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JohnnyReco.com

Hands in the Valley

Hands in the Valley

Day 1476 My Mother is Dying. She has a brain tumor about the size of her hand that is stealing her from me. We can still have conversations, and she can still go places with the help of a rollator or an arm to lean on, but less today than yesterday. My wife and I have moved in with Mom and Dad so that we can provide more direct support to both of them. This experience is another one-day-at-a-time challenge, and—like recovery—each day is filled with pain and blessings and doing the 'next right thing.' People around us who have never walked in these steps express admiration for my being a 'good son' and amazement at my wife for being an even better daughter-in-law. Friends and strangers who can better relate are more likely to wish us peace and prayers with encouragement to also take care of ourselves. These people seem to have a deep understanding that none of us are getting out of this life alive, and the best we can hope for may be to have the courage to serve someone else the way we would wish to be served. When drafting this entry in my mind, and even when I started putting words to paper, I was not thinking about the similar touchstones between caregiving and recovery. Maybe this is why writers write, so they can learn what is really going on in their contemplations and calculations. In this case, I'm struggling with any attention coming my way that suggests a purpose or motive beyond putting one foot in front of the other and remembering to breathe as I witness what is happening before my eyes. But here is what I thought I would write about before I got sidetracked by what I needed to write about; it's been on my mind for weeks. Ever since Mom got sick a few months ago, I have been aware of every time I've touched her. From helping to stabilize her steps to holding her hand during times of stress and emotion, I have been filled with joyful discomfort of doing something new and necessary. Something new? Physical contact with the woman that gave me birth is something new? What have I been missing, and why the hell am I just now realizing it. I have never thought of myself as a hugger or an avoider. If someone wanted to say hello or goodbye with an embrace, I was okay with that, but it was rarely necessary, and I seldom sought it out. I never thought of casual affectionate contact as an issue in my life either way. But these past few weeks—every time I have helped my mother navigate her unsteadiness—I've begun to think I was wrong about that. Maybe it's a conspicuous oversight as it relates to my addiction, but the lens of my life has changed, and I'm still learning to translate and re-translate these new hues. Is this related to my sexual addiction? Do I have hidden 'Mommie issues' that are just now coming to light in the darkness of her illness (or mine)? Am I overthinking everything with a hypersensitivity that accompanies pilgrims in the Valley of the Shadow of Death? The answer is probably 'yes' to all those questions and more. The tricky part is understanding the relative weight that each carries. Maybe the really tricky part is remembering what I've already learned through other self-inquisitions; I cannot separate my recovery from my life. Do I want to understand better what I'm experiencing? Yes, of course. Do I want to get mired down in guilt or even in fix-it mode? I do not. So, I'm saying all this out loud because that seems to be the best way for me to keep my curiosities from becoming catastrophes. And in the light of day, perhaps the balance will become more apparent, and the fear of the shadows will be less demanding. It has happened before. –JR But something's changed 'round here What am I missing? I don't think I know where we are Something's changed 'round here Why do I get this feeling that I'm in the dark. –Linda Davis, " Something's Changed"

