When She Stopped Living in the Problem, She Began Living in the Answer
27 years ago I walked into a room full of men … what did I expect? I thought I would see people that looked dirty and secretive. Thankfully my expectations were completely wrong. I saw a room full of ordinary men just like I might see at work or out with friends.
I was desperate---full of fear, guilt and shame. My life had become unmanageable. At the beginning of the meeting the Problem was read and I immediately heard my story. Inadequate, unworthy, alone and afraid … all my life, I never fit in. My insides never matched what we saw on the outsides of others.
Disconnected-not many friends, I took refuge in books, music … that way I didn’t have to be intimate with anyone because I didn’t think I measured up.
When I got to college, I realized I could be myself. My fantasy was I knew that I would find someone who thought I was the best and my life would be perfect. My first boyfriend made me feel like I was the most special person in the world. What I thought was love didn’t last because after a year and a half, my boyfriend broke up with me because he said the only thing I wanted in the relationship was sex. What a shock.
My addict took off and looking back I began manipulating men, teasing and giving away my self-respect. “Addicted to the tease, the forbidden, the only way we knew to be free of it was to do it.” I gave away my power to others … began crossing boundaries … again believing I had to feed my addiction because it was never enough….EXPECTING OTHERS TO MAKE ME FEEL WHOLE … never worked, only felt guilt and shame. I wanted to be accepted but couldn’t accept myself.
I married someone I had only dated three times. Needless to say, we truly didn’t know each other and after a few years my emotional needs weren’t being met. The expectations that marriage would be perfect were crashing around me. My addict realized I could flirt with his colleagues and found myself in emotional affairs. That didn’t seem wrong but soon that wasn’t enough and I started crossing boundaries.
Over the next several years those emotional affairs became more numerous and unhealthy. I said I wouldn’t connect with co-workers but that didn’t last long. Next, I decided it could only be someone who lived in a different state. What finally brought me to SA was a relationship with a married man who lived out of state. After two and a half years he ended the relationship. He told me he’d never wanted to have an affair but I’d convinced him to begin. I was crushed and cried all the way back to Nashville. That was the best thing that could have happened because that sent me to therapy and eventually to SA.
I thought once I did the 12 Steps my life would be perfect and I wouldn’t have any problems. Those expectations were absolutely wrong. Life is hard yet ever so much better than it was in my addiction.
Step One–Admitting I was Powerless … I didn’t have a problem with that because I was definitely out of control and had no power to stop it. The only problem was that, in making the admission, I felt I was losing control, becoming more powerless, a victim. It was surprising to learn that in reality I was actually gaining the ability to make decisions thus gaining power.
Step Two–Kept asking God to take my addiction away expecting Him to pry it out of my hands. I had to face the fact that I had to be willing to let go of my lust and give it to God. All I had to do was open the door and God was right there welcoming me with open arms. The only thing I had to do was take the actions of letting go.
Step Three—I was the “actor” who thought that, if only people would do as she wished, then the show would be perfect. Initially I might be kind, considerate, patient, generous, self-sacrificing; but that could turn into being mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. It was definitely self-will, expecting things to go just as I wanted.
I would see flaws in other people that I wanted to point out. Any time I focused on their defects, they were magnified. This led me into resentment and anger-building until I would lose my serenity.
I had been sober about 15 years when I discovered that my Social Security number (identifying number) had been stolen. My expectations were that I would go to their office and be given a new number. Wrong. Instead, I was told that it could change only if my life had been threatened. I was hysterical and thought my life had ended. As I was driving home it occurred to me that I had hands that could hold the steering wheel; I had a car; I could see. I realized I had good things in my life, and realized while something horrible had happened I could make a plan. Knowing that I could have more than one feeling at a time was OK. At that point, I moved into Acceptance. I didn’t have to live in the wreckage of the future. I began to realize it was important for me to quit playing God and ask for help.
It was important that I discard my right to believe I’m the only one with the answers. I realized that I could either be right no matter what or I could have serenity. Now when I disagree strongly with another person my response is to say, “I believe we’re going to have to agree to disagree.” My expectation that I’m going to convince another person who is diametrically opposed is a resentment waiting to happen. I would rather have calmness rather than insanity.
It’s important to live in the answer, not the problem. Acceptance is the answer to all my problems and learning to live life on life’s terms. As it says in the Big Book, “Serenity is inversely proportional to my expectations.” Today I choose gratitude for the good in my life. When I do that, life is ever so much better.
Priscilla C., Tennessee, USA