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Day 1241 • Guilty Not Guilty

Long before I committed to recovery, I knew there would be hell to pay for my acting out. I was guilty of adultery, soliciting, betrayal, and a litany of other transgressions I had yet to identify; I knew I was deserving of the loss of family, job, investments, and probably my eternal salvation. The piper would be paid, and my only question was whether I would live to see the end of it all. I can't imagine ever forgetting the numbness I felt at that realization. It was not fear or anxiety; it was just a recognition of what was to come, assuming I would soon be caught in my misbehaviors. I had not yet accepted that I would need to voluntarily confess and disclose to put this compulsion in the past.

I lived in that space for a year or more before choosing right over wrong, truth over lives, trying over quitting, living over dying.

Telling my wife and family about myself was the hardest thing I've ever done and the most brutal season of my life. Unexpectedly, my wife stayed, my family supported us both, and my experience with God's grace has been remarkable. I did walk away from a job I loved and have found only part-time work to replace it, but none of that is really what I wanted to journal about today, not directly, anyhow.

As I write this, I am 3.4 years sober. I have not been perfect around the edges of my sobriety, but every day I work hard to rebuild trust with those closest to me and to do the things identified in my program that make me a better person, husband, and father.

So how about giving me a freaking break??

That is how it feels when I'm accused, or even suspected, of doing something I haven't done, talking to someone I shouldn't have talked to, or going somewhere inappropriate that I didn't go. I mean, beat me up for the crap I did when I did it — maybe I still deserve that — but please cut me some slack about what you suspect I did or thought I might do just because of your own insecurities and issues.

Damnit, that felt good to say out loud instead of holding it in the depths of my soul when I realize that someone is staring at the cracks in my virtue.

I was carrying this bucket of crap with me yesterday when I entered a Step meeting full of sex addicts. As often happens when the floor is opened for random topics or issues that people are dealing with, someone else asked the group, "How do you deal with false accusations from your wife?" As I looked around the room at the nodding heads and smirking lips, I realized, once again, that my struggle-of-the-week was common to my fellows in the program. Then I realized my head was nodding, and my lips were smirking, too.

As I was sharing my most recent experience with my wife's unjust assault on my integrity, I became aware that while my inner voice had been upset at being accused, my outer voice had been more gentle this time. Instead of showering protestations of my innocence, I had immediately acknowledged that little thing I did that opened up the rabbit holes of her mind. I had been able to practice that weird thing they call 'listening' without feeling cheated, must less acting like I felt cheated. This was a moment that was not the result of conscious recitations of affirmations and 12 Step fire-drills; this was just me sitting in my space. I knew I had done nothing wrong, even though it was my inadvertent comment that triggered her. I was truly sorry for her pain and the awful thoughts of my past that she was fighting. My heart was crushed because I should have anticipated better and chosen different words. But I knew I had done nothing wrong, so I was able to focus all my efforts and energy on being patient and helping her get through that few minutes, or at least not getting further in her way.

As I listened to the other guys in the meeting share their stories and insights, I found a peace that this had been a moment of growth. It was not a pat-on-the-back sort of thing, just an observation of program promises coming true. Again.

Someone in the meeting then distributed a prayer called the Litany of Humility. A little context is always nice.



Just a listening man

Try to understand

Just a listening man

Do the best I can

–The Bees, "Listening Man"


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