My spiritual awakening to atheism

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Have I mentioned recently that I’m grateful to be an atheist? Life is so much more precious now, since this is the only one I’ve got; no do-overs in heaven. I don’t have to waste any of it rationalizing the unbelievable.

One of my more elaborate rationalizations was regarding the whole issue of transubstantiation (that’s the belief that the bread and wine of communion actually changes into the actual flesh and actual blood of Christ at the moment the priest blesses them) by believing that there was an atom of Jesus in every wafer and every cup that would become activated by the priest’s blessing.

I know. Right. Stop laughing! Seriously! I can hear you!

Okay. It is pretty funny that creating a rationalization I could believe in for communion was my biggest impediment to becoming Catholic before I converted.

Oddly enough, masturbation didn’t worry me at all. Of course, why would it? i had no idea that this was a significant coping or self-soothing mechanism for me. I knew I’d have to stop, but I honestly didn’t think it’d be a big deal at all. Masturbation’s a mortal sin in Catholicism, which worked really well for me because I usually felt like shit after I masturbated. Separate yourself from God, feel lonely and ashamed. Made sense to me. You have to confess mortal sins before you can take communion. Again, makes sense. It’s the Church’s way of helping you reconnect with God. Besides, I had nothing to worry about since my sex life was going along just fine.

I did a thorough and fearless moral inventory in preparation for my first confession. Guess what I forgot! Yepper, I completely forgot porn and masturbation. Now that was embarrassing, because I had to schedule a second confession. See, I wanted to be sure I’d done my part right so the magic would work.

After I converted I was shocked to (re)discover that I couldn’t stop masturbating. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about sex. And orgasms became completely unattainable. It was confusing and embarrassing. Obviously this was all in my head, so I asked my parish priest for help and he referred me to a “really great” therapist. Why didn’t I go to the person who helped me 10 years earlier? Because I didn’t want to be cured of my Catholicism.

That’s how I ended up seeing a monk for psychotherapy. After a year and a half of the talking cure with him, I’d attempted suicide once and had plans to do a better job the next time. I wasn’t sleeping, smoked 2 packs a day (I wasn’t a cigarette a year smoker before). And my sexual acting out had jumped into behaviors that I hid from my husband, things that I consider adultery.

I see now that I felt like … like I was evil. This has been a theme for me. Somehow I had been contaminated and I desperately wanted to be saved, to be made whole, to become pure and good. It’s not uncommon for people who were sexually abused as children to feel as if they have been tainted. You can wash and wash but you’re never really clean. That foul core is always there. I wanted to be clean. Saved. I wanted God to magically wash me clean and make me whole.

Alas, there is no magic. But change is possible. new mental pathways can be forged. “Training scars” can be recognized and dealt with. I am trying to change myself so my feelings and my reality are congruent. I want to feel clean and good, which is what I hope I really am. But its hard to make the heart accept what the mind knows (or hopes). With this new therapist, all I can focus on is making sure I tell him exactly how bad a person I am. When he doesn’t judge me as bad, I feel I’m not being honest.

It’s sad. I don’t want to be seen as a bad person but I can’t accept being seen as good one. I hate that I can’t just accept myself as good enough. When that happens, sobriety is a happy byproduct.

So while it is funny, it’s also sad that a person could waste so much time and energy just trying to find a way to justify his or her own existence.

GP

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Posted in atheism, my journaling, sex addiction, therapy

Hello World

no group here

 

I’ve been seeing a new therapist closer to where I live. It’s nice not having to block out a half day to go to therapy. I can get to his office in about 10 minutes, which is really convenient.

I have mixed feelings though about being back in therapy. Yes, it’s true that therapy is often a step in the right direction along the gentle path toward self-actualization. But the road is anything but easy. Yesterday was a tough session. And today I’ve been this weepy, sad person that I don’t want to be.

Part of what I want from therapy is verification that I am NOT a seductive, career-ruining, predator. I want to move past an academic acceptance. I want to be free of the guilt and shame that I have about having a sexual relationship with my former therapist. His rationalization that we hadn’t really had a sexual relationship because “it was only phone sex” is something I’ve NEVER believed. I saw that as the rationalization when he said it to me, and I still believe with all my heart that although we did not actually have intercourse or actually touch each others bodies, we did have a sexual relationship. I know it. And that sexual relationship was . . . dare I say . . . NOT therapeutic.

