Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The good, the bad, and all that lies in between: A look back at the year 2013.

Well, it is the end of 2013, and like most humans, I can't help but reflect on the year that has been...

But wait, this isn't just a blog about Sarah and her life.  This is a blog about how things relate to women who are partners of sex addicts.  SO, I find myself asking myself, "Self, how is even this 'normal' end-of-the-year activity different for partners of SAs?"

As I've mulled this question over in my mind, conversation upon conversation that I've had with other women over the past three years began to flood my mind.  Through those recollections, I've come to this conclusion...

One of the painful realities of being the partner of a SA is facing the (sometimes seemingly endless) ways our loved one has lied to and deceived us.  Many of us have had to endure hearing about times our SA acted out on a day, or at a time, that had otherwise seemed meaningful or important.  The result?  Too often, when we look back over our lives, being able to determine what was real, or untainted by the addiction, becomes a confusing, foggy mess.  We can't determine what was real, so EVERYTHING becomes tainted.  If we're not careful, we fall into an "all or nothing" mentality.  Another way to put this is, "all good or all bad."

"My husband couldn't have loved me and do what he did."  Either he loved, or he didn't, based on his addictive behavior.  That is "All or nothing" thinking.  Could it be "both" and?  Meaning, "My husband BOTH loved me AND he did what he did."?

Does this take away the tainting of a day, or experience?  NO!  HOWEVER, what it does do is remove us from the "victim" role, or the "less than" role.  It takes ANY and EVERY ounce of responsibility that we might be carrying, and puts it squarely where it belongs - on the shoulders of the addict. It takes any self-worth we have assigned to the issue, and removes it from the equation.  The result - a freer US!  Once we free ourselves like this, then we can take an empowered look at the situation, and determine if it can be redeemed.

How does this tie into reminiscing the year that was 2013?  When we take a look back at 2013, how do we see it?  Has our SA's addiction and addictive behaviors so tainted the view we have that we see things as "all good" or "all bad", or can we accept that life is both?  Are we able to see, and even more - be thankful for things throughout the year, as well as grieve the losses?

For me, 2013 was yet again a year of change for me: some changes that I'd hoped for but never dreamed would happen (or happen so quickly); some changes that I've feared, hoped to never have to deal with, and forced to face.  Good and bad, and all that lay between - all things considered, this was a year of great growth for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  2013, au revoir.


Monday, December 23, 2013

"All I Want for Christmas..."

Big sigh.

I'm feeling a bit of writer's block.  I think it's because I'm in a bit of a quandary about what to write with Christmas just two days away.  I don't want to be a "Grinch" - always talking about the difficult aspects of being or having been the partner of a SA.  I know there are SA's out there, living in a solid, sustained recovery; their partners are healing, and the relationship mending.  However, the majority of the women I know are struggling.  And it would feel superficial to ignore the pain and loss these women feel during the holidays.  And yet, I hear the cries of the women out there who want to know there's hope.

So, since I can't "please all the people all the time", what is on my heart this Christmas Eve's Eve?  

Validation.  Permission. Freedom.  If I could leave all the women I've come to know these past few years gifts "under their tree", these would be the things I would give.

Validation:  Whether you are brand new to this roller-coaster ride of being the partner of a SA, or been on this journey for years; whether you and your SA are well on your way to recovery and healing, or his recovery is shaky and you are feeling very broken and fragile; whether you are still in relationship with your SA, have ended the relationship with your SA, or can't figure out what the h-e-double-toothpicks you want to do about the relationship... Your thoughts, your feelings, your confusion, your indecisiveness - OR, on the flip-side - your confidence, your hope, your love - wherever you are at, is VALID.  My earnest desire is that you could use this gift of being able to put aside the "shoulds" and just feel the peace of simply being you.

Permission: This is NOT about ME giving you permission for anything.  This is about you being empowered to give YOURSELF permission: Permission to engage OR detach; permission to speak up and make your needs and desires known; permission to take the time to practice self-care (this is NOT selfish, to put yourself and your needs first sometimes); permission to take "time-outs" from family gatherings (if needed) and re-group; and permission to  "live in the moment".

Which leads me to Freedom: Oh, sisters, how I desire that you would be able to receive freedom this Christmas season.  Freedom from the past; freedom from the memories; freedom from the pain...even if it's just moments of freedom from these things.  Freedom to not feel like everything is tainted.  Freedom from feeling damaged.  Freedom to live in the moment, especially for those of us who have kids or grand-kids - freedom to get caught up in the magic and wonder that sparkles in their eyes.  Tiny moments where you're completely free!

You know, as I sit here and I think of what I would want "under my tree", the thought came to me that some of the things I wish for are not really attainable in this life. Like certainty.  THAT would be the best present EVER!!!!!  Which then led me to the first part of "The Serenity Prayer": 

"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."

Here's the thing.  As embarrassed as I am to admit to how selfish and materialistic I was as a child, I remember Christmases past where I CRIED because I didn't get the present I wanted. Here I had people who loved me, sacrificing their hard-earned money - investing time, energy, and thought into wonderful gifts.  And I wasn't thankful for what I was being given, because it wasn't what I most wanted.  

I don't want to be like that when it comes to how I view the gifts that ARE there for me.  I don't want to focus on the gifts I want, but don't/can't have.  So, like the Serenity Prayer...

May we be women who have eyes to see and hearts able to receive the gifts that ARE waiting for us; may we cherish them, and use them; and may we share them with others.

What are the gifts you would want to give this Christmas season?  What gifts would you ask for for yourself?  How can you "use" your gifts?  How can you share them?

Here's to validation, permission, and moments of freedom for you this Christmas season.  If I got what I wanted for Christmas this year, you truly would have these things "under your tree."  

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Facing our Everest

A few years ago, one of my very best friends climbed to base camp Mt. Everest (Yes, she's amazing, I know!  I couldn't even.  Ever.)  It was through watching her experience that I came up with the phrase, "We each have our own Everest to climb."  Now, before we read that and think, "Oh, that's a cutsie little saying.", let's get a better understanding of what it means to climb Mt. Everest.

Everest's peak is 29,035 feet in altitude.  Now, that number is fairly incomprehensible to me, so let me put it in perspective.  The tallest building in the U.S. is the One World Trade Center, which registers at.... wait for it... a whopping 1,776 feet. Wait - what?  The tallest building in the U.S. would have to be stacked 16 times to be as tall as Mt. Everest!  How's that for perspective?!

