It’s difficult to stay on the gentle path. Lust hits are everywhere and sometimes they send you reeling before you have your defenses marshaled.
I think many women would agree that finding the right bra is almost as difficult as finding a pair of jeans that fit. Unfortunately for me, trying on bras is still a bit of an iffy proposition, thanks to Fr. M the wonder therapist sharing his leather fetish with me. Toward the end of my therapy with him, I was buying leather underwear, visiting leather shops, getting help and advice from the shop owners. Ugh. Since those memories still come with a fair amount of shame and nausea that combines nicely with all the normal angst of standing in front of a dressing room mirror, I avoid trying on bras. The style that fits me is, unfortunately, only found at Victoria’s Secrets. That’s not an easy place for someone like me to shop. For a long time, I would feel sick just walking past the store. It’s much better now. I can go in, select what I need, pay and leave almost like a “normal” person. Since I know it’s going to be difficult, I make sure I’m not Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I acknowledge my feelings: pride in how far I’ve progressed in my recovery; anger and sadness at how badly I was hurt and how I colluded in my own abuse.
But what about those hits that seem to come out of the blue? In the Big Book there’s a line that says something to the effect that sooner or later there will come a time when we have no defense against taking that first drink. Only a higher power can save you then. Well, I don’t believe there’s any magic HP in the sky who’s going to tap me with his magic sobriety wand. What I do believe is that there are times when I’m going to lose my sobriety if I don’t maintain my recovery.
Scientists hooked people up to a PET scanner and discovered that we actually decide to move a finger before we’re consciously aware we’ve decided. Maybe this is what’s happening in that defenseless moment. I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve been on the Internet on the verge of taking that first sip before it clicks that I’m getting ready to step off the gentle path and and back onto the insane highway of active addiction. It’s most definitely a deer in the headlights phenomenon. And so far, I have had the presence of mind to get the hell out of danger. As the Big Book says, I “recoil as if from a hot flame.”
I believe that has happened because I’ve worked hard to acquire new coping skills and I’ve practiced them enough that they’re becoming habitual. At least they’re consciously habitual, whereas my compulsive addictive behaviors are unconsciously habitual. So a combination of making sure I’m as protected as possible by saying my affirmations, staying aware of H.A.L.T, using the PCI, etc. I maintain relationships with people who know my story and will give me honest feedback about how I’m doing.
All written down, maybe it seems like I have to spend an inordinate amount of time on recovery stuff. And at first it seemed that way to me too, but it’s really not that bad. I certainly don’t spend nearly the same amount of time on recovery that I did on addictive behaviors. It’s like flossing your teeth. When you first start, your gums will bleed. You’ll forget. Sometimes you’ll haul yourself out of bed and sometimes you’ll just resolve to do better tomorrow. But on the whole, flossing is a good thing and after you acquire the habit, it’s not going to take so much time and energy to remember. And your gums won’t bleed any more.
So for a quick recap:
1. Staying in recovery takes conscious effort.
2. You can prepare for some difficult situations before they occur.
3. Others seem to whack you right between the eyes.
4. At those times, your conscious effort will afford you just enough space to get out of immediate danger.
In a later post I’ll explore how those “out of the blue” hits indicate either an unrecognized stressor or a lax program.