Forgiveness and Serenity

Growing up, I thought forgiveness was something I had to feel all the time, so forgiveness seemed impossible for me. In working the S-Anon Steps, I not only found forgiveness, but also the serenity it can bring.

Seven years after my first husband, a sexaholic, died, I still visited his grave each year. By his graveside, I would remember and relive the hurtful betrayal I felt during our nineteen years of marriage. This year when I visited his grave, I felt a peace that hadn’t been there before. In the months leading up to my visit, I had been working Step Nine, which helped me understand that I had never forgiven my husband for his infidelities in our marriage, and that I had been holding onto the past. I also realized I had not forgiven myself for my role in our misery together.

Today I choose to let go of past hurts and I offer my experiences to others to help carry the message. I pray for people who have harmed me, which helps me to let go and begin to heal. I ask God to forgive me for my part, and for the willingness to forgive. If I need to make direct amends, I do so promptly. When the matter returns to my mind, I pray, “God bless that person” instead of replaying the incident in my mind. As a result of these ongoing Step Nine and Ten actions, I am enjoying the peace and serenity that come with forgiveness.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 316.

 

Meetings: I Keep Coming Back

As a tool, I see S-Anon meetings as truly one of the most powerful. When I came to my first meeting, I did not understand why I was there. This disease was my husband’s problem, not mine. Yet, I was empty – dead inside. Even so, I sensed that first meeting room I walked into was a place of hope. As a newcomer, I quickly began to realize that this hope I sensed was for me, not my husband. Yes, I could rebuild my life. The meeting that I came to on that first night would be the meeting I’d attend, without fail, for two years to come. If rebuilding was what I was after, the image of meetings being the hardware store of spiritual and emotional supplies serves me as far as analogies go. The collective support, acceptance, love and honesty I feel at my S-Anon meetings has taught me how to own and share my own feelings without fear or self-judgment. For me, to have learned how to share my feelings has been the saving grace of my life. Attending S-Anon meetings and opening my mouth was the beginning of the salvation. It still amazes me to know that S-Anon meetings cost nothing (other than the seventh tradition), hold me to no obligations, and yet have saved my life.

“Keep Coming Back” to meetings – that’s just a given in my life now.

Identifying with Our Fellow S-Anons

I came to S-Anon hoping to find answers. I wanted to know the statistics on his chances of acting out again and how soon it was going to be. Though I didn’t find statistics, I did find a supportive group who gave me unconditional love, acceptance and understanding. At a gut level they understood my situation like no one else could — not the therapist I was seeing, not my sisters, not my friends. I was in so much pain, and I was so angry. The group helped me to see that I cannot control a sexaholic’s behavior and that I am powerless over trying to control him. Today, with the help of this fellowship and the Twelve Steps, I am happy. I am grateful to have this program and to be in this relationship with a recovering sexaholic. I also am excited and hopeful for the futures of my children, perhaps the ultimate recipients of what I’m doing today.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 9.

A Message of Hope

When I first discovered the sexaholic behavior of my spouse, I was angry enough to implode. I became so over- whelmed that I used a survival technique learned long ago: distracting myself with busyness to numb my feelings. Months later, my fear and anxiety re-surfaced, and I became very ill. I could no longer deny the reality of my situation. My illness was a wake-up call, helping me realize how severely I had been affected by the sexaholic behavior of not only my spouse, but also of three other intimate partners previous to my marriage.

Fortunately, I made a phone call to the local S-Anon hotline. After I poured out my story to the person who an- swered my call, she read “The S-Anon Problem” from the Newcomer’s Booklet – Helpful Information for the New- comer.” I could relate to every word! Hearing that reading profoundly changed my life.

I attended my first meeting and, in the midst of my pain, I knew S-Anon was where I belonged and that it would be the source of my healing. Now I keep our booklet for newcomers close to the phone so when anyone calls out for help, I can choose a section to read to them. I, too, can carry the S-Anon message of hope.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 12.

What Is A Slip In S-Anon?

For me, a co-addictive slip is going back to the beliefs and behaviors which characterized my adult life until I got into the S-Anon program. For many years I believed that I could control others and that I was responsible for their behavior. I was sexual with my husband before he traveled in the illusory belief that it would make him less likely to look at other women while he was away from home. I reminded my children several times about every appointment and obligation they had – as a result of which they never had to learn to be responsible themselves. I snooped through my husband’s mail in the belief that knowledge is power. My efforts to change others were unending – and usually fruitless.