Here are a few more MIND BLOWING facts about Everest... On Everest:
  • The wind can blow over 200 mph.
  • The temperature can be -80F (And you think Texas winter is cold!  Ha!).
  • There is 66% less oxygen in each breath on the summit of Everest than at sea level.
  • Almost all climbers use bottled oxygen because it is so high. 
  • Climbers burn over 10,000 calories each day, double that on the summit climb (What?!!).
  • Climbers will lose 10 to 20 lbs during the expedition (Oh, I like this one!).
  • It typically takes 40 days to climb. 
  • And finally, 249 people HAVE DIED trying to climb Mt. Everest since the first expedition in 1922.
So, when I say, "We each have our own Everest to climb.", do you now understand the intensity of that statement I was trying to convey?  This statement is meant to be a statement of validation for the terrifying, grueling, all-consuming work it takes to climb back from the pain, loss, trauma, and confusion of being in relationship (current or past) with a SA.

One of the things I love about this statement is that it is inclusive - I've said, many times, that the "face" that I have to climb might be different than yours, but either way, it's EVEREST!!!!  Then I read there's around 18 different routes to the summit.  PERFECT!  We are a sisterhood - there's no need to compare our stories - figuring out who "has it worst" or who "has it best".  There is no best (that's for darn sure).  Climbing Everest is a (potentially) life-threatening endeavor.  We all have an extremely difficult and scary climb.  Each one of us.

So, other than finding validation from this statement, what else can we learn from this analogy?  (You know I love my analogies!)  How do we "face our personal Everest"?

1. Understand the dangers.  Climbing Everest isn't something a person does on a whim; neither should trying to decide whether or not to stay in relationship with a SA.  Try to find understanding about what SA is, and what your Everest will entail.
2. Have a route, and a back-up route, planned.  Knowing what your goal is, and how to get there is an important piece to having clarity in what can be a confusing situation.  Sometimes we are on our planned route and an "avalanche" occurs.  Having a secondary route already in mind can mean the difference between being able to press on to reach your goal and seeing no other option than turning around.
3. Have an "escape" plan.  If it becomes apparent that things are becoming too dangerous, make sure you have an escape plan already thought through.  Knowledge is power, and if you know what to do if/when the time comes to "escape" the dangers, you will feel more empowered and less a victim.
4. Be mindful of your surroundings.  On Everest, staying aware of the weather, the consistency of the snow/ice beneath your feet, and even your own health (altitude sickness) can mean the difference between life and death.  Similarly, we need to stay aware of our surroundings.  Pay attention to our intuition, our SA's recovery and emotional/mental/physical health, and, most importantly, our own emotional/mental/physical health.  Paying attention to these things can help us avoid "deadly" situations in our lives.
5. Take your time.  In our society, where we can watch years of a life unfold, and a couple fall in love, encounter difficulty, and find their happy ending in 2.5 hours or less (movies), it's easy to fall into the trap of rushing into our "happy ending".  In each phase of an Everest trip - from the planning, to the training, to the ascent, to the decent - all phases take time, and careful thought.  Again, rushing through any one of these phases could mean your life - or the life of someone in your climbing party.  We need to take our time, and give careful thought to the different phases of our healing/recovery, and that of our SA.
6. Never climb alone.  And speaking of your "climbing party", it's the exception, not the rule, where someone would even try to climb Everest alone - let alone be successful or even make it back alive.  In the addiction world (this includes the loved ones of the addict), isolation = death.  I'm not exaggerating.  Maybe not physical death, but death to sobriety, recovery, good mental and emotional health.  You must have people you trust with your life joining you, supporting you, and watching out for you.  If you don't have safe family or friends, find a S-Anon group or a group like PULSE.  Don't try to climb your Everest alone.
7. Lastly, consider hiring a guide.  Sherpas dedicate their life to understanding Everest - the routes, the weather, the dangers, the warning signs; they know the tools that are needed to make the climb, and they know the right pace to set.  Likewise, an experienced/qualified therapist (or other helping professional) can help you understand the dangers, recognize the signs, help you plan healthy routes and escape plans, and help you set a healthy pace for your healing/recovery.  They can warn you when you're going too fast, or headed into a storm.  They CAN be the difference between making it to the summit, or surviving a life-threatening storm.

Facing our Everest can be so overwhelming that we can just shut down.  Take courage, my sisters.  YOU can do it!  

How about you?  What is YOUR Everest?  How are you tackling it?  What have you found that has helped you through?  What has been a part of your route?  Who is on your climbing team?

As always, if you don't have a safe place to process these things, email me at sarah@therapyworksaustin.org, or visit our website at PULSEAustin.org.

Til next time, ladies - take care of yourself!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Escaping - Healthy or Unhealthy? Self-Care, Part 3

As somewhat juvenile as it feels to admit it - I LOVE THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY!!!!!  Yes, I really do.  I've read the entire trilogy at least three times; I saw the first movie in the theater twice; I own the dvd, and have watched it at least two more times at home.  And I can't wait to see Catching Fire!!!

So, what does this have to do with self-care, you might ask?  

Sometimes, our mind and heart need a BREAK!  So often, most of what we do is consumed with "recovery" - either our "recovery" (I prefer the word, "healing") or our SA's - that we never get rest from it.  We talk with our partner about it; we talk with our friends and family about it; we talk with a therapist about it; when we pray, we talk to God about it; when we journal, we are journaling about it.... see what I mean?  It can be overwhelming and all consuming!

In fact, if we're not careful, we become completely obsessed with our and/or our partner's recovery, and things that can be healthy (see above list) actually become UNHEALTHY.  In our attempt to find peace, we embark on an endless pursuit of reading/talking/working on recovery related issues.  

So I propose that it's actually good for us, at times, to find an escape from it all.  Escape can be healthy or unhealthy, so let me clarify how I see the difference: 

Healthy Escape = a pause or a time out from our thoughts and emotions, with the intent to resume work on healing/recovery.
Unhealthy Escape = pushing away, shoving, or stopping our thoughts and emotions, without any intention/plan to resume our work.  I say unhealthy escape = denial.

Also, it should be noted, that healthy escape does NOT mean we put a pause on our boundaries, or making choices that are not concurrent with our beliefs/morals/etc.  That is DEFINITELY unhealthy.

What I'm talking about is finding a good book (or series of books) that will allow you, just for a time, to let your brain and heart relax.  Or maybe it's a TV show/series.  How about joining a site like luminosity, where you can spend time engaging your brain in games that enhance your brain function.  

