Loading
Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sick as our Secrets

By Patricia L. Brooks, MAOM

Sober Truth

It is wonderful to have more than 30 years of sobriety. It is even more wonderful to have no more secrets. But ten years into my sobriety that was not the case. I was still clinging to my secrets.  As part of Alcoholics Anonymous, I worked a good program, went to a lot of meetings and did service work. Strong recovery people were in my life. My standing monthly lunch date with my AA and Al-Anon women friends took priority. But I held a big secret from them. 
My harmful secret, my sickness really, was controlling me. I was incapable of sharing any part of it in meetings or with my sponsor. Domestic violence was my secret. My current relationship had gotten physical very quickly. 

Day-after-day, immobile with fear, I did nothing to help myself. I justified what was happening by taking some of the blame. The bruises reappeared, the calls to police were repeated and my anger rose. All the things I had learned in my years in sobriety were at odds with the way I was living. My love addiction had surfaced with a vengeance. Standing with God was difficult for me and I was losing faith.

God chose my abuser for me, just as sure as if he introduced us. A connection was made to take me to my knees with the secret I held on to so passionately. No amount of shame for the way I was being treated both physically and emotionally stood in my way. No amount of guilt derailed me.
I was not in love with him; I was in love with the fantasy of love. It was as if I was drunk on love and blind to my disease all over again, but in a different way. The memories of my jail time faded. What I had learned in AA was not penetrating my thoughts.

My Addiction

We had things in common. He was not a drinker, but had come from an alcoholic home like me. He attended the Catholic Church and was divorced. He had a Masters Degree and I was attending graduate school at night. We enjoyed jazz and cultural events. 
He wanted to control things — when we were together and when we weren’t. We were not a good combination, yet we were often the same. I had a need to control too. That is love addiction. I had a unique perspective on addiction, but I could not see it clearly. I was neither ready, nor willing.

Our meeting was unexpected. I did not believe in coincidence. It was God’s plan for me. After a movie, my girlfriend and I stopped a jazz club in Old Town Scottsdale. We didn’t intend to stay long; I had studying to do the next morning. She drank very little and I was comfortable with that.
He noticed us as soon as we sat down. I did not ask anyone there who he was or what he was about. I was taken in by his Moroccan good looks and charming personality masked only by his mischievous smile. He was younger than me. I could tell he clearly enjoyed attention by the way he worked the room. 

We danced with eyes fixated and the games began. He wore a dark silk suit and Italian loafers. I was more casual in my khaki shorts and oxford shirt. It wasn’t what I normally wore when I went out to a club, but I had not planned to be there.
He was not really my type, too much of a pretty boy. He obviously knew a lot of the women in the club, but he was focused on me. I liked things good on the outside that might translate someday to the inside. 

My insecurities often soared in these situations, but with enough devotion, my love addiction kicked in. I hungered for praise. He was more than enough for me that night. I hid with him in this crowd. I shut down all I knew to be right and danced with him in the game of love. He was persistent all night long, finally insisting we go to breakfast after the club closed. We talked for hours, way past my originally planned early exit. 

Secrets

I attended my home group meeting the next day, on Sunday night. I was a fraud, fearing success in the relationship as much as failure. I had failed twice at marriage in my 20’s and felt unworthy with many men. I told no one about this person. I did not love myself with this behavior. 

I went to Mass with a couple AA friends that night shortly after a meeting. My secret was shared only with God. I talked very little to anyone about anything. I was not at peace. I prayed.

It was hard to hide from my thoughts. I had learned in sobriety to allow myself the freedom to feel fully alive. Where was that now? I had graduate school as a temporary escape with all the homework demanded of me. I kept that thought in the forefront of my mind and allowed my drive to control work its magic in my classes. 

Coming in the door of my condo that night I saw the phone recorder blinking fiercely. Three messages, all from him! He missed me and wanted to hear my voice. He wanted to see me soon. He did not want to wait for the weekend to see me again; where was I? I was wanted. That adrenalin rush came over me.

A dozen red roses and a note awaited me at the office Monday morning. We are meant to be together. We should have lunch soon. 
I was the center of attention again, the envy of the women in the real estate office where I worked. 

Who was this mysterious man I had met over the weekend? What was he like? When would they meet him? The bars of my love addiction prison closed around me. I saw it happening and did not stop it.

My sponsor, if I had called her to discuss the messages, would have said, “Slow down, he is pushing too hard. Ask God for guidance. If it is meant to be it will happen in God’s time. Your sobriety and your classes are your priorities today. Do not lose sight of the goals you have set for yourself. You have worked hard to get to this point. You have prayed for all of this and not for him. Do not cheat yourself now.” 

But, I did not call her that night. Not the next day or even that next week. To be honest with her did not even register with me. I was losing my voice and love addiction trumped honesty. My sponsor was being replaced with a person who was not part of my sobriety journey — or was he? God was taking me face-to-face with my dirty little secret. 

Temptation

This began two years of abandonment and disappointment, lies and deceit. I took him back when he showed up with a new TV after mine died. Another time it was tickets to a special event I desperately wanted to attend, tickets probably meant for someone else. I tried hard to make it work, overlooking abusive comments. 

Accepting his offers and looking away from the shame of the relationship when he taunted me after an argument became the norm. He did not make plans ahead of time, and I went to fewer meetings to work around his schedule and coercive control. 

I blamed myself. I was making too many demands of him. I took the bad girl role. The problems were mine. I usually joked about the situation or made light of it when I did talk to a friend about him. I avoided seeing the lies, the deceit or the insanity of the abuse for most of our two years together. My eyes were wide shut and harmful mostly to me. 