I want to feel that sure about whether I did something wrong during our sessions. How do I do that? How do I convince myself that I did not behave inappropriately? What I’ve been doing is telling this new therapist about how I acted in sessions and asking his opinion. So far I’ve asked two therapists if bringing coffee to a therapist is flirtatious, seductive, or bad. So far, the consensus is that it’s probably not a bad thing. Probably. That’s where I get stuck, but the truth is that it doesn’t matter how many times I ask, I never REALLY believe I was blameless. How does that get fixed? It’s like a kind of psychic phantom limb pain.

***************

I’ve been trying to start a 12-step group in my town with very little success. I have a box of stuff, I have a meeting place, but no people. Periodically men will contact the hotline, but they don’t want to talk to a female. That’s understandable, but I’m tired of trying to get a group going.

***************

I’m just sad. I feel like someone dear to me has died. I feel sorry for this little girl who was me, for this woman who was me. I wonder if this is healthy – poor me, poor me, pour me, and all that jazz.

But the scary thing for me is that I’m beginning to feel a bit angry. Resentful. That’s a scary vortex to look into. Recovery slogans aside, I believe I need to walk through these feelings. And I’m going to try hard to do it soberly because otherwise, I don’t think it’ll work.

The new therapist said that it would set me free. I don’t know if I buy that. I’m not feeling so free right now. I’m feeling sad, vulnerable, and wounded.

GP

 

Posted in i had sex with my therapist, life in general, my journaling, sexual addiction, therapy

Sleepless

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Something must have clicked somewhere in my brain because I couldn’t sleep most of the night yet I haven’t been acting out. Weird.

Here’s something interesting from http://simonsobo.com/the-strengths-and-weaknesses-of-dsm-iv

Mr. K., a lawyer for a large corporation, was overwhelmingly depressed at home and work. The apparent cause was a difficult supervisor at his job. Almost daily his supervisor would criticize some aspect of his work and Mr. K. would be immobilized for the rest of the day. Sometimes he would stare at the wall in a daze… “my father always called me a complainer…you don’t have to love your job; you just have to get it done… I’m a loser … all those years in law school and for nothing…” Placed on Prozac Mr. K. was quickly fixed. His supervisor would enter his office, make his usual derogatory remarks and nothing would happen. Mr. K. could again get his work done in fine form. There were other benefits. His overweight wife lost 35 pounds. For the first time in years, Mr. K. put down the TV remote control. They began having good conversations, the kind of talks they used to have when their relationship was fresh and engaging. Everything became new. Mr. K. realized that for years he had been going out on Sundays because he was irritated by the tumult of his children at home. On Prozac, he found himself playing with his children and having a great time. After ten months on the medication we decided to see how he would do without it. Within a few weeks we were back to square one. His supervisor’s remarks were again devastating him and he was a grouch at home. He made a quick recovery once he was placed back on the medication. After 16 months on Prozac Mr. K. found a new job. He loved it. He came off the Prozac. He did just fine.

There were only a few peculiarities that he commented on when he got off the medication. Although overall he had worked far more effectively on Prozac, for the first time in his life he found himself ignoring deadlines. Once or twice, that had caused difficulties. He bought a Mercedes on the medication. He had always wanted a Mercedes, but off of the medication he considered it a budget buster and foolish.

This case is noteworthy not only because his judgment was altered by the meds, but because, at ten months, when we first tried stopping the meds, he would have seemingly illustrated the statistics often replicated in studies, of patients who have a recurrence without their meds, thus providing one more piece of evidence, seeming to confirm the biological basis of his illness. But, at 16 months, with the apparent cause of his depression eliminated (his critical supervisor), he did just fine without an SSRI. This doesn’t diminish the almost miraculous effectiveness of his original meds, or even that Prozac may very well have helped him gain the initiative to find a new job. However, it does highlight the kind of questions that clinicians should ask themselves about the particulars involved in a specific patient’s illness, as opposed to exclusively focusing on the operative factors in a specific diagnosed illness. This perspective is in contrast to the clinical practice guideline issues by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which flatly states that where there has been a prior episode(s) of major depression “maintenance of antidepressant medication treatment should be for at least one year” 32 Statistically this assertion may have a basis but surely there are circumstances when this “rule” should not guide us.

