Friday, July 8, 2016

Old Feelings, New Behaviors and Happy Anniversary

I am approaching my four year anniversary of recovery from co-dependency, co-addiction, and compulsive behaviors. I cannot believe how differently my life looks and feels today. I have such gratitude waking up with contentment and serenity. I have traveled a lot of miles along The Healing Lane, seeking and pushing forward, resting at times, and slowing the pace when needed.

It was July 14, 2012 – it’s amazing how certain dates are etched in our memories – when my transformation began. It is the day that my tolerance for my husband’s addictions and my co-dependent behaviors with it were confronted. Seventeen years earlier in July, however, is when I learned about his addiction when he disclosed to me why he had been so miserable and angry. It is one of the most painful moments I have experienced. It is this anniversary that has me thinking about and dealing with some feelings that I have avoided for quite a while.

There is an intensity to my feelings as I’m taken back to that summer evening in 1995. It is when I learned that my husband was addicted to pornography and that he had several compulsive sexual behaviors that made up his sexual life. Alongside this, however, was the awareness and painful realization that he was unable to have intimate sexual relations with me. It was a double-sided knife that bore into my core as I tried to understand that he had a whole sexual life apart from me while not participating in a sexual life with me. It was a lot to take in. Like bent over in gripping pain a lot. It wasn’t until I started recovery that I had terms for this. He is a sex addict that acts out by compulsively seeking sexual pleasure outside the relationship as well as acting in by compulsively avoiding sexual and emotional intimacy. The latter description is about sexual avoidance or sexual anorexia, both terms I have come to use about the disease that has affected me so greatly.

My therapy and recovery are about dealing with my behaviors and my disease. These have included many lessons on learning how to remain present when issues from my past, uncomfortable feelings, triggering episodes, and traumatic events surface. Letting go of my unhealthy coping behaviors such as compulsive eating, smoking, shopping, sex, or numbing (tv and computer), working, obsessive thinking, (the list goes on) has taken a lot of fortitude, honesty, and effort. I’m reminded when uncomfortable feelings or situations occur that simply staying sober is an accomplishment because I had become so accustomed to medicating away those feelings. Fortunately, I have been a good student and I have learned healthy behaviors and to stay present for myself.

This is why I think that when this memory of my husband’s disclosure surfaced recently, I could use the tools and experiences to help navigate through them without needing to use those outdated coping behaviors. In this case, it was that I was feeling again how alone I was having just heard his confession and with absolutely no understanding of these compulsive sexual behaviors. I felt completely and utterly rejected by my husband and yet there was an expectation to forgive him and to be supportive of his dealing with this issue. What I didn’t know is that this was a traumatic experience for me. My life completely changed in that moment. I was no longer in the dark; it was the passing of what remained of my innocence. The world of addiction and its devastating effects had now overtaken me and my life. Overwhelmed with feelings, thoughts, and expectations, I did what was natural to me: I rose to the challenge by becoming super-supportive and stuffing what I couldn’t process. I can see that how I reacted to the pressures, feelings, and circumstances reveals my issues.

I don’t actually remember much from the days that followed. As they re-surface, I am choosing to be understanding, compassionate, and loving to myself. I can accept that at that time that I acted in what I thought was in the best interest for my family. I did forgive him; I did support him; I did, in fact, do everything I knew to do to help him, be understanding, come to his aid, take the high road, travel the low road when it was needed, and to be the wife that stood by her addicted husband. I became a classic case of a co-dependent of a sex-addict. I really thought I was helping him and doing the right thing. And I really thought it would work.

My choice to stay in the marriage and to fight for our family, especially noting the impact to our young son, was honorable. Meanwhile I didn’t understand what was happening to me by not receiving the help that I needed. My husband’s issues were the focus and my job was to forgive and to find help for him. For eight years this is what I did. I sought out every program and possibility for help that I knew. Eventually I gave up. I was exhausted, had lost hope, and was filled with shame. I thought that I had failed by not being enough. Or too much. Whatever it was, it was partly my fault or maybe even mostly my fault. I was supposed to be able to save him. My guilt, shame, pain, anger, loneliness, and fear were more than I could handle and so another of my issues – medicating feelings instead of expressing them – took hold in increasingly harmful ways.