Abuse

Barely hiding the bruises on my arms and legs and the sadness on my face, I finally allowed the pain in my heart to be heard in my voice when I spoke at a meeting. But I didn’t share my dirty little secret. My friends were waiting for that smile from my early sobriety to come back. Occasionally I eked out a smile to appear upbeat and light. I rarely called anyone. I did not go out for coffee with them anymore after the meetings. 

I overreacted to questions about where I had been or what I was doing. The self-doubt that had slipped away in my early sobriety returned with the post-traumatic stress now growing inside me. I was not being in the moment; I was thinking of what was going to happen that night if he came by my condo or called. 

My car tires were slashed on more than one occasion and a toxic liquid was poured in the gas tank totaling my car. It was only something a research chemist could have done, a research chemist like him. With no one prosecuted for the crimes and all the expenses going to me, I festered in silence. 
Post-traumatic stress settled in. My emotional attachment to his anger, control and aggressive actions ached in my weary body. My recovery had worked well for a decade in hope and gratitude. I had none of that now with domestic violence in my life. Some of my AA friends left me, or had I left them? My loyalty to my home group and working the steps was trumped by him and trauma. I did not see it coming but it took over just the same. 

A never ending cycle of abuse was in place. He had no trouble not keeping plans, breaking promises and denying commitments. I was on a downward spiral re-enacting my deep psychological wounds for attention. The red flag of physical abuse flew high. God revealed my reality with each blow. I lost touch with myself and went back to that shell of a person that protected my feelings.

Empathy

Victims do not ask for abuse. They do not agitate to be hurt. But they are destined for it if unfinished business lays low and the cycle has not been broken. They do not seek to be a statistic, but silently become one. If also an alcoholic, alcoholic thinking hovers at all times. This was who I had become.
We can breakthrough with God, 12 Step Recovery and AA friendships. Just like any other addiction, I had to ask for help. I had to acknowledge my love addiction. I had to realize my shame could not overpower my reason to get help. 

How had I gone from being sober and free for more than ten years to hiding my secret of love addiction and domestic violence? How had I plunged to the depths of despair again? You might say the leap was highly unlikely, but it was not. It was natural for me. I had this secret long before he threw me out of a moving car, shoved me against the wall in my condo, or banged my head on the trunk of my car. 

I survived when he hurled me into the sharp edge of my dresser and knocked me into a white fog that sent me to the emergency room fighting for my life. I had not had a drink in over ten years, but I was not sane, not really sober in the true sense of AA. I was living a lie. I was captive in my addiction and domestic violence was the catalyst.

My love addiction issues had never been fully addressed in my 12 Step work. I was blind to this problem even when I was in harm’s way and fighting with bloody hands to get free of a locked door and my abuser. I was oblivious to how many times I was close to death’s door. Maybe even more times than when I drove drunk.

I loved my AA meetings, yet had found the most unlikely men there in that first decade of sobriety. I had several emotionally abusive relationships prior to this physically abusive one outside of my AA circles. My sponsor advised me to say no on more than one occasion, but that word remained unspoken until an assault almost took my life. My never ending pursuit for love cost me AA friends and my sanity. Thank God; not my sobriety. 

It is a miracle I did not drink. I exploited myself and continued to allow him back into my life. I could not quit him. I had a need for external approval dating back to childhood. I constantly needed reward in some way. I had lost sight of what it was to be truly sober.

Recovery

To be whole again in my recovery, I had to let my truth out. It was my destiny to have come this way with a stop at a local shelter. Looking back, I am grateful for this relationship. It took my sobriety to a new level of understanding. I forgave myself and my abuser. I thank God for the outpatient treatment I went through with other abused women, similar to the out-patient treatment I went through with alcoholism. My many hours of therapy were necessary to penetrate the brainwashing I had endured.
Acceptance of this trauma broke the cycle of domestic violence in my life. The abuse I survived revealed how critical it was to go deep into my soul and leave nothing unturned in my 12 Step work. I knew I had many women friends who had walked this path too, both in sobriety and in abuse survival. 

Relating to other women with this part of my recovery was paramount to my anger management and my ability to move on to a life I could have only imagined. I did not tread carefully with my story amongst any of them. They understood me, and me them. Nobody talked about men in domestic violence at this time, but they were out there too, living in silence in the dark.
Sharing this part of my journey benefits others, just as my experience, strength and hope of thirty plus years in AA does. It is God’s plan. I tell my story when asked. There is a bigger reason for my sobriety now, and I am grateful for that too. It is my passion, my purpose to be of service.
I am no longer sick with secrets, tell lies or hide anything. Thank you, God. I have the freedom I have always wanted.

The Startling Stats
  • Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
  • In a 1995-1996 study conducted in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (based on survey of 16,000 participants, equally male and female).

Resources

Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence  602-279-2900 1-800-782-6400  www.acesdv.org 
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-SAFE (7233)   www.thehotline.org

Patricia L. Brooks, MAOM, Author, Publishing Consultant, Workshop Facilitator, Human Rights Advocate, President and Founder of the Scottsdale Society of Women Writers and President and Founder of Brooks Goldmann Publishing Company, LLC


Patricia is the author of Gifts of Sisterhood – Journey from Grief to Gratitude with a second memoir to be launched in this year; Three Husbands and a Thousand Boyfriends (Love addiction, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress and alcoholism recovery)
For more visit:
patricia@plbrooks.com    480-250-5556 cell