Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: sexuality (page 2 of 2)

Report From The Body: Venus de Milo.

When I was a kid I used to pore through my mother’s art books she’d bought for the one term she’d spent as a fine art student at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University. On the bookshelf behind the end table next to the chair lived a red cloth-bound art-history volume that had black-and-white reproductions of great works of art throughout Western European civilization. Because at this time, African and Native American and “oriental” art didn’t count.

Of all the photos I pored over—even more than Michelangelo’s David (which I’m not sure was represented in its entirety, I think they must have cropped the photo at the waist, the way CBS cropped Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show) I think I most closely studied the Venus de Milo.

Venus-de-Milo

At 10 or 11 I didn’t understand what I was seeing. I didn’t understand that all cultures formulate their ideas of beauty. I didn’t even half-comprehend the irony that as I was studying this photo, my own culture was coming up with these images of sexual beauty:

farrah-fawcett-pinup Bo-Derek

And then Karen Carpenter starved herself to death, and the first stories about anorexia started appearing in the Time Magazines that used to come to the house.

Now, I understand, YouTube has videos giving instructions to girls and women about how to do it well. That is, how to starve yourself.

//

I found this amazing shot of the Venus de Milo today.

venusdemilo

At 10 or 11 I didn’t understand how to look at this sculpture, but today here’s what I notice from this shot: Aphrodite has abs. Her strength shows. And she has quite a nice bit of padding underneath her skin. Her belly looks like mine (or, my belly looks like hers).

She’s well-fed. She’s fit. She would not fit into a Size 2, or even into a size 6.

She doesn’t have cleavage. Her collarbones aren’t sticking out.

Her posture is upright. She’s confident. (She’s a goddess, right? But still.)

And her face. Her gaze isn’t seductive. She’s not thinking about what other people think about how she looks.

She’s not trying to sell herself to any bidder. She’s occupying her own body.

//

The other day my friend Noah, who has 20-some years sober, said to me that he’d been living in his head. “I’m way up in my head these days,” is the way he put it, and he sounded trapped.

“Can you get down into your body?” I blurted, only half-knowing what I was asking.

He fastened his blue eyes on my face. “I don’t know what that means,” he said, surprised, thinking.

When do you live in your head? When do you live in your body? 

(Originally published August 30, 2013.)

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Toward A Healthy Sexuality In Recovery.

spotlight-2015-directed-by-tom-mccarthy-movie-review

I watched Spotlight last night and it had a profound effect on me, not just as a writer whose background and first awards were in print journalism, but also as a woman raised in a strict Catholic family in which sex, sexuality, and people who were sexual were judged sinful and evil.

One of the sanest voices in the film is Richard Sipe, a guy who abandoned the priesthood and now works as a therapist and researcher (and it’s always noted that he married a former nun!!). Before the Globe team ever put together the story that broke the Boston Catholic child-sex-abuse scandal, Sipe wrote a rather obscure academic study called Sex, Priests, and Power. It confirms ideas that have been living inside me for decades in an inchoate way, I think because my upbringing put such a stringent prohibition on sex and sexual enjoyment. I’ve simply doubted my ideas and my ability to think them through. Sipe writes:

Sex, pleasure, sin, and women were [in the fourth century] woven into a theological equation that solidified the celibate/sexual structure of the Roman Catholic Church and influence every aspect of its development. Power was consolidated in sexual terms. That structure is crumbling under the weight of its own hypertrophy, if not corruption. . . . The sexual behavior of priests must be understood against the clear and unbending sexual moral doctrine of Catholic Christianity, namely: Every sexual thought, word, desire, and action outside marriage is mortally sinful. Every sexual act within marriage not open to conception is mortally sinful. Sexual misbehavior constitutes grave matter in every instance [emphasis his]. No other area of moral life, including murder, is treated with this same moral rigidity. The majority of Catholics simply do not believe this teaching, nor do they think that natural law [meaning science] supports it.

So the prohibitions on sex were at the very heart of the way this religion developed from the start.

My parents, each of whom had themselves considered taking clerical vows before they met each other, were not among this majority who Sipe says do not buy catholicism’s sexual strictures. They promulgated them in their own family. I was the eldest and expected to be an example for the younger two, especially my sister. When my parents discovered that I was having sex, they disowned me in a five-hour Spanish-Inquisition-style interview at their kitchen table. No thumbscrews or rack, but because I refused to say I thought I was evil just because I was having sex, they told me never to come home again for help. Expelled. I was 23—a grown woman.

