I’ve never been a distance runner. I’ve always been a sprinter, and not a great one at that. My body is not built to run, and so I’ve never really gotten into that sport. I’m built for leverage, and for power. Unfortunately, all of my training has been for short battles after which I could collapse and recuperate. Wrestling takes a lot of conditioning, but certainly not the kind that I need for my current battle.
My therapist has commented that when one is running a marathon, and trips, one does not start at the beginning, but simply stands up, and continues to run. This last weekend, I tripped. I was then trampled by the other runners in the race. I was left bloodied and broken on the pavement, wishing that I had never even registered for the race, much less shown up and started running.
I should move from the metaphorical to the concrete. (I’m a writer, I like metaphors. They are a form of embodying more meaning without having to explicitly face the truth.) Last weekend, I met with a man I had met online years ago, we’ll call him Mack. I spent the night in his hotel room, and I performed oral sex on him, and he did the same to me. (the previous sentence is blank so that those of you who do not want details may maintain generality. I don’t know how this will work for those of you using a reader of some sort. if it gave you more information than you are comfortable with, I apologize, but I need to write it for my own healing.)
There were a number of red flags that I ignored on the way to tripping. I’ll write more about them later. What I want to write about right now is what happened afterward. When I woke up later that morning, there were a number of competing factions screaming to get their way. One faction wanted me to continue in the course I had taken hours earlier. The lie that it told was that I had already gone so far that there was no disadvantage to continuing, and in fact there was an advantage to doing so. A second faction simply wished that I had never existed. It did not wish for my death, but rather for a lack of existence. (For a good description, take a look at Alma 36:15-16) A third faction simply wanted to go into hiding. It cried that while running away would not solve the problem, I could delay the pain. This is a tactic that I have often employed.
Fortunately, the faction that took the day was the fourth and final faction. This one wanted to get “back on the path of righteousness.” It had the strength to write three text messages, all of which went out before my phone died. The first went to my therapist.
“(Name of therapist), I really screwed up. I’m gonna text my stake president to try to meet with him. Can I meet with you tomorrow?”
The next text went to my Stake President.
“President (We’ll call him Corbett), I was wondering if I could meet with you today. I messed up bad last night and need to talk to you.”
The last one went to my Bishop.
“Bishop, I’m doing exceptionally poorly, just a heads up. I’ve contacted (Name of Therapist) to meet with him tomorrow, and President Corbett to see him today.”
I stayed and talked Mack for a while. We talked about whether there was any way we could remain friends after the events of several hours prior. At the time, I said I didn’t know. He told me about his family’s experience with addictions of other sorts, and we talked about sex addiction. I read him the list of questions that LifeStar uses to figure out if one may be experiencing compulsive sexual behaviors. He answered yes to several of the questions, but not nearly as many as the 18 that I did. We talked about the nature of our relationship, and how the majority of our conversations were of a sexual nature. He had not realized this, as this was nothing out of the ordinary for him. One rarely pays attention to the baseline. Mack cares about me, and it hurt him that I was hurting. When I left, we hugged, and he asked me to text him when I got home safely.
As I was driving home, I received a text message from President Corbett. The first line of his text said, “Legien, Remember you are loved.” This was a dangerous thing to say to me, as it made me tear up while I was driving on the freeway. At that moment, I did not feel lovable. On some level I knew that I was loved, that there was a way that I could make it back to where I needed to be, but I did not feel like I should be loved. I did not feel that I deserved it.
When I got to church to meet with my Bishop for our weekly check in, he had not yet read the text I had sent him. This was not surprising, as he had meetings all morning, and doesn’t check his messages during his meetings. He asked me how I was doing, and I asked him to read the message. I was able to tell him what had happened, but just barely. True to form, he was kind and understanding. He gave me the guidance I was looking for without my having to ask for it. He told me that I needed o continue with the things that I had implemented. (The dailies I’d developed with the help of the LifeStar program.) He told me of how I was an asset to the ward, and that he appreciated my contributions. He hugged me, and told me that I was good.
Once I finished drying my eyes, I left his office, feeling terrible, but somewhat hopeful.
It was a bit more than two hours later that I was able to meet with President Corbett. He is a busy man, and had other appointments that he rearranged to meet with me. He apologized for the wait, but I didn’t feel the apology was needed, as he was helping me. I told him about the events of the early morning. He asked about what my thought process was. I explained that thoughts had little to do with it after a certain point, and tried to explain the neurology of addiction, the severing of the connection between the pre-frontal cortex and the limbic system. I don’t think I did a very good job explaining it. I was exhausted. Between not sleeping the night before, to being tormented by my emotions throughout the day, I was drained. I don’t explain things well when I’m in that state.
We talked about one of the faulty core beliefs of addicts that if people knew, they would not love me. I expressed that I don’t know how to be loved. I told him of the insight that one of my friends from group therapy shared with me, that I seek emotional connection and pay a physical price for it. (That is a crude reductionist rendering of the insight, but it is an apt description, even if less than artful.) He told me that this idea of thinking “If they only knew” was not unique to those suffering with addictions. He told me that it is universal. He said, if you only knew everything about your stake president, or about your bishop…. I responded, “I wouldn’t care.” I understand very well how to love others, but the idea that others would love me is something that I, for some reason, cannot comprehend.
We talked about addiction, and the difficulties that come with it. We talked about the teaching of the apostles in general conference, and how one combats addiction by building a healthy relationship with one’s self, and with God. President Corbett told me that while there are always consequences for actions, he did not get the impression that I needed to lose my membership in the church in order to deal with my addiction.
President Corbett asked if there was anything he could do. I asked him for a blessing and a hug. He gave me a blessing, which two days later, I can hardly remember. The words he said to me have left me, which while a shame, is OK. He then hugged me, and then I told him something while standing there. I told him that while he was giving me a blessing, I felt something that I had only remembered feeling twice in my life. Once was when I received my patriarchal blessing, the other was when I first sat in the Celestial room in the Temple. I described the feeling as physical pressure against my body from all directions simultaneously. I told him that the only thing I could explain it as was a hug from the spirit of God. After I had told him this, with tears in my eyes, he hugged me again.
This second hug was different from the first. During this second hug, I was not hugging President Corbett. I was hugging Christ. At the time, I would not have said I was hugging Christ, but after thinking about it over the last two days, that is the only conclusion I can come up with. As I hugged him, I felt as if I was clinging to my only hope. I felt that I was holding on to the one means by which I was going to be able to survive. It was the most vulnerable I have ever felt, and yet at the same time, it was the most secure I have been. President Corbett, while a wonderful man, is not the means by which I will make it through this, the love of Christ is. It is this realization that leads me to say that I was hugging Christ at that moment.
I’ll write about my meeting with my therapist later. I’ve written about as much as I can take right now, and need to take a break. Thank you for reading, thank you for caring. Thank you for loving me.