Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reflections and Ruminations

This post is going to be a bit different from a lot of my posts.  This is a reflective post about the ruminating I have done from the conference I just attended.  I hope you enjoy this little excursion into my heart and mind through the recounting of this experience, and where it led me.

Last week I went to a conference in Dallas that was centered around sexual addiction.  It's a bit different from some of the other conferences that deal with SA, because these are the professionals that counsel/coach from the trauma model (as opposed to the co-dependency model). Close to 100 people from across the world gathered for three days to network, share stories, learn new things, and discuss relevant topics.

It was exhilarating!

I learned about new organizations, like PureHope  (By the way, I put their blog in my list of blogs I follow.  I HIGHLY encourage you to check them out).  In fact, here's a link to their website:  I heard amazing speakers like Alexis Polles, M.D., with Recovery that Lasts (in Mississippi).  I met a couple (whom I will now refer clients to) that do intensives in Houston...

I'd love to share some of the things that I experienced that were significant to me.  I hope they'll be meaningful to you, as well.  Some of the experiences were significant on a personal level, some on a professional level.

From my first moments there, I quickly learned that not all, but MOST of the people that were there had been impacted personally by sex addiction one way or another.

We ran into bad traffic on our way into Dallas (surprise, surprise), so we got to the first plenary speaker about an hour late.  I quickly found a seat at a mostly empty table towards the back of the room.  The man speaking was a neurobiologist, and full-on in the middle of his talk.  When he stopped for a quick break, I turned to the only other people at my table, a couple somewhere in their late 50's.  I said, "Okay, what did I miss?  Fill me in!  And... go!"  They laughed, and we introduced ourselves to each other.  They were a happy looking couple, who informed me they were in their 24th year of recovery. She was now an LPC, he nearly an LPC - just waiting for his papers.  I looked at them and said, "Seriously?  24 years!  Give me a high-five!"  And we high-fived right then and there.  (Yes, I'm a dork.  I'm okay with that!)

I need to hear those success stories.  I need to know that there ARE couples that make it through this, and THRIVE!  SAs do get to a place where they have happy, healthy lives and relationships - sustained for 24 years!  At a very personal level, this was so encouraging!  These were the first people I have personally met that had a story of recovery that was over 14 years.  Meeting them was a BIG deposit into my "hope bank".

And that was just the start.
This isn't the exact place in New Zealand,
but this is somewhere on the north island
of New Zealand

Later that night I reconnected with the amazing people from A Circle of Joy (this is where I got my coaching start).  I met people that are in the process of starting retreat centers for SAs and their partners to go to. One is in Oregon, and one is in New Zealand.  (I asked the lady who has the land for the centre in New Zealand if she was accepting applications yet!)  I'm so serious when I say I'm going there for a month during the summer of 2015!

Barbara and Marsha's groundbreaking

Friday morning I was able to sit and listen to, first hand, Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means talk about their stories; how they found themselves working with PSAs.  Their stories were both challenging and motivating, all at the same time. These women were the PIONEERS in getting professionals to recognize the TRAUMA PSAs go through, and introduced the trauma model.  After they spoke, person after person recounted how these women, and their book, saved their lives/marriages.  It was powerful.

The impact that these two ladies have had - following their passion to help other PSAs - well, it stirred up an urgency in my heart; it was like the fire I have in my heart to work with PSAs was smoldering, and these women sent a gust of wind that caused the smoldering fire to burst into flame.

And then I went to a group for PSAs EARLY Saturday morning.  I wasn't the facilitator, I was a participant.  And I was moved to tears.  Hearing some of the stories of the ladies that were at this conference - some of them BRAND NEW to coaching, some already working for years in the field - was incredible.  The strength, and bravery, and NEED was palpable.  I don't know that I can even articulate what that meeting did in my mind and spirit.

From there - each workshop; each speaker I heard; every connection I made was another stirring.  New questions/ideas for my coaching - gust of wind; new treatment for dealing with PTSD - gust of wind; new ideas and ways of communication about trauma and relationships - gust of wind.

I left Saturday night with a fire roaring in my heart.  I was challenged, motivated, energized, moved emotionally, and inspired.

It's like the difference between running the distance of a marathon by yourself, or with a crowd of people. Sometimes, the vast number of people SA affects can be overwhelming - much like the 26 miles of a marathon can be overwhelming!  But then, you get to experience the energy and passion of being with 1,000's of people that all have the same mindset - the same goal - that though it will be tough; it will be exhausting and push you to your limits - you WILL run this race; you WILL cross that finish line; and you WILL do everything in your power to help those around you endure.  That's what it was like for me - spending three days with people who were all passionate about the same things as me.

If I could boil all of this experience down into one thought, one word, it would be this: HOPE.

Last year, only 40 people attended this conference. This year, around 90 people, plus the presenters.

More and more, people are learning about the impact of SA.  More and more, people are understanding the trauma PSAs go through.  More and more - help is being taught and made available.

Which leads me to a bit of news for me: I am going to a training if Florida next week.  It's for a special certification that will set me apart as a "Certified Partner Coach".  Can you believe it?  There is now a special certification for people who want to work with PSAs!!!! How many of us have had our trauma compounded by "helping professionals" who didn't know what the heck they were doing?  Well, there is now a brand new certification that will pretty much guarantee a "helping professional" will be just that!

So, I have hope that things are getting better.  Slowly, steadily, things are changing.

Early on in my healing, I decided that my "greatest pain would be my greatest passion".  I thought to myself, "If I have to go through this hell, then let it count for something."  And this conference, these people, this training, these changes - they all bring me hope that these desires of mine will come true.  And so much more.

I'm ecstatic about taking my coaching to the next level.

Thank you for reading my thoughts, feelings, and experiences surrounding my recent conference.  Even in this, I'd love to hear what thoughts and feeling this brought up for you.