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Addiction Recovery

I am a pilgrim on the road of recovery. The journey is rugged, full of rocks, valleys, and crevices. Yet, looking toward the horizon, there is stunning beauty. So far I’ve joined a twelve step program, and I’m currently seeing a therapist. When I revealed my addiction to my family on September 22nd, 2017 my life changed forever. From that day forward I pledged to live an honest, one person life. Since I was a teenager, I had been living a Jekyll-Hyde existence. Over a fifty year period, my addiction had grown stronger and darker. I began to cherish the darkness over the light. Hyde was overcoming Jekyll. I was powerless to quit. I was lurking in the shadows and hiding from those closest to me. My only way forward was to be completely honest about my behavior. When I did, I became one, whole person for the first time since taking my first, lustful drink. I was born again.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. Night and day your hand was heavy upon me and my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgression to the Lord.’ And you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Psalm 32

This journal will recount the story of my recovery. As I reflect and write about my own experience, I hope it may give you hope in your own journey whether you are in recovery from some addiction or not. I suppose in some way, we are all recovering from that part of our life that has kept us captive. I want to lean from the shadow into the sunlight. I want to stay sober. I want to be in the will of God.

Recovery Slump

I think I’m in a slump. It started in January and continues to impact my heart and mind. I shouldn’t be surprised by this part of recovery, but I am. Slumps are normal whenever a person needs courage and discipline for the long haul. It is no easy thing to recover from addiction. Recovery is a moment by moment tug-a-war between who I want to be and the addict I have become. I wonder if I visualize the person I want to be, then I will better lean into the struggle of becoming that person.

In baseball every hitter will have a slump. Most of the time, it is more mental than physical. Yogi Berra once said, “Baseball is 90% mental, and the other half is physical.” Poor hitting performance starts with the batters thoughts and visualization before stepping into the batter’s box. Hitting coaches encourage a player to stay positive and believe in himself, no matter the circumstances.

So it seems it will do no good to dwell on the negative aspects of losing my sobriety. It would be a better use of time and energy to contemplate what I can learn from the past few months through the up and down nature of recovery. The graph for recovering from an addiction is not a straight line but looks more like a graph of a bull run of the stock market. Over time the direction is up, but there are up days and there are down days.

Feeling sorry for myself nor getting discouraged after a setback will not help me stay sober. Dwelling on the mistake won’t either. Remembering that a failure can be a great teacher and saying to myself, “I am confident I can stay sober,” are better ways to end a slump.

Unacceptable

I’ve lived my life believing I’ve never quite hit the mark. No matter what I do, it is never quite enough. In school, it was expected that I would get high marks. I feared getting a C. When a paper I’d written came back with a bunch of red marks, my heart sank. I put most of this pressure on myself. The fear of failure plagued me. In my head I began to see failure as a great teacher, but in my heart, I feared it and did everything in my power to aviod failing.

There was a great chasim of “yes, buts” in my life. Yes I offered to help, but I could do more. Yes, I was leading, but I needed to right a wrong, do justice, have more mercy. Recently, I offered to pray with my wife during one of the darkest moments of my life and did. It was well received but with a request. “Could I pray before the disclosure tomorrow.” I once again felt the twinge of inadequacy. I should do more.

This feeling that I don’t have what it takes to live through life’s problems fuels my addiction. I run to the euphoric state initiated by my drug to mask my feeling of inadequacy, to minimize the pain. I know now, that is why leadership is so hard for me and why opportunities for me to be a leader are not sustainable. I am powerless in the paucity of my abilities. When I receive feedback, it tramps me down instead of providing an opportunity for me to improve. When someone suggests another step, I freeze in my tracks. If I feel trapped, I become angry.

The way out seems to be to trust who I am. I am who God made me to be. I came to grips with this in a previous post. Yet, at times, I am still plagued by feelings of inadequacy. To be who God made me to be is freeing, but there are also constraints. Obviously, I can’t be someone else. My unique strengths and weaknesses, gifts and abilities, are what I need to accomplish the work God has given me to do. He makes known to me the path of life that I have the opportunity to follow if I choose to do so. I can take each step confidently because I am who I am. In God’s eyes, that is sufficient.

