From the Pit of Despair to Living Again
With the help of my Higher Power who has kept me sober for over a year, I’d like to speak about what it was like for me, what my year looked like, and how things are now.
How it was
I thought I had hit bottom so many times. At every point of my life I never thought it could get worse, but then it did…
At age 9 I was being contacted by and contacting older men on a children’s game site. I had no idea what I was doing, I just kept doing it. Today, I teach 9-year-old children and their innocence and purity is beautiful. But that was taken away from me at such a young age.
At age 11 I was sneaking downstairs once my family was asleep to watch the X-rated channels on TV. Already then, I was lying and living a life of dishonesty to do what I wanted. I spun myself into webs of lies that I started believing- not knowing what was truth and what was false.
Through my school years, I would spend my nights on chartrooms and pornography sites. Every male was objectified. I would open Facebook accounts, delete them, change numbers, email addresses. I was running away from myself, but I could never get far enough before I’d trip up.
At 16, the police contacted my parents asking if these explicit pictures were of their daughter. I was underage and the people I was in contact with were pedophiles. God saved me because I got caught a few days before I had planned to meet them. After that, I thought I’d never get on a chatroom again. But I needed the attention, the approval, the numbing. I couldn’t stop.
In another plan to change my life, I ran away from home. God knows how many people I hurt before, after, and during that time.
I formed a very unhealthy emotional dependency on a teacher in my school. I couldn’t sleep because of the nightmares I’d wake up having had.
At 17 years old, I started meeting strangers and doing very dangerous things…
I was living the mother of all double lives… I sneaked out with boys at night, smoking, climbing buildings, drinking, … I was manipulating my teachers and friends. I ended up in a hospital after trying to take my own life. I had made the decision that I could not continue the life that I am living. That’s how unmanageable my life was.
Ages 19 and 20 were filled with dangerous affairs and saw me overstepping one boundary after another, doing things I never believed I would do.
My life was completely unmanageable. Once upon a time, I wanted to keep going down my ‘to-do’ list ticking things off, but I didn’t even want that anymore. I didn’t get it. I was following every single desire that so much as crossed my head, but I was depressed, lonely, so full of anger and resentment, I was hurting on such a deep level.
It wasn’t so simple- I didn’t just join the program and get sober. I’d been in and out of the 12-Step meeting rooms for about 2 years before I took the Program seriously. It was only when I came back to my hometown that I started really doing the work. I was always trying to help myself, but I wasn’t 100% willing, and I did not admit I was powerless over this addiction. When I did, that’s when the healing began.
What my year looked like:
The first few months of sobriety were literally hell. Because I was the same sick person, with the same sick thoughts and behaviors, except I couldn’t act out no matter what. I was still chasing lust and following my old sick behavior patterns, except I had to follow them up with an abrupt text dictated by my sponsor. Cutting off connections with people was instrumental in my recovery, and in early days, it felt like I was cutting off my arms and legs. But, because I had made a decision to do whatever it takes, I would send that text. Delete that number. Over and over. I was always so scared of what these people would think of me, would they hate me, would they feel rejected… the bitter truth was that these were such superficial relationships that I wasn’t missed. Today I still get people somehow finding a way to reach me again, but I have learnt how to deal with it in such a way that it hardly affects me anymore. On Friday I got an email from a past unhealthy relationship. I called my sponsor, brought it to the light, and deleted it. It did not hold any power over me. Whereas, in the first few weeks, night after night, I would be fighting with my sponsor over who needs to stay in my life for some twisted reason. The rationalizations and lies that I kept telling myself had to go. And thank G-d I have a sponsor who was able to call me out on all of that.
Physically sort myself out- My acting out had left my body a mess; physically and emotionally. In order to move on, I needed to start taking care of myself. It was really difficult but I went to my doctor for examinations. I went to a psychiatrist. Part of my recovery has been coming to terms with who I am, what I’m dealing with, the struggles I must fight. And I want to thank my current therapist for so gently leading me on this path. I have many years of destruction to put right, and it starts with taking care of myself and who I am today.
I became willing to do whatever it takes- Working with my current sponsor has been an absolute blessing (even though there were times I thought it was a curse!). The first huge jump I made was I became willing to do whatever it takes to stay sober… Let me tell you what that looked like:
Some of my sacrifices include… Calling my sponsor before and after taking a shower. Spending a lot of money calling overseas for recovery reasons. Throwing away clothes. I spent most my Sunday’s doing step work not going on holiday/to beaches, not watching certain movies and TV shows. No games on my devices. Filters all round… and loads more. I have lost the right to do things my friends can do so easily.
