Tag Archives: addiction

Mom

My mother was an addict. She was addicted to prescription opiates, before it was so widely talked about. She kept a shoebox full of other prescription drugs as well. In addition to her opiate based painkillers she took ever increasing doses of Elavil. Different doctors, different pills. At 12 years old, I knew more drug names than any 12-year old should know.

My mom’s addiction overtook her body and mind. The addiction escalated requiring more and more drugs to achieve her desired affect. In the mornings, she would follow me around as I got ready for school, non-stop talking at me. By the time I got home from school, she was groggy and slurring her words. She seemed to go back and forth between those two states. There were times she attempted to manage the addiction. She would reduce dosage, gain some clarity, and pull me in with hope that it would now be better. It never lasted long and the drugs were back.

Her mind and body rotted before our eyes. When I would question her use of these drugs, she claimed she was sick and that I just didn’t understand her sickness, that she needed those drugs. She would go to Canada whenever she could, so she could stock-up,  as they sold Tylenol with Codeine over-the-counter. I was called selfish and uncaring for not “understanding” her sickness.

She used fake suicide attempts to gain sympathy and attention, to manipulate our sympathies. We moved to another state for a few years. When I was in jr. high school, she swallowed some pills and told me I needed to call an ambulance. I didn’t believe her. We had been down that road too many times before. She called the ambulance for herself. They pumped her stomach, they found nothing, but my Dad could have her observed overnight if he chose. We had no health insurance. She begged him not to let them keep her for observation, he acquiesced. We moved back “home” not long after. I remember when I was 20 years old, a junior in college in my hometown, she did it again. She ended up in the hospital. I went to visit her, at my Aunt and Grandpa’s request, and her doctor mentioned the situation as being her first suicide attempt. I was floored, what?

Her father and sister (my Grandpa and Aunt who I love dearly) protected mom from the consequences of her actions. They knew better, but let her create her own narrative. I explained her past to the doctor. He told me he would have her put in a facility to help her. I was so happy, she was finally going to get help. She threw a fit. My Grandpa stepped in. It so happens that my Grandma’s brother was a highly respected attorney and founding partner of the most distinguished firm in town. Grandpa dropped his name and threatened to sue. My mom was not sent to the facility. I was so disappointed. Her doctor suggested I learn about how to set boundaries with her and my family to protect myself emotionally and referred me to my college counseling clinic. I went.

Eventually, I came to understand that I could not save her. Though, I think until the day she died, I held a tiny piece of hope that she would eventually come to save herself. Of course, it never happened. After years of escalating drug use, my mom died at 65 years old from heart failure.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a very long time. Not sure why? I know it is part of who I am and how I relate to my world. I know it. I lost my mom to addiction, long before she ever died, I lost my mom to addiction. Deep breath.

 

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September 13th

Sunday, September 13, marks the 3rd year since I found out everything. It has been a hard week for me, maybe that is why. I don’t know? Really, that day marks the beginning of MC really getting his head out of his ass. But, it also marks the day that I found out that my blind faith trust in him was completely misplaced for many years. He has done a shit ton of work. I do see it and feel it.

Rosh Hashanah will begin on the evening of Sept. 13 this year. How appropriate, as it is a time of reflection. Reflecting on it all, it is clear that MC had an addiction to anger, resentment and self-pity stemming from his misogynistic view of gender roles and experiences that life just did not match. Before d-day, he spent his life on a “quest” to “right those wrongs,” while at the same time protecting his fragile ego from rejection and conflict at any costs.

Prior to d-day, he had absolutely no desire to change his ways. He didn’t regret his behavior, he didn’t think consequences would apply to him, and he thought he deserved experiences that he had been “denied” by the world around him. Unfortunately, it took d-day for MC to want to change, to want to become a man instead of a little boy who thought the world owed him something. And, I think it took the complete devastation of Sept. 13th, 2012 (ultimate d-day), to really start digging deep and rooting out the weeds, one-by-one, with professional help.

I do believe that whether we are discussing sex addiction, self-pity addiction, compulsive behaviors, OCD, ADD, SOB syndrome and/or something else, serial cheaters need serious outside professional help. I am a researcher by nature. I like numbers, facts, and results backed by peer-reviewed studies. Ultimately, as I reflect, I want reassurance, you know? And, yet there are no guarantees; that is the one fact I know in all of this and it drives me nuts. So, I look, I research, I look and research some more.

