- a spiritual way of life
It's a life better than the best I have ever known!
Updated: Nov 10, 2022
My name is Tina I am an addict, not an alcoholic, a codependent. Growing up I watched those around me frantically trying to get something on the outside to make them feel better on the inside. That’s addiction. Our brand was codependency, food/body obsession, and image management. I saw them relate to the world as objects. I learned to behave as an object. I thought if I’m skinny enough I might deserve love and attention. The sexual assault I encountered as a teen in the 70s was routine. It was all around me, in the halls at school and even on TV. I was raped at 16. It was traumatic and felt horrible.
I became pregnant in college, dropped out and married. Being a mom turned out to be wonderful. I was introduced to real love – the give kind. I ended that marriage and blamed him. I needed more pain to see my problem. We lived in poverty as I later worked my way through college and got addictively good grades. I was leading a double life -- when the kids occasionally stayed with their dad, I went out on the town, got drunk, and had sex with strangers. More addiction and pain. Next, I went from one monogamous relationship to another. I was using work and others to try to get value, love and security.
After years of self-help books and therapy with no lasting relief, I started going to Co-Dependents Anonymous (CODA) and Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA). At these meetings we focused on problem and others, it felt good in the beginning, but I just kept getting worse. My son was a teen now and struggling too. I didn’t know how to help. I was in constant pain, completely miserable and desperate. The 12-Steps were read in those meetings but no one was working the Steps, so I went to Al-Anon, got a sponsor (who luckily used the Big Book of AA) and worked the first nine steps. It quickly changed the way I interacted with my three children. I felt incredible relief, but my sponsor had only worked through step nine. My new sponsor didn’t use the Big Book of AA, it was discouraged. I started regressing. For nineteen years I kept trying new sponsors and more Al-Anon and CODA literature. I had six sponsors, went to three to five meetings each week but barely kept my head above water.
I had intense empty nest syndrome when my kids grew up. Parenting had become my identity. I met my partner -- he was empty nesting too. We were both in get. We related to each other as objects. It became a familiar hell. He woke up to the fact he was an alcoholic and sex addict. Full disclosure was encouraged by our Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, but all more information did for me (like more alcohol for the alcoholic) was turn me into the Tasmanian Devil -- craving, crazy, wild eyed. The more information I got, the more I wanted, the worse I got. The more my own life and purpose slipped away.
I didn’t want to wake in the mornings. Despairing, I started a local recovery meeting. In the beginning we just got worse together as we focused on others. He kept searching and made his way to SAAPP. His sponsor introduced me to a new sponsor who used the instructions which came with the 12 Steps in the Big Book of AA. She asked if I wanted to quit being miserable for good and all and if I’d go to any extreme to get better? That was the first time in 20 years of recovery I was asked that question. Yes, I would! This was Step One. She helped me see others hadn’t been my problem after all. My problem was on the inside.
The change I saw in her life gave me hope. This was Step two. The third step helped me see I am one of the those the AA Big Book writes about as beyond human aid, those with a spiritual problem needing a spiritual solution. My awakening began as I shared my fourth step inventory with her. Life had become like a house with all the blinds shut tight – complete darkness. The fifth through ninth steps started letting in the light. My freedom grew. Turning from looking to get, I practiced new ideals of give. What kind of a person was I to be? What helpful thoughts could I think and actions could I take? What could I contribute? Steps 10 through 12 – the design for living - was a miraculous antidote for misery. My sponsor told me to help others. “I’m not ready, not good enough” I balked. She told me – “we don’t get better and then sponsor we get better through sponsoring!”
I threw myself into helping others and started a national phone meeting for family and friends of sex addicts and it saved my life. Over the years I have had opportunity to put this spiritual program of recovery into action, it is a “design for living that works in rough going:” I had a precious loved one die of a brain tumor, I have a genetic, incurable health condition which causes intense and debilitating pain, I was estranged from my son and grandchildren for years. Through it all, as I work Steps 10, 11 and 12 each 24 hours, I have been guided to the next right thoughts and actions. I now have access to solid ground no matter what. I am learning to relate to my life partner and all others as people, not objects. “You will lose the old life to find one much better.”
In January of 2019, following the instructions on page 159 in the Big Book of AA, “…it became customary to set apart one night a week for a meeting to be attended by anyone or everyone interested in a spiritual way of life,” my partner and I started an international online meeting for all because beneath our symptoms, those with a spiritual malady are all the same - looking for something on the outside to make us feel better on the inside. Our fellowship is the greatest gift of all. I’ve gone from what’s described on page 53 of AA’s Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions -- “We have not once sought to be one in a family, to be a friend among friends, to be a worker among workers, to be a useful member of society. Always we tried to struggle to the top of the heap, or to hide underneath it… Of true brotherhood we had small comprehension” – to finally growing up. Instead of people pleasing and approval seeking I turn. I risk being myself with my fellows. I show up, offer my inner guidance, collaborate around “carrying this message.” In doing so I am learning to be a friend among friends and a worker among workers. I am now practicing these principles in all of my affairs, I am becoming the me I was meant to be in my partnership and family, in my friendships, in my work, in my neighborhood, in my community, in the world -- in all my affairs.
It's a life better than the best I have ever known!