Tag Archive | partners of sex addicts

Name That Feeling

Name That Feeling. Right now. As you paused to read this. As you have been scrolling down your page scanning posts to read. Are you curious, intrigued, bored, impatient, hopeful, disappointed……? What is the feeling you were feeling then? Now? An hour ago?

Identifying feelings and emotions is a skill. It needs to be learned. And practiced. Which I have been doing for two years and five months now. I still struggle to Name That Feeling. If it was a game show, I would be the last contestant to buzz in. This continues to be a very real side effect of numbing and medicating emotional pain for most of my life.

Feelings are exactly that. Feelings. An emotional response. What they are not is right or wrong, fact or truth. When God created humans in His image, He intentionally gave us emotions. All of them. Even Jesus, the only sinless, perfect person to ever live on earth experienced feelings that many of us consider sinful, negative, to be avoided. Anger. Grief. Sorrow. Loneliness. These feelings were a part of the life of God’s Son, and yet I chose to do everything I could to not make them a part of mine.

In one of my early counselling sessions, my therapist handed me a list of feelings. I handed it back to him. He didn’t take it. I was left holding the paper in my hand. I sighed. As per his instructions, I reluctantly closed my eyes and let my finger fall on the chart. Whichever word my finger landed on, I was to share a time when I experienced that feeling. Oddly enough, the feeling was distressed. I looked up, smiled and said “I feel distressed right now talking about identifying feelings.” Aha. Win for me. He did laugh. But then he asked me to remember the first time I felt that way. That took longer to answer. And I always dislike paying for those extended moments of silence in the counsellor’s office. I also still disliked talking about feelings. Or having them. It was vulnerable. Risky. It came too close to uncovering the buried monsters that I worked tirelessly to push back down every time they reached towards the surface. It was much more comfortable to share my story as a disconnected bystander, not the person living in and experiencing the pain. I was still afraid of my boogeyman becoming exposed even though I no longer wanted to be held in its grip.

Not being able to identify my feelings naturally led to not being able to express or experience my feelings. I seldom cried or laughed. Generally, I lacked emotional responses to people and situations. I have been perceived as snobbish and cold hearted. No one saw the terrified and battered little girl hiding within my adult body who just didn’t know how to access her emotional database.

When we had to make the heartbreaking decision to put our dog down two months into our recoveries, a few tears threatened to escape from my eyes. My husband praised me for showing sadness. He wanted and needed to share his emotional experience with me, but I didn’t know how to do that. So he encouraged me to just be sad in the moment because I was sad in the moment. I squirmed with the unfamiliarity of purposefully opening my heart to unpleasant emotions.

Experiencing, identifying and expressing feelings is an essential skill to learn in recovery. Upon completion and continued practice of an empowerment exercise on identifying and communicating feelings in Dr. Doug Weiss’ Partner’s Recovery Guide for partner’s of sex addicts, I have learned:

When I had a feeling and didn’t know what it was, I could ignore it or suppress it until it went away. I had many methods of doing this. The problem with that is I also could not meet my own real needs. I didn’t know what they were.

It is easier for me to prevent relapsing into old unhealthy behaviours because I know better how to handle and manage my feelings now that I am more successful at identifying them. If I am hungry or desiring dessert, it is okay (well, kind of) to eat a couple spoonfuls of peanut butter and chocolate chips. If I am bored or anxious, it is not. Then I need to find a healthier alternative to medicating my emotional pain such as going for a walk.

If I have relapsed and find myself staring guiltily or woefully at an empty chocolate chip container, it is easier for me to go back through my day and track down what happened. What emotions preceded my setback. Perhaps this time I was disappointed or angry that my husband hadn’t made supper so I stuffed my mouth full of soothing yumminess before grudgingly beginning to prepare a meal.

Identifying and communicating my feelings, whether internally or externally, has improved all my relationships. With my husband, kids, friends, co-workers. It allows and creates more intimacy. Life is just better.

So, yes, I have been learning these things. Learn-ing. Not completely learn-ed. A visit to my kitchen would show you that. But that’s okay. I don’t need to experience every feeling on my list in one day. I just need to open my heart and mind to experience the feeling of the moment whatever it may be. A feeling doesn’t have the power to hurt me. Or betray me. But a feeling does have the ability to expand my love and gratitude for living a full and abundant life in God’s glorious creation.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: …………..           A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1,4

(Mis)Adventures in Joining a Recovery Support Group

So much about recovery involves scary leaps out of your comfort zone. That safe place you are in is likely unhealthy, but it is where you are, and what you know, and that can count for an awful lot of points when your life is falling apart around you. Maybe I should be a little more personal here and replace these “you” and “your” words with “I” and “my” because it is me that I am really talking about.

