My Story: John C.

My Story

John C (NJ)

When the pain of my addictive cycle and isolation was greater than the
fear of being rejected and judged, I reached out about my sexual and
romantic patterns to a person who, at that point, had become a most
trusted friend. This person was the first friend I had made who was in
active recovery, or the first person in active recovery from whom I
learned of recovery, and it was she who let me know about this program. I
was experiencing a whirlpool of destructive behavior. I describe this as
a pattern alternating viciously from feeling so unlovable and seeking
approval from anyone and everyone to being so frightened by my ever more
dangerous promiscuity that I was desperate to find a “special” someone to
take me away from my insane behavior. Outside of a relationship, I felt
empty and incomplete. Incomplete because I couldn’t live with myself as I
had such little tolerance for dealing with life on life’s terms, either
when it was wonderful or difficult. Empty because my life was a sham. I was an image I presented to those around me as I felt I “should” be. I hated myself for the terrifying difference between the person I was and the person I wanted myself to be. To the words “outside a relationship I felt empty and incomplete” I feel compelled to add the word “lonely”. I was lonely because I didn’t know how to be by myself, because I didn’t want to be by myself. Secretly, I believed no one would really want to be with me if they really knew what I was about. I was lonely by myself, and lonely with everyone I was with both when I was acting out and when I wasn’t. No one knew who I was, because I was afraid of the world.

I feared relationships, but continually searched for one. In all my
relationships, I feared abandonment and rejection. Fear seems to be the
operative word behind all my interactions prior to recovery. As a
survivor of incest, I had the textbook “damaged goods” syndrome. At
first I felt I was beyond acceptance because I was attracted to people of
the same sex. Obviously, other boys must have had feelings similar to
mine that went beyond the physical acts that went along with the sexual
attraction, but to me it seemed as if I was the only one who had these
feelings. All my acting out as a child was about trying to get boys to
be sexual with me in the middle of the night during a sleepover, and the
few times it wasn’t about a dream-like interruption to sleep, the acting
out was completely characterized by lack of communication. The one time
someone tried to talk to me about having sex with him, I froze up and
couldn’t talk about it. I can distinctly remember the point in my life when I came to terms with the fact that I couldn’t change my feelings of attraction towards other men. I had, up to that point, tried and tried to change, and then my sexuality, to me, became a secret I was going to take with me to the grave. By college, when I learned a little more about homosexuality, I still felt the terror of abandonment and rejection. I began to make gay friends but would not allow myself to get too close to anyone because of how “sick” I judged myself to be, due to my judgement of my childhood and my lack of self-esteem. As I attempted to have “relationships” I was terrified of opening up and of having sex. For a long time, anonymous sex was “better” than sex with people I was dating. It has taken me years in recovery and therapy to be able to link the word “fear” with that reality.

Not surprisingly to me, it has been the “laboratory” of the “halls” or
the “rooms” of recovery that has, ever so slowly, taught me to act
“through” or “beyond” my fears, as opposed to acting them out. My
recovery has taught me to stop judging myself so, to be less “moral” and
more honest and true to myself and to all people with whom it seems
appropriate to be honest. I am still a “work in progress”, “under
construction” you may say, as I continue to catch myself judging myself
and others. But my relationships in program, particularly sponsor relationships, have helped me learn that I am completely lovable exactly as I am. I am learning to get out of the judgements of my past and the wish lists for the future and keep the focus on the present. I am comforted when I hear people saying that all any of us have for today is today. I no longer have secrets I feel I need to keep from the world. Recovery has been the one place I could learn to be myself with others.

Today, I find myself in a “relationship”, and as with all my
relationships in recovery, I choose to be honest one day at a time with my partner. This has proven harder to me than it sounds. In recovery, I tell myself to focus on the present, while the old patterns continue to push me into fantasies and fears about the future. I work on accepting myself as the imperfect but lovable child of God that I am, and more importantly, I allow myself to accept that my partner can love me as well. I try to accept him as he is, which has been a pattern of struggle for me in the past, due to my character defect of perfectionism. Every day of sobriety is a blessing to me when I stop to think about it, and so is this relationship. My recovery has helped me let go of my fears of relationships, to learn how to have them, and to focus on my recovery and not on relationships. All these lessons most definitely are a gift from a Power greater than myself and as I allow it to happen, are restoring me to sanity one day at a time.