And as we more and more come to God rather than the fantasy of what a woman (or man) will do for us, we are more and more ready to truly love a woman (or man). This is the key to a great and lifelong romance!
Addictive minds have a hypersensitivity to perceived injustices against themselves. While they see themselves as reacting fairly to an unjust reality, to the outside observer – especially their wives and mothers and other women close to them – they are easily seen as acting like babies.
For most sex addicts, lust, and self-pity regarding the way we might be treated by a women are so closely tied together that we began to notice that we feel the tone of one as we are tempted to go into the other and visa versa. As I have practiced letting go of expectations of how a woman should feel about me and treat me, lust has faded into the background of my life. Of course, as lust fades into the background, I am more and more able to keep my focus on serving without worrying if the woman is sufficiently attending to me or sees me fairly. More and more then, if I do need to address something, I can do it maturely in an inviting spirit that builds the relationship- not with side-comments or subtle slams or anger or coolness or withdrawal. Conversely, after relapses, I would start to notice “injustices” and take it out on those closest to me.
I encourage my sponsees toward a brief summary of the “incident pattern” that led to the negative feelings….this helps ensure they stay focused on the character weaknesses that lead to and follow from the “pattern” to help ensure they don’t start feeling stuck in a long negative narrative – but keep the “big picture” perspective and healing.
So for example, one might say:
Abused me physically from quite young, never paid attention to me or mentored me in anything, regularly betrayed my mom, watched porn with me I was young, made fun of my penis, favored my sister in conflicts.
My part (not always ones fault, but things they might still tend to do which are outdated now that they are grown): I was selfish and irritating and self-absorbed. I wasn’t reaching out to connect with Dad in a mature way, I would do things that I knew he wouldn’t like, I would make insulting side comments. I punched him in the shoulder, I looked down on him.
Character weaknesses: Victim stancing, resentment, self-absorption, isolation, fear of people, retreat to lust, desperately wanting approval from others, feeling God doesn’t care about me.
Doing this step in this way should help us to see the person who may have harmed us with forgiveness, and helps us see our own weaknesses in a kindly way but one where we don’t feel inclined to act or feel in those ways any anymore – but can see other better ways of being..
Note to sponsee:
The feelings you experience surrounding women such as the coworker at the gym are a particularly critical opportunity to come to God for your esteem and comfort – not by winning or pitting yourself against a woman nor trying to especially please her at the expense of your peace.
This is a wonderful cross. I say wonderful because it is wonderfully painful to come to this place of respect in the context of nagging or rejection – and it is wonderfully healing and freeing once you do.
For some particular addicts, there is a storehouse of self-pity and victim stancing, and resentment, and exaggerated expectations and fear of rejection, around women – that can be replaced with respect and patience and kindness and deflated (actually realistic) expectations. This can occur regardless of whether the woman is being disrespectful, impatient, or unkind. Once we come to this place, addressing issues when needed to build the relationship will come as second nature. And we don’t push our kindness patience and respect on women who have chosen to reject us – some may not want anything to do with you because they make something up about you – and we respect that too.
All psychobabble when you see the core of this – that our daily connection to God is both critical and sufficient. We do not depend on women anymore! We become men. We simply love women exactly as they are and bless their lives with little expectation of return. No more side comments, subtle slams, digs, blow-ups – nothing of the sort. We are full of living waters. We can address our desires and hopes and set our personal boundaries in kindness and love and in a way that motivates the feeling of being together and not against one another.
Keep surrendering these resentments and fears – this is a big one and takes time.
Some men in recovery are intellectuals, and can sometimes be intellectual bullies to their wives and others. the spirit of intellectualization often gets in the way of their recovery. Their strength becomes their weakness as so often happens.
I have noticed in my life that when I enter into the spirit of intellectualization I can become particularly cruel and not even know it.
For me, this spirit is intellectual masturbation – it is all about hearing myself speak and getting myself understood by others – not about who I am speaking to. I have come to believe that when the sacred writings speak of the “carnal mind” that certainly one aspect of this is the intellectualized mind….and it is very distinct from speaking with the spirit – even when speaking of spiritual things. Recognizing and surrendering this spirit of intellectualization – which is often self-justifying and promoting and not God-justifying and promoting in its tone – is a great step toward recovery.
(please note that names have been changed below)
Thanks for these thoughts, John. I am grateful for addiction because to indulge is death, but to not indulge I am required to come to God each day and immerse myself in the spirit through scriptures and prayer etc. As I have done this, I have come to value my connection to God and what I get from Him each day, MUCH more than I value what lust gave me at its best! With this Spirit, I don’t find a need to take a drink of lust anymore.
You will hate me for this =) but I am particularly grateful for what is happening between you and your wife, because it is critical to your spiritual transformation to spiritual health. The fact that Linda seems harsh and you believe she doesn’t make the effort to reconnect, is a perfect crucible for what you need – and what you are ready to achieve as you begin to work step 2.
Specifically, the core of every sex addicts psyche (and many men in general) is the belief that the free and unconditional love of a beautiful woman will heal and save them – and that this love, symbolized by sex, is the most important thing in their life. I find this to be more and more true of the addict and many men the farther I get in my recovery. The fact that Linda is still so capable of driving you nuts while you see yourself as giving and giving and the one making all the effort is evidence that you still unconsciously hold on to this belief. She is threatening your core even as you with futility work to appease a god that can’t fill you. Your Father in Heaven, your Higher Power, needs to be at this core, filling you – not the illusion of a woman. Then you can help Linda feel safe and ready to be better connected with you. My prayer for you and your children is that you don’t have to lose your wife to learn this lesson.
