Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Spin

Day 64.

I’ve been struggling.

Why is that so hard to say? When I started this blog, I wanted to lay it all out, everything from the beautiful to the repulsive. Essentially, I wanted to document what it’s like to be an addict. But I find it surprisingly difficult to reveal the ugly stuff until I’m ready to pair it with a redeeming ray of sunshine, which I will now proceed to do. But what if I’d written this entry yesterday? All I could have said was this:

I’m looking for relief in all the wrong places. I’m in emotional and physical pain, and I’m trying to fix it by taking medicine I don’t need, smoking obsessively, drinking energy drinks, and looking at not-quite-porn. It started when my wife left for the weekend, in an attempt to soothe the obsession without falling off into relapse. It wasn’t necessarily that destructive or hurtful, but it was wasteful, and kinda lame. I set up a bunch of safety precautions – phone calls, accountability reports – but it really comes down to what’s going on inside. Once I stayed at my parent’s house while Linsey was out of town, to be “safe.” I ended up using in the bedroom next to my son while he slept. I mean, until I fix what’s going on inside, what can you do? Chain me up?

I’m not fixed.

In my efforts to reign it in, and get through this rough patch, I’ve spent a lot of time on the phone with my new sponsor. This is growth – I hate the phone. We’ve talked a lot about “middle circle behavoir.” SAA’s middle circle is a double-edged sword, with both powerful and dangerous potential. I firmly believe in the concept: define behaviors that can lead to relapse, so that you know where you’re headed before you get there. If you do it right, you’re asking for help before you crash and burn. This takes a lot of honesty and vulnerability. If you do it wrong, you’re defining behaviors as middle circle “on the fly” to suit your desires in the moment. Then you’re in trouble. Basically, you’ll do OK with the middle circle concept if you can admit that you’ll never be fixed. If you’re looking for complete release, the ability to say “I used to be an addict,” then it won’t work for you. Because every time you call up a program friend and say you’re in the middle circle, you’re acknowledging that you’re still looking for illicit comfort, you’re still messed up, and you’re still a heartbeat away from relapse.

In this morning’s meeting, my sponsor gave up two and a half years of sobriety. His slip had been a little bit of internet porn. I remembered the relief I felt when I recently started over. He echoed my experience, that honesty and continued growth are more important than your chip-record. Chips and the sobriety time they represent are invaluable. So is being able to admit that I’m not yet (and never will be) fixed. I find it interesting and relevant that God never did take away Paul's "thorn in the flesh."

I’m broken.

This week in my church, a woman shared her testimony. It boiled down to this: She is heading to Korea for missions work, and wasn’t sure they’d want her. The reason? A few years back, she went through a divorce. I caught her after the service and told her with tears in my eyes that I admired her. Not for going to Korea, but for choosing to share with us her struggles. As a newly single woman, she had been living in her parents’ home, but avoided our church out of shame. Going back meant walking into the building where she’d married, and facing friends who had attended her wedding. Eventually, she did return, and found love and acceptance. (Thank God – that’s the kind of church I want to be a part of.) I learned that my actions as her Worship Pastor had been part of her healing. What a humbling lesson on the mystery of God’s plans: I was filling an orchestra and a choir. God was healing a broken heart. I believe that in her ministry, she will discover, as I have, that her wound is not a liability. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2Cor12] It’s really true.

I need God.

Our guest speaker had worked as a missionary in China. She was down to earth, funny and authentic. She had recently spent two weeks in a poor farming province teaching about the Old Testament. (Shout-out to my Jewish friends…) Everyone wore thick jackets in the pictures, the kind I wear once a year when we take the kids to the snow. They sat on a kang, a raised heated platform, where they also ate and slept. It was crowded. The church service in the city was also crowded, and had expanded from a living room to an entire floor of a factory. How does one keep an illegal church service (with 200 people) secret? These people are hungry. They need and want more of God in their lives. And when given the opportunity, they respond. Our speaker contrasted this with our reluctance to go to the altar. We worry, what will people think if they I know I need God? How did we get the idea in our heads that needing God makes us less spiritual? I have a long way to go, but I’m done debating the first couple of steps. I’m powerless, my life’s unmanageable, and only a power greater then myself can restore me to sanity.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Found Porn

Day 48

I heard rustling in the stall next to me. I wondered if he was masturbating. On my way out, as I was washing my hands, I saw the Playboy on the floor. There was no one else in the restroom.