Moving Memories

Moving Memories

Day 4 Years Today is the fourth anniversary of my first day of sobriety as I started getting serious about recovery. That seems like a noteworthy moment worthy of notes and insights, but that is not really related to what I'm writing about on this day; it's just happenstance, or at least as happenstance as any life event can be from that which I struggle with every day. We're moving. For the second time in five years, we're packing up, purging down, and moving across town. The reasons are unrelated to my addiction, or at least as unrelated as any life event can be from that which I struggle with every day. But like much of the experience, strength, and hope that those in recovery rely upon in community, I have learned another lesson from the routine that seems to apply to the extraordinary. One of the goals in moving from one house to another is never to move something that you moved last time and haven't used since. I am not a hoarder, but I do seem to save way too many memories in the embodiment of photos, credentials, knickknacks, certificates, and just about anything that proves that I used to be somebody and I used to accomplish things. So last week, I was going through my treasure chest of stuff—it actually looks like a treasure chest—trying to eliminate a boatload of useless mementos before the movers show up and charge us for moving them. Again. I've got a box labeled for stuff that I'm keeping, a box where my fading significance is discarded, and lo and behold, I come up with a third box of things that I'm keeping temporally; I've marked that box in big, bold letters, "TO BE DIGITIZED." That's a new way of keeping old crap without paying big college guys to put it on their big trucks when they're not in class. What could go wrong with that plan? As I sort through my souvenirs, I find myself melancholy and philosophical. I note to myself that if I died tomorrow, 95% of this stuff is going to be cast into a dump truck that my kids—who I believe truly love me—will have backed up to the house for easy disposal of my life, er, I mean my trinkets. Oh, they may have some conversation about who takes my big screen TV and maybe even my collection of vinyl records, but there will be no takers for the Chamber of Commerce plaques, my press passes from a former career, and certainly not the length of razor wire that I brought back from a visit to a refugee camp years ago. So why is it so hard for me to throw this stuff away instead of letting it be a burden to my survivors? I don't like my answer. I have a very real, almost palpable, sense that if I throw something away that commemorates those smallest of moments that have contributed to who I am today, there's a chance that those moments never really happened or will never be remembered again. That seems to diminish me somehow. It's like a living version of being dead. Now comes the connection to my addiction. When I first disclosed my acting-out behaviors to my wife nearly four years ago, I immediately cut off inappropriate connections. I endeavored to demonstrate my commitment to recovery by eliminating everything I could from that life with other people. Over the months that followed, and now over these four years, I repeatedly found myself stumbling over surprises. There were old telephone numbers that I had secreted away, a do-dad that was meaningless except for the memories it invoked, and other trivial everyday items that would take me back to moments I once thought I wanted to maintain. For good or bad, these moments contributed to who I am today, albeit a sex addict that is fortunate to still be alive, much less still have a life. And those memory makers were part of what nearly took everything away from me, so I'm embarrassed to admit that every time one of these opportunities to do the next right thing came along, it was never automatic. I mean, I liked that shirt that triggered that memory, and those threads had nothing to do with my acting out. So, nearly every time, I would have a brief argument with myself about why I could safely keep the item in question, then, every time, it would go in the trash. Good for me (he said sarcastically). I know that disposing of memories by throwing away a random gizmo that had no guilt other than by association does not mean that the things I'm trying to forget never happened. I also know that once the trash is taken out, I will never again be triggered into a place I do not want to go by that particular piece of garbage. That's as close as I can probably ever come to making the past stay in the past. Maybe the best way to keep reminding myself of the good things I've done is to keep all the crap I've collected that is non-connected to my addiction. That way, I'm constantly reminded of those professional and civic moments instead of my acting out moments. Sounds good, but now I'm wondering how much of the innocent memorabilia in my collection is all that innocent. I also think that maybe I need to get back to my task and throw away a bunch of this stuff. I'm working on it: one picture, one souvenir, one day at a –JR I hear something in the basement When I shouldn't hear a sound Voices speaking there in whispers People moving stuff around –The Bluetones, " The Basement Song "

Day 1300 • Right about Writing, or Write about Righting?

Day 1300 • Right about Writing, or Write about Righting?

My wife tells me I'm not writing enough. My first impulse was to resist her telling me such a thing, but instead, I'm trying to listen. This is the woman who would ask me, "Have you been taking your DHPs*?" just a day or two after I had not, whether from forgetfulness or stubbornness. Now she's lovingly asking whether I've been writing much, even though she knows that I haven't. For the last few weeks, I've been 'taking a break' after more than two years of intense soul-cleansing and daily addiction-chasing keyboard plucking; it was my therapy and my way forward in the midst of great pain and uncertainty about many things. During this recent 'down-time,' we've lost a beloved family member to dementia, we have both been down with COVID (again), and now we are wrestling with the discovery of my mother's cancer diagnosis. Sure, that's all tough stuff, but I'm not necessarily making the connection to my not journaling, so why is Miss Perception calling me on my sentencing vacation? According to Dr. Google, I've been experiencing nocturnal panic attacks the past few days. I've been abruptly awakened — maybe a dozen times — with my heart racing, my breathing labored, my arms and legs transitioning between tingling and numbness, and my mind terrified to the point of being afraid to open my eyes. It only takes seconds to recognize my surroundings and begin to settle down, but it takes several more minutes for the physical to calm and longer for my brain to relax. The first time was funny in a morbidly curious way. But the next few times — every time I would nod off or fall asleep — were more and more frightening as I began considering every possibility, from strokes and tumors to insanity. I've only experienced anything like these symptoms one other time in my life, and that was thirty years ago, about a mile underground while watching my son and my brother trying to climb a sheer cliff during a spelunking trip. That anxiety was justified; I thought they were going to fall, and I was going to have to drag their damn bodies out of the cave. But this recent weird collapsing of mind and body was uncalled for as far as I can tell. The internet assured me that I was in no mortal danger, that I was not alone in my frustration and in coming to terms with how my brain was reacting to... whatever. ---------- I don't usually interrupt my own emoting, but the truth is that this bizarre body-and-soul retching just happened again. It's the first time I've experienced a panic attack — if that's what these incursions into my psyche are — when I'm awake. It was very uncomfortable, but it passed, so I'm getting back to life. ---------- I don't know what the hell is going on, but I trust this woman's voice in my life. She has proven she knows me more profoundly than I ever knew. I will release this to her wisdom and to my Higher Power and will attempt to trust the experience of others about this apparent manifestation of the battles in my brain. I will do my best not to isolate in this discomfort and thereby make it worse than it is, as I have often done with my addiction and other problems over the years. I'm not sure what the answers are, but I'll not be in a hurry to bypass the questions, and hopefully, we can navigate this together and openly until we emerge from the cave of this new challenge. In the meantime, I do need to reengage the keys on my board, even if that is not the answer to this particular problem. I used to hate it when she was right. *DHPs: Damn Happy Pills, or anti-depressants. –JR She can move you and improve you With her love and her devotion And she'll thrill you and she'll chill you But you're headed for commotion –Kiss, " Firehouse "

