A member's story

A Life Worth Living
I knew all about existing. Making it from day to day. Often just waiting for it all to be over. That was the story of my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood prior to recovery. I was a survivor. I could weather any storm, and handle anything that came my way. But living, that was for other people. I could not handle living, because it meant staying present in the moment. And each moment was just too painful to face. Today, I am living life one moment at a time, and what a glorious life it is. This is my journey from survival and existing to living life to its fullest.

I don't know when my addiction really started. I do know that from an extremely early age – I craved attention. It was a need that was all consuming. Around the age of 11, through incest, I learned that I could get attention by being sexual. I also learned that I could control who, when, where and what happened. So my life became about sex, power and control. The patterns began by just seducing men and eventually being sexual with them. Even at age 14, I could not be friends or even sexual with anyone my age. I always went after older men, married men, alcoholics, drug addicts, etc. I was addicted to the control I had through sex and addicted to the emotional unavailability of the men I chose. I began fantasizing and “planning” my acting out. This process was often a huge high compared to any of the actual acting out.

I began drinking at a young age, and by 14 years old it was a regular part of my life. Drinking and fantasy allowed me to not feel. And not feeling helped me get through everything that did and didn’t happen growing up. My childhood was spent mostly NOT where I was – mentally. I remember imagining different ways to just go away. Never permanently, just ways to bypass life. One such fantasy in 5th grade was imagining that I could take an elevator up to the top of the electricity poles and then ride the wires (in a box) all the way to school. It was not about avoiding the walk, it was about avoiding the kids.

I remember loving books, especially books that took me anywhere but here. Here was always too painful. Here meant feeling the loss of two parents. Here meant admitting that I was irrelevant to my parents. Here meant feeling the pain of not being loved. Here meant feeling the pain of not being good enough for my parents and not good enough for church and not good enough for God. I didn’t like being here. So finding alcohol and sex as ways to not "be here". was like finding gold. My addictions were the cure to all the pain inside. Mind you the pain did not go away, but I did not care that the pain was there.

At 19, I found a twelve-step program that helped me stop drinking alcohol. I was convinced that by removing alcohol from my life, and working a program, life would be better. In many ways, it was. I learned some important things and I learned how to stop trying to be a different person for everyone I knew. But, my sex addiction just got worse, and continued to do so for the next twenty years.

Three divorces, two children, and two other failed relationships later, I found myself married to a man I absolutely adored (something very new and different). For the first time in my life, I wanted to be faithful to someone, but could not. For the first time, the cure, my addiction, was now the curse. The pain of my addiction grew each day until almost five years into my marriage, I was suicidal and begging for divorce. It was at this time that I found SAA. And what a blessing that was and continues to be today.

My recovery journey has been bumpy and not easy. I am a firm believer in the statement, "the pain of my addiction must be greater than the pain of recovery." And for me that was a true statement. I would have easily qualified for SAA in my twenties. I had already lost a LOT because of my addiction. What I did NOT have was pain. I would not have been willing to work through the pain of recovery because my addiction was still working for me. Although the process of going through the twelve steps has a lot of pain involved, it also has a LOT of joy. It is a journey that is so very much worth it.

When I found the SAA website, I sent out many emails requesting information on the Women's Telemeetings. I also made a few phone calls. The next morning, I got down on my knees and told my Higher Power, “Okay, if you want me to stay sober, you have to get this crap out of my head.” When I stood up, the thoughts were gone. Since that day, I have had some acting out dreams, I have had a few thoughts pop in now and again, and using the tools of the progam I no longer have the obsession in my head.

I have been attending telemeetings ever since, working the steps, and getting better one day at a time. There have been three key ingredients to my recovery so far. The Twelve Steps are the most important part of my recovery process. Building friendships within this program has really broken the isolation that I lived in most of my life. Finally, the courage and willingness to feel my feelings and share them honestly with those I trust, respect and admire has taught me that I no longer have to deny or stuff my feelings. Denial of my feelings is the number one path to my addiction. Accepting and feeling my feelings is an amazing gift of recovery.

I have to set boundaries around all of my behavior. I can no longer “search” for potential partners. I do not go to many online sites. All pornography is no longer in my life. Sexual jokes are also no longer a part of my life. I do not go to truck stops or rest areas, unless traveling with my husband and I have a reason to be there. I do not stay in fantasy. I do not have control over what images come into my head, but I do not linger there. These boundaries keep me safe, but they also keep everyone else I love safe.

In the beginning, I resented having to write out a first step. The questions seemed more like a 4^th step inventory to me. However, I wanted recovery more than anything, so I did it. My sponsor told me when I read what I had written (okay only read the first two questions) that I had not dug deep enough. I was so angry, but I wanted sobriety so much, I tried again. When I finally read my First Step to the group, I was blown away by the love and support of the other members. I felt like I was a part of something. I was no longer an outsider looking in. Most of all, it was the first time I ever felt human.