When I was a kid I found a Penthouse magazine on the street. Doesn’t every growing boy find discarded porn at some point? I don’t remember how old I was, or where I was, and I don’t remember if I took it home. I just remember the images. Some corny layout about ninjas. There was an “ancient sacred triangle” with two girls and a guy. It included all three forms of oral sex that heterosexual men are interested in. That first Penthouse experience was sort of like killing an ant with a grenade launcher, or cutting a toothpick with a chainsaw. I mean, at that point I was still aroused by Reader’s Digest. Really, I remember sneaking issues of Reader's Digest into the bathroom with me to look at…what? It must have been the ads.

Later, when I met Linsey, I fell in love with her Elle magazines. I couldn’t get enough of those high-gloss fashion layouts with models in gauzy pastels that showed everything but bush. Nipples were fair game, but it wasn’t “porn.” And it was such a delicious notch up from my grandma’s Sears catalogs. Eventually, it was the Sports Illustrated Swim Suit issue, and then in college I bought a few Playboy pictorials.

And then came the internet. I followed a similar path, from softcore to hardcore, but it was much shorter. By the time I acknowledged that I was a sex addict, I was in an endless cycle of downloading images, erasing them all in a moment of strength, then later restoring them with file-recovery software. My sponsor called it “dumpster-diving”, a reference to the same pattern in an offline world. How many thousands of images have I looked at? How many are still in my head?

Tonight I was wearing a long untucked shirt, which covered my jeans pockets. I knew that the magazine had already made it past the theft-prevention devices on the way into the restroom, so I could get it out of the store without any problem. All the excuses were there: I've felt shitty for the past few days and Linsey and I have been fighting about sex.

I dried my hands. I walked out and left it on the floor. For me, that’s a big deal.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


"What one generation does not experience, the next will not believe."

I am at our church district's annual retreat for "pastors and spouses" (updated from "pastors and wives.") To put it bluntly, our speaker tonight was old and white, which means he had to work harder to prove his relevance to me. It should not be this way, but it is. He did earn my trust and interest, decisively, within the first few minutes of opening his mouth.

My wife and I tried to articulate what it was about him: I said it was because of his humility. She said it was because he was a "life-long-learner." (That's teacher-speak.) I think we were both seeing the same thing: This guy, despite his knowledge and authority, doesn't act like he's got it all figured out.

He spoke of revival. Of a passion to see the Holy Spirit (a.k.a. "God") do things so amazing that no other explanation would suffice. Not planning, not funding, not effort or talent or charisma. And he feared for a generation who had never seen this happen. Later we prayed in small groups, and I heard our Youth Pastor confess that he was part of that group, that he had never personally exerienced this kind of communal spiritual power.

And I wept because I have.

My experiences as an addict have been my revival. The loss, devastation, surrender, redemption, and eventual hope of recovery have been the difference between "knowing about" and "experiencing" God's power. And I continue to see more clearly where I fit in, and what my story means. One piece at a time, a picture is forming in my mind. It is a picture of my testimony, the day I tell my congregation I'm an addict. If our speaker is correct, if "what one generation does not experience, the next will not believe," then in that picture, I am part of a bridge. Without this bridge, the passion of my parents' generation makes no sense to their grandchildren, because it is merely stories and legend, only a heartbeat away from myth.

I was raised to believe Isaiah 61:
"He has sent me...to comfort all who mourn, and to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." This kind of transformation is the stuff of salvation, the essence of the healing stories we sing. This is "Amazing Grace." But until I experienced it, this kind of transformation was only a story to me.

I am experiencing healing in my marriage. This was not possible through effort or counseling alone. I am experiencing relief from my addictions. This was not possible through willpower or group therapy alone.

