(Essay February 2019)
SOBRIEDAD Y RELACIONES DISTORSIONADAS
En mi experiencia, veo la sobriedad como un lago tranquilo que refleja un cielo azul, sin nubes, sin ansiedad. Recuerdo que cuando tenía una recaída era como si alguien (yo mismo) hubiera lanzado una inmensa roca y las aguas en la superficie del lago se agitaran, dejando a mi mente, mis sensaciones, confusas y alteradas, con ansiedad por consumir más y más. Había perdido la paz. Era como un enfermo cuando ingresa a cuidados intensivos. No debía tener nada al alcance que me detonara, por insignificante que fuera.
Es cierto que en el periodo de sobriedad debo cuidarme con igual empeño. Pero al haber recaído era más vulnerable, pues había despertado la compulsión que ahora pedía consumir y consumir. Al saber que no podía luchar contra la lujuria, me rendía. El mirar esos pensamientos, esas sensaciones, aceptando mi impotencia era como sacarlos a la luz o rendirme. El hecho de observarlos de esa manera les quitaba el poder que tenían de arrastrarme en su corriente caudalosa. Y poco a poco, al crecer esa distancia, con el pasar de los días o las semanas sin consumo, por la gracia de Dios el lago volvía a su quietud, a su paz.
Luego de la recaída me llenaba de enojo. Estaba atrapado en la culpa, el resentimiento hacia mí mismo y la ira por haber cedido a la tentación. En una ocasión, luego de una recaída, reaccioné de manera tan violenta ante algo insignificante que alguien hizo, que quedé asombrado. ¿Por qué me comportaba de esa manera, si suelo ser de ánimo más bien tranquilo e introvertido? Después descubrí la razón. Sentía odio hacia mí mismo por haber recaído, pero lo mantenía escondido. Como temía asumirlo pues eso significaba experimentar el dolor de la profunda decepción. La recaída siempre deja secuelas, no es algo que sucede y sigo la vida como si nada. No puedo dar lo que no tengo, se dice en el libro blanco. Al no tener paz, ¿qué más podía dar?
Sin embargo, ello no justificaba mi comportamiento violento. Comprenderlo solo me ayuda a ser más responsable y consciente. A partir de estos episodios comencé a ver con claridad que mis relaciones con los demás dependen de la sobriedad y la recuperación que tengo. Si no estoy sobrio, es imposible que pueda haber paz en mis relaciones, es imposible contactar con lo real en mí y lo real en otro. Si mi sobriedad es negativa, lo más probable es que otros sufran las consecuencias y sean víctimas de mi descontrol. A veces estas consecuencias aparecen disfrazadas de toda clase de sentimientos como: ansiedad, enojo, malgenio, inconformidad, intolerancia, etc. Ese es el poder de esta enfermedad (y mi irresponsabilidad) que lo distorsiona todo hasta el punto de no poder ver claro en mí mismo, y solo reaccionar a esas consecuencias sin darme cuenta de lo que me pasa.
Como se dice en muchas tradiciones espirituales, los otros son nuestros espejos, reflejan a veces con mayor nitidez nuestros defectos, y al hablar de ellos no nos damos cuenta que estamos hablando de nosotros mismos. Por eso el cambio en mis relaciones depende de mí…Comienza en mi actitud. Mi relación con los demás me muestra como un espejo el tipo de sobriedad que tengo.
El programa me dice que no necesito recaer. Si no necesito recaer, no necesito odiarme a mí mismo y tampoco odiar a otros. Si todos los días me ejercito en el programa como quien va al gimnasio y se mantiene en buena forma espiritual, ese lago tranquilo de la sobriedad positiva se va a reflejar, poco a poco. La sobriedad positiva afectará de manera positiva mis relaciones no por el conocimiento que tengo del programa, sino solo por mi entrega a él.
Rafael de Colombia.
SOBRIETY AND DISTORTED RELATIONS
In my experience, I see sobriety as a calm lake that reflects a blue sky, without clouds, without anxiety. I remember that when I had a relapse it was as if someone (myself) had thrown an immense rock and the waters on the surface of the lake were shaking, leaving my mind, my sensations, confused and altered, with anxiety to consume more and more. I had lost my peace. I was like a sick man when he entered intensive care. I should not have anything within reach that detonated me, however insignificant.
It is true that in the period of sobriety I must take care of myself with equal effort. But having relapsed was more vulnerable, because he had awakened the compulsion that now demanded to consume and consume. Knowing that I could not fight, I surrendered. Looking at those thoughts, those feelings, accepting my helplessness was like bringing them to light or surrendering. The fact of observing them in that way deprived them of the power they had to drag me into their current. And little by little, as that distance grew, with the passing of days or weeks without consumption, by the grace of God the lake returned to its stillness, to its peace.