And I’d already been drinking for five years. I had my first drink, not coincidentally, the night I had my first sexual encounter. Dude just wanted to make out with me. No taking my clothes off, nothing, but still, I wasn’t so sure. I was nervous (no kidding!!), and I didn’t know how to negotiate that stress, so I drank his gin.

The fact about this extreme response that supports Sipe’s ideas is this: four months before my parents issued this edict, I had crashed my car in a blackout. I realize now that because my dad drank enormous amounts, they could hardly disown me for that behavior. Not much would have driven them to this extreme.

But sex sure did.

I was never raped. Thank goodness. (So many women and girls have been. And so many boys.) But my parents’ expulsion of me hurt me deeply. I’ve worked for years on forgiving them because I no longer want to be trapped by my anger.

//

Sex In Recovery revised 2c

My new book is part of that work of forgiveness.

For the past year I’ve been interviewing people in recovery from addiction about their sexual histories for a book that will be published this fall. Exactly zero people have turned me down for interviews for this very intimate and anonymous look into how we negotiate sex after we no longer have drugs to control our fear and shame about it.

I’m so grateful to my sources. Their stories are amazing.

Many of the people I’ve interviewed across the country have been not just physically abused, but also sexually abused. As adults, and many as children. Believe me, I did not choose them for this characteristic. I just started talking with them, and out it came:

My uncle had sex with me from the age of 8 to 13.

My stepfather used to take my clothes off and put his hands on my genitals. I think my mother knew.

My neighbor, after school, would force me into his basement make me go down on him.

It wasn’t everybody. The studies say upwards of 50 percent of women (maybe more) and about 20 percent of men in recovery have experienced childhood sexual abuse. Stephanie Covington, who conducted some of the groundbreaking research on women and sexual abuse in recovery, found 75 percent of women recovering from addiction have survived sexual abuse of some kind. Self-reports of sexual trauma are usually considered to be low.

This means that at any given recovery meeting anywhere, in any modality (12-step, SMART, LifeRing, Women in Sobriety, Hip Sobriety, or just your morning coffee klatch), most of the people around you have experienced sexual abuse.

I mean, what the fuck, man. It haunts me. Listening to these stories has changed me.

It doesn’t matter whether kids grow up catholic or protestant; Sipe writes. If it’s christian, it’s fucked up around sex. And this country is largely christian.

In 2,000 years no Christian church has developed an adequate theology of sexuality—that is, no one has worked out an overarching, comprehensive, and integrative understanding of the nature and place of sexuality within the scheme of salvation and theological system [emphasis mine]. . . . Practical reality, scientific development, and spiritual awareness of the origins and meanings of sexuality, life, and love expose the inadequacy of the system to sustain its own stated goals.

A lot of us parents are not physically or sexually abusing our kids. But we’re definitely not talking to them about sexuality, either. Clearly Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug-use slogan “Just Say No” (which is NOT what abstinence-based recovery systems are about, btw—they’re about working out this understanding of the nature and place of sexuality) came from christianity.

//

What’s so amazing about the people I’ve interviewed is that recovery has enabled them not only to quit drinking and using but also, in great measure, to heal from the super-bad shit that was foisted on them. To the last one, they said they talked with me so they could help other people know that this healing was possible.

My book is called Sex in Recovery: A Meeting Between the Covers. It’s structured like a recovery meeting. There are about a dozen speakers and topics. The book is designed to:

  • help people who don’t know how to talk about their sexual conflicts and pleasures to begin to find language for them
  • give people a sense of the breadth of sexual experience—before, during, and after active addiction—among people in recovery
  • provide a tool that can be used to suggest topics in meetings, and to begin to talk with therapists, sponsors, friends, and family
  • show that sexuality and pleasure are normal, natural, joyful, superfun and awesome parts of a whole life

Most of all I hope it makes people understand none of us is alone. None of us has to think we’re looking at friends who have secretly figured everything out, while we ourselves have a super-fucked-up sex life. We also don’t have to feel forced to shut up about our healing when sharing would be so helpful.

None of us has to keep up a deadly silence.

Stay tuned! If you want to know more, leave a comment or email me.

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What Are Character Defects? An Open Letter To Dolly.

Got an email overnight from an old friend of mine who has been questioning how much she drinks, and why. She has been going to AA, she said, but she couldn’t understand—and couldn’t stand—the idea of “defects of character.”

