Spiritual Growth Through Working the Steps

A popular discussion topic of many meetings I go to in S-Anon is “spiritual awakening.” Over the years of my recovery, I have come to think of a spiritual awakening as “becoming aware of the obvious.” My awakenings have always been so simple and right in front of me, but early on I would usually miss them because I was lost in my “how my relationship should be if only…” fantasy. Diligently working the Steps gradually removed the fantasy and revealed the obvious insights that were just waiting for me. I am astounded by God’s ability to free so many of us by His message of truth, as He weaves our healing with that of those around us when we follow His lead and carry the message.

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Steps Forward and Steps Back

Some time ago, my sponsor challenged me to think about the ways I disregarded or acknowledged spiritual growth in my life. I felt anxious and fearful as I considered the challenge. It occurred to me that I can feel afraid and still be growing spiritually. For instance, earlier in my recovery, I would tell people about my faults and weaknesses when I was afraid, thinking that this was a way to be humble. Unfortunately, feeling badly about myself overshadowed any humility I might have felt. I was overwhelmed with shame that I hadn’t seen the spiritual benefit in simply sharing with others, rather than isolating. At that time, in the recovery dance of “one step forward, two steps back,” I tended to focus only on the “two steps back.”  Working the Steps and regularly sharing with my sponsor has helped me acknowledge my spiritual growth. Spending quiet time with our literature and praying for my Higher Power’s guidance about a situation or concern often affirms that I am changing and growing. Today I am grateful that I can see my“ steps forward,” as well as my “steps back.”

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 55.

My Anniversary Coins

My first six months in S-Anon were marked with trauma about all the discoveries in my 20 plus years of marriage. I was focused on what I thought I had and on fears about what I might lose. I went to meetings and I felt better when I left than when I came. I bought the literature and tried to read something every day to steady myself. People kept saying; “Try this it will help” and “Keep coming back.” I was in such deep pain and was just trying to function on a very basic level (sleep, eat, and work). God had opened the blinds for me to see reality, but now I had to turn around and look out the window.

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Stop Playing God…

For me, a slip is going back to the way I used to act and react before I came into the S-Anon program. I used to believe that I had to control others and that I was responsible for their behavior. For example, I was sexual with my husband before he traveled, thinking that it would make him less likely to look at other women while he was away from home. In S-Anon I learned that for my own recovery and for the good of the people I love, I had to stop trying to control everything. I found that people need to learn and do things for themselves. Even if I believe I have all the answers, I need to let people figure it out in their own way. I still have to bite my tongue in order not to explain to my husband my opinions about why he’s feeling the way he is, how it relates to his family of origin, and what he can do about it. Often I still want to control, manage, and be responsible, and I do have slips. After all, it took a long time to develop the habits I brought into the program, and I know today that nobody is perfect. In recovery I’m learning that although I may not have a choice about feeling these feelings, I have a choice about whether to act on them or not. With time it has gotten easier to recognize these feelings for what they are, without having to act on them.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 54-55.

Learning to Love Myself

Recently some S-Anon friends and I were reminiscing about our early days in the program. One friend good-naturedly shared how confusing it had been to listen to my sharing in meetings those first few years. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I asked her to tell me more. She said it seemed that I spoke in riddles and talked around things, as if I were hiding something. After thinking for a moment, I said, “Yes, that may be true.” That evening while doing my Tenth Step inventory, I reflected on what my friend had said, asking God to help me to be honest about my past and to grant me the openness to receive any new spiritual insight. I thought back to what I was like years ago and what brought me to S-Anon.
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I Like Being Me

It wasn’t until I had about two years of recovery that I understood just how much I had been struggling with issues that most S-Anons face: the effects of sexaholism in my own life. I was finally coming face to face with the realization of how I had been conducting much of my life, and that somewhere down the line I had made the decision to push away the pain of living with sexaholism. My ticket in the door may have been my wife, but based on my experiences growing up, my seat in an S-Anon meeting had been reserved for me long ago. I now see how my every action and reaction in life was based on others, rather than on myself. It was as if I was a robot who only reacted to internal controls of which I was completely unaware. I was trying to fill a giant hole where my heart was supposed to be. I was trying to prove I was lovable by pleasing everyone else, by trying to be responsible for other people’s mistakes, by lying about my accomplishments, by false pride, and by false humility. I tried to fill the hole with anything false, then denied that my pain even existed. Today, thank God, this is not the way I live. Today I strive to do the next right thing. I have integrity today. I am growing in my recovery. I like being me. Today is a better day.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 108.