I know differently now. His shame is not mine to carry; I have my own around abandoning myself and for the compulsive behaviors I have engaged in to medicate away my pain. I can honor myself by allowing stuffed feelings to surface and be expressed. I can forgive myself for not putting myself as a priority, for falling into the depression that nearly swallowed me up, and for becoming morbidly obese.

What I seek today it to be present for myself as I allow those really intense feelings to surface. I cry. I breathe and follow the paths of sensation in my body. I speak kindly and lovingly to myself. I repeat affirmations of my value and worthiness. I reach out to friends. I reach for God. I turn inward and access peace, serenity, and joy. I continue working the Twelve Steps. I am alone and yet, I am never alone.

This anniversary is a celebration. It is a reminder of what has changed in four years – in 21 years! – and the marvelous journey of The Healing Lane. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Must be a Family Thing: Having awareness and compassion in patterns of behavior

There is an added gift of awareness when family visit. Common patterns of behavior become evident, and with it the opportunity to shift or change. I haven’t always considered this awareness a gift. In fact, it used to be triggering and upsetting when I would see these patterns because I was reminded of my own shortcomings. I hadn’t accepted my imperfections so to look at my character defects was to see faults and flaws. Recovery brings acceptance of my present and past, with it compassion for myself about things I didn’t know.

This past week my brother and nephew have been visiting me in my home.  The home I now reside in solely with my two cats. I’ve done quite a bit of work to appreciate my own good company and the freedom that comes with living alone. I welcomed their visit as it has been a great blessing to me to be the recipient of their kindness, consideration, and generosity. I will miss them when they return to their home in the Midwest tomorrow. As guests go, they are truly delightful. And as guests go, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some adjustments.

Several nights this week we have watched a TV program or movie before going to bed. When the program is over, my brother stands up, says good night, and heads to bed – leaving behind his beverage container or glass, and possibly shoes or a dish as well.  I recall that my father and mother had this same behavior, although my mother was less apt to be watching TV so I haven’t associated this with her for the most part. My younger brother also has this same habit. I’m remembering heated discussions with my husband (now ex-husband) about this same habit which was very irritating to him. It just hadn’t been a practice of mine to take my glass to the kitchen and put it in the dishwasher before I went to bed. It was, however, the standard in his family, and I soon learned to make this a practice in my own home (and when I’m a guest at others’).

It occurred to me today that something that has become simple and clear to me as responsible, respectable behavior is likely not clear to my brother.  He is merely behaving in the fashion that was modeled to him and which is just normal behavior. Most certainly I have choices about this; I know I can ask him to put his glass in the dishwasher before going to bed. This lesson isn’t about boundaries. It’s about what has been modeled and what becomes normal.

This awareness about bedtime behavior has prompted my thinking about the patterns of thinking and behaving, too. There are many family patterns that come to mind. It is standard for members of my family to volunteer and to serve others. It is common within my family to want to understand the motives behind things – we call it “getting to the bottom of things”. We are problem-solvers and communicators. There is a long list of attributes. What I can also see are the traits not so favorable. Things like being critical, procrastinating, collecting material excess, people-pleasing, and overeating. There are others. It really doesn’t matter whether it is not cleaning up after myself when I go to bed or care taking others in my co-dependency. Both of these, for instance, were no longer behaviors I wanted to continue.

Recovery has helped me to see that it isn’t so much about assigning good and bad to my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, but rather it is about seeing the gift in learning why I do certain things and that I have choices as to whether I want to continue doing them or not. Once I have identified those character defects and become willing to have God remove them, I have a loving God to lift those shortcomings as He sees fit including when He sees fit. To help me even further, I have self-compassion while knowing that I may just be doing what was considered “normal” behavior. I don’t have to blame myself, my parents, my family, the system, or anyone or anything else for my behaviors. I believe that is my part in choosing serenity. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Course in Gratitude

A lot can change in three years.