And for the first time in years, I have hope. And when the time comes, I want to share this hope with others. In our small groups, our lead pastor was the last to pray. He knows I am an addict, he also anticipates the day that I go public with my story. Despite our years together, he prayed for our church and ministry, "God, it feels like we're just beginning." I think he's right.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Higher Power

Need something lighter after last time. I love how often people in 12-step groups talk about relying on the strength of their "hower pie-er".

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Back to day 13. This is a long one, folks.

Last night I was drowning in resentment. The timing was strange, or fortunate, I’m not sure which, since last night was the three-year anniversary of the Celebrate Recovery group I attend. Everything was great – the music, the food, and I couldn’t stop the tears as I listened to one person after another share their stories. If you’ve ever wanted to know what the whole 12-step thing is about, this would have been a good introduction. You won’t find it in a book or a video, or in one person’s experience, but in a room full of people who are all over the map. There’s 24-years-sober-guy, the girl who just lost her kids after a DUI, the guy who went back to the bottle after 25 years when his wife died of cancer. And what we all share is humility. We’ve come to the end of ourselves and asked for help in our brokenness. It’s beautiful.

And thank God everyone doesn’t have it all figured out. I can handle the success stories because they’re bookended by guys I know, guys I’ve cried with, who are still fighting through it. They hurt every day, and rely on God, friends and groups to survive. Every night they remember the Big Book’s advice to search for “selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear,” [p84] and immediately ask God to remove them. (How did “fear” get into this list? That’s a question for another post.)

One day at a time, one word at a time. Resentment. It haunts me and poisons me, it permeates my speech, my thoughts, my sleep. How many times have I sung about bringing my stuff to the “foot of the cross?” How many times have I done it?

Linsey, these are my resentments towards you today. Can I pour them out without prefacing each with my own apologies, my own failures? If I write them here, can I begin to heal? At next year’s celebration, will I be able to put my arms around you when others share about their healed marriages?

I resent the way you drift off to sleep after you’ve hurt me or we’ve argued. Since I am not a survivor of abuse, I do not know how to turn off my feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, arousal, and most often loneliness. These feelings intensify and fill the darkness like the sound of your snoring. And then I am struck by that odd sense of indignity when someone doesn’t confront you or even avoid you, but rather simply ignores you. I hear: You’re not even worth the time it would take to argue.

I resent the way you responded when I gave you the flyer for a “sexual abuse survivor group.” That night seems like so long ago, when we attended our first Celebrate Recovery. I was broken and hurting, and nervous sick to walk into a church full of addicts, and yet was feeling some hope for our marriage. We had finally put the basic pieces together: I’m an addict and you’re a survivor, and we were going to do this together! Last night, Gerri shared about her first night at CR. She had come to see exactly what it was her fiance (my cousin Jack) did on Friday nights. She decided on that first night that she would be a part of this, every Friday, with Jack at her side. I waited four years for you to come with me. I hear: I’ll get better when I feel like it, but don’t you dare screw up again.

I resent what you said Thursday night after we made love. You had asked me earlier why I had been burying myself in hobbies, why I’d been unavailable. Because you’re dangerous, I said. Opening up my daily life to you costs me, and sometimes I can’t pay. I’m emotionally broke. Trust me, you said. Then, like normal people, we ate and talked, watched TV and went to bed. It wasn’t perfect or awful, just good. (“She didn't make me miserable, or anxious, or ill at ease. You know, it sounds boring, but it wasn't. It wasn't spectacular either. It was just good. But really good.” –Rob, High Fidelty) And when we finished, I let down my guard and felt joy. Those fucking orgasm hormones, they make me love you so deeply, and life turns OK – everything turns OK. And when I told you how I felt, you rolled away and said you wished it didn’t mean so much to me. You wished you didn’t have that much power over my feelings, that much responsibility.

