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Day 1213 • Why Not Me, Lord

First, it might still be me. I know that; I live with that. But the truth is that I have been much more fortunate than many sex addicts relative to the number and level of consequences I have suffered. That's hard to admit because I've lived through days from hell when it seemed I'd jumped into a vat of battery acid to put out the flames. But I am grateful for my apparent fortune (so far), even though I lean into a bit of survivor's guilt every time one of my 12 Step fellows shares the other side of the coin.


A couple of days ago, I delivered my latest attempt at a Step 1 — the story of my sexual dysfunctions — in a workshop for sex addicts going through the 12 Steps. It was much harder than I anticipated, even more difficult than the first time nearly two years ago. As the distance increases from my season of acting out, so does my awareness of how far I was into the insanity abyss, which sometimes leads me to adjust my guilt and shame tolerance. That's okay. It's just part of my recovery.


After my presentation in the workshop, I received much encouragement from those attending in-person and from those online. At least three of the guys made comments during the meeting or in follow-up conversations that my story was very much like their own. My observations are that most of our stories are very much the same among sex addicts. The disease is clinical in its predictability and in the way it manifests. Certainly, there are many differences, but it's the commonalities that give us hope that we can get better, right after those same similarities convince us (with the help of our addict) that there is no hope.


Anyway, part of my Step 1 included describing some of the things that could still go very wrong in terms of consequences, storms that could still come dropping from the ether with the power to damage and endanger my recovery. That may be what one of those men in the workshop was thinking when he commented on how much of my story was his story. We'll call him Larry.


Larry's story took a bad turn today. I just got off the phone with him, and it seems his wife — doing her best to get through his recent disclosures and keep their marriage together — decided to reach out to his affair partners for whatever reason she thought doing so would help. He is away from home on a business trip, so his wife is having to navigate the whiplash of TMI (too much information) coming back at her from those other women, including denials, outbursts, new stories, and digital evidence of his betrayals. Larry is trying hard to give this twist to his Higher Power, but I recognized the desperation and fear in his voice; I've heard those tones from my own soul.


My heart is breaking for both of them, and I'm trying to release my grief to my Higher Power because my pain and anger will not lead me to a good place. But my emotions are just as real as Larry's and his wife's, and one thing I've learned is to stop lying about being hurt or mad or sad or whatever. My emotions do not have to be righteous to be legitimate. So I'm writing this down, and I'm going to make some calls. In addition to checking this in, I need to know whether I'm not as helpless as I'm feeling; is there truly nothing I can be doing to help Larry today?


No, this isn't about me any more than everything else in my life that I make about me. I believe my angst is for my friend and his family, but these days are part of what recovery seems to be about, and I need to get better at being in listening circumstances that might trigger me in various ways.


As I was trying to express to Larry my concern and desire to help, he simply said, "You picked up the phone. That's all you can do for now." Then there was an emotional blip in his voice as he added, "But I'd sure appreciate it if you'd say a prayer for my wife." I've gotten to know Larry enough to believe that he is not asking for God to get her off his back; he is genuinely in deep pain for the pain he is causing her, and he knows she needs some Devine intervention to survive days like today.


So do I.


–JR

 

When we feel useless, You still use us.

Help us not forget.

This is what we're here for.


–The Afters, "What We're Here For"

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