I am one of those people who reflects on “this day in history” and now even more so in my own life. I have always been an historian of sorts, keeping track of important dates, even getting my post-baccalaureate in education to teach history. I have a timeline running in my head that I post information provided to me from people and in my own life. At certain times of the year, the timeline becomes vibrant. Holidays are like that. Certain seasons are like that. July is very much that for many reasons, but this post is about one week in particular.

Three years ago this week my husband moved out of our house. It was unexpected and surreal in nature. I had gone to work, even plotting how to move out maybe over the weekend. I feared confronting him, anticipating a big blow-up with lots accusations and rage. What happened instead, is that his brother confronted him and within hours, he had instead moved out and I was walking the halls of my home noticing the lifting of the oppressive spirit that permeated my home for years. I walked around in disbelief. Could it have been that simple? Could the split-up have taken me more by surprise? I had wanted this for many years, not choosing it for a number of reasons. Only days before had it become clear to me that I reached the end of my rope. 

I sat on the patio for the first time in ages; it, too, was an uncomfortable place because it had that “presence” there. Now, freed from his glares, anger, and resentment, I sat with myself and my new reality. I  remember thinking, I would like a cigarette. It occurred to me that I could smoke right there on my patio and no one was there to judge me, criticize me, or create a hostile environment. I promptly went and bought a pack of cigarettes and smoked a bunch of them. It was an act of liberation for me, even if I did have to contend with the negative aspects of the smoking behavior later.

Debra was recommended to me by another therapist I had consulted to get some counsel on what to do with this new information I had learned about my husband’s behaviors. The dysfunction and disconnect at my house had become nearly unbearable as it was, and I had just learned part of the reasons why it was so. I needed help and I wanted the kind of help that produced results. I know that my Higher Power was looking over me when He connected me with Debra. What an answer to the many prayers I’d said and cried the previous 24 years. My first session with Debra was July 25, 2012. Yes, that one is on my timeline; maybe even with a little star. 

My first appointment I showed up angry at my husband, confused, hurt, and dismayed. I also showed up ready to take action. She recommended Twelve Step programs and told me I would find support. She was right. I did find support. I found a group of people that related to my story, offering experience, strength, and hope. I found out that I can recover from being the partner of an addict, from my own codependency, and from my own addictions. I am experiencing the joy of a life in recovery – the blessings and promises from working the program. I’ve asked myself, and God, why I didn’t find Twelve Step previously. I’ve come to accept that the unfolding of my life is just as it should be. I don’t have to regret the past.

In therapy, I have had had to look inward and had the willingness, fortitude, and commitment to be rigorously honest with myself. This is a requirement of my healing, usually accessed easily but not always. I have spent countless hours doing the necessary work to come to an understanding of why I do what I do, and to learn how to do something differently. It was clear that I had a low sense of self-worth and that tending to myself included putting my needs at the top of my priority list. I’ve said this many times – recovery is not for sissies. Debra has affirmed my efforts throughout my three years of working with her. It is nice to have that validation because it hasn’t been easy, and the work continues. 

I have been replaying the events of three years ago and reflecting on my life today in contrast to what it was like then. Gratitude hardly describes the feeling I have. I am experiencing joy and contentment I haven’t felt in years, if ever. I started therapy, recovery, and this whole process of “getting fixed” because I wanted to be in a relationship that included the loving exchange and acceptance of each other. I’ve learned that the relationship that needed the most healing is with myself, changed by the relationship with the God of my understanding. And now, beautifully and by much of a surprise, I am dating a man with whom I am showing up as my authentic self. He loves me and accepts me as I am. It is far better than I had ever hoped and imagined. Relationships take a whole lot of work regardless, but I now can say that seeking to be healthy and honest produces different results! My relationships with my family and friends are the best ever. Yes, life looks a whole different, and it sure looks a whole lot better!  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Suit Up and Show Up

Yesterday in a texting chat with my dear friend in another state I found myself referencing the common phrase “suit up and show up”. Suiting up can take various forms and although I haven't put oodles of thought into this, ir is worth some reflection.  Sometimes I show up in my business suit: prepared, confident, content. It’s really great to be able to show up feeling and looking great (metaphorically at least,). I"m saying to myself and others that I’ve done the work to be confident, prepared, and content. There is  still work to be done, but I draw on the many resources available to me much as a professional does at work. I wear my business suit far less often than my other suits; it is really nice to see that suit in my closet and to know I do wear it. 