She sent me a link to an essay written 25 years ago by a professor of philosophy and religion. The essay argues against the “disease concept” of alcoholism—the author sees alcoholics as suffering from a moral problem based in desire and will. He separates the realms of science and spirituality.

So it would take me ages to put down everything I’d like to say back to this guy’s essay—I’ll save it for another time.

//

But dear Dolly, I wanted to share something I’ve been experiencing with regard to my character defects and how surrendering them to a “higher power” (Step 7) is helping me stay sober.

When I joined Al-Anon 14 years ago I was suffering. I had a 2-year-old kid and a marriage, a house, a job, a car, the whole bit, and I felt like killing myself. I had grown up with active alcoholism my whole life. I was raised by a woman who had been raised by a violent drunk.

The green Lorcet pills I used to take for pain. Actually mine were white—they were the strongest ones.

I was taking one pill per day for pain, but I couldn’t stop taking that one pill. I’d gone to AA and figured I couldn’t call myself an alcoholic because I hadn’t had a drink in three years. I’d gone to NA and told my story and some people looked at me cross-eyed because I was taking just one pill. These were people who had sold everything they had for smack or crack, sold their last remaining possessions in their houses, sold their bodies to cop drugs on the street, faced knives and guns and disease. I bought my measly little pills in the drug store. I thought, “I can’t be an addict—I’m not like these people.” (I don’t think this would happen in NA today. OxyContin and its cousins are too prevalent.)

It would take me a few more years—eight or 10—to meet people who used the way I used. It would also take me some time after that to realize that I’d begun the whole show by drinking my head off when I was 17 and we were in school together. (I had my first drink ever at the Phi Delt house. Gin and tonic. Let some slippery sophomore Phi Delt get me drunk and grope me, and all the girls on my hall laughed at me the next day: I’d let That Guy feel me up. I got so scared about being laughed at and showing how naïve I was that I met a guy the following month and stuck with him for almost four years.)

So when I took the 12 steps in Al-Anon I made a list of things I thought I’d done wrong: I worried about deadlines and put things off because of my worry and annoyed my coworkers. I was judgmental, I thought of myself and other people as either all good or all bad. I’d lost a couple of pieces of jewelry people had given me and this hurt them. And I thought my defects of character were things like anxiety, black-and-white thinking, and carelessness.

I continued to have migraines and terrible physical pain, and after several years I went to the pain clinic and got serious drugs and eventually became an addict. Even so, I carried on with therapy and Al-Anon because I thought if I could just figure out my emotional problems, I’d be able to either quit taking drugs or take them responsibly.

But it worked the other way around. It wasn’t until I stopped drinking and taking drugs (acknowledged my “powerlessness” over them, in Step 1) that I could begin to see my emotional problems clearly enough to remedy them.

Once I got sober I took the 12 steps again, guided by a woman who has been sober for more than 20 years. I saw that my “defects of character” were deeper than what I thought. My primary character shortcoming is not just “anxiety,” it’s a mortal fear of disapproval. I’ll do fucking anything (have done most anything—or sometimes even worse, NOT done most anything) to make the people around me think I’m OK. I will, for example, stick for four years with a boy I like, I might even love, but with whom I’m not really happy, to avoid being lonely; I’ll avoid having other relationships, to avoid being called a slut.

Another defect is putting other people’s judgment and comfort ahead of my own. (Really just a subset of the previous defect.)

Yesterday I was in a meeting when someone told a story about how, when she was drinking and using, she used to use at night because, she said, it helped her sleep. She used to pass out in the house, maybe on the hallway floor or wherever, and her husband would be like, “Why are you sleeping on the floor?” Hearing this story made my defect of character crystal clear.

I didn’t used to do pass out in the hallway. Here’s what I used to do: For years, for more than a decade even, I trained myself not to move in bed, not even to turn over, not to get up and pee, and definitely never to touch my partner, because I was sleeping next to someone who had intractable insomnia. This person is a light sleeper and if I even turned over, I might wake him up. So I trained myself to lie still. I gritted my teeth, literally, in order to do this.

Grit your teeth and bear it, was the way I was raised in my alcoholic family.

Eventually the tooth-grinding became a problem in itself and I had to get a tooth-guard to keep from grinding my teeth to stubs. Also, I had jaw pain. Also, I had neck and head pain, and shoulder pain, and back pain. For which, of course, I took drugs.

Also, I had a lot of suppressed anger and frustration, which it turns out contributes to tooth-grnding.

The drugs helped me sleep and not-move. They helped me not-care about the anger. For a while. Until they didn’t help anymore.