I found an interesting NIH study. Project Match studied 806 clients in five outpatient treatment centers, who were randomly assigned to three treatments: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET), and 12-step Facilitation (TSF). Researchers also interviewed and assessed clients to rate them on relevant attributes. The most interesting point of the study to me, is that it found that of the 21 client attributes, two were the most powerful predictors of long-term success: readiness-to-change and self-efficacy. And, these by far, were more predictive of long-term success than the actual treatment model used. Overall, TSF, MET and CBT have had similar success and failure rates.

I do see his readiness-to-change and self-efficacy in his belief in making those changes to his thoughts and behaviors. I also see those weeds being pulled-out by the roots one-by-one over the last three years. I can see his dedication and work to develop and practice empathy and do feel the difference in his relationship with our children and with me. I want to recognize how far we’ve come, how far he has come. I don’t want Sept. 13 to represent horror, I want it to represent reflection and rebirth. Still, the horror of that day is a part of my psyche and no amount of research takes that away. Sigh. . .

MC: Response to “Train Wreck” post

TL and I discussed whether she and I should see this movie together.  We actually know very little about the movie.  But, TL did see a trailer in which the female protagonist talks about being promiscuous.  TL and I know that promiscuity is a trigger for me.  It triggers me to struggle with self-pity.

Yes, I know.  For most mainstream, natural-born modern Americans of our generation, it’s weird for a man to feel threatened by the thought of promiscuity. But, that’s the problem that has dogged me for all these decades.  I am curious to know whether any other guys struggle with this and whether it has affected their behavior.

When I dwelled on the ensuing feeling of self-pity, it lead me to justify, in my own mind, acts of infidelity.  It lead me to think I could or should feel better about myself if only I could have “enough” sex or validation from other women to make me feel I had obtained the sexual experience I thought I had been lacking.  Of course, “enough” was undefined and unattainable.  Nothing could make me feel I had compensated for my self-perceived pre-marital sexual naivety.  Nothing could change my past.  Nothing.

TL and I recalled that the only time we had seen a film that directly addressed my trigger, it was Chasing Amy.  It must be 20 years ago that we saw that Ben Affleck film. Affleck’s character was unable to deal with his girlfriend’s sexual history.  He behaved obsessively and irrationally.  Ultimately, their relationship failed.  She decided she just could not live with his irrational behavior.  The movie gave me a chill.  On one hand, I was grateful that someone had finally written something that captured my feelings about sex.  On the other hand, it did not suggest any solutions.

TL and I decided that we could watch Train Wreck together.  We acknowledged that it might contain one or more triggers for me.  But, I wanted to prove to TL, and to myself, that I could handle it.  I never know when I might inadvertently stumble across something in a movie, magazine, pop culture, television or radio program, overheard conversation, memory, or damned near anything that might reference promiscuity, might be a trigger for me, and might tempt me to wallow in self-pity.  I wanted to practice facing my fears, so to speak, and show us that I could safely overcome the temptation of self-pity.

We still haven’t gotten around to scheduling a babysitter and seeing the movie, parents night out was cancelled.  In the meantime, I discussed all this with B, our counselor.  B’s initial advice was that perhaps I should not see the movie.  I’m trying to decide whether I agree.

I told B that self-pity was my true demon.  Sex, alcohol, porn, and masturbation were not really addictions for me.  Though I did behave compulsively toward those things at times, I don’t necessarily even think that I was strictly compulsive or obsessive about those things.  I was, however, seduced by self-pity.  Self-pity has always tempted me.  I sought refuge in it.  It was like a comfortable blanket, or even like a womb.

Seeing a movie scene about in-your-face promiscuity risks making me feel sorry for myself.  I know it sounds dumb.  I would be tempted to think about my disappointment with my own pre-marital sexual history.  I would be tempted to wish TL’s pre-marital sexual history was at least one less than mine, preferably zero.  Unable to change the past, I would be on the verge of feeling depressed about the past not being what I wanted it to be.  I would be on the verge of blaming God, TL, my mother, or others for my depression.  I would be tempted to ignore my own responsibility, in the past and in the present.