Most often, I show up in my sweatsuit -- not to be in contrast to the business suit, as in lazy. Rather, this is my active, knowing-that-I-have-quite-a-lot-of-work-to-do outfit: my workout gear. There might be some real grit required – blood, sweat, and tears kind of stuff.  I wear this suit most often because I am such a fighter. I strive to get to the heart of the matter and to do the things I need to do to get through whatever is holding me back. I have come to accept what has been told to me about me: I"m a bit of an "all in" kind of person. (I hear the theme to “Rocky” playing.) There is something empowering about the sweatsuit that speaks to recovery.  And just because it is a sweatsuit doesn't mean it isn't stylish or that I don't have on some complimentary jewelry. 

The third is the birthday suit. In this case, the suiting up is actually taking off the pretension, the blinders, and/or the masks. It is getting real. Dreams of me at school or work naked come to mind. This is my vulnerability suit. The one that requires me to risk and to dare greatly. Much like the sweatsuit, birthday suit wearing requires a different mindset.  I'm stretched to the nines because I’m exposed to the world and everyone can see my flaws. It asks for a bit of tenacity and courage as well. I'm thinking that the sweatsuit helps get me to be able to risk taking off my masks. Recovery has required a great deal of vulnerability that is for sure. I’m getting more and more accepting of this truth, and in it, the exposure while wearing this suit.

As I write this, I’m recalling the innocence of an infant and hence the connection to the birthday suit. Debra has been referring to the ego-centric nature of a child. Every need has to be met by the child’s caregiver. Needs that go unmet during childhood I’ve recently learned are “narcissistic wounds”. I haven't cared for that term as it stirs feelings of discomfort around being selfish, self-centered, and needy. Many of us learned at an early age that those are not traits to have. I know that by age four that this belief was well ingrained in me: do not be selfish. This is an interesting topic for me of late because I’m pretty certain that my parents’ intention was to instill a sense of “otherness” in me. Indeed, I learned that sharing was a necessary social rule, as well as consideration of others in general. It is a great trait and I believe in fact that I am a generous, compassionate, and empathetic person. Yet, here I am dealing with issues around this topic and the mere thought of being called "selfish" is gut-wrenching.

What I’m learning, however, is that selfishness as I perceived it also included “neediness” which translated as wanting attention, or perhaps, just to be noticed and cared for more directly and with affection. Neediness therefore in my young mind  (and I'm thinking in my adult mind, too) was "appearing to have a need but really just wanting attention". Neediness is one of the worst traits one can have: a core belief that has perhaps driven much of my actions without my awareness. Needing and wanting attention were simply the needs of a child who wanted to be heard and seen. She wanted to feel important. Pretty standard stuff.

My needs were met, certainly. That is, what I perceived as real needs: food, shelter, clothing, tending to broken bones. There were others, such as those my brothers each had at this time in my life. One was nearly failing school and the other was being bullied. I certainly understood my parents' tending to those issues. I perhaps needed a hug; along with the knowledge of how to ask for it. Seems simple. Why the hell does it take my getting back into my birthday suit to get it figured out? Not sure…but I’m willing to do what it takes to figure it out (sweatsuit?). I am learning how to identify my feelings and the needs associated with those feelings, and then tend to them. As I do, or when that need is met perhaps by another, those narcissistic wounds get healed. That is my understanding anyway, and I’ve been experiencing a bit of that recently. The term is also sounding less bothersome. I'm grasping with greater understanding that children - including me as a child - are by nature needy. It isn't about blame or my folks' parenting even. It is about a need that is still showing up today that once identified, I can tend to as a healthy adult. 