They also helped me ignore my anger and frustration during the day and get done what I needed to get done. They helped me grit my teeth through everything and not-care about the pain.

I didn’t understand I was contributing to my own pain. “Medical science” told me it was an illness, a syndrome, for which I might need to take drugs for the rest of my life. 

Another of my huge character defects is arrogance. I secretly think I’m perfect—or if I try hard enough, I can be perfect. I can do what other people want me to do, or what I think they want me to do, and not “betray” them or let them down. I kept doing life this way for years and years.

Let me admit something to you, Doll. I’ve spent most of the past two weeks on my own. And I’ve been able to get real rest. I wake up without jaw pain. When I wake in the middle of the night, I get up to pee without tiptoeing as though my footfalls might cause an earthquake. It took me a few days to remember I was allowed to turn on the light and maybe even read or write.

And my spiritual discipline tells me that I don’t have to blame this person. No one “made” me do anything. I chose to do all this myself.

And I don’t even have to blame myself.

All I have to do is to see clearly what I’ve done to contribute to the hurt. Take responsibility. Ask for my shortcomings to be removed. And then change the behavior (amends).

Turn on the light in the middle of the night.

The thing is, my thinking is so distorted, I am so arrogant and at the same time so full of self-hatred, that I need another source of power to guide me in changing my behavior. When I rely on my own power, usually I go pretty far down the wrong road before I see how I’ve gone wrong.

I’m learning to trust my own judgment by taking small steps forward, using my own judgment under the guidance of others who have gone before me on this road. I can’t “insight” my way into being healthy, I have to take action. I have to turn on the light. No one’s telling me to do anything. I’m engaged in what Quakers call “discernment.” All I’m doing is using a map. A GPS of sorts. And the GPS might lead me to a swamp, or a desert, or up against a mountain, and it’s always a learning experience.

I learn by doing. Not by figuring everything out beforehand.

It’s scary sometimes. It’s also exhilarating. I feel alive.

My friend P and her daughter with our dogs, Ginger and Flo.

I need to go walk the dog. But I wanted to get back to you.

Love, G

Step 5: Songs of Innocence and Experience.

The dog won’t walk this morning.

She won’t put weight on her right rear paw. I’m not a dog person, this is my first dog, I don’t know dogs well; I only know Flo and Ginger and Andy—big black dog, a year older than Flo, looks like her big brother, and her owner and I call them Greg and Cindy.  I know my sponsor’s dogs. But this is the first one I’ve ever lived with.

She loves me.

In an hour we go to the vet.

Life is no longer normal when, first thing in the morning, the dog doesn’t climb all over me. In greeting, Flo does this wiggle, her own patented dance, a twist: her tail wags her hips, it charms everyone and it reminds me somehow of Marilyn Monroe in a very tight black dress.

Flo is childlike, and at the same time she reminds me that we’re all animals.

//

I’m sick this morning, I have a sore throat and a headache, and I think it’s because I read inventory yesterday. I took a fifth step for the first time with my sponsor of two years. Step 5: “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another person the exact nature of our wrongs.”

I was keyed up about it. She had instructed me to write inventory about a particular set of problems, and unlike previous sponsors, she told me to write it stream-of-consciousness. By the time I was done writing two days ago, I thought I might throw up. I called her: I’m done writing inventory, I said, and I’m gonna be sick.

It’s just a feeling, she said.

She said, I find it interesting that you have feelings, and then you write stories around them. The feelings are just feelings. They pass. They don’t need your editorial commentary.

The post-nasal drip is oozing down in a sickening way. My larynx feels like sandpaper, and my throat feels packed with small marbles. My head hurts.

It’s just a feeling.

It was a relief to read inventory to her. Sometimes when I experience that kind of relief, I get sick, as though all my defenses relax and allow the bad stuff to come in—or else to come out.

We sat in her living room, on her couch with her dogs sprawled across our laps, and at her direction I read straight from what I’d written. She’d prayed first, an invocation about my being able to be with the truth and to heal. I can’t remember what she said, because I was nervous: I was telling her some stuff I’d never told anyone. I’d written two inventories with two other sponsors, and somehow this stuff had never been spoken. It was as though I were dragging it out of a dark box.

I think I’d always tried to fit my story into other women’s narrative structures. I can read Carolyn Knapp, I can go to speaker meetings and listen to other women tell their stories, and what I hear, by and large, is this: I slept around; I can’t even remember all the men I’ve been with; I used to wake up hung over in strangers’ beds; I feel terrible about all the nameless faceless sex-partners I’ve had in my life, I wish I could gain back my innocence, there’s no way I can get it back.