Over the holiday last week, I took my kids to see "Frozen."  THIS is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about.  We laughed, and laughed, and laughed, and enjoyed a sweet story and amazing visual moments. (Honestly, this is one of the reasons I've enjoyed having kids - an excuse to see any and every Disney movie that interests me!)  For those two hours, I was pleasantly engrossed in this beautiful, animated, frozen world. The sadness of my husband's absence, the stress over financial difficulties, work - everything - was temporarily put on hold while I watched this movie.  And, as a bonus, I got to make a fun memory with my kids.  (They so loved the movie, they keep singing the songs, and were fighting over one of our snowmen decorations yesterday!)

The important thing to recognize when you are planning an "escape" activity, is that it needs to be something that will engage your mind.  Meaning, something like simply listening to music isn't really an escape - PLAYING an instrument, yes.  But in order for it to be an activity that is a healthy escape, your mind needs to not have a high likelihood of wandering back to your situation.  

Depending on where you are at in your journey, this may have to be an intentional activity.  You may not FEEL like reading a book, or watching a movie, or playing games on your computer.  I encourage you to make the time.  The break will do your heart and mind good.  

One word of warning - be mindful about escaping.  In balance, it can be a beneficial thing.  However, escaping can become an unhealthy coping method fairly quickly.  So, be intentional in returning to engaging in your healing/recovery work.  Return to your reading, journaling, praying, talking, etc.

I gave a few suggestions of things to do to escape that are healthy, engaging, and (fairly safe to say) non-triggering.  What are some things that you like to do to escape?  How do you give your heart and mind "breaks" from the work and trauma?  I would love to hear your thoughts/comments.

I hope you find some fun things, and are even able to make some good memories "escaping" this month!  I know I will.  Catching Fire, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Grinch are just a few movies on my list over the next few weeks!  

As always, if you need someone to talk to, you can find me at www.PULSEAustin.org

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving and Self-Care

Last week, I began a three-part series on self care.  I spoke about how self-care can entail hard work at times.  This week, I wanted to talk about thanksgiving as self-care (how could I NOT?).

Now, before I explore this topic, I would like to say, "I understand".  I understand that the holidays can be filled with sadness; I understand that there are often tainted memories associated with these supposedly "happy" days; I understand that MANY of us are dealing with broken families - due to either our SA NOT being in recovery the way he should be (or at all), or the consequences of his acting out behaviors.  I do.  I understand.  

Which is why is it SO IMPORTANT for us to practice self-care during this time!  
One of my most favorite words is the word, "Intentional".  Intentional is defined as: done on purpose; deliberate.  Some synonyms are: conscious, intended, planned, willing, and purposeful.  Practicing self-care through thanksgiving is, in my opinion, most often an intentional activity.  Now, there are the times when we experience something so beautiful or wonderful, that we can't help but respond with gratitude.  However, MOST of the time, I believe it takes a conscious effort - "I will find things to be thankful for - even in the middle of this pit I am in!"  

The reason I see this as a powerful tool of self-care is that we can affect our own state of mind.  Thought patterns can be spiral - they can spiral downward, or they can spiral upward.  Thankfulness is a very potent way to stop the downward spiral, and change the trajectory of our thoughts, and therefore our emotions.  So even though we may or may not "feel like" being thankful, if we WILLINGLY choose to focus our thoughts on things we can be thankful for, our attitudes and feelings will fall in line with our will.  It may not change the circumstances happening in our lives, but it very well may change the way we perceive the entirety of our lives.  

Hear me, dear ones.  I'm not saying we should be thankful for the dark things in our lives - whatever they may be.  Nor am I saying we should dismiss or ignore the problems.  What I AM saying is that IF we can intentionally choose to shift our focus from the dark things, to the things we can be thankful for, we can dramatically effect how we feel about our life.  

Sometimes, all we can do is start with the small things: I'm thankful for a working central heater in my house when it's 35 degrees outside.  It wasn't that long ago that I took my family into the hills of Tecate, Mexico, and met families huddles together inside their house - A house with no electricity and no heat.  If that's where you are, and all you can find to be thankful for is hot water for your shower - then start there.  It's spiral.  Soon you'll be finding more and more things to be thankful for.  And soon, though there are dark things in life, the darkness will not seem so all-consuming.

So, this Thanksgiving, though this will be my first Thanksgiving in 16 years without my husband; though I miss my family in CA terribly, I have MUCH to be thankful for.  I share with you today a few of them.  May my sharing inspire your own thankfulness.

  • I am thankful for my faith.  It has been the rock that I've been able to stand on when everything else seemed to fall apart.
  • I am thankful for my kids.  There are more days that I can count that they were the reason I got out of bed and found the strength to face another day.
  • I am thankful for my son.  He is my unexpected gift; my joy and the apple of my eye. 
  • I am thankful for my daughter.  She is my special miracle; my delight and inspiration.
  • I am thankful for my parents.  They have been a fount of support without which I do not know how I would've made it these past few years. 
  • I am thankful that my mom is also one of my best friends. 
  • I am thankful for the quiet, yet seemingly unshakable strength of my dad; I know I am loved by him.
  • I am thankful for my sister-in-law that lives close to me.  The love and laughter that she has brought into my life has both surprised and delighted me. She has become one of my dearest friends.
  • I am thankful for in-laws that are loving, kind, and supportive.  I am FULLY aware of how amazing they are, and how much of a gift it is to have the relationship with them that I do. 
  • I am thankful for a job that allows me to be home with my kids in the evenings, and do things like go to my daughter's volleyball games.
  • I am thankful for a job that allows me to turn my greatest pain into my greatest passion and purpose. 
  • I am thankful for life-long friends; no matter how far away they may be, they are never far from my heart or thoughts.
  • I am thankful for new friends. Spending time building friendships is my most favorite thing - ever.
  • I am thankful for music.  It moves me, inspires me, refreshes me, empowers me, and connects me to my higher power.
  • I am thankful for exercise.  I love the feeling I have after a good workout!
  • I am thankful for good food and wine.  These things, paired well, can turn a meal into an experience!
I could go on and on.  Thankfulness is an aspect of self-care that my mother instilled in me, and one that I intentionally engage in EVERY day (and have taught my kids the same).  It's not always easy, but eventually, it always brings me out of my dark places.  

What about you?  How are you doing with Thanksgiving just a few days away?  Sad?  Depressed?  Excited?  Happy?  Are you able to express thanks today?  What are some things you are thankful for?

