When I first started writing this blog post, I was not going in this direction at all. But much like life, sometimes you head down a path expecting to go one way and end up going another. So, this will be part one of two.
I was never the girl that grew up thinking much about the fairy tale love stories. Sure, I always wanted a husband, I guess, or at least could take it or leave it; but I was a-okay either way and could picture life being little miss independent. Like “I don’t need no man,” in my fiercest hand-on-the-hip, hair flip, sassy attitude, and disapproving look on my face, tone of voice. And I DEFINITELY didn’t want kids. And after growing up, experiencing being used and abused in active addiction just to get my next fix, and a terribly toxic relationship, I was even more convinced that these Prince Charmings do not exist. As a result, my ability to have healthy relationships with men was severely impaired because every single man was now the enemy. When I got clean and started dating, if you want to call it that, it was like a game. I would pick out my prey, see how far I could take him before getting what I wanted and dumping him when he tried to get too close. No one lasted longer than a month because I would find something wrong with them. I would nitpick and allow one tiny flaw to skew my whole perception. I thought that because I was clean and an “independent woman”, it was my choice to sleep with whoever I wanted. It was simply a conquest. I won and I felt falsely empowered by that. But what I failed to see, was that it was not a choice. It’s like using against my will. The problem was not the men I was picking, the problem was me. I needed that validation, which is okay, but I was looking for it in all the wrong places. I was trying to fill a void with things outside of myself, or as my sponsor used to say, “trying to fill a God sized hole with a dick sized dick.” It just doesn’t work. And it never will. And just like using, it eventually catches up to you.
I was two years clean and felt almost as hopeless as I did when I was at the end of my road before I got clean. I was in the middle of my sixth step (character defects) and hated myself. I hated not only who I was during active addiction, but who I had become. I was still the same self centered, insecure, little girl; I just looked a little more put together. My first sponsor called me a dressed up trash can – the outside looked good, but the inside was a mess. Like what’s the point of being clean if I’m miserable? What’s the point of being clean if there is literally no one on this planet that understands me? Someone talked in a meeting about how when we’re using we’re like these tornadoes that rip through the lives of people around us and it smacked me in the face because I realized that that’s what I had been doing. With multiple years clean. I was destroying the lives of men without a second thought. And maybe I give myself too much credit. Maybe I wasn’t important enough to destroy any lives, but I certainly didn’t add any value to their lives. I was certainly causing harm. Not only to them, but to myself. I didn’t even have the excuse of being an actively using addict. I should know better, right?
But luckily, the seventh step follows the sixth step, and I finally started to see the light. For those of you in the fellowship, you know our defects don’t go away overnight. And though I found a reprieve from some defects, others continued on strong. I was able see that while my current behavior indicated that I was going to continue to be someone that sleeps around with whoever, the morals and values I chose for myself in the fourth step did not line up with that. The woman I was being, is not the woman I wanted to become. In order to change my behavior, surprise, surprise, I have to change my behavior.
I learned that as a way to deal with fear, I act in the complete opposite manner. I was afraid of love and letting someone in, so my solution was to become so independent and career driven that I didn’t need to let anyone in. But no one could get in because I didn’t let them. How ironic that I actually had the ability to let down that wall, but I refused to out of what I thought was survival. I realized that I wasn’t afraid of kids, but I was afraid of raising kids alone. I’ve seen so many women do it and I did not want a life like that, so I unknowingly convinced myself and everyone around me that I just didn’t want kids. In the first step there are questions about lying and there is a phrase “plausible but untrue.” That’s exactly what it was. I was lying to everyone. Sure, it was plausible that I did not want kids, but it was untrue. I just did not want to give the appearance that it was not my choice. So, through step work, part of what I found out was that I actually did want a husband AND kids (and obviously dogs – that was never in question). When I go one level deeper, ultimately, I had a fear of failure. Rather than show my insecurity, my solution was to act over-confidently in almost all situations. I lived with this distorted view for so long that I had to be the person I thought you thought I should be. If that doesn’t make sense now, it will one day. I was truly trying to convince myself that I am one way, when in reality I just needed to surrender to who I am supposed to be. The morals and values I was able to work on in the fourth step told me that the woman I actually wanted to be was one of integrity. Integrity means to be whole, and that looks like knowing who you are, owning it and not apologizing for it. What the seventh step gave me was freedom. It allowed me to stop hiding from myself.
