HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN RECOVERY? 6 YEARS
SOBRIETY DATE: OCTOBER 27, 2010
REATIONSHIP STATUS: MARRIED, HETEROSEXUAL
Bottom line behaviors:
Anime, fantasy of any kind, lust (wanting anything that may harm me or my family), fear, disordered eating patterns as a punishment for “bad” behaviors, checking out from a stressful reality in any way
Loneliness, fear of not being good enough or loveable, fear of loss, feeling invisible or misunderstood, low blood sugar or lack of sleep, illness
How and when addiction started:
I was sexually, physically and emotionally abused from a very early age, and started masturbating very young. My first memory was at about 4. I figured out early it helped me sleep and made the nightmares and daytime feelings of fear go away, so would do it often. At 14 I asked for help from an ecclesiastical leader who was very supportive. It took about a year, but I stopped. What didn’t stop was the sexual fantasy and highly sexualized thought patterns in my head. At this time online chat rooms were just gaining steam, and I found it easy to be someone else online, while keeping up the “good-girl” act on the outside. I did not act out sexually outside of flirting and manipulating multiple young men at a time, but I lived in a fantasy world constantly. It made connecting to my friends very difficult, and I put myself in incredibly dangerous situations for the high. It’s a miracle I was never harmed, but back then feeling desired was worth the risk. Now I am much more careful with myself, but keeping my head where it belongs is a challenge when I’m not actively working recovery. In High School I watched Anime a few times a week. It didn’t feel like pornography because it was animation, my mom rented it for me, and I didn’t watch the “hard” stuff, even when it was on at the parties at home. To this day even innocent Anime triggers those old feelings of loss and emptiness. By 17 I figured out it was becoming a problem for how I saw myself, so quit cold turkey. That’s when my low grade anorexia went into overdrive. I now have 16 years sobriety from starving myself, but still use food to control my emotions. At times I have used popular novels to numb and feed my inner world. I was especially drawn to teen fiction which felt safe because it was “for kids.” So much denial! I now won’t even engage conversations about the latest hot actor, local dentist or, romantic comedy or pop-fiction-turned -movie. I can’t stay in recovery and have those conversations.
Why I stayed stuck for so long:
Denial, pure and simple. At first I didn’t see the harm in any of my behaviors. Once I started going to church and hanging out with kids from there, I wanted to be more like them. The trouble is, living in a highly sexualized environment at home made it feel like a double life. And let’s be honest, it feels good to be in fantasy. I desperately needed to feel loved, seen and that I mattered. In my head I could control everything. There was no danger. Most of my fantasy was not sexualized. It revolved a lot around just sitting and talking, sharing myself with someone who wouldn’t leave or reject me. It all felt harmless.
It is so easy to rationalize reading and watching what everyone else is watching. Even at church, the conversation often turns to attractive men, even if they are 17 year old boys off screen. It doesn’t make sense to me women can have such a double standard, but just a few years ago I was just as into it as anyone else. Again, denial served me well here. Because I lived in a fantasy world much of the time, I’d watch perfectly harmless shows with my family right there, while imagining I was the one this character or that character was falling in love with. It calmed my anxiety, gave me something to look forward to, and made the stress of my life just melt away for a little while. It took a long time for me to realize it was also keeping me from seeing my children grow up, or truly connecting with my incredible husband. Besides, if the other ladies in the neighborhood, on the PTA board, and at church are giggling over it, I thought it must just be part of life. For me, it kept me from living.
What I tried that DIDN’T WORK:
Changing others didn’t work. Getting a team of “mom’s for morality” together flopped. Expecting others to understand and get on board just lead to me feeling like a prudish freak. White knuckling (pretending to be sober when I was always half a second from acting out or acting in) also failed. Pretending I could flirt harmlessly with a stranger to get my hit and calm my amygdala was a joke. And of course all my layers and layers of denial just covered up that I was drowning. I had to realize I couldn’t make anymore excuses. Most women will not see value in the level of sexual, mental, emotional and spiritual integrity I want to live in my marriage and life. Worrying about that wasn’t helping, I had to let go of what might be said behind my back. Trying to keep friends by riding the fence also didn’t help. I had to walk away from many friendships that fed the lust, distortion, comparison and denial I was so comfortable in. And working with a therapist I was sexually attracted to wasn’t working for me at that point. I had to cut back, be honest, and get a woman. Oddly enough I felt myself attracted to her after a year, and wanting more attention than was appropriate in that relationship. That was my first and only time feeling those feelings for a woman, and it taught me running away wasn’t working either. This beast was not only going to be everywhere I turned, it was inside me. Something huge needed to shift. That’s when I got serious about fixing whatever had broken inside me long ago. It also didn’t help to blame my past. If I wanted more, I was going to have to work for it, fair or not. No more victim stories.
What IS WORKING now?
Emotional honesty has helped the most. And I had to stop running. I was abused as a little girl. I was defenseless, innocent and exploited to satisfy the addictive, self-destructive, out of control behaviors of the adults around me. There might be pictures of an 8 year old drugged me out there somewhere. That hurts, and has been a monkey on my back for decades. A little at a time though, I am making that monkey a cherished companion who walks beside me as I learn to love myself, trust the world around me, and heal from things I could not have stopped. I have had serious forgiving to give and seek. 12 Step is a gift I love to share. I also had to find a deep, personal relationship with God. He has had to become all that my parents were not. I have also had to make Him my priority, because I never learned how to treat myself. I look to Him to learn that. How would He treat his wife/daughter/sister? And that’s how I try to treat myself. I’ve also had to lean into my fears, my shame, and my losses. They was a 20 foot high, 10 foot thick concrete and rebar wall around my heart. Behind it was glass I’d use to watch love, but not get too close. It has been especially challenging to let others into my vulnerabilities. I have many dear friends in recovery now, and am even practicing healthy, appropriate relationships with safe male colleagues. Sometimes I still go into fear, which drives my addictive thought patterns. I’m learning to check out my thoughts instead of just believing them because they exist. And at the end of the day, I am allowing love for others to fill me up. I can’t keep living in fear I could lose them or be hurt by them. That’s out of my control. Letting my heart follow it’s natural desire to know, love and connect to women and men in appropriate ways, has been the greatest medicine for this tender heart. I just do it cautiously and keep my dear husband in the loop, checking things out with him and my sponsor or a friend in recovery when I’m not sure of my motives. It’s incredible to sit with a group of colleagues and just be able to be in the moment as we work on a project or idea together. Remembering I could lose that with one poor choice also keeps me in reality. I don’t want to lose what I worked so hard to build. Besides, every person on this planet deserves respect. When I enter fantasy about them, I’m not showing up in love, integrity or respect. My friends should be treated better than that. No more excuses. And if I do mess up, I take care of it, get back on track, and move forward with new boundaries in place.