In S-Anon I learned that I could not control others, that I was not responsible for others’ behavior, and that my efforts to spare others from experiencing any negative consequences had a name – enabling- and that it wasn’t beneficial to them. I learned to let others be responsible for themselves and to focus on myself. I found out that people need to learn things for themselves; that even if I believe I have all the answers I need to let them figure it out in their own way.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

Acting As If…

I had been learning in S-Anon that I had been doing lots of things that were keeping me from serenity and peace of mind, and it seemed impossible that I would ever be able to stop doing all those things. Later on, I began to realize that I would have little chance of changing my behavior in any kind of lasting way if my attitude didn’t change as well. My controlling, angry, self-righteous, self-willed, fearful, obsessive thinking was at the root of my problems. Yet how could I stop being angry, for example? I was also learning that I was entitled to my feelings, and that I had to acknowledge my real feelings, and not deny them and pretend to be something I wasn’t. I realized that emotional sobriety might be many years away if I waited for my feelings and attitudes to change just because I wanted them to. I decided to ask my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, and in the meantime to help me, in certain situations, to “act” sober, even if I wasn’t feeling particularly sober at the time. It works, one day and one behavior at a time!

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 57.

Not Our Reponsibility

We had learned to be reactors rather than responders in our relationships. Some of us had taken part in the sexaholic’s activities in an attempt to hold the relationship together; others had lectured and scolded in vehement opposition. Some of us had cried and pleaded and asked for promises. Others had suffered quietly, hoping and praying, afraid to tell anyone about the problem. Many of us had tried all of the above.

We became preoccupied, even obsessed, with the sexual behavior of another person. We were suspicious and tried to catch the sexaholic practicing the addiction. Some of us denied the problem, refusing to acknowledge to ourselves or others the source of our guilt, fear, and confusion. We isolated ourselves from those closest to us in an attempt to keep our secrets. We suffered fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, loneliness, rage and a lack of energy and motivation.

In S-Anon we come to realize that just as we did not cause the sexaholic’s acting out, we cannot “cure” it either. We learn that it is not our responsibility to keep the sexaholic sexually sober. Instead, it is our job to manage our own lives, whether or not the sexaholic chooses sobriety.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 2.

Recovery from Snooping

Before I got into recovery, I was a terrible snooper. I would go through the sexaholic’s personal belongings, try to listen in on phone conversations, and read his e-mail. When I actually did find evidence of his acting out, I was too ashamed of my behavior to admit what I had been doing. I suffered through the pain of what I had seen, and I also stuffed my feelings of rage because I did not think I could confront him.

In recovery, I have learned that I do not have to hurt myself by searching for evidence of my spouse’s acting out. Trying to catch the sexaholic keeps the focus on my spouse, and is a way for me to avoid my own recovery. I have a right to know if I am in danger of getting a sexually transmitted disease. Rather than snooping, however, I can directly ask my spouse for the truth, trust my intuition, and ask my sponsor’s perspective.

I have learned to ask for God’s help to see things as they are. Then I can decide if there are boundaries I need to set and implement for myself, such as a period of abstinence for my safety or for my S-Anon sobriety. Keeping the focus on myself has eased my pain and increased my serenity. I know that I can trust God to reveal whatever “evidence” I need to know.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 48.

Step Eight and Being of Service

When I first heard people say in S-Anon meetings that they were focusing on themselves, I thought this sounded like a selfish and self-absorbed fellowship. In my childhood, I was taught that giving to others first was the way to go. Being generous and self-sacrificing was being good. How could focusing on myself be of any good to anyone including me? Working through the Twelve Steps has been an opportunity for me to examine my motives and my relationship with God and others. Through the Twelve Steps and using other tools of the program, I have learned to focus on myself. I saw the truth about harm I had caused others and myself in my noble effort to be helpful. How could trying to be helpful be harmful? That didn’t make much sense to me for a long time. I still sometimes forget.

I found S-Anon was a fellowship that welcomed me and allowed me to collapse in exhaustion and despair. Even in program, I needed to feel helpful, worthwhile, and approved of. What would I do if I couldn’t do for others what they weren’t doing? There was plenty of stuff around that needed to be done. Who’s going to do it? Why not me? Read more

Becoming Accountable for Our Choices

Step Eight suggested that we begin to “own” our character defects and take responsibility for the choices we made, but many of us were so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the wronged party that we could not see how we had wronged others. Reviewing our Fourth Step helped us to recognize people we had harmed. In any past relationship, were we attentive, loving and forgiving, or were we preoccupied, bitter or resentful? We put all the people we had harmed, including ourselves, on our list. If some of the people on the list had also harmed us, we worked toward forgiveness, recognizing that continuing to blame other sick people would just prolong our misery. When we did not feel willing or able to do this, we asked our Higher Power for help until we did feel willing.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 26.