This week our post comes from Cindy, who shares how her perspective and expectations have shifted as she has worked the 12 steps. Thank you Cindy, for sharing your growth and experience with us in such a beautiful way.
I am a task oriented, “finish line” kind of person. I like to make checklists, and I find satisfaction in crossing items off my list. I have even occasionally re-written my to-do list just so I could add a previously unwritten task and mark it complete.
I don’t like the unknown. I crave predictability and knowing what the goal is so I can keep my eye on the prize. I also want to know the detailed plan of how I’m going to get there. As much as I wanted to reach the light at the “end” of the betrayal trauma tunnel, my recovery journey has not proven to be an “arrive at a destination/reach the finish line/make a bunch of checklists” type of path.
After disclosure, I initially spent quite some time spinning aimlessly on my personal hamster wheel, but once I accepted the fact that I needed help, I was determined to check “sex addiction” off my list once and for all. I was willing to do all the work, read the SAL materials, attend therapy, complete step work, listen to podcasts, and go to the meetings. I was ready to do whatever was needed to “get it done”. I was determined to get it over with, put all this behind me and move on.
I bought books, read them and then rushed to answer all the appropriate questions at the end of each chapter. I planned a timeline of reaching different milestones along the way. I set reminders on my phone and scheduled appointments on my calendar for each threshold I wanted to achieve in my marriage. Then my spouse and I would be considered “recovered” once and for all. We could simultaneously receive our “SAL Diplomas” and life would return to normal.
However, my recovery journey has not at all turned out as I had so carefully planned. I have encountered many roadblocks and detours along the way. I often return to old habits and get in my own way of healing. Just like my children used to repeatedly ask on road trips when they were small, I often find myself impatiently and repeatedly asking “are we there yet?”
Four years into our disclosure and betrayal trauma journey, I have made progress, but it hasn’t been as direct of a path as I had anticipated. I have often gone off course and had to recalculate my location on the map and retrace my steps to go back once again to the beginning. I once thought I could graduate from the 12 steps after completing each step in a linear, organized plan. However, I have repeatedly found myself back at Step 1. I’ve mistakenly allowed my pride to convince me that I could manage this on my own. I have rediscovered my powerlessness and my reliance on my Higher Power multiple times.
I have stopped, started, run out of gas, gotten lost, and found myself idling in the same spot for weeks at a time. I’ve taken my eyes off the road and occasionally put recovery on the back burner. However, sooner or later I get back on the path and try to move forward. I resist recovery work even when I know it will help me. I repeatedly struggle in a spiritual tug-of-war with my Higher Power as I try to re-learn Steps 1, 2, and 3 every day. I keep coming back to this program because the reality is that it does work IF I work it.
Recovery is NOT an event or a destination.
It is not a sprint to be finished quickly and furiously. There is no 12-step fast-track plan. This is not the 50-yard (or 12 Step) dash. It is more like running the same marathon every single day. The recovery I seek is no longer a “breaking through the tape at the finish line” moment of arrival so life can return to normal. I have tossed all my lists, because right now my to-do list is brief.
When I am feeling frustrated in the process and wonder if I will ever “get there”, I ask myself, “What can I do to find peace today?” Every day my answer is different. Some days I keep myself busy and distracted. Some days I focus on self care and write personal surrender prayers. Some days I read all the recovery materials I can get my hands on. Other times I spend quiet time alone, talking to my Creator. I occasionally return to old habits of denial, white knuckling, and isolating. Sometimes I reach out to my sponsor while other times I put up my carefully constructed emotional walls of protection. Some days I’m invigorated. Other days I am exhausted. Some nights I wait until everyone is asleep so I can cry into my pillow. Occasionally I forget I was ever hurt by betrayal and feel spontaneous joy.
I continue to learn the concept of surrender. It is a constant struggle to set aside my will and accept God’s will for me. It has not been perfect. Triggers are real, relapse is real, and addiction is relentless. Betrayal trauma is raw and painful and grueling, but I am learning to take it as it comes and embrace the adventure of it all.
I’m still working to see the gifts of recovery. I’m not quite ready to say I am glad for this experience, but I am grateful for the beautiful women I have met along the way (including myself). I have finally put “ME” at the top of my daily task list, I accept myself (imperfections and all), and I like the person I am becoming. I have learned that I am stronger and more capable than I ever realized and I do find peace amidst this storm. That’s as close to “getting there” as I’m worried about these days. And I consider that a win.