I remain on my Healing Lane, continuing on this path of recovery and learning life’s lessons along the way. I do love this life of discovery and learning to make choices that produce greater happiness.  I’ve come to see the gifts with each step and to recognize that I am growing and changing. That I do suit up, which sometimes involves a bit of just taking it all in. It feels like that today. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sometimes it takes a Meltdown

This morning I had a meltdown. Writing that reminds me what it felt like at the beginning of my recovery when I first learned to say, “Hi, I’m Sara and I’m an addict” or “I’m Sara a co-dependent.” There is a thread of shame in acknowledging that I had a meltdown. It sounds so “unrecovered” to me. Hence, the need to face it, own it, and share it. That kind of arrogance speaks to the very need for continuing along this recovery path. I’ve come to accept there are no graduations, just growth. No destinations, just more scenery along the Healing Lane. I’m reminded yet again that health is a life-long journey.

What sparked my emotional turmoil? Housekeeper Friday. As I set about de-cluttering my house, attempting to make my home decent enough to have the wonderful husband and wife team who have been tending to my house for many years do the actual cleaning, I was faced with a whole lot of reality. That being the stuff that has piled up over the last few years. Ok, the last several years and the last few to an even greater measure. My house has become unmanageable with clutter and my life has become unmanageable with the ways I have avoided addressing it. I’m not a candidate for Hoaders but I think I would have been for TLC’s former (sadly) Clean Sweep. I loved that show because Peter Walsh, the professional organizer, was so direct about his suggestions in getting rid of “stuff” while showing a great deal of compassion to those he was helping. I miss that show. I want to hire Peter.

As I withdrew to my bedroom, thinking I might be on the verge of panic. I threw a lifeline to Erma via a text: “What’s the difference between a meltdown and a breakdown?” The phone rang moments later. The familiar, calming, “Saaaaaara…what’s up?” immediately brought me into the optimal zone. I could feel my backing away from the edge.  Later upon thinking about the difference, I decided that if I was having a breakdown, I would be found eventually. If it was a meltdown, I would find myself. And that I did in the form of reaching out. From there came reasoning and awareness. We talked about the effects of divorce, recovery, avoidance, and all of the changes the last few years have brought. I thought about my life pattern of procrastination and its connection to perfection. I started to see the slight but significant changes to that pattern.

One of them is that I had recently begun mini-tasking. This is my word for taking the mounds of work to be done and putting them into very small but doable tasks. These are things like taking one shoebox to sort, or a drawer; one bag of clothes to donate; one pile of papers; five or ten minutes at a project. I have actually been doing some of that, and I was able to recall this after several minutes with Erma. Friends are such priceless gifts. How could one really fathom the value of a friend? I am so very wealthy in this regard. I have numerous friends who are so very near and dear to me, where I can be honest and authentic.

Something else surfaced for me during our talk. I saw that the accumulation of stuff is not unlike the accumulation of weight. Both of these have been an issue for me, and both represent avoidance. Both take up a lot of head time and lead toward obsessive thinking. They represent extreme behaviors to me – whether in avoidance or in attacking it with my “all-in” mentality. It is how I relate to myself. These two areas are revealing to me I have much to learn about this important relationship and the things I value, not just people. The discovery is just beginning, so in all likelihood I will have a future post on this topic.

One of the gems from today’s dealings has been a reflection which came in the form of a text to my mom who had pointed out that progress requires some perseverance. I responded with “The lesson of love reaches into one’s own heart to say I’m worth the effort to do the good and right thing on my own behalf.” I realize how impactful it is to me that I said that to my mother who is my greatest cheerleader, support, as well as my caretaker (in recovery, I should add). She would have come to my aid in a minute. She in fact has been eager to come to my aid as she has seen my poor choices and the consequences of them. However, I see that it is my choice to do what is good and right for me that is really key here. I don’t need rescuing. I may need some help, though, and for that I simply need to ask. Or hire Peter Walsh. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Healthy Relationship is Possible

In thinking about The Healing Lane and wondering why my posts are so few these days, I realize I am torn about the level of transparency in my current recovery. During the earlier days of recovery my struggles with my dysfunctional behaviors beckoned reflective writing. It was a tool for me to process and release what was going on inside of me. I haven’t had the same drive to write, yet a part of me feels incomplete without some regular release. I am renewing my efforts to do this as a means to honor my own recovery. It is the next phase of my growth.  I’ve certainly accepted that there is no graduating out of recovery but rather a long journey of discovery and seeking greater and greater levels of health. Erma refers to it as the higher elevations. I like that. The struggles are different, the reflections less about those pivotal "aha moments" and more of a shift. Perhaps less dramatic but just as impactful as these shifts in my thinking are significant milestones along my journey. 

