I will begin by saying, in the tradition of public broadcast, that while this post does not contain content of a graphic nature, it does contain themes that may not be suitable for younger readers.
There is no part of our lives in recovery that we do not examine. So eventually, we need to talk about sex.
I’ve just completed my annual fourth step. This one was an AA-style inventory right out of the Big Book.
To be honest, I was a little skeptical that it would reveal anything I hadn’t already dealt with in my first fourth step, which I wrote in narrative form. But I prayed that God would reveal what needed to be revealed, took the action and waited to see what came up.
To my surprise, by putting things in a different format I saw different things. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the part of the inventory the Big Book refers to as “Sex Problems.” (Found on page 69, of course.)
Interestingly, that was the part of the Big Book we read and discussed at my last Big Book study. So it was fresh in my mind as I sat down to my task.
In the first column, I was to review my past conduct and indicate where I was selfish, dishonest or inconsiderate. Where did I unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion or bitterness?
There was no new ground to tread. I had revealed every sordid event in great detail in my first fourth step. But in such a condensed form, a few things stuck out.
The first is that I have behaved very badly. No surprise there. But seeing my behavior in it’s most concentrated form was bracing.
But the real insight I gained is that most of the sex I’ve had in my life, I didn’t enjoy. Rather, I used sex as a tool. I used it to draw men into a relationship with me. I used sex to keep men in relationships and to lure them back when things got bad. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it was spectacularly unsuccessful and just left me filled with shame.
I believe my sexuality was God-given. But that gift became twisted and distorted as a result of sexual abuse at a very early age.
I did things I didn’t want to do, because I thought it would bring me love and allow me to keep it.
Of course, I was trying to fill the God-sized hole I felt with another person. When one person wasn’t enough to fill the hole, I thought more would be the answer. Or doing more or different or more exotic sex acts with the same one. Of course that only filled me with more shame and left a bigger hole.
I just kept digging a deeper, wider hole in a cycle of self-destruction that didn’t stop until I began to feel my first spiritual stirrings. That path eventually led me to Al-Anon and recovery.
I stopped behaving in self-destructive ways. I learned what a healthy relationship looked like. I’ve been blessed with a happy marriage for going on eight years.
But what I didn’t realize until now was this:
Without going into the details that have no place here, I will simply say that God, in his wisdom, took away the one weapon I had deployed in all my relationships. In my marriage, I could not use sex in this way. It simply had no power.
And I was loved and accepted anyway.
What I learned is that love and acceptance are like God’s grace. It’s not something I can earn by doing things I imagine someone else wants me to do. But if I make myself right spiritually, it is a gift that is freely given.
And for that, I thank God.
Blessed Titus Brandsma – July 27
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