B and I compared it to alcoholism.  I said I’m not sure whether self-pity is an addiction for me, a compulsive behavior, or something else.  B said it does not matter.  The treatment is the same.  It takes vigilance, and it’s never “done.”

An alcoholic needs several strategies for resisting alcohol.  Avoiding alcohol is one approach.  But, sometimes it might be unavoidable.  One might encounter it at a friend’s house, a store, or whatever.  The alcoholic needs strategies to deal with those contingencies as well.

But, can an alcoholic intentionally walk into a bar, with a friend, for the sake of spending a good (and sober) time with that friend?  I don’t know. I think the answer is different for different people.  B suggested that walking into the Train Wreck movie with TL might sit me down in front of self-pity in the same way an alcoholic in a bar might be sitting across from a friend drinking a beer.

TL and I discussed this.  I admit that my trigger, about promiscuity, is still a trigger.  I think it always will be.  But, I don’t think that is catastrophic news.  It just means I always have to manage it.  I may be that way until I die.  It may be part of me.  But, I believe I can use the strategies I have been learning to manage it.  Soon, I hope to write a post that explains more about where I got that messed up view of life, how promiscuity became a trigger for me.

Of course, you’ll ask what are those strategies.  B told me that distracting myself can be useful.  If I sense myself starting to ruminate, feel sorry for myself, or spiral toward depressing thoughts, she said, it’s helpful to think about work, family activities, fitness, or anything practical and positive.

Second, regular attention to my mental health is a preventive measure.  It is not a cure all.  Yes, before D-day, even this preventive measure did not overcome my premeditated intention to cheat, lie, and try to compensate myself for things I thought were missing.  Nonetheless, these preventive health measures reduce the chances of ruminating or obsessing on sick thoughts.  Preventive measures include getting adequate sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, regular family time, regular religious time, and attention to my spouse as a friend.

Third, our original counselor told me that when these depressing thoughts occur, I can and should call them what they are:  sick obsessions.  Fourth, I should practice compassion, especially toward TL.  Fifth, I should practice empathy with TL.  Sixth, I should remember that after what I did to TL, I have no right to feel sorry for myself.

Seventh, I should count my blessings.  TL is mine to lose.  Self-pity brought me ruin.  I have plenty of blessings I can not afford to squander.

Our steps, part one of many. . .

We say I have Selfish Oppressive Bastard (SOB) syndrome. Selfishness was clearly a problem for me, extending beyond the realm of sex and relationships.  “Oppressive ” refers to my misogynistic tendencies, so deeply ingrained in me that I didn’t recognize them until very recently.

TL and I have worked together to support her through the trauma and to work on my problems very intensely, with professional help, for nearly three years now. Our first therapist recommended Cairns.  After reading Out of the Shadows and some other work of Cairns, we discussed with our therapist the many things that did just not add up for me.  Cairns spent a lot of time describing men who just could not control their actions regarding sex, a process that included preoccupation, ritualization and despair that are an overpowering part of the addiction cycle. That wasn’t me. If opportunities presented themselves, I took them. But, I did not look at every woman as a potential opportunity. Though, I certainly have obsessive-compulsive tendencies and a history of impulsiveness, each time I cheated or lied, I did so based on a conscious decisions with little regret for the behavior, nor desire to stop.  For me, it all boiled down to the fact that when opportunity was there, I was willing, ready and able. Hence, why we call it Selfish Oppressive Bastard (SOB) Syndrome.

So, here’s the steps we’ve taken so far.  Step one was a system-shock.  With D-day, all the consequences I had spent years ignoring came to full bloom instantly, right before my eyes.  TL was deeply hurt, my actions caused her to be traumatized and she almost left me.  I could no longer hide the consequences from myself.  They were real.  It felt the same way I might feel if I stepped out my front door and saw a vampire.  Vampires are not real, right?

But there it is, standing in front of me, staring me in the face, and refusing to go back from whence it came.  The only thing I could do is learn to live with the vampire.  But, I did know exactly why the vampire was there, exactly which of my choices summoned it into existence.  I knew, at least, that I didn’t ever again want to do, say, or think anything that might summon another vampire.