After the relapse I was filled with anger. I was caught in guilt, resentment towards myself and anger at having yielded to temptation. On one occasion, after a relapse, I reacted so violently to something insignificant someone did, that I was amazed. Why did I behave in that way, if I tend to be rather calm and introverted? Then I discovered the reason. I felt hate towards myself for having relapsed, but I kept it hidden. As I was afraid to admit it because that meant experiencing the pain of deep disappointment. Relapse always leaves sequels. It is not something that happens and I follow life as if nothing happened. I can not give what I do not have, it is said in the white book. Having no peace, what else could he give?
However, this did not justify my violent behavior. Understanding it only helps me be more responsible and aware. From these episodes I began to see clearly that my relationships with others depend on the sobriety and recovery I have. If I am not sober, it is impossible that there can be peace in my relationships, it is impossible to contact the real in me and the real in another. If my sobriety is negative, the most likely result is that others suffer the consequences and are victims of my lack of control. Sometimes these consequences appear disguised as all kinds of feelings such as: anxiety, anger, foul moods, nonconformity, intolerance, etc. That is the power of this disease (and my irresponsibility) that distorts everything to the point of not being able to see clearly in myself, and only reacting to those consequences without realizing what is happening to me.
As it is said in many spiritual traditions, others are our mirrors, reflect our defects with greater clarity, and when we talk about them we do not realize that we are talking about ourselves. That is why the change in my relationships depends on me. It starts in my attitude. My relationship with others shows me as a mirror the kind of sobriety that I have.
The program tells me that I do not need to relapse. If I do not need to relapse, I do not need to hate myself or hate others. If every day I exercise in the program like someone who goes to the gym and stays in good spiritual shape, that calm lake of positive sobriety will reflect, little by little. Positive sobriety will positively affect my relationships, not because of the knowledge I have of the program, but only because of my commitment to it.
Rafael from Colombia
From the SA White Book:
Many of us felt inadequate, unworthy, alone, and afraid. Our insides never matched what we saw on the outsides of others.
Early on, we came to feel disconnected-from parents, from peers, from ourselves. We tuned out with fantasy and masturbation. We plugged in by drinking in the pictures, the images, and pursuing the objects of our fantasies. We lusted and wanted to be lusted after.
We became true addicts: sex with self, promiscuity, adultery, dependency relationships, and more fantasy. We got it through the eyes; we bought it, we sold it, we traded it, we gave it away. We were addicted to the intrigue, the tease, the forbidden. The only way we knew to be free of it was to do it. “Please connect with me and make me whole!” we cried with outstretched arms. Lusting after the Big Fix, we gave away our power to others.
This produced guilt, self-hatred, remorse, emptiness, and pain, and we were driven ever inward, away from reality, away from love, lost inside ourselves.
Our habit made true intimacy impossible. We could never know real union with another because we were addicted to the unreal. We went for the “chemistry,” the connection that had the magic, because it by-passed intimacy and true union. Fantasy corrupted the real; lust killed love.
First addicts, then love cripples, we took from others to fill up what was lacking in ourselves. Conning ourselves time and again that the next one would save us, we were really losing our lives.
From pages 39 – 44 of the SA White Book
Lust— The Force Behind the Addiction
What’s So Wrong with Sex?
We hear this question often, and it was one of our favorite expressions of denial that we had a problem. We could ask similar questions for other addictions, the workaholic, for example. What’s so wrong with honest labor? Or with compulsive overeating: What’s wrong with it? We have to eat to live! Or with use of alcohol and drugs: What’s wrong with a little help to relax and escape? And finally, with the sexaholic: What’s so wrong with sex? It’s God-given! People ask similar questions about the use of television, movies, music, etc. Usually those of us trying to rationalize our addictions are the ones coming up with these responses. When the questions are asked in such a manner, it is easy to see how we can be so misled. And sex, perhaps, carries the most confusion.
We find it confusing and difficult, if not impossible, to see the physical manifestations of our addiction as cause enough for surrender. Knowing we must stop, we go to great lengths to find reasons for quitting:
“I might get VD, or the wife will leave me.”
“I’ll have a heart attack if I keep on eating like this.”
“I just know this weed’ll give me cancer sooner or later.”
“I’ll wind up with hypertension if I keep on working like this.”
“I’ll get cirrhosis of the liver and brain damage if I don’t stop drinking.”
“If I don’t unglue myself from this Tube I’m going to turn into a vegetable.”
Such reasons are seldom enough to make the true addict stop because they deal only with externals. The clue here is that we must differentiate between the physical action and the spiritual action (attitude) taking place at the same time in the same individual. Because he lives inside his attitudes, the individual doesn’t see them; he sees only the physical activity and thinks he’s feeling guilty for that. It is truly puzzling to him. Hence the confusion on the proper motivation for wanting to stop any given addiction. When we look only at the activity itself, most of us find no sufficient motive to stop, but if we can see its spiritual consequences, this can help us despair of it sooner and surrender. Thus, we must look behind the physical to see what’s really at work in our sexaholism. But first, let’s take a look at lust, for it is this concept that serves as a bridge between the physical and the spiritual aspects of our sexaholism.
