Sober Living

The other night I went out for happy hour with a friend. We both had a hard week and were eager to meet up, talk, and drink. Over the course of our dining, I had two margaritas. Then something unusual happened. I couldn’t see straight or stand upright. These margaritas were made with something “special”. After laying on the cold bathroom floor of the restaurant for a long time and puking my guts out, my friend had to drive me home. I’m a light weight, but seriously… it was only two.

Sometimes alcohol is a lovely accompany to life. Other times, we wish we hadn’t. This experience at happy hour got me thinking about the temptation we all face to numb out. breneWe need relief from the pressures, demands, grief, and challenges of life. There are countless ways to get a dopamine rush … drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, gaming, gambling, eating, exercise, work, adventure. Some escapes are moderate, productive, and yield positive outcomes. However, if we use a substance or behavior as a means of medicating, then we are avoiding feeling our feelings. When we live SOBER, we feel everything. For the most part, I have done life sober. Let me tell you, it can be brutal. However, it’s a gift to ourself and others to live sober.

It is uncomfortable to feel our feelings, especially the most vulnerable ones. We grow in emotional intelligence as we learn to identify feelings, understand them, and manage them.936763db276da1700f6bf9d3376411e0 The Pixar film, Inside Out, did a great job of capturing the internal world of emotion. I couldn’t watch the movie without crying. I identified with each and every emotion and the turmoil to express feelings honestly and appropriately.

I am growing in my ability to sit with my feelings and sort through them. It’s a worthy pursuit. In the clinical world, this process is called mindfulness. In the spiritual world, contemplation. These are practices of slowing down, pausing, being present, and attending to our inner world. The goal is to learn to soothe ourself appropriately and then respond, not react when communicating feelings to others.

One of the things I discovered through mindfulness and contemplation is it’s particularly hard for me to express fear. I processed through this with friends and my support group, and they helped me make an important connection. When I was scared in the middle of the night as a kid, I was reprimanded. In my marriage, my feelings of fear were dismissed. Over time, I came to internalize a belief that it’s not safe to express fear. This awareness helped me choose a new mode of operation. Part of my forward growth is to verbalize the words “I feel scared… ” with people that can hold space with me and hear my fear. If I don’t, my bent when I am scared is to lash outward wanting to control others or circumstances to make me feel better. I’ve seen this reactivity push others away and keep me disconnected from my inner truth.

I want to be connected (not disconnected) to my emotions. I want to risk and be courageous enough to lean into vulnerability and authenticity. I want to love others well by managing and expressing emotion in constructive ways that foster knowing and being known. I want to experience deeply satisfying relationships. This is my quest! Sober Living is essential to this mission for all parties involved.

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Porn Ain’t Love Ya’ll

Some refer to porn as “erotica” and promote it as a way to enhance passion in a loving relationship. It is rarely seen as a threat to intimacy and connection. Yet, it is. Whether porn is being viewed together or separately, it will drive a wedge between lovers.
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The title of this book speaks volumes. It refers to porn as “virtual infidelity“. We bond to whoever/whatever we have sex with. During sexual arousal and orgasm, oxytocin is released in our body. It is a bonding agent. We attach to the object of our sexual focus. Like a mama bear with a cub, oxytocin works to keep us loyal and fighting for our beloved. It’s important we bond with the one we promise to love, honor, and cherish. Otherwise, we will turn on our beloved. That’s the dark side of oxytocin. Having lived with someone addicted to porn, I experienced this phenomenon again and again.

Marriage researchers Drs. John & Julie Gottman, recently published an open letter to porn on their relationship blog. They are relationship experts that work to create greater love and health in relationships. John Gottman is world renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction. This is a significant warning from an award winning, influential therapist.

 

imagesOur culture makes light of porn. It minimizes porn, tolerates it, and even celebrates it. Yet, there is growing concern. The latest issue of TIME magazine addressed the concern and reported on an increasing number of young men experiencing erectile dysfunction when trying to have sex with a real partner. If they look at porn – – problem goes away. These men are experiencing a consequence that ultimately sabotages the deep longing of their heart. Every human heart wants real love. These men are activists sounding the alarm and advocating for change. The impact on relationships can no longer be ignored.

Check out this blog: To The Women with Whom He “Didn’t Cheat” and hear the truth… porn is cheating. Let’s advocate for Real Love. #lovehonorcherish

Get Your Recovery On

We enter recovery after we have lost something. The definition of recovery:

  1. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.
  2. A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.

imgresI entered recovery Dec 1, 2012. It’s not that I hadn’t been in search of recovery resources prior to that day or spent thousands of dollars on marriage therapy or his therapy … because I had. But that was the day I finally started to get specialized help for myself. It was a defining day in my life. It’s the day I entered my first S-Anon meeting. S-Anon is for relatives or friends of sexually addicted people. After the meeting I told someone in the group that I heard I should go to individual therapy but I can’t afford to. Her response to me was, “you can’t afford not to”. She handed me the card of her therapist, Mari Lee, CSAT (certified sex addiction therapist). I was in Mari’s office the next week and began individual and group therapy. 

Mari is one of the authors of Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts. She helped me recover things I wasn’t aware I had lost (safety, boundaries, thoughtful action, self confidence). I have much respect and admiration for Mari. During our first session, Mari told me there are “gifts in the wound“. She repeated this often. It was hard to hear, but over time this became a comfort and mantra. I started to look for gifts and I started to see them.

