Saturday, January 07, 2006

Brewing In My Soul

42 days ago we were on the cusp of Advent. It was a snowy day here and as I headed out the door to attend an Advent retreat, I faced icy roads and a long drive ahead of me in the dark. It was to be my first taste of Advent since my reception into the church and of experiencing for myself what it means to wait for the Light to pierce the darkness. During that retreat I wrote this prayer. Turning my chair towards a wall of windows while watching giant flakes of snow fall I shut out my inner censor and spilled my guts to God in that prayer. Afterwards I sat in the room of women and wondered what they would think had they known that renting a porn flick for my solitary enjoyment the previous night was what prompted that prayer. That I knew with the viewing of that film I was spiralling downwards fast while seesawing between both the shame and the thrill of it. It was the culmination of a lifetime of sexual compulsion/addiction within me manifesting itself outwardly in a way I could no longer hide from even myself. My written prayer scared the shit out of me. I don't know what felt worse. What happened when I let my guard down and rented that movie or what happened when I let my guard down and wrote that prayer.

When I had been doing a step 4 and sharing it with Father Charlie in a Step 5, my sexual issues weighed heavymost on my mind. There was some relief in alluding to them, even speaking clearly about some of them. While inching closer to the Light however, I skirted around rigorous honesty. I was playing at seeing how close I could come to the truth without actually facing it. Compulsions I could admit to, but the label of having a sexual addiction perhaps belonged to the perpetrators in my past, it didn't belong to me. It wasn't too far of a cry from standing up at my first AA meeting nearly 18 years ago, and admitting that I was an alcoholic. In that moment I felt I had become my mother(the real alcoholic), something I said would never happen.

I brought a copy of my Advent prayer to Father Charlie the next time we met for counseling. It took a while before I could say that my prayer was connected to my struggles and that it had a name. Sexual addiction. I understood that some people could engage in some of the behaviours I struggled with and it wasn't compulsive or an addiction for them. The same way some people can have a drink and it doesn't become a problem. But for me this was a complusion spiralling out of control.

I reached out for help from someone I knew who had been on the path I was staring at. Her counsel, encouragement and prayers gave me strength to climb out of the pit of denial and stand on solid ground. Pope John Paul II said once that we should not fear "the truth about ourselves." Not exactly what goes through my mind when I think of Jesus saying, "Be not afraid."

I have thought often of writing about my struggle here but if other things I've shared with you have felt like an unveiling of my soul this surley tops them all. I kept open to sharing and then a few things happened to prompt me to go ahead and write this post.

One was that Moneybags wrote about people requesting a patron saint for the year. Well, actually it was about a patron saint picking you for the year. I am still new in my Catholic faith and thought, "what the hell - having a saint intercede for me couldn't hurt anything." And at first when I found out St. Augustine of Hippo picked me I had him mixed up in my head with St. Francis of Assisi. When the fog cleared I remembered that the last time the cat had made it into the house I yelled that if that cat was on the counter licking the butter again I was going to kill it and I knew I didn't have all that in common with old St. Frank, although it wouldn't hurt to have him intercede for the cat. After that my eyes grew larger with the realization that all I could remember about St. Augustine was his reputation for being sexually out of control. "Ohhhh," I thought. How appropriate. I was sure he was winking at me from heaven and saying, "Gotcha."

This morning I found this snippet about St. Augustine:
He is a prophet for today, trumpeting the need to scrap escapisms and stand face-to-face with personal responsibility and dignity."

and this one:

St. Augustine of Hippo is the patron of brewers because of his conversion from a former life of loose living, which included parties, entertainment, and worldly ambitions. His complete turnaround and conversion has been an inspiration to many who struggle with a particular vice or habit they long to break."

Oh ye good St. Augustine - you understand exactly what's been brewing in my soul.

The other factor in writing this came about from reading Ronald Rolheiser's book Against an Infinite Horizon. I read this account and it puts into words my own experience of these last 42 days of abstaining:

"You are as sick as your sickest secret. That's a phrase AA groups use to challenge people to understand what, at its roots, sobriety really is. Drunkenness, of all kinds, has much more to do with lying than it has to do with alcohol, drugs, or anything else. We are sober, truly sober, when we stop lying."

He goes on to talk about a film called Sex, Lies, and Videotape in which he says "a man who has every kind of dysfunction, including sexual neuroses in his background, makes a vow to never again tell a lie. He sets up a video camera and invites people to , with as much honesty as possible, tell the story of their sexual lives. The ones who come and speak honestly, regardless of whatever weaknesses or perversions they have get better, grow gentler and eventually get healthy while the people who lie and do not face their truth slide ever deeper into hardness, rationalization and self deception."

The Truth shall set you free is a theme that has woven itself through many of my posts. After I dared to say the phrase "sexual addiction" outloud to Father Charlie I felt my body actually relax. There is truly something freeing about admitting to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.(step 5) I no longer struggle on my own strength. God knows. God's there.

Well, we both know God has been there all along. But once, many years ago I felt Jesus standing beside my bed and saying, "You know what? That (behaviour)will never be life giving. You are trying to find life where there is none. Only I can fill that gap." There was no judgement, no weariness in his tone. Just a full knowing that I was seeking life where there was none to be had. And he was going to be patient for however long it took for me to surrender to that truth.

What else can I say? I look back at the process of restlessness with where my sexual issues were going and how that prompted me to do a step 4. I see how the grace imparted in doing that step showed me some truth which helped me on my journey. But it didn't stop there. It didn't halt the process of self denial in this area because I hadn't disclosed fully to myself just what I was messing with. Seeing the process of opening the door a crack to let a little light in lead to the door being blown off my self deception.

And this is not the end of the story. In giving up a source of comfort, a way of soothing my emotions and keeping real intimacy at bay I am left with a gaping hole of sorts. I find myself more emotional, more agitated. I see these things about myself with as little self judgement as possible. I pray more. I feel some embarrassment that it's taken this many years of sobriety to come to a fuller understanding of sobriety in other areas. There is also a deeper sense that the journey is a journey, a process. I haven't arrived. I never will. But there is a freedom, a relief in not lying to myself anymore. A gentleness with myself that leaves room for the process to continue. God's patience with me is life long. His love never fails. I shudder to think of trying to conquer this addiction once and for all but for this moment I can abstain.

It's taken me several hours of writing to get this post to the point where I can hit the publish post button. I started writing when it was still dark out. It is appropriate in more ways than one that the light is now breaking through the darkness outside as I sign off for today.

1 comment:

mommaof3 said...

I just came upon your blog and am reading some posts. Thank you for sharing and your honesty and struggle with honesty.