I struggled with Step 2, my faith in my Higher Power was pretty intense throughout my First Step. The knowledge that this power had removed my obsession was still very powerful. However, in answering the questions I was given, my faith faltered. I became angry at God. I was able to write out my history of God and religion. It was a painful process, and left me feeling empty and alone. It was suggested that I write a termination letter to the God I grew up with. I did this, and it felt very good. Then it was suggested that I write an advertisement for a Higher Power that I could understand. This was an amazing process. When I finished the advertisement, I went outside and prayed with more feeling than I had ever prayed before in my life. That was the gift Step 2 gave me. A faith in a Higher Power that was loving and caring – not judgmental and controlling.

I lived Step 3 to the nth degree. Every aspect of my life presented situations beyond my control. During Step 3, I learned that sometimes, my next right thing is to do nothing and trust my Higher Power. This was a very powerful lesson. Each event gave me another opportunity to put Step 3 into action. But the greatest way to put Step 3 into action was working the remaining Steps.

I continue to work Steps 1-3 every day. The days that I forget to do this basic thing, are the days I struggle. Step 4 was painful, but also very joyful. It was a process of seeing the real me. Not just the horrible creature I had come to believe I was. It was an opportunity to get out of my head everything that was torturing me. Step 5 helped me gain faith in others. Steps 6 and 7 were so amazing. Step 6 was a simple process, but a very important one. I was able to really see each character defect and focus on the pain and heartache the defect caused. Step 7 was incredible, as I was able to see the Step working in my life. More importantly, I was able to recognize that my Higher Power chooses what character defect is removed – not me.

Step 8 really got me in touch with the pain I caused others. I actually felt the pain and destruction. It was a painful process, and yet, a beautiful one. By the time I got to Step 9, I was VERY ready to make amends. However, I was unable to make amends to others, until I was able to forgive myself. Once I was able to forgive myself, the amends process became an act of love and forgiveness, not an act of punishment to myself.

Steps 10, 11 and 12 are often referred to as the maintenance steps. My struggle with Steps 11 and 12 throughout my recovery in other fellowships had always been consistency. Today, I have an inventory buddy which helps me remain accountable for my step work, and helps me look at my life realistically. As an addict, I can overlook character defects, and I can also beat myself up for being human. The process of an inventory buddy has really kept both things in line. My meditation and prayer in Step 11 took some time to evolve into something beautiful instead of a task. Today it is a beautiful part of my day. I now say a personally written prayer each day that incorporates Steps 1, 2, 3, 7, and 11.

Each step along the way has increased my faith, and my contact with my Higher Power. Today, my Higher Power is with me every moment. I am comforted by the peace and serenity that comes from this great faith. The 12 steps are a process that helps heal all of my relationships. The relationship with my Higher Power, the relationship with myself, and the relationships with others in my life. It is amazing to me the depth of healing I have found in this program.

Today, I love the person I am becoming. I am able to set boundaries – something I knew nothing about before SAA. I choose to reach out to safe people instead of sharing details with unsafe people. I choose to trust my Higher Power instead of controlling my life and my environment. I suit up and show up for my life. I do what is in front of me to do, and leave the results in my Higher Power's hands. I am able to understand that it is good for me to let go of unhealthy relationships. I am able to look at my actions each day, and promptly admit when I was wrong.

I started a face to face meeting in my town, and am still struggling with how to reach out to those still suffering locally, but I know that my Higher Power will help me find a way. I have started a few telemeetings to support my recovery. Service is a huge part of what keeps me sober and truly what keeps me out of my self-centeredness and self-pity.

I am far from perfect, and I will never be perfect. What a grace that is. My sponsor often shares that it should be practice not perfection. I love that. For me, practice is what it takes. Practicing these principles in every area of my life is what makes the difference. I still struggle with my character defects, including perfectionism. I still struggle with being honest about how I feel. I still struggle with allowing myself to be a sexual being. But each day that I work this program and show up for my life is a step forward in my recovery. And each moment added to the next becomes a journey worth taking.

I am still just beginning this great journey, but what a journey it has been so far. One of the greatest gifts this program gives is the living in the here and now. My Higher Power exists in the NOW. When I allow my mind to exist in yesterday or tomorrow, I lose the connection I have with my Higher Power. I have to look at my past in the process of recovery, but I don't have to exist there. It may seem like semantics, but it is very true for me.

The other fact is that for me reality is where recovery exists. If my reality is pain, that is recovery. If my reality is fear, that is also recovery. Facing and feeling my feelings is a huge part of my recovery. Getting to the other side of those feelings is a gift beyond expression. The joy of knowing that everything is temporary except my Higher Power's love and my love for myself and others is amazing. I am so very grateful for the gift of recovery. It is definitely a gift. Without this gift, I would not have a life. In fact, I may have already have given in to the suicidal thoughts that plagued me every day. My prayer today is that all those whom are still suffering in and out of these rooms find the miracle of recovery. I look forward to my next journey through these steps and the growth that will come of it, but for now, what a blessed moment I am living.

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