You know, when I got married, the James Dobsons of the world had me convinced that if I just WAITED until I got married, we’d both feel that good. I gave up on that pretty fast. Then I read some other Christian book on marriage, and it said that it’s OK when the woman just finds joy in giving. She doesn’t need or even want "her turn" every time. So I learned, I accepted, that you won’t enjoy sex like I will, and we agreed to find meaning and legitimacy in the nights when I needed you like oxygen, and you let me breathe. But Thursday night, even that was too much. I heard: I can’t tolerate you feeling that happy.

I resent that your recovery is so different from mine. At CR last night, I heard all these women get up and share that they were in recovery for COSA (Codependents of Sex Addicts?), which more often than not means that they are abuse survivors. (I'll never forget when a counselor at Kaiser rehab said, "and we all know that the codependents are worse than us 'cause they do their shit sober.") Some took chips “for various lengths of recovery” which is an interesting variation on the AA phrase “for various lengths of sobriety.” What does it mean when a COSA person takes a 90-day chip? That she didn’t clam up and make her husband feel like a rapist for the last three months? And that’s what pisses me off. I have an addiction – “cunning, baffling, powerful.” [p58] I’ve spent years of my life getting up before sunrise to go to morning meetings of AA, SAA, NA, CR, rehab. I try, read and read and read, fight, surrender, write. There’s this line of people stretching back into the past that I’ve sat down with, one by one, and told that I’m helpless and sick, that I use drugs, look at pornography, steal things. I beg and beg, weeping on my knees in front of God, for release from the constant, maddening drive towards the substances that will put out the fires in my mind and body. They haunt me every single day. And I can do this without fail, for days and weeks and months, then blow it all in a moment of weakness when a handful of pills seems like a more responsible release than suicide, and I have to fucking start all the way back at zero. And tell everybody who loves me that I’m a failure. Again.

And maybe this is more of what was going on last night than I know. Because a couple of weeks ago, I compulsively swallowed a handful of medicine that I knew contained my “drug-of-choice”, and I told Heidi in our counseling session, like I promised I would. And that was it. It’s out. I didn’t hide it like so many times before, the times when I rationalized that I hadn’t gone to the store to buy (or steal) the real stuff, I hadn’t laundered money for some porn site, I hadn’t called that girl from the emotional affair. The last time I relapsed, I did the real thing (except contact that girl) and I laid in bed next to you multiple nights, high for hours, looking at porn on my phone. Yeah I know, it hurts to say it out loud. This time, if it even was a relapse, I took some pills that made me sleepy.

Since I began recovery two markers have gradually moved up a scale which charts my progress. At the bottom of this scale is my addict, at the top is the perfect creation God intended. One marker represents my behavior. It has moved up! I am getting better, I am accepting the strength of my higher power. But higher up the scale is a marker for my standards, my definition of sobriety. It continues to be a few steps beyond my behavior. I had months and months of sobriety in those earlier years that didn’t contain a week of sobriety by the standards I hold today. Through much work and agonizing, I’ve gradually expanded my “inner circle” of behaviors that I choose to abstain from. I’ve come to see that many things that seemed harmless, or maybe just wasteful, have repeatedly led me back to “pitiful and incomprehensible demoralization.” [p30] (In other areas, I’ve relaxed, and grown to accept imperfections and weaknesses.) Today, I choose honesty, disclosure, vulnerability. As an addict, I cannot wait until the world falls apart to declare a new sobriety date. I took a step, a small step, back into substance abuse, and even though I didn’t give into other addictive behaviors, I must start over. I’ll write it in my Big Book, below the other crossed out dates, like my first sponsor told me. September 15, 2008.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Day 38
So Teitur has this song called Let’s Go Dancing. I figure he probably sat in a restaurant with his (troubled) lover and then came home and wrote it.