What has my life looked like in recent months? I have been practicing and applying all of the tools that I have obtained. I have come to this conclusion: healthy relationships require EVERY bit of therapy and recovery work. The dollars and minutes I’ve spent have a direct payoff. I am grateful for each and every investment. I don’t regret the cost to my pocketbook or calendar. It is perhaps the highest form of self-love I have ever done on my own behalf.  If I was a millionaire, I would set up a foundation for those who need the kind of intense therapy I’ve had the privilege of having. It would be a means of paying it forward to those who cannot otherwise afford it. The reason: I like this Healthy Sara and how I am showing up for myself these days. After all, I have been seeking healing for this very purpose. The driving belief is that in learning to do things differently, I can choose those behaviors and therein get different results. Bottom line: it works (she notes with a grin, a high-five, and atta girl). I wish I could gift this kind of value that I feel to others who are willing to put in the work to experience this kind of freedom and contentment. 

Update! About seven months ago I heard from an old boyfriend. Gotta love social media for the opportunities that present themselves these days. We have been in contact daily and gone through a  series of boundary changes along with the full range of emotions that accompany those. It has been a season of growth and adjustment, all seeking to relate honestly, authentically, and risk being vulnerable. A romance has blossomed. Next bottom line: I am in love (full blown smile, a blush and hug).

This reflection isn’t my story of falling in love, it is my thoughts about my story. Being in love is a whole new thing for me. Along with all the feel-good, hormonal highs from the dopamine and serotonin, are the doubts, insecurities, old tapes, fears, pain, and otherwise discomfort that my 50 years have accumulated. The two sides co-exist. Learning how to validate and appreciate both sides is one of the gifts of this new state of mine. The “feel good” is marked with sensations I had long ago forgotten. Giddiness, overall happiness, acceptance, and being sexually aroused are just a few of them. I say things like “I feel, 14, 25, and 50” because those ages all have meaning in terms of my relating to my fella. I was 14 when we first dated and discovered those feelings of love and sexuality. We remained good friends for many years, last seeing each other during a visit to our hometown when I was 25. I was married and he was engaged. We had no other contact between that time and most recently. I will share a lot more about the joys of reconnecting and to be in love. Just not today.

Let me share more about the doubts and discomfort. These require a fully stocked toolbox. Good news – I have one. First up: identify and own my feelings. Joy and love and happiness…not much to expressing those and sharing with the world these gifts. I certainly have a better appreciation for the love songs and phrases regarding being in love. It is very tempting to get caught up in those feelings and push aside the others. What an opportunity to do something different! How about validating those less desirable feelings, too? Debra has said so many times, “They can both be true. You can have joy AND pain (or anger or loneliness or…). They can coexist.” Paying attention to the physical signs in my body as well as my thoughts and feelings is a starting point for me. It is almost always a reference point in therapy (“And about this you feel…”).

So I’m doing that! I’m not only paying attention and identifying, but I am expressing and validating. I am speaking up and sharing. I am feeling so damned vulnerable I feel like a BrenĂ© Brown prodigy. I agree with BrenĂ© by the way…it doesn’t ever stop being challenging. It isn’t like I wake up and say “What a great to be vulnerable!” Quite to the contrary.  For me, if I were to put words to the approach it is more like “Let’s show up today. Beware: this might require some vulnerability on your part. Sara, you are worth it, you can do it, and you will be glad you did.” Healthy Sara speaking; she is right. I’m glad that I have been showing up and speaking up. I’m so very glad I’m willing to be vulnerable and honest. Healthy Sara is authentic and the real deal. I find that others also appreciate that. Those that don’t aren’t the ones I want around anyway.  In feeling, sharing, and expressing honestly these other feelings and the thoughts that accompany them, I actually validate the other feelings of joy and love as well. The whole person actually is happier! I've learned that in allowing some anger to be expressed leads to a deeper, truer happiness. 