Why in Step One do we say we are powerless over lust instead of sex? Is not some form of sex what we are addicted to? Yes, we answer, but our problem is not simply sex, just as in compulsive overeating the problem is not simply food. Eating and sex are natural functions; the real problem in both of these addictions seems to be what we call lust-an attitude demanding that a natural instinct serve unnatural desires.
When we try to use food or sex to reduce isolation, loneliness, insecurity, fear, tension, or to cover our emotions, make us feel alive, help us escape, or satisfy our God hunger, we create an unnatural appetite that misuses and abuses the natural instinct. It is not only more intense than the natural but becomes something totally different. Eating and sex enter a different dimension; they possess an unnatural spiritual component.
The addiction is thus to lust and not merely to the substance or physical act. Lust-the attitude itself-becomes the controlling factor in the addiction.
This may be why people exhibit lust in more than one area. Often, those of us addicted to substances or forms of behavior discover we are also addicted to negative attitudes and emotions.
“I remember that when I came off lust, alcohol, and tranquilizers, resentment burst forth like a dammed-up volcano. I remember thinking that controlling lust must be like trying to control a piece of jello; you press in here and it bulges out there. Or like trying to rout a gopher; you plug up one tunnel only to have the beast go to work in another.”
People may not be allergic to food and sex in the sense some people are allergic to pollen, strawberries, or cats, but we do become “allergic” to lust for food and sex. Misusing the natural instinct of sex for an unnatural end over and over again increasingly sensitizes us to the triggers of that association, until a simple thought or look elicits the compulsion.
For the sexaholic, lust is toxic. This is why in recovery, the real problem is spiritual and not merely physical. This is why change of attitude is so crucial.
What Is Lust?
A Personal Point of View
It’s pretty tough to get a handle on it, but here’s what lust looks like in my life. It’s a slave master that wants to control my sex for its own ends in its own way whenever it wants. And it’s like mental-spiritual noise that distorts and perverts
sex, much as a raucous radio interference distorts a lovely melody.
Lust is not sex, and it is not physical. It seems to be a screen of self-indulgent fantasy separating me from reality-either the reality of my own person in sex with myself or the reality of my spouse. It works the same way whether with a girlfriend, a prostitute, or my wife. It thus negates identity, either mine or the other person’s, and is anti-real, working against my own reality, working against me.
I can’t have true union with my wife while lust is active because she as a person really doesn’t matter; she’s even in the way; she’s merely the sexual instrument. And I can’t have true union within myself while I’m splitting myself having sex with myself. That fantasy partner I’ve conjured up in my mind is really part of me! With lust, the sex act is not the result of personal union; sex doesn’t flow from that union. Sex energized by lust makes true union impossible.
The nature of the lust-noise interference I superimpose over sex can be many things: memories, fantasies ranging from the erotic to revenge or even violence. Or, it can be the mental image of a single fetish or of some other person. Seen in this light, lust can exist apart from sex. Indeed, there are those who say they are obsessed with lust who can no longer have sex. I see my lust as a force that apparently infuses and distorts my other instincts as well: eating, drinking, working, anger…. I know I have a lust to resent; it seems as strong as sexual lust ever was.
In my experience, lust is not physical; it is not even strong sexual desire. It seems to be a spiritual force that distorts my instincts; and whenever let loose in one area, seems to want to infect other areas as well. And being nonsexual, lust crosses all lines, including gender. When energized by lust, my sexual fantasies or acting out can go in any direction, shaped by whatever I experience. Thus, the more I indulge in sexual lust, the less truly sexual I become.
Therefore, my basic problem as a recovering sexaholic is to live free from my lust. When I entertain it in any form, sooner or later it tries to express itself in every form. And lust becomes the indicator of not only what I do, but what I am.
But there is great hope here. By surrendering lust and its acting out each time I’m tempted by it, and then experiencing God’s life-giving deliverance from its power, recovery and healing are taking place, and wholeness is being restored-true union within myself first, then with others and the Source of my life.
Lust Is ….
Not being able to say no
Constantly being in dangerous sexual situations
Turning my head as if sex-starved all the time
Attraction only to beautiful people
Use of erotic media
Being addicted to the partner as I would be to a drug
Losing my identity in the partner
Obsession with the romantic-going for the “chemistry”
The desire to make the other person lust
Another Personal Perspective
Lust is the most important thing in my life; it takes priority over me.
Captive to lust, I cannot be myself.
Lust makes me its slave; it kills my freedom; it kills me.
Lust always wants more; lust creates more lust.
Lust is jealous; it wants to possess me.
Lust makes me self-obsessed; it drives me into myself.
Lust makes sex impossible without lust.
Lust destroys the ability to love; it kills love.
Lust destroys the ability to receive love; it kills me
Lust creates guilt-unavoidably; and guilt has to be expiated.
Lust makes part of me want to die because I can’t bear what I’m doing to myself and my powerlessness over it. Increasingly, I direct this guilt and self-hatred inward and outward.
Lust is destructive to me and those around me.
Lust kills the spirit; my spirit is me. Lust kills me!