Our minds run in circles
Racing 'round the restaurant
Searching for what more to say
To say what we really want

I wish I wrote more songs like this one. Some time back, I stopped writing songs to deal with life. What the life of an artist is supposed to look like: the incredible pressure of chaos and pain and beauty creating diamond-like paintings/poems/songs, like that process underground. What the life of this artist looks like: diffused angry frustration simmering under a smothering blanket of sedatives, overeating, antidepressants and fatigue. Just get me to sleep so I can survive until tomorrow. For years, crafting my pain into a redemptive “thing of beauty” has looked unappealing and phony, not to mention difficult. Dumping my problems into a password-protected journal is easy. I sat in that restaurant once. I came home and wrote this:

Then we went out to eat last night and she was bitchy the whole time. I’m sick of it. All I ever do is apologize for anything I ever do wrong, and try to console her when she’s unhappy, which is most of the time.
March 8, 2004

Let's leave it like it is
And stop staring at these walls
Let's not go headlong to that distance
Where you can't come back at all

Have we already gone there? Is it too late to come back? Those walls. God knows we’ve lived there so long it feels like home. Even though I lived my journals, it still surprises me to read them.

She’s so fucking psycho sometimes. I feel like I can’t live with her anymore. All the time, I just want to get out. The happiest parts of my day are when she’s not around. Sex is pretty much always better without her. What does that mean? Making love to my wife is some kind of duty, or the thing I do when I’m being good. In general, she’s probably just kind of a lousy lover, but I guess you can learn.
October 20, 2005

She’s really not a lousy lover. I guess it’s not too big of a surprise that sex is better by yourself when you’re pissed off all the time. Talk about anger being a barrier to intimacy.

Lets go dancing
Waltz around the rumor mill
In your faded dress with the daffodils
Let's go dancing
Let time stand still

Sometimes I take off my seatbelt when I feel like I did tonight, driving home from our marriage counseling session. I don’t think they have a name for that feeling. It’s anger and restlessness, entitlement, a drive towards destruction and “risk-taking behavior.” I played this song on the way home. I cried, a lot. I want that – to turn everything down and just dance for a while, to the music in our heads. To let time stand still for me and her, without the noise of our past or the anxiety of our future.

Once your name was but a whisper
A simple wish upon my tongue
And staring at your shadow
Is like staring at the sun

Eventually I was sobbing. And I put back on my seatbelt, because I have something worth living for. Linsey, you are unspeakably beautiful. And the places in you that are darkest are simply those that cannot accept this beauty, cannot bear to own it and share it with me. It is my hope that you can forgive me for what I’ve quoted here from my old journals, and here’s why: I don’t think it’s possible to get a sense of how much I love you without knowing where I’ve been. Yes, I wrote those things. Yes, there are pages of that vitriol. I drowned in rage for years, and I threw every dysfunctional coping mechanism at it that I possible could. I tried to numb my passion for you, I pointed it at other women, I fought it off like some kind of animal. And I could never make it go away.

And in this dark, dark hour
You still illuminate a room
Oh God give us the power
Got to keep ourselves in tune

Could Heidi (our counselor) be right? Instead of being a couple about to fall apart, are we a a loving couple in the middle of a dark hour? Can my journals from 2008 be about when we got better?

Lets go dancing
Waltz around the rumor mill
In your faded dress with the daffodils
Let's go dancing
Let time stand sill

God give us the power.

Time, stand still.

Linsey, please dance with me.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Dry-Erase Board

Day 4
There’s a dry-erase board by our front door. It’s for messages and lists. I’m sure on the box there was a picture with generic things written like “milk, eggs, bread” and “don’t forget to pick up Sarah at the mall.” Ours had a circled number written in the corner. It’s the number of days I’ve been sober. Linsey updated it every day at first, then eased into the period of erasing “103” and writing “112.” That’s usually when I get into trouble. I just walked by the board, and the number is gone. I guess it’s just too painful for her to write the number “4.”