One day at a time- I cried through my first 3 months of sobriety. It was not possible that I could do this, long-term. It was too much hard work, too painful, I didn’t see any results, just test after test after test. I had gotten used to living with such a huge amount of drama and chaos in my life, there would just be so much to deal with, handle, and respond to on every day. Even ‘one day at a time’ didn’t work for me. I had to break it down to one hour, half an hour, and 15 minutes. I would check in with my sponsor after the most boring of tasks… I made a commitment to the sobriety definition, but every day, sometimes multiple times a day, I had to reaffirm and recommit that to myself.
The emotions- I wasn’t used to feeling anything. If times were tough- I’d act out, if times were great- I’d act out. Everything was an excuse to act out. But this year, it’s been different. I have never cried as much as I have this year, and I’m not afraid of myself too. I’ll call my sponsor crying so hard I can’t even talk. But she together with my therapist taught me and remind me that feelings are ok. What’s not ok is to numb the pain, pretend nothing fazes me, because that’s what ends up leading to acting out. I’ve learnt that I’m human. I get hurt. I get angry. I get happy. And it’s all ok.
I had to learn how to be human being again. This meant taking responsibility. My sponsor helped me through tasks I simply wasn’t capable of doing alone. Folding laundry. Making my bed. Applying for a job. I used to relate to everyone on a basis of “How can they serve me? What can I get out of them?” And eventually, I was left with nobody in my life. This year has included letting some people in, and building for myself a support network so that I need never be alone again.
I learnt to do the right actions regardless of if I feel like it or not. Many times I would know what I SHOULD be doing next but I just didn’t WANT to. Well, I’ve been doing everything I WANTED to do my whole life and look where that brought me to… it’s time I realised that part of recovery is taking the right actions. Very often I knew exactly what they were, I just never wanted to admit I did… And when I didn’t know what to do next, well then it’s time to listen to instructions from my sponsor. My best thinking brought me into these rooms, so there’s no way in hell my thinking is going to get me out of a rut. I worked through the steps, and even when I was procrastinating, I was working on the reasons why, and how to get back into the game. I’ve learnt in a real way that all I have to do is do the work, and God will sort the rest out. Even now, when I’m doing resentment work on a colleague of mine, I spent all night writing out what she does that makes me so mad, but I was able to interact with her like a human being for the first time since I’ve been working with her. I believe that’s because I did my part, my work, and the rest will take care of itself.
Working the steps is the most important facet. As I’ve heard before- there is no recovery before working the steps. I did have to wait 2 months before even starting because there was so much chaos in my life. I first had to practice living sober, but when I started, I didn’t look back. Working those steps has given me freedom in so many other areas of my life. The past few months I’ve apologized to people I haven’t seen in years, and true to the Big Book “more of that dreadful load of guilt fades away”.
What things look like now…
My Program comes before anything. I wake up and get down on my knees begging God for a day freed from the obsession of lust, a day where I can be of service to Him and do His Will for me. I live a life of rigorous honesty, bringing up resentments, fears, and selfish behaviors as they come up. I speak to my sponsor every night. I speak to women in the fellowship, sometimes sharing what’s worked for me. I do not make any rash decisions without consulting my sponsor first. I can look people in the eye because I’m not hiding behind a self-constructed mask. I often still fall into self-pity and self-hate, but I don’t need to run to act out because of it. I still get waves where I feel like “If I cannot act out, I’d rather not be alive” but at the end of the day, I do what needs to be done to stay sober. I admit my slips straight away, and then put relevant boundaries in place so that it shouldn’t happen again. I have a relationship with each member of my family, with whom I am making living amends with every day of my existence.
I came into this program because I was living very dangerously and acting out multiple times a day. But today I have a job that I love - affecting and touching the lives of children. Teaching something I am so passionate about. I have the capacity to care for them, to treat people in a loving and kind way. I admit my mistakes. I ask for help.
Life isn’t perfect, but thank God it’s not what it used to be. I really feel like I’m living the promises of the Big Book.
Thank you to my sponsor for putting up with absolutely everything, all the time- the hours you’ve spent listening and advising me, I don’t have enough words to explain how grateful I am for you in my life.
Thank you to my therapist who is helping me pick up the pieces and build myself back up again.
And I haven’t mentioned Yaakov, the founder of guardyoureyes.com - who literally saved my life. I had sent him a suicide note, and from around the world, he arranged for the police and ambulance to come. And this is besides answering every single melodramatic email I sent him since about 2012.
And thanks to those of you in the rooms - it’s not easy being the only woman in the room, but you all have welcomed me, made me feel accepted, and treated me with respect that I have never received from men before. You’re teaching me how to live.
And lastly, thank you to my Higher Power whom I have come to believe in, have a relationship with, and Whom I trust loves me for everything that I am, and everything I’m not. Thank you for bringing me to where I am today.