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Day 961 • Just a Test?

I don't know what made me think of this today, but it's oddly encouraging. As I struggle in certain situations to find more ways to contend with my addiction, I think I spend too much time looking for NEW ways, new tools, new behaviors that I have not previously known.

I've written before about my tendency to lean into paranoia. Now I see that tendency as at least a factor in my need to build and maintain a bastion against anyone peeking into my soul, but for many years I just thought everyone was out to get me.

As part of the coursework for a psychology course, I took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. I've always thought we have a long way to go in behavioral science to be able to depend on such tools, but when they hit me between the eyes with a reality that I am aware of and have never told a soul, it gets my attention. I had a similar experience when I first took a sexual addiction inventory, but in the case of the MMPI my ah-ha moment was about my paranoia.

I was very comfortable with the curse of my reality, of being so unique that it fostered some combination of envy, jealousy, fear, distrust, and just plain hatred. I did not like living in that environment, but I had adapted to it without going off the rails; I had accepted it.

Then I got the results of the MMPI. This moment was more than thirty years ago and I can still remember where I was standing when first reading this report. My first reaction was stunned silence; I stared at the numbers and charts that showed me at the extremes of every category connected to worrying about what other people thought of me. Then I read the narrative several times before sitting down and asking myself what I was going to do about this.

I want to think I was sane enough to realize that anyone, or anything, that could see past my carefully crafted confidence — fake though it was — and paint such a clear picture of my angst had to be worth listening to, so I did.

The short version is that I made a conscious decision to resist my paranoia solely on the basis of this new understanding. I remember thinking that the MMPI may have been a clever carnival trick that just coincidentally had managed to lay out this secret of mine in such eloquent terms. I chose to accept the unlikeliness of that in favor of hope; if it could be diagnosed, it could be overcome.

It did not happen overnight, and I still have moments of questioning everything, and I think that comes from the same dark place or paranoia. But I did notice progress almost immediately. A jock that I was sure didn't like me made a passing joke about my test results that would have quietly cut me an hour before, but I refused to go there. Instead, I jocked right back and was delighted at the response that was so different than I expected. It was a bit of instant gratification that worked for me, instead of all the times it's worked against me.

I made a decision, and I continue to make that decision. Even in sexual addiction 12 Step meetings, I still find myself assuming that this guy to my right, or that guy across the room, has some mystical insight into my innards and hates me for what they see and who I am. That's almost funny to write down, but what pleases me is how quickly I've learned to deny that stupidity.

I suspect that such perceived disdain has actually been true a few times, and I'm still able to push away that deep-seated paranoia.

I can look at my recovery and see a similar skill, maybe one refined by that moment of awakening all those years ago. This time it's harder; this time, I'm dealing with reality instead of a falsehood of what the world thinks of me. This time I'm dealing with an addiction.

The program has helped me pay attention to these little moments and the big moments that have trained me for the tasks at hand. In that, I gain hope that I can develop the needed skills through the surrender to my Higher Power and with the help of the fellowship of sex addicts.

And I don't care what anyone else thinks about that. Well, not a lot, anyway.




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