My doctor tells me that I’ll probably be on antidepressants for the rest of my life. That kind of sucks, but it also kind of doesn’t because I like having a brain that works. I wish I’d gotten them years ago.

It’s time to get up and start the day. Man, do I hate not sleeping. I feel fine now, but later I’m going to be cranky.

Posted in life in general

I’m ready for spring to be here

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I spent a few hours today thinking about redoing my inner circle. But here’s the thing. I don’t really have good sobriety on all the behaviors in my inner circle right now and I know that addicts who redefine their inner circles by themselves, when they aren’t sober, are making a big mistake. I probably wrote a long winded but erudite blog post about that very thing. Ha.

I’m not doing anything that I need to disclose to my husband. He knows (most) of what I’ve been doing (mostly).

I know. That sounds like bullshit to me too.

I wish it was spring because I like how the air smells more alive and I can feel the warmth of the sun. I hate being cold. When you’re sweating, you know you’re alive, which is one positive thing about being peri menopausal: hot flashes can be taken as a sign of aliveness.

I know. That sounds like bullshit to me to. But it did make me smile a little bit. 🙂

Posted in 12-step recovery, life in general, relapse

Returning to Therapy

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day

It’s been strange, returning to therapy. I thought I was done with all the navel gazing and unpacking, and re-framing. None of that shit is much fun, plus I’m taking a chance that I could be hurt again.

My new therapist isn’t a CSAT (Certified Sex Addiction Therapist) but he is licensed (I checked). He hasn’t been reported for professional misconduct (I checked). My husband thinks he’s good (I wouldn’t see him otherwise). He is a published author (that’s kind of neat). He’s smart.

So I was telling him about some of the difficult (i.e. bad) things that happened to me when I was in treatment. These are things that I did not think were all that big a deal, minor hurts. I told them so my new therapist would have a picture of how sick I was at that time.

He listened and when I stopped, he reflected back to me that it sounded like the doctor that did my intake interview might have had some issues himself. (I agree.) He said it must have hurt to be treated that way. (It did.) It must have been devastating to have my behavior toward my children questioned.

And at that point, my eyes filled up with tears and I had to disassociate to keep from breaking down completely. That was pretty near the end of the session so we stopped there. I got myself together enough that he wasn’t worried about me leaving and I made it down his crummy stairs without breaking my neck. I got to my car without attracting undue attention and cried the whole way home. Hard.

I hate crying. Somehow or another I got the idea that crying was manipulative and I do not ever want to be manipulative. I don’t want to trick people into caring for me. So I cried in the car, then at home; after dinner and in the shower. And the next day . . . wait for it . . . I had no desire or urge to act out sexually in any way. None. This after weeks of having every cell in my body screaming for sex.

It was a day of sobriety – a really good day.

This was a week or so ago and I’ve acted out since then. In fact, I had an embarrassing moment this morning when my husband noticed some of the more tangible signs of my acting out.

What I’m wondering is if I’m going to have to cry more in therapy to regain the solid sobriety I used to have. Sobriety and recovery require such deep and intensive exposure – and I haven’t even begun to deal with the issues that are fueling my addiction. I absolutely dread going forward with this. I do not think I will be able to really let go and cry at these sessions like I probably need to. I was only able to do that with my last therapist because I was so sick I didn’t have a choice. I had no reserves.

I’m better now and I have plenty of reserves. Will I be able to let go? Will this therapist be able to help me pry my fingers up and just let go? Will he be able to see me through the fall?

Well at the very least, the melodrama of the last few sentences has made me smile. I hope it has made you smile as well.

GP

Posted in my journaling, relapse, sex addiction, sexual addiction

Art Therapy

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One of the hardest parts of going to a residential treatment facility was the impossibility to avoid the “touchy-freely shit.” That would be things like art therapy, meditation, standing on a chair shouting out affirmations. We had group exercises on the R.O.P.E.S. course, group therapy, peer interventions, and shit like that. There were stupid ceremonies where we’d symbolically “let go.” We had ask if people were open to feedback and speak in the “I” rather than the “you.”