This blog, and today this posting in particular, is about my journey in finding my authentic self, requiring being vulnerable to a great extent.  Through writing, affirming myself and sharing with others my thoughts about a topic, lesson, or event in my life, it is as if I’m coming out of hiding.  I am ready to share what it is like to be challenged each day yet having learned to process much of my own work and to validate and affirm myself for that work. I have so much to learn, so much to experience, higher elevations to reach.  I am happy to share today’s lessons, today’s experiences, today’s views. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My First, First Date (in quite awhile!)

I was 22 when I met my now ex-husband. I had thought it was going to be my last first date. For a time I feared it was my last first day. I feared it during my marriage (as in feeling trapped) and then again after my divorce (as in feeling unlovable). Those fears were replaced with the simple fear of facing the uncertainty of romance. Nervousness and thoughts of rejection certainly don’t disappear with age. I’m understandably more apprehensive now than I was back then at that young naive age.

I’ll revisit life in The Healing Lane this last week by sharing a little more of my recent experience. It started with the question exchange though the dating site - which is kind of random but I guess it is a starting point and avoids the awkwardness of "pickup lines". Following this (which btw, rarely happens) and a series of back and forth exchanges, we decided to move to private emails. I found this gentleman rather entertaining with his witty sense of humor and a willingness to banter with me on a number of subjects. It became apparent that at some point within exchanges that we were going to have to meet face to face before we moved much further in our communication. One of my dear friends, experienced in this line of dating, strongly recommended that we meet for coffee or for only a short time to avoid the awkwardness of an extended date when there is no attraction. So I recommended we meet at Whole Foods.

His response to this suggestion was comical because he admitted that he would never hear the end of it from his friends if our first date was to a grocery store! He persuaded me to meet at a restaurant and that we would only order beverages. After a short time, he would ask if I wanted to order dinner and I could politely decline (actually he had a very funny list of three options that had me laughing hysterically) or accept. So I agreed to the dinner. By the way. It was a late dinner because our schedules were limiting our mutual availability.

I share all of that context because I mostly want to reflect on my recovery and how it showed up. Once the date was set, I had just a few hours to make necessary adjustments and arrangements so I didn't allow for obsessing over my hair, makeup, clothes, pedicure, manicure, jewelry, conversation topics, accessories, whether my teeth were white enough, and any and every way to present myself in a favorable light. No, I just had enough time to shower and do the basics. I was going to have to go “as is” without any special dolling up. That’s the point, isn’t it? How do I feel about myself? How comfortable am I in my every day, normal run-of-the-mill self? Do I like me and do I like how I present myself to the public? The answer was surprising, even to me. I decided I am ok. Am I conscientious about my weight, my age, and other pieces of me? Well, certainly I am. The shift is that I am aware I have stopped carrying around the blanket of shame. I no longer hold myself in a place of feeling disgraced by my size, lack of income, age, marital status, or that I am an addict. This is the gift of recovery.  This is the gift of learning that God of the Universe created me to be loved and to love, and that as I am right now, I am as lovable as any other time before now or to come.

So on my first, first date in nearly 28 years, I showed up authentically, my perfectly imperfect self. I smiled and conversed. I listened and shared about my interests, my passions, my family, my lessons. I even shared about my recovery; it is a very important part of who I am today. I enjoyed the company of a gentleman and he enjoyed mine. We spent about four hours talking and smiling and sharing. He did much more of the listening and I nervously kept talking. I was reminded that some things don’t change with dating. The part about putting oneself out there…that remains. We each get to decide how “out there” we want to be. Do we want to show up authentically or do we want to project some version of ourselves that protects us, or we think will protect us.

I have learned that not only do I want to show up authentically, but that it gets easier and easier to be that. When I get a sense that a response to my inquiry or comment is not healthy, I know to uphold my boundaries and to protect myself. That behavior is rooted, nurtured, and blooming recovery! It’s much like being an adult (she says with a smirk) and what a wonderful world to live in the present.