From the bottom of my heart, sisters, I truly hope you are able to enjoy Thanksgiving.  And may thankfulness become a powerful way you take care of yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Cleaning House - Practicing Self-Care, Part 1

So this past weekend I "got my clean on", and deep cleaned my house (well, Sarah's version of deep cleaning).  I'm talking move the furniture, vacuum EVEN the stairs, and steam-clean the kitchen floor!  It started with me being fed up with the shoddy job my landlords did in my bathroom of caulking the tub; so I cleaned and prepped the shower/tub area for re-caulking.  That progressed over the next day and a half into a full house cleaning.  Yep - even gave the dog a bath!

The end result: a very tired Sarah, sitting at her kitchen table, listening to one of her favorite Pandora stations, while soaking in the wonderful feeling of a really clean house.

It was A LOT of really hard work.  I had to roll up my sleeves and get dirty (weird how you often have to get dirty in order for things get clean); I had to give up spending time doing more relaxing things over the weekend; and yes - I even recruited help (I paid my nine year-old son to vacuum the stairs and part of the screened in porch! Talk about cheap labor!!!).  And through it all, I was intentional in searching out what areas needed special attention - I didn't ignore the places that were scary-dirty (like the neglected aforementioned porch that had loads of creepy-crawlies all over the place).  And I kept at it until the work I set out to do was done.

But, OH!  The glorious feeling of sitting in a clean house - the kids asleep in bed; me relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labor.

As I was drifting off to sleep Sunday night, my thoughts started to wander to my Monday, and what I might find to write about on my blog.  I started to see a connection between me physically cleaning my house, and the self-care aspect of "cleaning house" - internally: emotionally, mentally, spiritually.  So Monday morning, as I meditated on these thoughts, I saw a series of blog posts about self-care.  Today's topic is self-care through "cleaning house".

Self-care is SOOOO important.  ESPECIALLY for those of us who have been through a lot of trauma.  It's very, very typical for women who are in relationship with a SA to see all of the couple/family's time, resources, and energy go to "treating" the addict.  OUR healing gets put on the back burner, and we limp along, trying to manage as best we can the collateral  damage that is the fallout of our SA's addiction.  So, for the next three weeks, we're going to focus on some self care.

Just like physical house cleaning - internal cleaning house is hard work.  You have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and "get dirty".  You have to be willing (and wanting) to take a look at the "scary" places that need attention.  You may have to give up "vegging" time (whether that be reading a novel, watching TV, etc).  And yes - you may even need to recruit some help.  BUT OH!!!  The feelings of peace and freedom that come with internal cleaning house - It is definitely worth the hard work!

Often times, when it comes to internal house cleaning, we have to get to the place where we are "fed up" with the condition of OURSELVES before we're willing to do this type of work.  And that's okay.  It's called being human.  The point is that when we get to the place where we recognize that there are things in us that need attention, that we actually do something about it.

Are you fed up with anything in YOU?  If you're in one of those places where you feel really good about where you're at, then good on 'ya!  Enjoy this season you're in and come back to this blog for some tools when you need them.  IF, however, you're in the place where you could use some hard-work self-care, then read on!  This is a very important aspect of self-care!

Just like when you are physically cleaning your house, when you are cleaning house internally, you need the right "tools".  Nobody wants to use the toilet cleaner on the mirror! I also want to point out another similarity - when you are cleaning the bathroom, it becomes dangerous if you try to clean too many things at one time - all the chemicals in the air can quickly become overwhelming, and harmful to you.  It's the same with cleaning internally - don't try to tackle all these things, or use all of these tools, at once.  Pick out which one speaks to you or resonates with you the most.

So, here are some "tools" to help you on your way to cleaning house internally:

  1. If you are a person of faith, ask your higher power for help: help seeing and identifying what areas need attention; help having the strength to attend to and change the issues.
  2. Think about areas where you are "stuck".  Anger.  Fear.  Doubt.  Indecision. Shame. Take the time to reflect on the thoughts/messages you are telling yourself/listening to, and then intentionally re-write those messages OR write an entirely new message to combat those messages.  Pay attention to where your focus is/what you are focusing on.
  3. Work with a therapist, if needed, to address family of origin issues or trauma triggers.  If you've not heard of EMDR, read here for a brief description, and see if you can find a therapist that does EMDR near you.  These issues run deeper than we are really aware of sometimes.
  4. If you're currently in a relationship, take a look at what your role is in the "toxic dance".  How is your communication?  Are your boundaries healthy?  Are you enabling?  Don't be afraid to look at this stuff.  Like those pesky bugs, theses things have a way of creeping in.  
These are just a few tools to help get you started.  If you are able, find a group where they focus on tools to help you grow and heal.  A good tool for finding therapists/groups in your area is http://www.psychologytoday.com/  If you can't find a group, send me an email or give me a call.  You can find my contact information on our PULSE webiste:  www.PULSEAustin.org.

This isn't a fun or easy aspect of self-care.  But if you're ready to roll up your sleeves and do the work, the freedom and feeling of living from a healthy place is SO worth the work!  It's empowering.  

Join me next week for self-care part 2.  Until then, take care of yourselves, ladies.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Day At A Time

So, depending on your age, I may take you down memory lane with this blog.  If you're on the younger side, and you don't know these shows, my apologies.  You really missed out!  Hopefully you'll still find significance in the tie-in I'm about to embark on!

I had the "privilege" of being born in the mid-70's, and my impressionable early years were spent in the late 70's to early 80's. I grew up watching the classic sitcoms.  I can still remember the theme songs to many of them...

"You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have THE FACTS OF LIFE..."  

Or how about this one: "This is it; this is it.  This is life, the one you get.. This is it; this is it... So, while you're here, enjoy the view; keep on doing what you do.  Hold on tight; we'll muddle through... one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time, one day at a time! (I can even hear the "da-da-da-das" in the background).  Hahaha.

Yes, feathered bangs, large collars, and bell-bottoms galore!  Good times.

So, where exactly am I going with all this?  Good question!  In many aspects of life, we are pressured from society - bosses, co-workers, family - even ourselves, to come up with our "5 year plan", or create an impressive "vision board."  
Now, don't get me wrong - I'm a life coach, and we're all about helping others  create vision.  In fact, without a vision - without some sort of goal or hope for our future, things quickly become purposeless and empty.  But that's the topic for another blog.  Today, I'm talking about those times when we are SO in the middle of the hard places, that looking to the future is scary. For some of us, we fear that our SA may never embrace their recovery the way that will help us feel safe again.  For others, it's the fear of the unknown - how will the consequences of my SA's acting out affect me, our family, our financial situation?  And yet for others, it's the fear of having to start over, because the relationship just couldn't be salvaged.

