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.


  1. Eli,

    I love you so much and it helps me understand what you're going through when I read this. I wish I could give you all the hope I have for you and Linsey, hope that admittedly hasn't been tested by the length and depth of difficulty you've endured, but that is still hope, and is legitimate because it's founded in my understanding of God and what God wants for us. I am proud of your strength, including the strength to be bare your shortcomings and articulate your resentment.

    Don't give up and don't lose hope.

    I'd be interested in reading a post parallel to this one in structure but with apologies, if you're up to it one day.

  2. "Anonymous", I really needed to hear that. I have already found release from some of this anger in a way I've never felt before. Makes me glad to be heading into my "fourth step" where you do a lot of this type of thing. And yes, It involves the apologies, as well as the positive stuff. That will give me a structure with some balance.

  3. Eli,

    Just found your blog today. Thanks for sharing online, I appreciate it.

    I especially appreciate this post. I have a lot of similar resentments that came up in my fourth step and I find that they come up almost every single day. Learning to trust God with my wife's recovery has been difficult, but I'm getting there slowly...

  4. Eli,

    Don't know why, but this post showed up in my codependency google alert today. The dates are off, but I felt compelled to comment anyway. Can't control timing...As a COSA member, and as one for whom recovery is at present the most important part of my life, I can tell you that codependency is also, "cunning, baffling, and powerful," and trust me, not all of us do it sober. It almost killed me, and since there wasn't a name for it at the time, (codependency has been around for a long time, but nobody I knew would have thought to suggest COSA. What's COSA?) I simply thought I must be crazy.

    I'm not crazy. And I didn't make my SAH feel like a rapist, ever. I thought there was something terribly wrong with me, that I reacted to his behavior the way I did, and he reinforced that notion, in fact insisted that that I was the problem, for years. There are many inner circle behaviors that I have repeated, over and over again, in spite of the fact that they hurt me and others. In recovery, I have had to relearn who I am, completely. I had to discover that I actually had a self--that was not defined by the behaviors, love, approval, or permission of others. It is an other-focused disease, and that is a source of deep shame for those of us who have abandoned ourselves. And one thing I have learned and accepted in recovery is that you can't walk around with an open wound, any kind of open wound, and use it as an excuse to treat others badly, or not to be a productive, evolving human being. That kind of victim has power, unacknowledged power which makes it more insidious. It's dishonest and toxic.

    Sorry if my timing is off. Maybe it was an opportunity to speak from a place that is better than where I was when this post was written. I know you're doing better now, too.