Today would have been five months. The hardest part of relapsing is telling all of the people who believe in me that I screwed up. I know that some of them are wondering how they might have helped me differently, some feel sad for Linsey, and, worst of all, some aren’t even surprised. People who attend 12-step meetings with me, or “program people,” are unfailingly supportive. They know what it feels like to give in, feel guilty, swear off, clean up, then start all over. They know the fear, the helplessness, the self-loathing. The madness and the chaos. They know how small I feel when I realize that my promises to myself mean nothing. They get it before I even describe it – It’s eerie. My parents have been increasingly gentle as well. I spoke to my mom on the phone yesterday. At one point she said, choosing each word carefully and speaking resolutely, “we are not afraid of your difficulties.” They’re in for the long haul.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s Linsey. I’ve hurt her over and over and over, and each time, her pain bleeds out all over the place. Here’s the truth: I have never experienced anything more agonizing than watching her cry because of me. Nothing even comes close. I would gladly slit my wrists, borrow my dad’s gun for an afternoon, or jump out my hotel window than break her heart. These options take turns lodging in my brain until I realize how much worse it would hurt her if I left. Central to our struggle is her inability to trust. What a combo – me and her, the untrustworthy and the untrusting. She told me tonight that she doesn’t even feel like she knows me. The things I do don’t make sense to her. Program people refer to Linsey as a “normie.” I hated that word at first. But they’re right. There is something fundamentally different between normies and alkies, addicts, and perverts. I don’t really care if you believe it. Look at things from my side of the fence for a moment: I don’t understand why you don’t reach for a cocktail when you’re hurting. If I did, I wouldn’t be this way.

It is often said that chemically dependent people fall into three evenly divided categories. The first group achieves long-term sobriety on the first serious attempt, the second relapses several times before succeeding to stay sober, and the third group relapses chronically for life. “Jails, institutions and death,” you will often hear in support groups. This is your future if you don’t deal with your addiction. I recently spoke to my friend Darla who has relapsed several times. Over the years we’ve fought together to reclaim our lives. I told her that sometimes I wonder which group I’m in. I’ve been at this for six years. That’s half my adult life. That third group – the ones who never make it – what if that’s me? Some days I would welcome the surrender of putting on a hospital gown and moving into an institution. More often, I wonder what heaven is like, and I wish that I could be there now.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Claire's Ass

Day 2
Just beyond my computer screen is Claire’s ass. And even though I’m crazy about curves, there’s something fascinating about an ultra-petite Asian, especially when she’s walking around in ultra-petite white pants. Claire is one of the only two non-family, non-therapist people that Linsey tells about me. All of me, including the bastard part that makes her cry. And I’m totally OK with this, because Linsey needs it. Claire is probably our closest non-Christian friend. She’s a little younger than us, a little wilder, and she reads books like The Secret. She complains about stores in the mall that don’t carry enough size zero dresses. The first time you see her, you might be surprised that her valley-girl English contains no hint of a Chinese accent, but then you’ll hear her slip and say something like “ball-gums” instead of “gumballs.” Idioms can be difficult I guess. If you ever meet her, ask her if she’d like a ball-gum – she’ll smirk and tell you to shut up.

Claire’s smile is tempered by something in her eyes, something more painful. Not a Viktor Frankl knowledge of the brutish and the cruel, more like a child who just found out that people are unkind. She is getting married to her long-term boyfriend after years of waiting for him to propose. Along the way there’s been screamy fights and tears and temporary break-ups. Linsey listens and consoles, things get better, and then it’s Linsey’s turn to cry to Claire about my latest shenanigans. Then I straighten up and it’s Claire’s turn again. We men can be pretty damned insensitive at times, selfish and short-sighted. For example, we might sit down at our computer to write a wise and sensitive paragraph about recovery and all the unconditional love we’ve taken for granted, and instead end up fantasizing about what kind of underwear our petite Asian house guest is wearing. And we do this all the time. By default, I mean. Then you add the whole sex-addict thing and, wow.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Starting Over

Day 1 (again)
I'm starting over. Again. Don't feel like writing much but I should at least document it.

I used last night after we got home from the airport. That's the addict, always trying to squeeze one more in before I really get sober. And just for clarity, "using" for me usually means a combination of porn and drugs. The drugs are over-the-counter and prescriptions, both used in "recreational" quantities (as opposed to prescribed quantities.) I've never really been involved with "street" drugs, thank God. From what I've seen, getting off of meth is wicked hard. On the other hand, when I got hauled to the ER in an ambulance several years ago, my blood tested positive for heroin, and all I'd done was abuse a medicine that anyone can buy at Wal-Greens.