It's in those dark and low places that the mantra, "It will get better; things are gonna get better someday." just doesn't cut it.  The mantra that has gotten me through those "I feel like I'm in a dark pit" days, time and time again, has been: "One day at a time, Sarah.  You just have to have enough strength and grace for today.  You don't have to have the problems that MIGHT come up tomorrow answered today.  One day at a time."  (And there's the tie - in to the TV shows!)  When we take things in bite -size chunks, we can look at the day and, through the grace of God, find peace in the moment.  When the fear about the future takes us to a place that we are nearly paralyzed - if we take JUST today, the enormity of the fear somehow doesn't loom quite as menacingly; we can find the strength and grace to conquer today!  We can find clarity - for today.  We can find meaning - for today.  We can experience love - today.  

What can you find today?  What are you experiencing today?  How can taking things, "One day at a time" help you?  What can you do for yourself - today - that will help you find what you need?

As always, if what you need is someone to help you through your dark, low days, and re-learn how to take it, "One day at a time", leave me a message, or call me - or, come to PULSE.  

'Til next week, my sisters.  Take care of yourselves. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Would You Rather?

On a typical weekday morning, I have a 30 minute commute from my daughter's school to my work. I'm still trying to get used to living in a BIG city and commuting to work - not to mention Texas drivers!  So in between my asking the random reckless driver, "Are you kidding me?", and the friendly hand-wave that means "thank-you-for-letting-me-merge" that I give, I often find myself thinking about things I usually don't have the time or energy to think about.  That was the case this morning.  I found myself reflecting on the current place I find myself in, and was somehow reminded of that game, "Would You Rather...?".

Do you know that game, "Would You Rather...?"?  I never liked that game.  Maybe it's because I'm often too literal.  And, well, you know - choosing between being born with a nose like an elephant or a neck like a giraffe just isn't going to happen in real life, so why should I even bother figuring out which one I'd "rather" have happen to me?  Ha ha ha!  I laugh at myself!  Or better yet - choosing between eating a handful of hair or licking three public telephones is beyond my comprehension of actually being able to endure, so there's no way I could "commit" to choosing one over the other.  NEITHER, thank you very much!

So the irony does not escape me that I sometimes feel like my life is one big, "Would You Rather?".

"Would I rather leave my marriage and "give up" on the idea that this situation is redeemable, OR stay in my marriage, and deal with trust issues and fear for who knows how long?"

Uh, wait a second... can I go back to the hair/telephone question?  I think trying to figure out that scenario is preferable to having to figure out the leave/stay one!

"Would I rather risk staying in a relationship with an incredible man who also happens to be a recovering SA, and have to deal with a potential relapse at some point, OR risk ending the relationship and miss out on what could be an amazing relationship with said incredible man, if he stays free/sober?"

Um, I'll take the telephone.  Yep.  It's decided.  "They" didn't specify HOW LONG I had to lick the telephone, so here's what I'll do: one millisecond of a lick, and then I'll gargle with Listerine for the rest of the day and take medicine to boost my immune system.  Okay, done.  I was able to figure that one out.  Can I have a pass from these other ones?


Sigh.  If only my "Would you rathers?" were as clear cut as "would I'd rather go without music or T.V. the rest of my life."  (I could NOT live without music, by the way.  Music is one of those few precious things that can take me - almost instantly - to another place.). But they're not.  There's no easy answer to these questions.  So, I wrestle with them. Sometimes, when it's just too much, I stuff them.  I talk to others about them - SOMETIMES, I even ask for their input!  On my good days, I journal and pray about them. On my REALLY good days, I think I find the answers to them.

Whether we like it or not, due to the SA in our life, we're now forced to play, "Would You Rather...?"  I've been a bit transparent today, sharing a couple of my big questions.  What are your "Would You Rathers...?" that you struggle with?  What do you do with them when they pop up?

I encourage you to talk with someone about these things, cause there's one thing I know I'd rather - and that's to not go through this alone.

So, if you're local, come join us at PULSE.  If you're not local - find a safe place where you can go through this journey with others who are on a similar journey.  If you can't find that - contact me, and I'll help you find some help.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Isla and Patricia, and What They Teach Us About Storms

Today I have two mini-movies going on in my mind (yes, most of my life is somehow connected to a movie - just ask me about my secret life as a CIA operative!).

Seriously, though.  Sometimes in life I feel like I'm in the middle of a storm.  In fact, I once heard it said that in life, we're either on the edge of a storm, in the middle of a storm, or at the tail end of a storm.

Fatalistic?  Pessimistic?  Overly-dramatic?  Maybe.  Or maybe that's just being realistic?

So, as I'm thinking about storms, I envision these two scenarios in my head:

Scenario 1: The wealthy, yet somehow down-to-earth woman living in her seaside home, somewhere off the Florida Keys.  We'll call her Isla (Spanish for "island."  I'm very clever - I know!).

Scenario 2: The adventure seeking sailor on a sailing yacht, somewhere off the coast of Greece. (Can you tell I've played, "what I would do if I won the lottery" a time or two???)  We'll call her Patricia, in honor of Meg Ryan's character in Joe vs the Volcano (I told you - movies! And that is one of my all-time favs, by the way!!!).

The mini-movies playing in my head revolve around the lives of these two individuals, and the inevitable storms they encounter. I invite you to explore with me what we can learn from these two stories....

If storms being so prevalent (on the edge of, in the middle of, or at the tail end of) really is representative of life, then I see us having three choices.  One, we can live in denial: sitting in our houses or on our sailboat, unaware or unconcerned about the impending storm.  Two, we can let the storm define us: marked by fear, we are a perpetual victim - with our houses boarded up, or always living below deck.  Or three, we can accept the reality that life has storms: we do our best to be prepared for the different types, stages and potential outcomes of the storm(s).

Here's the problem with choices one and two.  Living in denial can only last for so long. Eventually, if we continue to live in denial long enough, the storm will likely turn into a full-blown hurricane, destroying our home or beautiful sailboat, and potentially endangering our life.  Letting the storm define us robs us of the ability to enjoy the beauty that surrounds us when it is on display for us in all its glory.  Sure, we may be "safe", but there's no room for actually living life; we're simply just surviving.