For me, the wrenching of my ex-wife from my life was an unspeakable hell (how could it be described?)….but by coming to meetings and to God on my face each day (where else could I turn?), I progressively came to have my Father in Heaven and His Son filling the core of my life, and not some imaginary archetype of the perfect woman that I thought I could create or find. The paradox is that for some time now I am able to love a woman from my heart, and not give with unrealistic expectations on the return.
I never recognized this when married before. Instead, I was working my tail off to be a good husband and give my ex-wife everything she wanted in every way and to be this long-suffering guy, SO that I could get her to the place in life where she could finally consistently meet all my emotional and safety needs to be saved and healed. Much less out of a deep honor and respect for her and who she was and what she truly needed from me to feel affirmed and safe. She felt this disconnect (women always do) and so never felt fully safe and secure in our relationship.
Because only Father in Heaven and not a woman could ever meet my souls hunger, I would suddenly and sometimes surprisingly “find” myself looking elsewhere to satiate the illusionary drive that was at my core – the need for some golden, smiling, inviting woman to save me – but that only enlarged the hunger. In my baseline pride, I only allowed God to replace this core belief from time to time as I went through repentance cycles; But he didn’t dwell there. If He had, I:
1. wouldn’t have been frustrated at never finding some paradisiacal/illusionary secret-garden through my poor human wife. 2. wouldn’t have Impulsively acted out when I couldn’t suppress my core belief any longer 3. could have loved my ex-wife from a place of internal security – like a real man should love his wife. 4. would have really listened to find what she was looking for 5. showed greater leadership to bring God into both of our lives together – the only real solution to both us as individuals and as a couple.
With love and empathy for your stage in this experience, Your Sponsor.
My heart often still aches for my ex-wife. If I could go back and do one thing differently in my marriage, it would be to fully accept my wife when she was rejecting me. I know that sounds impossible, but I have discovered it is not. She was hurting and if I had learned then how to stay in the Spirit, I could have heard what she was saying and doing to me as evidence of her pain, not something so personal, and could have been consistently kind to her…and in this state I may have been better able to help her FOR HER sake – not in order to get her off my back or help her accept me again.
I never found resentment to be useful regardless of what my wife does or doesn’t do. The Spirit will help you both feel like a man and be kind and long-suffering at the same time!!! You will know when and how to set limits, but it will truly come from a perspective of what is good for her – not you. It also wasn’t helpful for me to do this martyr thing: like I am this amazing (or beaten down) man who has to put up with this never-forgiving woman – that also was absent of the Spirit.
Pray for your current wife as a priority. Serve her. Keep surrendering and praying and all will soften. Pray to know the truth from God: that you are a good man, a man who desires good, and a desirable man, then you will not get so concerned and make things worse if/when your wife says cruel things out of spite…You can be confident in your manliness and stay in your OWN recovery, even if your wife decided to leave you…but you can make that possibility less in the meantime. I will send you the Step Two work tomorrow. Begin to put your trust in God and not in your wife. It will seem like a much longer journey than you can bear sometimes…..So read and work sufficiently each day to feel the spirit that day!
My heart goes out to you as you work your first step inventory, and at the same time, I am excited for you as you now get to experience a deeper distance from your past. Please do a lot of self-care through this time – prayer and scriptures and eating healthy etc. This is a very important step. Two things came as a result of this step for me ….First, I saw more clearly how lust had led me to do things that were amazingly dark and destructive and shameful. This helped me get a very healthy respect the power of lust could have over me and how much I did not want to take the first steps into giving it any power going forward. Second, it had the amazingly paradoxical effect of helping me be free from an underlying shame that was making me vulnerable to relapse. I had shared my very worst with a faithful witness who understood the cunning, baffling, powerful nature of lust. I could now stand on equal footing with any man, and not feel somewhere in me I had some secret that I was hiding. All had come to the light already.
Don’t write with shame or triggers, when this happens, step back and see this process as though you were observing history from a place of self-acceptance for who you are today and compassion for who you were then.
I am glad you are willing to do this difficult work. Recovering men do what those who aren’t recovering are unwilling to do.
Prayer is something that the addict might have not had good experiences with or feels that God hasn’t listened in the past. Sometimes, our old concepts of prayer – our approach and attitude and concept of our God etc., need to be modified so we can practice a new kind of connection and reality with our Father.
I thought I knew how to pray, but have found I learn more and more about it in the doing of it. Even when I am not in formal prayer, I make an effort to speak to God and watch for the connection and see what works and what doesn’t in terms of my attitude and approach. In the meantime, I exercise faith He is hearing me in spite of the imperfection of my communication. I need a lot of prayer during the day to combat the creeping tendency to resent or feel like a victim. Prayer helps me connect to a healthier ongoing reality and to love others rather than having a focus on myself.
I struggled with self-forgiveness for a long time. I found I had to learn to trust that God would see to it that I would become stronger and stronger as I simply did my part in following a program of recovery. That in the meantime, God did love me and that I was acceptable to Him in spite of my imperfections….imperfections that He was working on in His time and way. You may find, like me, that when you are doing well, evil is present with you, telling you you are not doing it good enough or that you are lacking. This is a voice to surrender – not believe! Can’t you imagine the devil – seeing you do well and resenting it. Wanting to tell you you are screwing it up…trying to keep you “in your place.” Listen to that still small voice telling you you are good, your efforts are noticed, you are a beloved son – and you don’t have to live beneath your privilege as His own Son anymore!