Disclosure

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:4-5 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.1.4-5.esv

For 50 years I have fearfully walked in the shadows. I have accepted and known Jesus as Lord and savior. But I have continued to walk in the flesh. I have lived according to the law of sin and death. The law of the Spirit has always been available to me but I have not received it. Instead, I let the desires of the flesh slowly consume me. I was extinguishing Jesus’ light in my life, one candle at a time. Oh, in Jesus, there are a lot of candles, but my darkness was none-the -less consuming the light.

I want to live by the Spirit. I want to keep step with the Spirit on the path of life that God makes known to me. His Spirit is a willing leader on that path. I desire to be a willing follower. It takes the work of my will to follow. It is not an automatic response, a reflex like jerking my hand back from a hot stove. It takes a combination of surrendering my will and God’s mercy and grace in my life. My only way out is surrender; I cannot do anything on my own.

Today, I disclose to my wife my sin from the last 50 years. I must do so humbly, without honor. There is absolutely no honor in what I have done. But I also must stand erect in my sorrow , my pain, my loneliness, my fear and in my experience of being rejected. It is my calling today, to acknowledge the many ways I have been unfaithful to my wife and to God. I am called to acknowledge them and feel them while remaining on my feet.

Today I am a whole person, an honest person. Passing the polygraph on Saturday doesn’t make me an honest person. God’s moment by moment grace and mercy in my life to live by and to practice the truth make me an honest person. This is the highest form of integrity to have what is on the inside match up with who I am on the outside and this only by receiving grace upon grace from the fullness of Christ.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

John 1:14, 16 ESV

http://bible.com/59/jhn.1.14,16.esv

Hope

Stay with it. Stay with the pain, stay with the community of believers that is helping me as I suffer on the journey of recovery, and stay with Jesus, the author and perfector of faith.

Yesterday I learned that the pain I was feeling was based on feeling rejected, silenced, unmarried. My resentment grew into anger and the old coping mechanisms crept in. I wanted to withdraw, to isolate, to run from the pain. On one hand I do need the time and space to meet with God, to discover again and more deeply who I am in His image, and to accept that same sex attraction and addiction recovery are his gifts to me. On the other hand I need to remember I am a part of a larger body, one that cares for me and one that is changing along with me. I must keep communicating and confessing with my SA fellows. I am a grateful, recovering sex addict.

More importantly, yesterday I learned that the pain of rejection I was experiencing these past few days was the same pain of rejection that my wife of forty years is experiencing after learning about my unfaithfulness. During the week of first disclosure she wrote to me a short note, “Your faithlessness is breathtaking.” These past days my breathing has been through the heartache of a slow realization that the rejection I was experiencing was minuscule compared to the rejection my wife is experiencing because of my betrayal.

I am grateful for therapists who help me to begin to understand the gravity of my past actions while also helping me to remain in the pain long enough to learn from it. The new learning is the substance of the hope of recovery and the hope of better relationships. I am grateful for a wife who has chosen to remain with me in the pain, in her own pain. I am grateful she is seeing in me a new person with new abilities that come from stepping out of the shadow and into the full light of Christ and turning from deceit toward honesty and truth, and stepping into a single-minded faith without any doubting. Doubting that inevitably leads to double-minded thinking and instability.

I am a grateful, recovering sex addict.

Reset

Hi, I’m Henry a recovering sex addict. I have fucking zero days of sobriety.

I can’t believe I slipped back into the old pattern this morning. I had such an awesome weekend on a church men’s retreat. The speakers were great; I participated in the small group discussions from my heart without fear; I had several great one-on-one conversations. I was appropriately high on the experience with a group of amazing men.