Gag me. I freely admit to scorning all that airy-fairy happy, psychobabblizing bullshit. It was stupid and it wouldn’t work.

But treatment was fucking expensive! And I was miserable. I felt so bad for being such an evil, manipulative bitch; a sexual predator that destroyed men. (Yes, I know now that I was misguided, but at the time, that’s what I believed and how my treatment was directed.) My plan was to do absolutely EVERYTHING to the best of my ability. After all, I didn’t have anything to lose. If it didn’t work, there were train tracks very close to where we slept and I could kill myself and make it look accidental. I’d be out of my misery, the facility wouldn’t be blamed, and my family wouldn’t be hurt (since they wouldn’t know it was suicide).

Clearly, I was a fucking mess. And clearly I wasn’t honest about this train wreck plan of mine since someone that ill needs 302’d.

But I participated 100% because I wanted to get better. I wanted to become someone who is not evil, not a predator. And here’s the surprise: that touchy-freely shit really helped.

The next significant step was adding some other types of therapy to open up and expose this secret, dark, raging beast. I had to feel it and express it. I used primal therapy, inner child work and art therapy both to expose the beast and to start to allow my more vulnerable and kinder parts a voice. This was a fairly lengthy process, but I believe it was probably a lot quicker than talking about it because the beast listens to no one. It wasn’t until I felt the feelings that I “got it.”

For example, someone told me that because I was only a child, being sexually abused wasn’t my fault and I wasn’t dirty or bad because of it. Using the process so far as an example I went from denial (“yeah whatever, of course it’s not the child’s fault, I don’t think I’m dirty and I don’t care so shut up”) to “If I thought of my friend/sister/a child on the street it would absolutely never ever be their fault that they were abused and it should never ever happen to anyone and they should never ever have to carry that burden” to feeling the humiliation, powerlessness, degradation, shame, and physical pain of that sexual abuse. This step allowed the beast to start letting in the tiniest momentary, usually temporary rays of compassion. from Psych Central, by Sam Thinks.

Intellectually, I know that I was abused in a way that mirrored my childhood sexual abuse. I’m still trying to move that knowledge from my head to my heart.

I’m going to buy some crayons today.

Posted in i had sex with my therapist, my journaling, residential treatment, sex addiction, sexual addiction

Today’s Rambling Post, in which I wish to share a great quote but somehow fail to make a broader connection that would show me to be erudite. Several colons were harmed in the editing of this post.

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Bad coffee at an AA meeting: tastes like peace.

I’m often asked how I can be in recovery and an atheist all at the same time. How do I work steps? Do I actually work the steps or just give them lip service. What about step 11? Do I pray? What about the opening and closing prayers?

I think most of these questions boil down to curiosity about whether I’m really sober, and whether I’m really an atheist. So just to set the record straight, I really am an atheist. I do not believe in God. I have a HP that I choose to call Truth; an idea not a deity. Although sobriety as a sex addict is more difficult to define than for an alcoholic or drug addict, I have a clear sobriety definition. There are certain behaviors that if I do them, I reset my sobriety date. Masturbation, deliberately viewing pornography of any type, including text. Smoking cigarettes. Any contact with my former therapist.

Since I left treatment, I’ve made two changes to my sobriety definition. The first was that I removed alcohol from the list of things that will reset my sobriety to my “middle circle.” The second is that I have added googling my former therapist to my “inner circle.” So far, I have been absolutely honest about when I have slipped, lapsed, or reset my sobriety. In all the s-recovery meetings I attend, the custom is to state our length of sobriety, which I have done honestly. I’ve also been honest here on this blog about my length of sobriety. I haven’t changed the dates in the sidebar because it’s just too depressing and I don’t need the extra shame just now. But I’m pretty sure anyone reading has been able to tell that I’ve been struggling.

There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don’t tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind.

by Sam Harris

I’m attending open AA meetings now, where I introduce myself as an addict. I’ve gotten some feedback that it pisses a few AA folks off when people do this, as if they are somehow better than alcoholics. Ha! Better an alcoholic than a sex addict. The truth is that it’s as honest as I can be about who I really am and still maintain safety and integrity. Although if I don’t get my head on straight soon, I may be able to honestly identify as an alcoholic. But that’s another post.