Armed with this amazing revelation, I was ready to take on the world. I thought I had it all figured out. And God showed me that I, in fact, did not. You know how I mentioned those defects that I wasn’t able to shake? Well, one of them was sleeping around. I convinced myself that I was living with integrity because I was upfront with anyone I went on a date with that I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I thought this justified my behavior. And it would have, had that behavior been in line with my morals and values. But my morals and values did not include random hookups and superficiality, they included a committed relationship and building a family and a life. And to get the lesson to stick this time, apparently I needed a little more pain.
I was at my friend Kyle’s house when I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. I don’t normally answer numbers I don’t know, but the day before I had shared at a treatment center and given my number out so I assumed it was a girl from the treatment center calling me. I answered the phone and immediately this woman on the other end starting screaming at me calling me a home-wrecking whore and how could I do this and what a terrible person I am and going on and on and on. I was very confused because I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong. For a few weeks, I had been dating, seeing, hanging out, but mostly just sleeping with this guy I met on Tinder. That guy turned out to be her husband.
Something the steps has given me is the ability to pause. Pause before reacting. From the second something happens, and before I react, I am able to pause, place some spiritual principles in that space and respond instead. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always do this because I’m not perfect, but in this instance, I did.)
It’s funny how God works because when this happened, I was working on my ninth step and had learned to harness the power of empathy. I allowed this woman to scream at me and get it out without reacting in anger, blaming anyone else, trying to explain, or immediately defending myself since I truly did not know he was married. In that instant, none of it mattered. It would have been like trying to rationalize with a using addict, it’s not gonna happen. I put myself in her shoes (as best I could, since I was not married), and it allowed me to see my part in the situation. Now, you might think, there’s no way you’re responsible for this, you didn’t know he was married!!! And while that’s true, my part in it is that due to my own self-centeredness, I caused harm. Because I did not know what self love was, I looked for it from other people. Because I did not know what self respect was, I tried to get that love from other people, however I could. The quickest way to feel that “love” was to sleep with someone.
Had I loved myself enough to take even a moment to try to get to know this guy a little better, I would more than likely have realized that something was off about the situation. I would have seen the red flags and even if I didn’t figure out he was married, I could have walked away. But because I was so obsessed with filling this void due to my own lack of self love, I was blind to all of that. I started to understand that the underlying problem was that lack of self love and one of the ways it manifested in my life, was by sleeping around without a care in the world of who it was affecting. Because I was in the middle of the ninth step, my first thought was well how am I possibly ever going to make amends to this woman? And the truth is that I will never be able to make direct amends to her as that will cause more harm. But I realized that I could make indirect amends to her and the way I would do that is by learning to love myself enough that I don’t find myself in a situation again where I’m sleeping with a married man (unless he’s my own). The solution is not to stop sleeping around. The solution is to find that self love and self respect that I so badly needed, so that I would no longer feel the need to find it via someone else. And all this time, I thought it was still a choice, when in reality, I was just a slave to my own self loathing. All along I thought men were the enemy, but as it turns out, I was my own worst enemy.
I never want to make someone feel that way again, even unintentionally. So, I made a commitment to myself, to this woman, and to every woman everywhere that’s felt as low as we have, to learn to love myself. While I had unknowingly been working on it (albeit slowly) since I got clean, this incident, coupled with my experience with the seventh step, propelled me into this space of complete openness to give up control. Call these spiritual awakenings, if you will but my next experience with actually making an amends, solidified this for me. I was able to make an amends with my sister (if you haven’t read it, you can find it here: Forgiveness). The best way I can describe it is that the skies opened up and God very clearly told me that I was becoming the woman he always meant for me to be. And in that moment, it was like everything made finally sense; I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It was the culmination of the last two years of abuse I put myself (and everyone else) through on my quest of filling that void. And the beautiful thing about it is I don’t regret the painful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking lessons I had to learn to get to that point, because it put me on a path I didn’t even know existed, a path directly to Jeffrey.
My Unsolicited Advice: Ask yourself, “Is this behavior (choice, decision, action, whatever it is you’re currently doing and don’t know if it’s right or wrong), going to help me become the woman I say it is I want to be, the woman God intended me to be, or is it going to take me farther away from becoming that woman?” The answer becomes very clear. When you stop fighting to be who you think they think you should be, you allow myself room to become the woman that God intended for you to be. And when you become her, a whole new world built just for you will appear before you. Which path do you want to take?