One of the amazing gifts are the beautiful men and women I meet along the way that are also in recovery. I have a plethora of new friends around the globe because of the gift of recovery. When we find each other, we find healing. We find strength. We call forth the best in one another and encourage each other to press on. We admire the courage, the bravery, the fight. We are over comers. We are warriors.

In recovery, we heal from trauma. We need safe spaces and people in order to recover… i.e. no judgement zones. That’s why support groups are amazing!

Dorit Reichental MA, MFTi, ACC, CSAT-2 states, “There is nothing inherently wrong with partners. They have been betrayed, lied to, and traumatized. At the February 2014 IITAP conference, relationship specialist Julie Gottman stated that, ‘100% of betrayed partners experience symptoms of PTSD.’ If a partner’s trauma is not appropriately treated the symptoms will worsen overtime.”[1]

My need for recovery continues. In fact, I joined a support group led by an APSATS trained certified life coach just last week. I am one of 6 women in this call in group. Though we reside in different parts of the country, we journey together for 10 weeks. During the first meeting we shared our stories. For some, it is a truth rarely disclosed to anyone else. Now… to complete strangers… we speak our truth… and trust that in doing so we heal our pain.

Sexaholism

 

drugI don’t assume most people have the word sexaholism in their vocabulary. I am grateful for this word because it explained a host of things I was experiencing in my marriage. Sexaholism (also referred to as problematic sexual behavior or sex addiction) is very similar to alcoholism. But instead of being powerless over alcohol, sexaholics are powerless over lust. Sex addiction is a process addiction which means it’s an addiction to a behavior instead of a substance. It’s used like a drug and acts like a drug in the heart, brain, and soul (check out Fight the New Drug to learn more). 

Problematic sexual behaviors can range from viewing pornography, to seeking hook ups, to frequenting strip clubs, soliciting prostitutes, and the list goes on. Like any addiction, without intervention, the compulsive obligation to act out will progress and evolve over time. In 12 step language, an addict becomes powerless over the addiction and life becomes unmanageable. Loss is certain for addicts. The hope is that an addict hits rock bottom, enters recovery, and works a program of healing before he or she has lost everything (check out this video).

Addiction is brutal. No addict chooses to be an addict. Yet, it is the addict that has to choose to recover. As one expert in the field described, addiction is 100% nature, 100% nurture, and 100% choice. The problematic symptoms are the tip of the iceberg. A massive boulder lies below the surface. Recovery is the process of excavating the boulder in order to heal the wounds that lie below. Unless the boulder is eliminated, problematic symptoms will continue to surface. Recovery requires hard work, dedication, rigorous honesty, vulnerability, education, support communities, and specialized professional help

Light

Light exposes darkness and reveals what is hiding in the shadows. When we speak truth, we shine light. I am not the only one reaching to turning on the lights. sun on hand gesture

I am inspired and encouraged by everyone who is contributing to the swell and raising awareness about issues that need to be talked about. We can break through taboos with transparent speech and vulnerability! This is the antidote to shame.

Soaking up the rays!

Single Mom Commune

It’s 9pm. I’m sitting on the couch in my living room listening to the sound of children upstairs who won’t fall asleep… and I’m irritated. Night after night, I long for a quiet house and a reprieve from the unrelenting needs, noises, and demands of 4 children. Post separation and divorce, my parenting responsibilities grew exponentially. I’m the custodial parent, the present parent, the one that carries the load of responsibilities. There is rarely a day when I’m not bound by the role of caregiver. Single, yet rarely alone.

how the hell do I do this?? am I really suppose to get use to this?? how do I cope??

If only we had a commune for single moms: a group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities. It’s a stellar idea! Problem is, our marriages ceased in different parts of town. Rarely do we live next door to each other. Our kids are enrolled in a variety of school districts, we have different standards of living, different income levels, different needs. But what if there was a place… a haven… where in the in between… we could be there with and for each other? What if we weren’t isolated in our own little homes and apartments trying to do this alone? What if we could lean on each other — on the ones that understand, can empathize like none other, and are motivated to lend a helping hand? I would seriously consider moving if there was a commune waiting with open arms.

Kintsugi

I joined a group of women this weekend for a retreat in Wimberley, TX. Most of us had never met before, but our bond was quick and strong. See, we share in the sisterhood of betrayed women. Our current or former husbands meet the criteria of “cheaters” or “sex addicts” due to their compulsive problematic sexual behavior that we discovered (or he disclosed)…. but more times than not discovered, because it’s rarely disclosed. kintsugi-9Discovery of hidden affairs, porn, escorts, etc. is earth shattering and traumatizing. The heap of lies and deception breaks our sense of security and erodes our trust. The life we thought we had and the spouse we thought we knew disappear. We find ourselves sitting in debris overwhelmed with shock, pain, grief, and loss. The road ahead is long and difficult whether we travel it with him or walk alone. In the shit storm (to quote one of the sisters), we realize our need for help, support, and mending.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of fixing broken pottery. How fitting it was for us to do this exercise. Our retreat facilitator brought a collection of pottery and had us pick a piece. Then we broke it with a hammer. The next morning we began the process of piecing the broken pieces back together. The philosophy of Kintsugi says repair becomes part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. The pottery isn’t discarded after damage or breakage. In fact, the damage is illuminated. Liquid gold or silver is used to paint over the cracks.Sang-Bleu_kintsugi

The process of Kintsugi is slow and tedious. Not all the pieces fit together perfectly. When we painted over the cracks, we found beauty again in the object. In fact, it’s more beautiful now than it was to begin with. This is the lesson learned. Like the pottery, we will never be the same. Through our pain, we’re transformed.