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June 22 • From Shame to Grace

Day 714

Shame is exhausting. It is also informative if I have the courage to listen to it.

I guess I should first define what 'shame' is, but I don't really have a handle on that. I'm obviously ashamed of what I've done, yet the shame of what I've done seems like another level, or maybe something more different than that. For the sake of this journal entry, shame is that place I slither into when the weight of my failings and fear of my future stir my insecurities beyond my ability to deal with my thoughts. It affects me mentally, emotionally, physically, and relationally. It sucks.

My response to it is passive-aggressive pouting, usually aimed, to one degree or another, at the one person whose opinion I most value, my wife. It most often occurs when she inadvertently says something negative or questioning about my choices or my driving or some similar routine, non-important decision. She is usually not even aware of the moment. My pattern is first to spend hours beating myself up for not being able to make better decisions, and then evolving into hating myself for letting something stupid like that upend me in cowardly silence. The spiral then feeds on itself.

Before I began acting out, and way before I got into recovery, that process could last for days, usually after my amorous advances had been ill-timed or not well received. Back then, it was often part of my justification for the pornography and fantasizing that I would likely have given into anyway.

These days, the temptation to use such moments as an excuse to act out is virtually non-existent, which I chalk-up to the things I've learned and the tools I've gained in my 12-Step program. But my self-hatred over this behavior seems stronger now than before recovery because now I should know better; I should be better. I can see it happening and still can't stop that initial reaction of worthlessness and uselessness (if there's a difference).

It happened again today, and I spiraled hard. It was the smallest of things, a simple question about why I decided to drive straight instead of turning right. It was an avoidable thing; had I communicated that I wanted to stop by the store before going home, it would have been avoided. But suddenly, in my mind, I couldn't do anything right.

When we got home, I retreated into a nap that came much easier than it should have. I woke up in time to go to an SAA meeting, which I argued with myself about whether to even bother. I bothered. When the meeting chair asked if anyone had a topic, I told myself to keep quiet, and I did for what seemed to be a full minute of silence. With apologies for not knowing exactly how to parse the discussion-starter, I shared my day. I finished and waited for the silence that was sure to follow such an asinine topic that no one could identify with because this was just about me. There was no silence. Member after member offered their shame and frustration with similar stories. Best of all were the shares about the tools they've developed to shorten and recover from the spirals, ideas I'd never thought of.

After the meeting, I was determined to nip this in the bud by talking to my wife. She was already in tune with my brush with insanity and asked me about the meeting. Quickly, we were sitting on the couch, having a healthy discussion. I knew this was not about her and told her that there was nothing for her to do; this was my problem, and I'm working on it. She agreed but said I also needed to know that she was running a temperature of over 100º at the time and not communicating her desires to get home any better than I was sharing my intentions to run an errand along the way. She was not angry. She did not invalidate my feelings, nor did she justify them. It just happened. We talked it out, learned a little more about each other and about my addiction, and I was grateful. But I was still exhausted.

It still surprises me how not unique I am in my struggles. After years of not seeking help because I knew no one would understand my behaviors and thinking, I have another new appreciation for the cunning and baffling nature of sex addiction. I am thankful for the friends, the addicts, that are my co-laborers against this disease. And I am very fortunate to have a life-partner that is as interested and as committed to my recovery as I am.

I'm a lucky guy. But I'm still tired.




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