For sex, love and fantasy addicts, slips are often the rule for months–even years–before a person ends up with solid sobriety. People usually get to the “S” programs via one of two paths: a vague feeling that maybe they need to change their behavior, or a relatively catastrophic event that exposes them to extreme pressure from spouses, family, often friends, and that can affect their employment and even lead to severe legal issues.
How many times in our addiction, and perhaps in recovery as well, have we failed to give those close to us the attention they need in order for the relationship to thrive and grow?
As a young man I had a friend whose husband, a philanderer and sexual predator, took her totally for granted. He would have women (usually much younger women) in for the evening in his “study,” attached to the house. Sometimes he would invite them for dinner in the house. I’m ashamed to say that, at the time, I saw nothing wrong with that. In addition to his infidelity, he was often much less than polite to his wife. In fairness, she was known to throw a fit or two herself — with good reason.
One evening, having had a couple of drinks, I asked her why she put up with it. She said to me, “I’d rather be kicked than ignored.” Although I was guilty of my own transgressions for many years thereafter, I never forgot those words. It wasn’t until after a lot of years in recovery that I really got it. I realize now that she acted out in various ways just to get his attention. As far as she was concerned, that was better than putting up with the indifference.
Being ignored by people whose attention we need destroys self-worth, whether they are partners, parents, teachers, schoolmates, or even superiors at work. Some of us react with rage, some tell ourselves it doesn’t matter, and some of us “act in,” retreating into a shell where we try to ignore our own needs. Some of us try to “belong” by becoming essential to other twisted souls. Some of us, especially children, manage to become essentially invisible. Others of us will do almost anything to get attention, even if it means punishment.
We are social animals, and we desperately need social contact, approval and affection from the important people in our lives. It is impossible to have a healthy emotional life without it. Those of us who imagine that we can do so are in deep denial, and almost certainly addicted to chemicals, “feel good” behavior or some other form of escapism — anything to try to fill the emptiness.
It never works.
We owe our loved ones (and they owe us) attention, good regard, and the knowledge that they are cherished for themselves — not their beauty, their accomplishments, their grades, their brains, but simply because they are who they are. When we deprive them of unconditional love, they wither and die. Sometimes that death can take a very long time, as in the case of my friend. Sometimes it doesn’t take very long at all.
R.I.P., Birdie. You deserved better than you got.
Indifference, not hate, is the opposite of love.
- Am I getting to enough meetings?
- Do I have plenty of phone numbers?
- Do I make daily calls to others in recovery?
- Do I have a daily routine: reading, meditation, journaling?
- Do I review my day and consider my skillful and unskillful ways?
- Have I determined my bottom lines, worked on the Three Circles or considered my addictive habits with the help of another person?
- Have I examined the behaviors that lead up to acting out in my addiction and made necessary changes?
- Do I have a sponsor?
- Do I meet regularly with my sponsor?
- Am I making regular progress on the Steps?
- Am I enjoying fellowship; having some fun?
- Am I changing for the better, or just marking time?
Recovery isn’t about
Recovery is about healing.
I’m not good at intimacy. I can count the number of folks in my life who have known the Real Me on one hand, with fingers left over.
Charlie the cat is long and lean
The color of the night
And his eyes are green
He likes to snuggle…*
With Charlie, snuggling is a fairly formalized proposition. If he doesn’t invite himself, I do so by patting the bed next to me three times. He then waits what he considers an appropriate time–varying from a few seconds to a couple of minutes–to demonstrate that he is, indeed, his own cat and not responding to any orders. Then he hops up and walks back and forth a few times, purring. My position has to be just right; if not, he waits until I’ve completed my part of the ritual. Then he curls up so that his rear feet and head are in one of my hands, his body firmly pressed against my other arm and chest. Purring ensues, usually tapering off into little snores.
Charlie pretty much invented snuggling himself. Continue reading “Snuggles”
First of all, I want to wish everyone the best possible new year, consistent with the effort that you’ve been willing to put into your recovery. I’d go with the overall “Happy New Year,” but that’s bogus: happiness, of whatever kind, is an inside job, and no magical incantation from me is going to make it anything else.
Now the kitchen.
Let’s imagine that we are cleaning the kitchen as part of our New Year’s Resolutions.
We do the dishes and put them away. We clean out the fridge and toss the containers with the green stuff growing on the top (along with the others that we don’t really dare to open). We sweep and mop the floor. We organize the cabinets and toss all the junk we’ve accumulated and will never use into the garbage with the rest of the detritus. We sterilize the cutting board, wipe down the counters, clean the stove and the oven, and store all the cleaning stuff beneath the sink.
We look at all we’ve done and pronounce it good.
Then we take the garbage, throw it in the broom closet, and slam the door. We lock it, because we don’t want anyone to see it.
Eventually we notice an unpleasant smell in the kitchen. It grows worse over time, and then we look over at the closet and we see all sorts of nasty stuff seeping out from under the door.
At that point, we either clean out the closet and remove the garbage to the dumpster, or we’ll have to abandon the kitchen and–pretty soon–the house as well.
All that work shot to shit, when all we had to do was finish the job as thoroughly as we began.
“Get busy with life’s purpose, toss aside empty hopes, get active in your own rescue–if you care for yourself at all–and do it while you can.”
– Marcus Aurelius, ‘Meditations’ 3.14
“The essence of all growth is a willingness to change for the better and then an unremitting willingness to shoulder whatever responsibility this entails.”
– Bill W., The AA Grapevine, July 1965
And if your sponsor has you doing a yearly inventory, remember that inventories need to include the skillful ways along with the unskillful.