So, we're left with choice three.  Accepting the reality that storms are inevitable.  What does that mean for us? Well, let's look at our mini-movies for inspiration, shall we?

Isla and Patricia, knowing that storms are a part of life, take the time to prepare for the storms.  Both make sure they have emergency kits and extra supplies in case they need to wait out the storm for awhile.  Isla additionally makes sure she knows what her evacuation route is.  They both go about their lives, making sure they monitor tropical weather advisories.  When they know a big storm is coming, Isla boards up her house, and Patricia "batton's down the hatches."

When the storm hits, Isla rides out the storm in a safe place in her house, while Patricia makes sure her ship is "Heaving to", and then goes below deck to ride out the storm. During the storm, both Isla and Patricia do their best to asses how big/bad of a storm they are in the middle of. That way if there are any other measures that need to be taken, they are aware - like Isla needing to actually evacuate, if the storm is bad enough.  

As the storm begins to subside, Isla and Patricia come out of their safe places to determine the extent of the damage the storm caused.  Both women tend to any injuries they have.  Patricia must also re-orient herself - What is her position?  How far off course was she thrown by the storm?  Where is the closest port where she can re-supply her ship and make any repairs?

We, too, must prepare for our storms.  Our storms may come in the form of a "discovery", a triggering event, an argument, a "slip" or a relapse by our SA; not to mention the "normal" things that could be storms in our lives - problems at work, issues with extended family, physical/health related problems, or financial struggles. Sometimes, we can watch "the signs", and we may know that a storm is coming.  Many times, however, we may not know when our storms will hit.  But, IF we know how to cope/what we'll need in the middle of the storm, then at least we can make sure we're not stranded - helpless - when the storms do hit.  So, what do we need when the storms hit?  We're all different. However, I think that we all need a few essential "items" on our "storm preparedness" checklist:

1.  A list of good, healthy boundaries to put in place when needed.  These boundaries can be with our SA, family members, friends - anyone we need.  Like the glass windows of the house are more vulnerable during the storm and must be boarded up, we too are more vulnerable during the storm and must protect ourselves.  Good boundaries do just that.

2.  Have a plan for "evacuation."  As devastating as it may be, we need to know when things have gotten to the place where the storm is endangering our well being.  One way to know if we are living from a co-dependent place is if we "can't live without" our SA.  We may not want to live with out them, but can we?  Though it may break our heart and the unknown may scare us, can we walk away if it means ending the destruction and chaos of living in a hurricane-force storm?  IF it ever gets to that place, we'll need a plan to follow.

3. Have an "emergency kit" ready.  In your "kit" would be things that will help you through the storm.  This may be letters or journal entries that remind you of times/events where you previously went through a storm and made it out safe.  It may be sayings or Bible passages that are encouraging to you when facing a storm.  Maybe it's knowing that working out releases those precious endorphins and you need to get your butt to the gym! This is where self-knowledge = power.  The more we know ourselves, and what helps us, the more we can access those things when we need them.  Ask yourself: What will help me relax/feel safe/empowered when I'm facing a storm?

When our storms hit, we board up our windows, grab our emergency kit, and find our safe place.  (Our safe places may include people, too.)  Of utmost importance when we're in a storm is to realize what it is - a storm.  You can't stop a storm.  You can't fix a storm.  You have to ride it out.  The best thing we can do when we're in the middle of the storm is to not isolate or hide.  As tempting as that is, we can't assess how big/bad of a storm it is if we hide.  We can't access our emergency kit, and we definitely can't evacuate if we stay in hiding.

The goal is to get to the other side of the storm; be able to do some self-care, re-orient ourselves if necessary, and make any repairs that are needed.

Let me be clear on something:  I'm not talking about becoming a storm chaser.  I don't like the storms of life. They're scary.  They bring me down.  Sometimes, they're so big I can't see past the storm.  My storms can cause me to loose my direction.  I'm like Patricia on that sailboat - the storm is so big that I can barely see past the end of my ship; I can't tell which way land is.  I can't see the sun, moon or stars to navigate by. Storms can leave destruction behind them.  And sometimes, just the memory of a past storm can send me running for my safe place.  Emotionally, I curl up into a fetal position and block the rest of the world out.

No - what I'm talking about is living in such a way that the storms don't define me.  Yes, I've gone through some frightening, life-threatening storms.  But I don't want to let the trauma from those storms cause me to board up my house every time I feel a drop of rain. I want to live in a way that IF I temporarily loose my direction, I know how to find it again.  IF I'm feeling scared or down, I know how to access the things that will point me towards peace and strength and truth.

Life isn't always a storm.  I believe we can experience the joys of life, while being aware that a storm may be just around the corner.  If we've done the work and prepared, we can live life unafraid of the storms, knowing that we're ready when they fall on us.

Because when I'm not in the storm,  I want to live my life to the full!  I want you to find me - drinking in every moment - enthralled by the adventures, enraptured in the beauty, engaged in the tranquility!

When it comes to the storms of life - Where are you?  Are you currently in a storm?  What is your storm?  Are you prepared?  What do you have in your "emergency kit"?  What is your "evacuation plan"?  How are you "drinking in the moment" when you are not in your storm?

If you are in the middle of a storm, and don't have hope that you'll make it through, or need some ideas of how to make it through, please email me at: sarah@therapyworksaustin.org

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Fantasy or Genuine Hope? - A Partner's Perspective on Hope, Part 3

Sorry for the delay on the blog this week.  My wonderful, beautiful, amazing daughter had a field trip yesterday that I was a chaperon for.  All I have to say after that experience is that I could NEVER be a Middle School teacher. NE-VER.  God bless those who do!  Anyways, on to this weeks blog...

We're all guilty of it - aren't we?  We grew up watching Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle and Jasmine; daydreaming of the day our Prince Charming would sweep us off our feet - we'd fall madly in love, get married and live "happily ever after."  

Better yet!  How many times did I watch "The Princess Bride,"  where TRUE LOVE conquers all - even death! (Well, mostly dead.  As we all know, mostly dead means slightly alive, right?)  "Death can not stop true love.  All it can do is delay it for awhile."  Buttercup's true love never stopped fighting for her.  How my heart welled up within me as I  waited to find my "Wesley" and hear him say, "As you wish."!

Fast forward to the present.  How the @#%*! did we end up here?  This is not the fantasy we envisioned!  Our Wesleys (or Prince Charmings) ended up more like the Prince Charming from the Shrek movies than the one we had envisioned! (Yes, I am having too much fun with this post and pictures!)  The "happily ever after" we dreamed of turned into "A Nightmare on _______ Street."  And TRUE LOVE?  Well, we learned that true love doesn't necessarily conquer all.

