.  I found many of them to be just rude and hateful.  But, when you’re in the public eye, I suppose some people just can’t help but be mean.  I ignored those comments and focused instead on the ones that attacked him for not respecting the 11th tradition:

  •          Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films. Al-Anon Addition: We need guard with special care the anonymity of all A.A. members.

My S-Anon group uses the same steps and traditions as AA & Al-Anon.  I’d always interpreted the 11th tradition a bit different than what I read in the comments.  I get the whole “attraction rather than promotion” part of the tradition.  It’s best to lead by example, speak from our own experiences rather than tell everyone we meet we’re in a 12-step program.  If a person wants to know how I got where I am today, than I will share about my specific program.

However, I was a bit confused (I suppose I still am) about maintaining personal anonymity at the level of press, radio and films.  I see no harm in what Bob shared.  He didn’t mention who attended the meeting with him or even where it was specifically held.  If he’s comfortable enough in his own recovery to share that he’s in AA, more power to him, I say.  To me, it sounded more like he was working step 12:

  •         Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

How many alcoholics did Bob reach that night in the storm?  How many more did he reach by allowing his journey to be shared on national television without shame?

I understand the possibility of relapse and how those he inspired may see that as failure rather than an opportunity to dust off and start again.  But, I see more potential for him to motivate versus deter.


Thoughts?

~~~@   ~~~@   ~~~@

Speaking of meetings, I am attending one today. So, I may be late getting to your blogs, but I'll be there!

Have a beautiful weekend everyone and be well!

Humbling and Wonderful Reminder

source

A few weeks ago, I was watching a great new show, Elementary, with my husband.  It’s a modern day Sherlock Holmes and I love it. It’s one of my new favorites of the season, right up there with Chicago Fire. 

(For anyone keeping track, my love affair with Honey Boo Boo is officially over.  I saw an episode of how they interacted with people outside of their home and they had no regard for others or their property, it was horrible and disrespectful and my kid is no longer allowed to watch that crap.  Where was I?  Right, rambling, how unlike me.)

Sherlock was investigating the kidnapping of his friend’s daughter and the friend is also his ex-drug dealer.  The case turns out to be a bit more difficult than he anticipates and he begins to allow self-doubt to creep into his head along with his friend’s doubtful words. 

Sherlock’s friend tells Sherlock he isn’t as talented when he’s not high and not as perceptive and his friend brings Sherlock drugs to help him solve the case.  Sherlock is full of so much self-doubt and insecurity about his ability to solve this particular case without the help of drugs heightening his senses, we are left not knowing whether or not he will succumb to the pressure of taking the drugs until the end of the show.

As I sat on the couch and watched Sherlock’s struggle, I could feel my fingers gripping the armrest.  Twenty years.  It’s been twenty years since I’ve put cocaine up my nose but the way the show framed Sherlock’s inner battle, his insecurities, I felt like I was him.

I understand the inner turmoil of first seeing the drugs right in front of you and saying “NO!” not today.  Then walking away, sometimes literally running.  Then once sobriety is accomplished, the insecurities set in. 

Am I good enough to maintain life in this world?

A Life where I am not high? 

Am I really funny? 

Am I really pretty?  

Will I still be able to write well? 

Will I still be creative?

So many insecurities to overcome once sobriety is reached.  I think many people forget that.  I know I did and it’s a humbling experience, a humbling reminder, as I watch Devin maintain his sobriety for so long but struggle with his insecurities in life as he continues his journey through recovery.  

A wonderful reminder in my meetings as I listen to others, and share, I am again reminded of where I was, how far I came and yet I still wonder…

Am I?  Will I?

Add a Tool to My Toolbox


Here’s your chance my Hooligan’s, your chance to run to another blog.  This may turn out to be long only because I don’t know exactly where it’s headed.  It’s one of my “back to the roots” posts, where I allow my mind to journal and think.  At the end, fun!  I promise.
source

The other day, I did something I never thought I’d ever do.  I attended an AA meeting.  Wow, just wow.  From the moment I stepped out of my car to the moment I said good-bye, I felt welcomed, loved, and a sense of belonging.  It was truly amazing.

I don’t know why I feared anything different.  We treat newcomers to S-Anon the same way, yet I was still scared to attend.  I was afraid because I’ve been drug free for so long, they wouldn’t understand why I was there, but there was no inquisition.  No one asked why I was there. They simply accepted my need to attend a meeting.

I was greeted with a bright smile and hello in the parking lot and accompanied to the door.  I was welcomed to a table and invited to sit down.  The fear of cliques dissipated as I watched people go from table to table and hug one another, men and women alike greeted each other, introduced themselves, and got older attendees their coffee.  I was surprised to feel a smile on my face in a place I had been so nervous to be not even five minutes before.

For months I have been missing something.  Something inside me is no longer able to hang on to the peace and serenity I found after I worked my fourth step.  I lost my emotional sobriety and I miss it terribly.  I long for it back.

What is emotional sobriety?  For me, it’s being able to feel my feelings.  All of them and handle them properly, without a constant feeling of discontent and unsettlement.  It’s so hard to explain once you’ve reached a place of calm and that calm feeling has left.  It’s like having an empty pit within you.

I’m not running around screaming at people but the desire to do it is there.  It has happened a time or two with Devin where I’ve made snarky comments and that’s not healthy for either one of us.

I knew it had to do with Devin’s recovery.  He has reached a plateau, according to our counselor, and without a change in his treatment plan, he is in danger of another relapse.  His behavior has become erratic as he works his fourth step and while I understand this on a rational level, it’s hard to understand as the person living with him.  He understands the need for changes and he makes them but then reverts back to old habits. 

Instead of being able to distance myself, instead of finding the compassion I’ve had in the past as a fellow addict, I became frustrated and impatient.  I am more like Veruca Salt, I wanted it NOW!  I still stayed out of his recovery, I still stayed out of his collecting and buying habit but I no longer fight fairly.  I am allowing myself to be baited instead of walking away.  I am engaging in behavior that isn’t healthy for me.

I know I cannot change him.  Only he can change himself.  This meant something needed to be done for me.  There was something I needed to do, another tool I needed to add to my toolbox but I wasn’t sure what.  Then I realized I needed to address my core issues, sure, I was sober but I’m still an addict.

An addict who never addressed her addiction with any type of counseling or any type of program.  I just quit drugs cold turkey and considered myself magically cured.  It was through the S-Anon program that I realized it doesn’t work like that, not even close bub!

I chose that particular meeting because of the time and location and it was truly a God send.  I left feeling less empty inside.  My spiritual cup had been filled.  Not my religious cup, my spiritual cup.  There is a difference.  Again, hard to explain unless you’ve sat in on a meeting.  There is so much hope, so much love, so much understanding and so much compassion.  It’s like getting a giant hug and knowing you’re not alone.  Even though you don’t quite know what’s wrong inside, you’re not alone.

I’m not sure this made sense but I wanted to share it just the same.

Now for the fun stuff I promised.  I was watching my beloved Fox News and saw a highlight of the Harlem Shake.  Take time to laugh today, my friends, I did:

NSFW