A Sense of Slippage

A Sense of Slippage

Day 541 In the past 13 months, I have rarely missed a day of working on recovery. A couple of weeks ago, having completed one year of journaling, I took some time off "for the holidays." My addict did not take time off. I did not slip nor act out sexually, but the unwanted thoughts increased, I had days when I forgot I am an addict, and there have been more stressful days and moments with my wife than we've had in months. Is there a direct connection between my not working the program and these discomforts? Everything in recovery says 'yes.' I don't want to agree, but I choose to not disagree. Today is New Year's Day, and it's a restart or at least a resume. Interestingly, I've probably prayed more with the intentional "Dear Father..." sorts of prayers during this period than I have in the past year. I express no conclusions, but I hope and trust that this is part of the spiritual path that draws me nearer to Him. It may merely have been my soul, knowing that I was not working my program, an act of subtle desperation to reconnect with a protector. I see good and bad in those scenarios. No need to figure it out; let's just get back to work, and be thankful I did not fade as much as I could have. –JR Slip slidin' away You know the nearer your destination The more you're slip slidin' away –Simon & Garfunkel, "Slip Slidin' Away"

Isolation or Just Solitude?

Isolation or Just Solitude?

Day 176 My name is John, and I'm a sex addict. In the early days of my recovery, I heard repeated references and encouragements that suggested I need to learn to be okay with being alone. The Bible speaks to the solitude of my soul with "...be still and know that I am God." I've heard others in recovery refer to becoming strong enough and loving themselves enough, that they were no longer afraid of being by themselves. Perhaps there is a nuanced difference between solitude and isolation that I am missing. I don't have any trouble being alone most of the time, but that is also where I am most at risk for pressures and mistakes that contributed to my addiction. How do I find that balance between these benefits of solitude vs the inherent risks of my isolation? – JR A little hope, goes up in smoke Just how it goes, goes without saying There was a man, a lonely man Who would command the hand he's playing –Carpenters, "Solitaire"

The Other Me

The Other Me

Day 175 I do not know how this thinking became dominant in my life, but I have lived toward my ideals more than toward who I thought I was, for as long as I can remember. Maybe because I've always been afraid of who I thought I really was... Am I still afraid of that internal conflict? Probably, but I have made progress, and I believe I can and will make more progress. Living as the manifestation of my ideals is very noble-sounding, and I don't think I want to shed that entirely. There's nothing wrong with me wanting to be more honest, more helpful, and more respectful — all elements of the values and ideals I believe in — but I must be able to infuse some reality about my limitations and, yes, my addiction. I do not need to wallow in my shame to know that I am guilty of bad acts. Neither do I need to craft an image of some sort of hero that is better than I am. I am not well-served by the extremes of my weaknesses nor the illusions of my perfections. – JR I didn't give second thought To what the consequence might be I really wouldn't be surprised If you were trying to find another me –Paul McCartney, "The Other Me"