Or does it?

Is there still a scenario for us where it's possible to have the "happily ever after?"  Is there a way that true love can be the driving force for forgiveness, freedom and healing? Or am I a fool, setting myself up for more pain by believing that "our story will be one of the great ones?"  When and how can I determine if what I'm living in is a state of genuine hope for these things, or in fantasy-land?

Because I don't know about you, but I have no desire to stay stuck in fantasy land!   

So, I bring it back again, for part three, to the statement that Hope is based on "facts and promises."  I think there IS a way to determine if we're living in a fantasy, OR if there is reason to have hope for the relationship (there's always hope for us to heal - even if the relationship doesn't).   I've already suggested that maybe we need to adjust our perspective of what hope is - I say we can also adjust our idea of what "happily ever after" may look like for us.  If we are going to differentiate between fantasy and genuine hope, we need to begin by embracing our reality.  

Part of us embracing our reality, and adjusting our idea of "happily ever after", is to recognize OUR responsibility in making sure we do not continue to live in fantasy-land.  We take a long, hard look at who we are in relationship with, where they're at in recovery (see last week's blog on recovery timeline), and WHAT THEY'RE DOING IN RECOVERY.

This is where a check-in is a valuable tool.  Part of adjusting my idea for my "happily ever after" was for me to embrace the fact that recovery ISN'T a phase of life - it's a LIFESTYLE.  One that I will have to commit to work out with my partner for the rest of our lives.  And part of that lifestyle is transparency and honesty.  And a BIG part of that is our check-ins.  That is the time when I am allowed, by my partner, to "gather information" as he shares with me what he's doing to actively continue to pursue a life marked by sobriety, health, and freedom.  He includes me in his recovery by sharing with me how he's dealt with his emotionally risky states/triggers, as well as what recovery activities he's participated in.  As he shares this information, I can be informed of how he's working his recovery - I can actually SEE what he did/does to change from his old, addictive mind-set way of doing things, to his new, "sober" minded way of doing things.  

But what can I expect would be a part of these check-ins?  Well, I'm glad you asked!  Last week, I gave you the resource of Dr. Milton Magness, and his recovery timeline.  Today I'm going to give a list of "recovery activities", again taken from "the experts".  These recovery activities are examples of what SA's who are SERIOUS about their recovery would be expected to be doing by their specialist.

According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, people who "had the greatest success (in recovery) took the same steps in a relatively predictable fashion.  Sobriety was but one part of their life changes.  They all had made a deeper commitment to making their lives better.... Here is the general profile of those who succeed in recovery:
  1. They had a primary therapist.
  2. They were in a therapy group.
  3. They went regularly to 12 step meetings.
  4. If other addictions were present, they were addressed as well.
  5. They worked to find clarity and resolution in their family-of-origin and childhood issues.
  6. Their families were involved early in therapy.
  7. If they were in a primary relationship, the couple went to a 12 step couples group such as Recovering Couples Anonymous.
  8. They developed a spiritual life.
  9. They actively worked to maintain regular exercise and good nutrition." 
(From "Facing the Shadow, page 302)

These are the kinds of activities our SA could (should?) be telling us they are doing in their recovery during their check in (If you don't do a check-in, you can still observe if your SA is doing most, if not all, of these things).  So we look at this list, and ask ourselves - Is my SA demonstrating a deep commitment to not only their sobriety, but making their lives better?  If yes, then I say there's reason to have genuine hope (NOT a guarantee, mind you - hope).  IF not, and we are sitting around waiting for something miraculous to happen that will suddenly change everything, we may need to consider whether or not we are living in fantasy-land.  IF we want to be free of living in fantasy-land, we MUST ask ourselves the difficult questions - How is his addiction going to change if he's not doing any of the work?  How will things be different in 5 years if he's only half-assing it - doing just enough to appease me?  

If we're looking for promises to base our hope on - what about this as a promise - that our SA is relentless in his pursuit of freedom from his addiction; he's not merely interested in the minimal amount of work he "has" to do, but is voracious is learning and doing all he can?  What if it wasn't simply about abstaining from acting out - but a drive to be free of the broken places and twisted desires that lead to acting out in the first place?

These are SOME of the facts and promises that we can base our hope on, and decipher if it's genuine hope, or fantasy.  This is not an "end-all be-all" answer to the question of "should I stay or should I go?  I'd love to have your feedback - 

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list?  What else can we look for when we're looking for facts or promises to base our hope on?  How else can we avoid fantasy?  Or, WHY do you think we should want to avoid fantasy-land?  I'd also love your questions.  If you don't feel comfortable posting your question(s) here, you can always email me at: sarah@therapyworksaustin.org.  You can also email me to ask for more resources on this topic.  I've got plenty more lists!

To wrap up this three-part blog, I end with where it all began:"Hope is a confident expectation of future blessing based on facts and promises".

Because even if I need to adjust my idea of what "happily ever after" may look like - I can do that.  I'd rather embrace my reality and experience genuine hope than cling to a fantasy.  What about you?

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Partner's Pespective on Hope - Part 2

Last week I introduced the topic of hope, based on a "definition" I found in something I was reading.  I talked about life with a sex addict being like gambling with our life and used an analogy of two bridges - a rickety one and a safe one.  The fears we have about our relationship are often tied to the uncertainties we have regarding our partner's recovery.  Are we going to be led down the rickety bridge again?  How can we be sure?  IF we are being asked to place our hope in our partner and their recovery (gambling with our lives), then we need facts to base our hopes upon.

Last week, I said that "in our attempt to 'focus on ourselves' and 'work our recovery' (both good things), we can go into this extreme belief that it's not right or okay for us to even be aware of our partner's recovery."

This week, I go one step further and say that it's not just our right to be informed about our partner's recovery, it's our responsibility.  Yes, I said it - our responsibility.  But what does that look like?  What are these facts?  What is the difference between "controlling" our partner's recovery and BEING INFORMED of our partner's recovery?

Let's first take a look at this word, "responsible", and the difference between controlling our partner's recovery and being informed of our partner's recovery.  My friends at dictionary.com say that responsibility is: "the state or fact of being responsible, answerable, or accountable for something within one's power, control, or management."  Now let me be clear - we are NOT responsible for our partner's recovery.  We didn't cause the issue, we can't control it, and we can't cure it!  I have enough to handle just focusing on my own stuff.  No thanks!  I have NO desire to dictate to my partner what he should be doing in his recovery; what books he should be reading, what groups he should be going to, what therapist he should be seeing, or how he should be behaving.  I'm no puppeteer.