I got home and my wife and I did our check-in as we’ve been doing weekly since I disclosed my addiction to her back in September. In the back of my mind was the fact that we had gone out to dinner and to a concert on Thursday. A few months earlier, I received notice that a favorite jazz musician was in town and I asked her if she wanted to go. She replied, “of course,” so I got tickets. I had a great time. It reminded me of other evenings like this in the past. I posted a check-in on FB and tagged my wife. At the end of the concert she saw my post and did her own but didn’t mention or tag that I was there. That stung a little.

Sunday afternoon at our checkin she mentioned that she really wanted to go see Hamilton so she contacted our friends who have the kinds of contacts that can make stuff like that happen even when the show is sold out for the full run in Seattle. I mentioned that I’d like to go and asked if she thought of me in the process. She said, “I don’t feel married.” That really hurt. I understand in my head that I have hurt her deeply through my infidelity. I get why she would no longer feels married to me. But it feels like I went to the hardware store, found the stiffest, coarsest sand paper I could buy, and started to sand the rough edges off my heart. It began to hurt so bad I couldn’t even cry. It was a dry, parched pain.

After the checkin, I tried riding it off on my bike but the resentment grew, the pain intensified. I stayed downstairs watching TV for the evening. This morning I got up and still felt real bad. I tried praying, sitting in my “emotion” chair but neither made the pain stop. I decided to go on a walk and went to change my clothes and then . . . after 135 days of being sexually sober, it was over, reset to zero. Shame rushed over me like an ocean wave.

There is so much shit behind my feelings – resentment, anger, lack of self love, the idea that I deserve to be punished, I’m not worth it, etc. I thankfully was able to go to a noon meeting and talk about what transpired over the last 24 hours. I also talked to a friend about it. Slowly, I’m feeling more normal. I realize my feelings aren’t good or bad, they just are. This morning when I wrote and prayed about all of this, the words were hard to get down. Now, it’s different, the words are running across the page, and it seems like minutes though I’ve been writing this for almost half an hour.

I realize that negative sobriety is short lived. I have to move to a more positive sobriety. A sobriety based on healthy self-love in service of others. Love thy neighbor as thy self. I’ve read that somewhere. Haha

I apologize that this is a bit of a rambling post. I needed to get my feelings out, down on paper. With each word that spills across the page, I’m recovering and I’m feeling more certain about the recovery process. My sobriety is at zero but over these past three months I’ve learned so much that I know I’m not starting over from scratch.

I’m a grateful, recovering sex addict,

– Henry

Dare to stay in your pain – Nouwen.

Dare to stay in your pain. Nouwen’s words ring true. Leaning into pain in the moment does not cause relief, but it does make your heart more supple and better able to handle life’s shit without breaking apart. The heart breaks open so that the things that we have placed on it are able to fall inside. Only God can put things in our hearts through the path of life he makes known to us throughout the day. As we traverse the path and the rough, tough parts break the heart open, truths fall inside and God keeps them hidden there.

What Matters Most

I am often distracted by my own self interest. Instead of living into the image which God has created in me, I manipulate my image to become important to others. I even consider my image to be of some import on its own. Masking my emotions is one way I try to manage my image, and this feeds my addiction.

On the other hand, I can also be absorbed by another’s presence. In a group I can fade into the background, become invisible. God does not want this either. With God’s help, when I am in touch with my centered, image-bearing self, I operate from a solid inner base from which I can speak and act without apologies – humbly and convincingly. When this paradigm is operating freely in me, I don’t even notice it.

So when I accept myself as image deo, that is fully an image bearer of the Almighty, then I am free to be me. Then I am completely me, no strings attached. Of course, this matters to God because he wants me to operate from this solid inner base that he has created in me. It matters to other people because when I am totally myself in relationships, I am differentiated from others and thereby act in a caring and a challenging way at the same time. God’s love in us is not anemic. It is robust. As a result I become more confident and that is why it also matters to me.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, my Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

“Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalms 19:12-14 ESV

http://bible.com/59/psa.19.12-14.esv