December 30 • Balancing

December 30 • Balancing

Day 174 The combination of 'faith' and 'doubt' as tools and sometimes obstacles in my recovery is an odd mix. Faith that things will get better is a big part of recovery (otherwise, why would we try), but having too much faith in my progress can also be a trap that excuses not doing the work that I know is necessary for my sobriety. Doubting my ability to be honest and persistent is depressing and debilitating; working to prove those doubts wrong is motivating. How many times have I talked about balance? How many times have I failed to rest in the comfort of balance? How many more times can I live and breathe in the fringes of balance before I fall down from fatigue. Let's not find out. Not today. – JR I fell to the bottom I could not see the top To reach what was hidden I had to balance on loose rocks –Hear the Sea, "Balancing On Loose Rocks"

December 29 • More Presents

December 29 • More Presents

Day 173 My confusions about the past — and the future — sometimes overwhelm me and make it very difficult to stay focused on what I need to be doing in the present. My regrets about the things I've done get all knotted-up with my anxieties about consequences not yet paid and fears surrounding my sobriety. This conflict is not acceptable. I cannot be working my program one day at a time if I'm living in the past and worrying about the future. How can that be so obviously true and still so difficult to embrace into my nature? This issue is perhaps central to my leaning into the people in 12 Step meetings. These are people strengthened by success as well as by their failures. These are people that have it all figured out, including the fact that none of them have it all figured out. I am becoming one of them, or perhaps beginning to accept that I am already one of them. – JR Gotta know who's got your back Because they're right in front of you Because they're telling you the truth So much present, inside my present Inside my present so, so much past –Feist, "Past in Present"

December 28 • UN-Forgiving

December 28 • UN-Forgiving

Day 172 Many years ago, I was deeply hurt. Beyond my ability to express or explain now, my heart was crushed and my hopes for the future were ripped from my reach. At least that's how I felt and what I accepted to be true. Looking back, I believe I confused forgiveness with healing; it was more important for me to act healed than to genuinely take healing steps. I wanted so much to forgive and do the right things that I never really focused on healing. I pushed the pain down, dealt with the periodic eruptions by giving in more and more to my addictions, and just gutted it out until my pain overwhelmed me. Healing must happen; I can hide un-forgiveness for only so long... – JR So you think that it's over? So you think that it's done? The fields of unforgiveness never die, they've just began You thought you'd elude life's sorrow, emptiness and grief –Black Label Society, "Fields Of Unforgiveness"

December 27 • Not Alone

December 27 • Not Alone

Day 171 This community of anonymous sex addicts that I have embraced and been embraced by, is as real as any group I have ever experienced. I value how it "borrows" from the traditions of my faith and produces practical applications that are safe for people of all faiths. Or no faith. For the first time in my addiction, I find myself wanting to open up about my struggles and my darkest shames. I have lived a life of hiding all my imperfections at the expense of relationships, jobs, and self-esteem. This reversal, partial as it still is, has been life-changing, and I'm still early in recovery. It just seems like a really big deal. – JR Something’s gotta change but you don’t know how Feel the pressure building all around Lift your voice and go on let it out (Oh) Open up Open up –Zachary Ochsner, "Open Up"

December 26 • Who Am I?

December 26 • Who Am I?

Day 170 What is the truth of who I am? If we are not what we have done, who are we? If being is more important than doing, what am I doing while I am being? Am I only the sum of my memories? Am I the promise of my potential? Am I the consequence of my wrongs? If I'm the manifestation of Grace, then what do I do with that? If I'm the giver of gratitude, who do I thank? If the present is all I have, and I am presently trying to answer these questions, then who am I right now? – JR My storytelling supersedes the more elaborate flows I never stopped since I was a kid I been chasing the top If it's meant to be God hold me a spot And tell me who I am –Cameron London, "Who Am I?"

Day 169 • Did They Know?

Day 169 • Did They Know?

I'll never forget the laughter of the wise men in that first meeting (One Night in Missouri) and the seriousness with which they accepted my visit. Some even reached out to me days later. They had something I wanted; they were free of something from which I wanted to be released. Those guys were a gift from my Higher Power and together they brought me back as much as anyone has. Yet, I must remember that my addiction accelerated after that. It became bolder and more dangerous, and truly self-destructive. But I always remembered that meeting and continued to seek out one like it near my home, even as I continued to expand my secret life. – JR What would they do if they knew The pressure of perfection Was heavy and hard to bear Would they care –DuWaup, "Expectations"

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