Beyond twelve-step programs

I’m not against 12-step programs for addictions or compulsions.  As I’ve said, I wasn’t addicted to sex itself.  I was simply pathologically self-centered and selfish as well as seduced by, even addicted to, self-pity.  I’ve spoken to TL and each of our therapists about 12-step programs.  When I look at it closely, I see that for me at least, there are really more than 12-steps to take toward mental health.

We have reviewed the 12-steps several times. I think it is helpful to evaluate and learn from a variety of sources, incorporating what fits into my program, but also recognizing the elements that may be counter to my overall treatment strategy. For those who have asked about or recommended the 12-step program as the course forward for my situation, I would just like to explain my thinking on the 12-steps and how they fit and don’t fit into my treatment strategy:

One.  We admitted that we were powerless over lust — that our lives had become unmanageable.  Yes, I did that.  I do, however, have some reservations about the word “powerless.”  In my case, I’m working with my wife and my therapist and taking responsibility for the fact that I do have, and did have, power to control my terrible behavior.  I simply chose, selfishly and childishly, to relinquish that power and give myself an excuse to cheat and lie.  I can reform, and I gladly seek and accept help from many sources as I do reform, including from God.

Also, in my case, the word “lust” is not appropriate here.  My view is that all men experience lust to some degree.  Lust was not my problem.  My problem was that I had constructed a sick justification for cheating and lying.  That justification was self-pity and a misplaced sense of injustice about my life.  I blamed God and others for my unhappiness and I gave myself permission to cheat and lie.  Maybe other men have a problem with an addiction to lust.  My problem was deeper than that.

Two.  Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.  Yes, one of the earliest things that I recognized after d-day is that my motivation for doing such terrible things had required a complete neglect of God. In fact, it wasn’t just a neglect of God, it was an abuse of the idea of God. Instead of being grateful to God for my wife, family, and many gifts, I was angry at God for not giving me more. Now, I spend time daily thanking God for my blessings and trying to treat those blessings and God with respect.

Three.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  Yes, since D-day I’ve successfully undertaken a complete religious conversion which required months of study and several religious rituals, as well as an ongoing commitment to continue growing and improving in my religious observations and in my life. Focusing on God is something I needed to do, and I now do, to remember the people I love and the consequences of my actions.

Four.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Yes, I did that. I also took and passed a polygraph to confirm, for TL, that this inventory included ALL of the physical manifestations of my moral failings.  Still, as TL and I work on this blog and other things, I find I’m doing this again, aiming for a deeper understanding of myself and my motivations.  This ties into work with our therapist.  In my case it includes using psychoanalytical psychotherapy to try to more fully and precisely identify why I did the terrible things I did. 

Five.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.  Yes, I do this often, with TL, with therapists, and with other sufferers we reach through social media.

Six.  Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.  Yes.  But, I recall that God helps those who help themselves.  That’s a fact I neglected before D-day, when I was doing wrong, and blaming God for my defects rather than taking responsibility for addressing them.  Now, I am revising my world view to eliminate the original moral and psychological failings that motivated me to sin in the first place.

Seven.  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Yes, but again I’m remembering I also need to help myself.  With all due reverence to God, I’m now working to help God by developing strategies to prevent myself from doing those terrible things again.  The strategies include transparency with my wife and others; accountability for my time, money, location, communications, interactions, and actions; and reducing or eliminating tempting or uncontrolled environments in my life.

Eight.  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Yes, my list started with my wife and kids.

Nine.  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.  Yes, I’m working on that.  Given the extent of the harm I caused TL and my kids, I may be working on that for quite some time.  It’s work that may never be finished.

Ten.  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.  Yes, I work on this every day.

Eleven.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.  Yes, this is also work that will take a lifetime.

Twelve.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to sexaholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Yes, writing this blog is just one small example of how I’m doing this.  No, I’m not carrying a 12-step message.  My message is that each cheater can find a way to become a good person, if wanting to do so.  There are lots of different ways, and each couple can find the way that works for them.  The hardest part, I think, is for the couple to know that the cheater has truly come clean, is truly trying to reform, and has truly changed their world view.

The thirteenth step seems to be sponsorship and support.  We did have a support group when taking the AffairRecovery class. Due to unique circumstances, I’m looking for that with extreme care.  This blog is one attempt for me to find that support.  TL and I are trying to discover other ways as well.  In the meantime, my wife and my therapist are very supportive, and I am very grateful.