This seems like a good time to reprint my "Goodbye Letter" to my addictions. It was required writing in a two-week rehab at my HMO. I've been through it twice.

Dear Drugs & Alcohol,

I read in my 12 & 12 last night that even when things are good, we as alcoholics still drink to reach for even greater dreams. [p71] The word “dream” caught my eye. Everything you gave me was a dream. I felt sorry for myself because my marriage was awful and I turned to you for help. At first you just numbed me, covering up the anger, the arousal, and the adrenaline, allowing me to go to sleep. That’s all I ever intended, but you seduced me further. I look back now and see that you were part of a lie that told me I could fill in the void. Alcohol, you took away my inhibitions, and stopped me from feeling guilty. You made me feel OK when I covered over my loneliness by turning to other women for affection and porn for sex. Drugs, then you made it all seem real by filling my head with hallucinations and giving me the feeling of being connected, of being cared for. And of course it was all a dream. This dream was so convincing that I chased you for years. When I looked at what I was doing because of you I was disgusted, and I hated that loser. Now I’m learning to hate you, because you chained me there, stoned in front of the computer screen, slowly destroying my marriage and my life.

Here’s what I have to say to you: I don’t need you anymore. I don’t want you anymore. You’re not welcome in my life. Stay the fuck away from me. Your dream is my nightmare and I’ve decided to wake up to real life. The first thing you should know is that I’m learning to love myself, and I don’t need a woman to make me complete. I don’t care if the world takes my wife away, I’ll never turn to you again. You can forget the other tricks you used too: telling me I’m not good enough for my job, my kids, whatever. I don’t believe it anymore. Having said that, I hope it pisses you off that when I chose to leave you behind, I was able to begin learning how to be a husband, and my marriage is coming back. I’ve felt the worst things you’ve had to throw at me in the last months, and I’m still here. There is so much left that I have to do, and so much more that I am capable of. I have a great life ahead of me, full of new experiences and people who love me just the way I am. And you won’t be a part of it.

God let it be true this time.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Day 1
Linsey has a wicked scar on her left knee from a purportedly tragic escalator accident in her youth. You'd think her little blood-filled story, along with the remaining physical evidence, would be enough to inspire my children to politely step forward when they reach the bottom of an escalator, avoiding the otherwise awkward pile-up of strangers. It isn't. They don't.

I also try to keep them from walking up the "down" escalator, which apparently is enough fun to outweigh any threatened punishment. I do appreciate the opportunity for allegory, and when we've apologized (or avoided) the "down" escalator people who’ve uncomfortably squeezed their shopping bags past my totally oblivious offspring, I grab the opportunity and share this bit: Recovery is like walking up the down escalator. You can never stop. You might get ahead once in a while, buying yourself some time, but the AA Big Book is right in warning us to never “rest on our laurels,” instead recognizing that what we have is a "daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our spiritual condition." [p85] This is the terrifying thing to me. I cannot do anything today to guarantee that I won't fuck everything up tomorrow. I can only take today's steps up the escalator, and have faith that tomorrow I will do the same.

Roller Coasters

Day 1
OK. Sobered up. Kind of turned on and energized by this idea, of writing my life. Also kind of forcing myself not to edit the intoxicated ramblings of my first post, because that wouldn’t really be fair.

We’re on vacation: Vegas part 2. Part 1 was the G-rated version with the kids. Well, as G as you can get in Vegas anyway. Now it’s just the two of us, doing more R-rated things. I’m trying to remember why I thought it would be a good idea to bring a sex & drug addict into this environment. Or my kids, for that matter. Back to part 1:

There was really only one time that we officially split up during the week. I took Ashley to ride the New York-New York roller coaster and James went with Linsey to the pool. I try mightily to teach my daughter how to handle disappointment, something I never really learned to do. So each time her excitement bubbled up during the week, I reminded her that it wasn't a sure thing. As we neared the end of the week, I watched her bounce and fidget when she asked "So daddy, if it isn't too expensive, and I'm tall enough, and mommy will take the J-man somewhere else, and it's still open, and we have enough time, and if I've been good, we'll ride the roller coaster tomorrow?!!!!?!?" And my heart broke, because excitement tempered by this much caution doesn't really leave much room for joy, does it? At nine years old she's already learned not to let her hopes get up too high.