I’d like to start a local s-recovery group again – we had one but it fizzled out – I wish there was an easy way to do this and stay safe. Until then, I’ll continue going to the open AA meetings. I’m glad they’re available.

If you are a sober person who attends meetings even though you don’t need them as desperately as you once did – I would like to sincerely thank you. It is because of people like you that meetings are available for those who are suffering.

And thanks for not being a dick when I share about being an atheist, when I don’t join in the Lord’s Prayer, and when I come in late. It is really good to have a place to go that feels like . . . sanctuary.

Sheesh. What a ramble! What I really wanted to say is this:

  1. There is this great quote by Sam Harris, you should read it
  2. I really am an atheist
  3. I really am in recovery
  4. I sometimes have trouble explaining how the 12-steps work for me
  5. I’m not sure why I relapsed this time
  6. I’m not sure why I’m doing better this week than last week
  7. I’m pretty sure that going back to open AA meetings is helping
  8. I’m pretty sure the new therapist is helping
  9. I’m pretty sure that blogging is helping

To my fellow addicts in recovery: being an atheist doesn’t mean I’m evil, lying, or stupid.

To my fellow human beings: being a sex addict doesn’t mean I’m worthless.

To my fellow atheists: being in recovery doesn’t mean I’m stupid.

To my fellow blogger/readers: thank you. I am humbled and amazed that there are people in the world who care how I am doing. When I feel worthless, it helps to know that there are people on earth who think I have something to say that’s worth reading. I hope you know that I care about you too.

GP

Posted in 12-step recovery, atheism, gratitude, relapse, sex addiction, sexaholic, sexual addiction

ODAAT

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O ne
D ay
A t
A
T ime

I didn’t drink, but I did lose my cool and smash a egg on the floor. Real mature. My dear husband wasn’t fazed in the least, but I was pretty shocked at myself.

After all this therapy, all this recovery, where is all this anger coming from? I don’t feel like I’m an angry person, but evidently there’s some unresolved emotional pus that needs to be lanced. But honestly, it gets old. So I’ve had some difficult times. Who hasn’t? Perhaps all the wonderful accoutrements of civilization are what enables me to recharge these emotional infections. If I had to hunt and gather, I bet I’d be way less angry.

And thinner.

Posted in 12-step recovery, relapse, sex addiction, sexual addiction

Recovery sucks.

I think I’m going to be a sex addict who drinks instead of acting out sexually. 

Posted in Uncategorized

@#$%!

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So I go to this meeting, right? I know that there’s a certain amount of god-stuff I’m going to hear because it’s 12-steps. Okay.

But this guy just went on and on and on and on about the big, big book (i.e. the Bible) and how his higher power will always be there. Lightning might strike a door knob, sponsors die, but his higher power will “never, never, never, never, never go away.”

Fucking asshole.

But hey, there’s hope for someone like me. You know, someone who doesn’t believe in God (that’s God with a capital G – and lest you forget, God is mentioned six (!) times in the steps so everyone better pay attention to it). Anyway, there’s hope. Because since I don’t believe in God, all I have to do is look at a tree. That proves (!) that God exists. Because I can’t make a tree, right? Ipso facto.

Before this meeting, I was an atheist. But now, I see that trees exist so I have come to believe.

I hate preaching in meetings. Share your own experience of whichever deity helped you get sober. That’s helpful. But don’t fucking tell me what to believe. Evangelize on your own fucking time.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on accepting that I hear shit that pisses me off sometimes. And I’ll be grateful that I don’t have to make the rooms safe for other atheists, and I don’t have to be an atheist apologist. I don’t need to explain or justify my atheism.

Sorry dude, the tree thing just didn’t convert me. And please, telling me about eyes isn’t going to convince me to believe either.

I am so ANGRY I could spit!

<ending rant, stepping off soapbox, regaining serenity>

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest. Hearing stuff like that at meetings really makes me feel alone. It’s bad enough being the only sex addict in the room. Being the only atheist sex addict feels lonely and vulnerable.

GP

 

 

Posted in 12-step recovery, rants, sex addiction, sexual addiction