Knowing how to quietly walk on eggshells and when to tiptoe around the perimeter. When to keep my mouth shut. Which is almost always because everything will come out wrong or stupidly. Learning how to camouflage into the background. Trying so hard to be unnoticed. By everyone.

This was my comfort zone. The isolation and security of me. Not letting anyone see the dark places of my soul, but also not the unique beauty of it either. Certain that it would be rejected and ridiculed. Because it was. Daily. By the person who I freely and trustingly gave it to. If my husband so thoroughly disliked me, logically, everyone else would as well. I lived in constant fear of being humiliated and rejected by everyone.

And there was my problem with embracing a recovery program. Recovery is not a “me” journey to be taken alone. At my first counselling session, my therapist introduced me to the five vital components to treatment and recovery for partners of sex addicts.

Number one, one on one counselling. I could do that. I was cautious, but desperate for guidance. It was his paid job to sit and listen to me without fleeing from the room repulsed by my thoughts and emotions. I trusted this counsellor who validated my pain and offered me hope and practical ways to achieve healing. He thought I was worth it and I began to believe that too.

Number four, reading. I was encouraged to read sex addiction recovery resources for partners and other personal growth books. Again, a reasonable suggestion. Especially with a list of recommended materials provided to me.

Number five, prayer. In the words of my counsellor, “When God is at the center of your life, long-term health and maintenance is much more likely. You can be okay no matter what happens in your relationship.” Nothing much to argue there. I believed in God so talking to Him wasn’t a stretch.

But ah, yes. Components two and three. For me, the tough, scary ones that I was inclined to skip over. The people ones. The relationships. The ones where other women will look me in the eyes, and listen to my wobbly, foolish words, and recognize instantly that I am a waste of their time.

Number two, participate in a recovery group. I was told that I would receive support, validation and strategies for recovery. That I was not alone. My counsellor’s wife, herself a recovering partner, led a weekly teleconference group that I was welcome and encouraged to join.

Number three, accountability. Meeting other women who have gone through what I am going through will help me stay accountable to a recovery and healing process. Okay. Doubtful, but maybe. But then my counsellor lost me completely by suggesting these women would become my friends. I was unconvinced. And saddened that he would say something so outlandish to me.

Nevertheless, out of my comfort zone I stumbled. Literally. On my first attempt to connect with my counsellor’s wife, (after staring at the phone in my hand for several minutes beforehand), I panicked and hung up the phone when I heard my counsellor’s voice on the line. Ridiculous, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

Only minutes later, after a few deep breaths, I dialled again wondering if they had call display. He answered again. This time I identified myself. With my real name.

Later that week I bravely called in to the teleconference recovery group for the first time. It was awful. I said two words. “Cynthia” when I had to identify myself as the caller. And “no” when I was asked if I wanted to do a check-in. It was overwhelming, confusing, discouraging. It was quickly evident that I had no idea what was ahead of me. This was an unknown culture with an entirely new vocabulary. Triggers. Disclosures. Polygraphs. Boundaries. What?!?!

I hung up the phone that night and sobbed. Crushed by the overpowering raw emotions of myself and the other women I heard. Too much pain.

As my tears turned to stillness, I heard a tiny whisper. I called the group leader. Explained how much the call had distressed me. Through her words and beautiful spirit, God deeply ministered to my brokenness. A calm settled over my heart that could only come from my Abba Daddy.

I would like to say that my second time participating in group went more smoothly. But that would be untrue. I did hobble through a partial check in. Choked on the words, “Hi my name is Cynthia and I am the partner of a sex addict and intimacy anorexic.” The foreign recovery lingo was still there. I hung up in a worse state than I was in an hour earlier.

It distressed my husband to see me so upset with my recovery group. He was finding life and freedom in his support group and thought I should quit mine if it was making me miserable. He handed me an out. I was in enough pain as it was. We both wondered why I would intentionally add to it.

But I heard that tiny whisper again that refused to let my flickering hope be snuffed out. God gently nudged me forward. Drawing me through. Asking me to trust the process and path laid before me. Giving me the courage to do it. Making me brave.

The next week I walked into an in person recovery group and said “Hi, my name is Cynthia. The thing I like about myself today is that I am here.”

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11