So we shared the delicious roller coaster anticipation of ratcheting up, then flying down, loopty-looing and roaring around the curves. It was, of course, over too quickly. The moments following were just a girl and her dad, no bratty brother in sight. And I wasted it looking for porn. I darted around the casino floor, nine-year-old in tow, looking for a shop where I could secretly purchase an overpriced magazine while I sent her to the bathroom or otherwise distracted her. After answering so many "daddy where are we going" questions with "just looking around" lies, I led her back up to the arcade which conveniently preceded the roller coaster's entrance. I told her she could only play two games, and after she pod-raced against Sebulba, we paced around the room for fifteen minutes deciding where to spend that second quarter.

And as I watched her carefully weigh the merits of the rip-off carnival games against the rip-off video games, I tried to get a handle on the familiar heart-breaking feeling welling up inside me. It didn't make sense – I had given her a boundary and provided an age-appropriate morsel of freedom, and she was merely consuming it. But like my mother before me, everything inside me wanted to protect her from my own cruel limits when her last quarter disappeared. Into that son-of-a-bitch prize-grabbing arm machine: It suckers every kid into fishing for an illegally produced Spongebob ripoff doll.

Here's the thing: She's young enough to get excited about an arcade, but old enough to remember how quickly that little cup of tokens ends up empty. And I'm crying inside because I just don't know how to tell her that the reason I'm not pumping quarters into these devices is that they're really not any fun! Once you get past the lights and sound effects, and the daze-inducing gestalt of a room packed with such machines, they just don't deliver. The promise is a lie. You just walk away an hour or two later, from the arcade or the mall or the casino, with your pockets empty, coated in a dirty film of consumerism and waste. Silly rabbit, you can't buy happiness! Instead, happiness sneaks up when you pause to hold your lover on a windy day between your eye appointment and a trip to the DMV. As far as the vast sea of happiness for sale out there, flashing and spinning and screaming for your attention, the truth is painful and simple. Sure it's cool and elegant that M. Scott Peck opened The Road Less Traveled with the phrase "Life is difficult." But festering in the day-to-day noise of rudeness and rushing is the unavoidable and far less gentle: "Life sucks." And anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something.

Later, as Linsey listened to my memories of that day, her words were like a soothing balm on my psychic wound. Ashley will not remember that the machine stole her money or that I was a little distracted. To her, that noisy room wasn't a depressing symbol of life's disappointments or a reminder that getting excited just makes getting hurt feel worse. She'll remember a day with her dad, and a roller coaster ride that she was tall enough to ride. She probably won't remember that we talked about her sexual abuse and self-esteem on the walk back. And I'll remember that for one afternoon, my little girl was in love with me, not her boyfriend or her husband, but her broken, guilty, make-it-up-as-you-go father, who was discovering at that very moment where true happiness is found.

Still High

Hey! It's me. Thanks for reading the first couple lines of my blog. I'll get right to the point.

I'm still high.

So this might not be my best writing. But I had an idea just now that requires me to introduce myself NOW (not later) and I want to run with it. My name's Eli, and I'm a drug addict. Well, kind of. The original "I'm Eli and I'm an alcoholic" kind of snow-balled on me; I think the latest is "I'm Eli, I'm a follower of Jesus Christ, and I struggle with drugs, alcohol, and sexual addiction." Anyways, please don't leave. Don't close this window. I need you. You are going to help me stay sober.

I'm trying to type as quietly as I can, which is a little hard because my left hand is still shaking. I don't want Linsey (the wife) to wake up completely, because then I might get caught. She might notice that my words come in short bursts, and I have trouble with some of the consonants. Or maybe the dry-mouth will give me away. Or the strange marionette-like way that I walk when I've "used." More on that later. For now, the main thing I want to share with you is the bizarre mixture of elation and dread that I feel. I want to invite you into my life. I'm gonna spill it all. For real.