This isn’t my story. I sit in speaker meetings and think, This is not my story. Does anyone else who drank and used have my story?—I don’t think so. Terminally unique, as ever.

When I drank and used drugs, I kept myself in a box. I preserved my innocence in a dark crate, in formaldehyde. I prevented myself from having experience. I did what others expected of me, mostly.

Since age 17, when I first got drunk. Since age 25, when I first started using medication. (I mean drugs.) Until she got sober, G lived in a box. She chose to do it. And even after G got sober, in some essential ways G confined herself to her box until this year, 2012, when something happened, G glimpsed a slim but powerful sliver of light shining through the crate’s rough plywood slats.

This process was beyond her control, it was greater than herself. It happened. When something like this happens, you either accept it or reject it. G has been working to accept it.

Light is a powerful thing. It shows up the dark places. Shadows are an inevitable part of life, and the only time shadows cause real problems, in my experience, is when I protect them. When I shove stuff into the shadows so I can’t look at it, I don’t have to see what might be growing in there.

In fact I now realize that I’d thought that if I shoved certain thoughts and feelings (and dreams—remember dreams?) into the shadows, then, like plants, they’d just wither and die, and eventually in the dead of some night I’d just hire in some garbage collector or housecleaner to wipe out those spaces, delete all that memory, and I’d never have to worry about that stuff again.

That’s not how life works.

Instead the stuff grew, and in the shadows, in the darkness of the box, I couldn’t see what was growing. I could ignore it. Until I got more and more sober.

This all sounds like a Maurice Sendak or Quentin Blake story.

Maybe it could be a Guinevere story someday.

(remember dreams?)

//

I’ve thought seriously about climbing back into the box again, you know. You know what I mean?—it would cause much less disturbance. Everything could stay the same. No one else would be impacted (I mean hurt) by G’s changes. No one could call G selfish or deluded or whatever.

You can’t climb back into that box again, my therapist said some weeks back.

If you do, you’ll die.

Her expression was baleful.

Die? I said doubtfully.

How soon we forget: G nearly jumped off a bridge in May. G, do you remember?

(yes)

You’ll die, she said. You’ll either jump off a bridge, or you’ll start using again—or something else. The only way you could stay in that box was to use.

The only way you could stay in that box, my sponsor said yesterday, was to drink and use.

It’s a responsibility to live up to one’s potential, to discover what one was created to be and then to be that. It’s easier simply to remain a child and let someone else take care of you.

But guess what. Our Little G is growing up.

//

I looked up from the pavement and saw this sign on my run the other day: someone needlepointed it and posted it on a phone pole.

Some | All

Experience | Innocence

An invitation to choose.

Choosing the box is trying to have it all, make everyone happy, pretend I’m happy myself. Engage in denial. Preserve innocence. Be a child.

Choosing to come out, to be a Big Girl—to be a woman, to choose experience—is recognizing I can only have some.

I pick “some.”

Recovery and sexuality, part 2: Sex as a drug.

This was a story I ignored last month, because I was like, Oh god, not another Teen Story about being Addicted To Love with Robert Palmer wearing his bad mullet-cut and droning his boring 1986 ditty in the background. It was in almost every headline or lead: “Might as Well Face It…”

Except the media bent the story out of shape. They said, “Romantic Rejection Is Just Like Cocaine Addiction!” (The New York Daily News also got it wrong on a number of other counts: It was not 15 hetero men, it was 10 women and five men, but who’s counting?) Wrong.

The real story, when you read it in the July 2010 edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology, turns out to be this: Romantic obsession is just like any other addiction.

 

Guinevere and Lancelot

Queen Guinevere and Sir Lancelot, obsessed with each other behind Arthur’s back…

The operative word here is “obsession.”

The researchers interviewed 10 women and five men who had been rejected by romantic partners. And the ad the researchers placed on the Stony Brook campus asked, “Have you just been rejected in love but can’t let go?

I think I hear Lucinda gearing up here…

The difference between these subjects and the ones who didn’t respond to the ad isn’t that the ones who didn’t respond hadn’t been rejected. It’s that maybe they were able to let go. Move on.

The ones who responded to the ad told the researchers things like,

  • I think about him constantly.
  • We try to be friends but it doesn’t work; I’m too attracted to him.
  • What’s the point, without her.