BUT - and this is a BIG BUT (I can hear my 12 and 9 year old children giggling) - we MUST be informed and stay informed of our partner's recovery IF we stay in relationship with them.  One of my favorite analogies of an exclusive, committed relationship is that of being allies.  (There's actually a book titled, "Intimate Allies").  That is what our relationships are MEANT to be like.  You and your partner against the world - NOT against each other.  Yet, if we take this analogy, and apply it to our situation - who in their right mind would go into battle with an ally that has lied to you and betrayed you?  When the time came, we wouldn't know if we could trust whether or not they'd fight with us, or end up shooting us in the back!  It would be our responsibility to gather Intel to support our decision to ever go into battle again with this ally again!

I propose that the first step in being informed about our partner's recovery is to understand what recovery looks like - according to the "experts".   I find it VITAL to understand just what we are "getting into", or "staying on board" for.  How much work is this going to take?  How LONG is this going to take?  How can I tell where my partner is at in his recovery?

So, as promised, here are a few things/sources to go to, to find some "facts":

One FANTASTIC resource is Dr. Milton Magness.  Among the many things you can find on his website is a list describing the stages of the "recovery timeline" (for the addict).  Here's the list of the names of the stages, and the AVERAGE time it takes to go through each stage (for a more detailed description of the stages, go the "getting help" tab, and then click on "recovery timeline"):
  • Survival Phase: This phase begins when recovery begins and lasts from 6 months to 1 year or more.
  • Stability Phase: Begins from 6 months to 2 years into recovery and lasts for 1 year or more.
  • Sustaining Phase: Begins from 1 1/2 to 3 years into recovery and lasts for 1 year or more.
  • Maintenance/Freedom Phase: People in this phase have been in recovery for 2 1/2 years or more.  This phase is the ultimate phase one aspires to in recovery.  
As you can see, there is a phrase he uses for every single phase - "or more".  This is because each person is unique, and therefore, their recovery is unique.  The way I see this as helpful to us, as partners of sex addicts, is to use this as a means to "gather Intel" - to use it as a guide to gauge where our partner is at, and if they seem "stuck", or unable to get past a certain phase. So, for example, if our partner has been saying he's "in recovery" for the past 5 years, but hasn't gotten out of survival phase, it might be time to start asking ourselves, and him, if his recovery is real.  It's not to take it to him and inform him of where he's at, and tell him what he needs to do to get to the next phase.  That's where we step into controlling, verses being informed.

Going back to the bridge analogy I used last week - we use this information to "test the bridge" and see if it's trustworthy.  Recovery that is stuck for years in survival phase is weak, at best, if not about to fall apart.

Unless we want to end up on the battlefield with an ally we're not sure isn't going to turn on us, we MUST recognize the responsibility we have to ourselves to be aware of our partner's recovery, and asses if it's "safe" for us to consider them as an ally.  IF their recovery is not looking at least stable, we may want to begin to reconsider whether or not it's safe for us to align ourselves with them if things don't change.

This all began with the statement,  "Hope is a confident expectation of future blessing based on facts and promises".  We are in the middle of discussing what it looks like to find those facts we need to base our hope upon.  Join me next week as we dive even deeper into what kind of facts we can look for to "gather Intel" and sustain our hope (or, to help us realize our hope is misguided, and we need to focus our hope on something else!).

Until then, I again leave you with the same parting thought.  Life without hope is no life at all.  Sometimes we just need to adjust our perspective of what Hope is, and what it takes to have it.  It is possible.  And when we have it, it's beautiful.

Monday, October 7, 2013

A Partner's Perspective of Hope

I came across this "definition" of hope last night in something I was reading:

"Hope is a confident expectation of future blessing based on facts and promises".

Now let me tell you why this hit me as MORE than just an interesting thought.  I knew that tonight (Monday, Oct. 7th), we would be discussing in our on-going support group what it looks like for our partner to be in recovery.  This definition expressed so perfectly what I believe is necessary for partners of sex addicts to have in order to have hope.

You see, I liken staying in a relationship with a sexual addict to gambling with your life.  We are like women standing at the edge of a rushing river, and there are two bridges to choose from.  One is rickety.  Old.  Untrustworthy and Unsafe.  The other is well built.  Solid.  Steady and Safe.

When we are trying to decide whether or not to stay in the relationship, it's like trying to choose which bridge to take.  The problem is, in the past (and potentially our present), our partner has distorted our reality - through their betrayal and lies, they told us the relationship we had was safe and strong - trustworthy. All the while the relationship WAS NOT safe OR he trustworthy.  What we thought was the solid bridge ended up being the old, rickety one.  And here we are, AGAIN, looking at the choice(s) in front of us, knowing the risks, and desperately wanting to know if the bridge that APPEARS to be the strong, sturdy one REALLY IS the trustworthy bridge we see in front of us.

And so we are forced to gamble.  Is he really in recovery?  Will he be able to sustain his sobriety?  Can I trust him?  Can I trust what he is saying?

We want so badly to believe that the hope we have for a relationship with this person we love - free of their addiction; free of the lies and manipulation -is not going to lead us down the rickety bridge.  But how can we be sure?

That's where I come back to the part of that saying where it says that hope is "based on facts".  So often, in our attempt to "focus on ourselves" and "work our recovery"(both good things), we go into this extreme belief that it's not right or okay for us to even be aware of our partner's recovery.

FOUL!  I call foul on that belief!  Facts!  We NEED facts to base our hope on.  If we are expected to gamble with our lives, and stay in relationship with our recovering partner, we must have facts and (fulfilled) promises to give us the confidence we need to expect future blessing.

The questions are: What are these facts we can look for when we are in relationship with a (hopefully) recovering sex addict?  What is the difference between "controlling" our partner's recovery and BEING INFORMED of our partner's recovery?

We will discuss all this, and probably more, tonight in our group.  I can't wait to be a part of the discussion.  Join me next week as I continue this topic, and bring in some feedback from our group tonight.  I invite you to leave me feedback here!

Until then, I leave you with this parting thought and image.  Life without hope is no life at all.  Sometimes we just need to adjust our perspective of what Hope is, and what it takes to have it.  It is possible.  And when we have it, it's beautiful.