Substitute “alcohol” or “drugs” for “him” or “her,” and you’ve got what addicts say about their substances.

The findings were not just about cocaine, either. The researchers noted that “craving for drugs is associated with a significant increase of dopamine in the striatum,” a part of the brain where they found activation; that they found activation in another area associated with cigarette craving; and that

These previous findings suggest that the experience of romantic rejection involves the same neural systems that underlie various addictions.

When we get sober, it’s easy to substitute one addiction for another. I’ve heard people talk about it all the time. We get rid of the chemicals and start in on the behaviors: shopping, television, eating, Internet surfing, cutting . . . sex.

After the whole Tiger Woods Thing, my Gmail inbox was stuffed with notices: “Does Sex Addiction Really Exist?” Who knows? It’s all obsession. Obsession is obsession is obsession. The monkey’s inability to let go of, as it were, the banana.

When I first got sober, and the chemicals leached out of my cells and tissues, my body woke up. A cloud passed over the lioness who had been sleeping, forever it seemed, in the sun, and the lioness roused for the first time in many years.

And all around her were lions.

I’ve written elsewhere about how I drank and used drugs (and came down with headaches and a great deal of physical pain) because I felt like I didn’t deserve to be sexual. It was a challenge, seeing all those lions—for the first time, really—and knowing I was married to only one.

For a while my striatum (or whatever) must have been flooded with dopamine, because I spent some months pretty distracted by all the activity that was crossing my field of vision. My radar hadn’t been so jazzed since I was maybe in my 20s. And since I was a lot more mature and experienced than a 24-year-old, I had more ideas about what to do with all that jazz.

It confused the hell out of me and I lost sleep over it, and I cried over lost time and opportunity and youth and being 44 and on the downhill slope, and like the students in the study I’d stand in front of the mirror and poke at my face and wonder “What’s the point?” and in general feel terribly sorry for myself that I’d “gotten sober too late.” As though I should have kept using, just because.

And then because all my negative feelings were too much for me, I’d make up whole scenarios in my head to get out of myself. I’d waste yet more time. And then beat myself up for wasting it. I didn’t know what to do to get out of this loop of tape.

This DOESN’T only happen to people newly sober. I’ve heard people with upwards of 25 years talk about using sexuality—whether real or imagined—to get out of themselves.

I was directed to write inventory about my sexuality and my resentments—against my mother for being the Thought Police and Sex Gestapo in my adolescence and early adulthood (the time of life when you’re supposed to experiment with sexuality and identity); mostly against myself for making “stupid” decisions, for “allowing” myself to become an addict, for being a Terrible Writer, a Failed Artist, a Bad Mother, a Weak and Compliant Daughter, an Exceptional Wreck of a Human Being. I am such a star at being bad. Ego, ego ego ego.

I even wrote inventory about my resentments against God, for making me an addict. For making addicts of so many of my family members, and “letting” them die.

(I still don’t know why God would make anyone an addict, btw. I don’t know why God would give my father-in-law dementia, or my niece Down Syndrome, or my uncle multiple sclerosis. One of my sponsors told me point-blank that God made me an addict . . . My ideas about God are still under revision and I don’t know if I buy that God made me an addict. If I stay with that thought for too long, I get pissed off at higher power, and getting pissed off at higher power isn’t good for me.)

But anyhow, writing inventory helped. My part became clear. My part—or part of my part—is to use my gifts productively and in service to higher power’s will.

And then I started meditating and praying. I’ve been meditating every day for the past six weeks, under direction of someone who has a strong meditation practice. I was directed to pray after I meditate… my own version of the seventh step prayer, asking higher power to relieve me of the bondage of self (helping me to LET GO) and build with me throughout the day. I’m still working on that version of the prayer… so I pray a half-assed spontaneous made-up version every morning, and it seems to be OK for now…

In terms of sexuality, I see mine as strong and beautiful and as a gift from higher power. I’ve relinquished the Catholic vestiges of shame that would make me view my sexuality or my body as “bad” or “wrong,” as long as I don’t hurt myself or anyone else with it. So … with all the soccer-dad lions that prowl across my radar these days … I allow myself to appreciate them. I let the saliva flow. And then I let them slink off into the desert and I get my roar out with the one I married.

Next I think these researchers should put addicts into functional magnetic resonance imaging and ask us to meditate on a gratitude list. I’ll be first in line. I want to see where all that dopamine goes when gratitude is applied to it…

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