My Favorite Line

“Compulsive lusting respects no particular religion” is one of my favorite lines from our meeting guidelines that I hear at each meeting. I think the point is that anyone from any religious faith can have this addiction or be suffering from the affects of someone else’s sexaholism, but it means more than that to me. One of the challenges of my S-Anon Problem is not respecting myself, and therefore not being able to feel respected by others. Since this is already a sensitive issue for me, dealing with the disrespect I have felt from my sexaholic was a monumental task before I found S-Anon. Instead of respecting our marriage vows, I felt that he had violated them. Because of his acting out, I assumed I was a failure as a wife, and that the betrayals were due to something lacking in me. What a relief it was to come to my first meeting and hear that line. It isn’t any particular religion’s fault that compulsive lusting does not respect its teaching. This disease can exist in any member of any religion (or lack thereof). And there is not one religion that has the power to prevent its members from having this disease. Not one. This disease can exist in any particular marriage as well. Not just mine. I imagined a corollary line, “Compulsive lusting respects no particular__________ (Fill in the blank.)” Suddenly I felt off the hook. The “disrespect” for our marriage wasn’t my fault! I didn’t have the power to prevent my spouse from having this disease. The disease didn’t occur because of something I was doing or not doing or some inadequacy in me. It was simply the nature of the addiction not to be stopped by my power or the power of a religion or by the power of __________ (Fill in the blank). Only a Power Greater Than Myself has that power. I still sigh and smile and feel a sense of freedom every time that line is read at a meeting.

Reprinted from the Fall 2011 issue of S-Anews©.

Progress Not Perfection…

Another way we work the Twelfth Step is to do service work in our “home” group (the group we attend regularly — the one in which we feel most comfortable). We can help set up the chairs and literature before the meeting, serve as the meeting leader, contact people who inquire about our program, or volunteer to be a trusted servant such as the group secretary or treasurer. Any activity that makes it possible for the meeting to take place and to be a source of hope and recovery for a newcomer is Twelfth Step work… I volunteered to be the key holder for my Saturday night meeting. The church had asked us not to duplicate the key, so I was the only one with a key. I admit that I can be forgetful. Well, one week I forgot the key. We were a small meeting , so we actually met in my car that night. Thankfully, I found the key before the next meeting. It was a comfort to know I didn’t have to be perfect in order to do service. I felt appreciated and appreciate others who take turns holding the key.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 101-102.

Making Amends to Myself

I first came to S-Anon years ago when my wife admitted her sexaholism, and I admitted my own need for help. When Steps Eight and Nine were discussed in meetings and I heard about placing my own name on the amends list, I honestly thought it was a stupid idea. Yet as I worked the program and began experiencing its gifts, the idea didn’t seem quite so foolish anymore. About a year ago, I started making an amends to myself by taking up the sport of golf. I had always wanted to play but never felt I had the time, having placed work and others ahead of caring for myself. The result was a great deal of resentment at others who “took up so much of my time,” to say nothing of the lack of fun and relaxation in my life.  So at age 55 I finally let go of that resentment and made the time to do something nice for me – just for me. It wasn’t about making a living for my family or creating the right environment for my wife and kids or trying to impress people at work. It was just for me, and that really feels good. So now when I come into my office wearing my chartreuse pants and golf shirt in the morning, and my staff starts poking fun because they know I’m going to leave early and play golf that afternoon, I just smile.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 105.

Finding Humor

A few years ago, I was reading a book that I knew my mother was going to read after me. In it I found passages I thought she needed to hear — things I believed would make her a better person (by my definition, of course). These were things I didn’t have the courage to say to her myself. I didn’t want her to miss any of these gems, so I highlighted them and passed the book on to her. I was anticipating receiving her response, but after weeks went by, I asked her casually about it. “Oh,” she said, “I didn’t have time to read it so I gave it to my friend as a gift. I’ll get another copy for myself later.” I’m still wondering what my mom’s friend thought when she saw that the book had been pre-highlighted for her. One of the gifts of the S-Anon program for me is laughter. I am able to laugh at my behavior, not with shame but with love. I have done many things that seem absurd if I look at them objectively — things that didn’t seem funny at the time. I was desperate to control something that was beyond my control — usually another person. Later, when I described my behavior to my S-Anon group, I suddenly saw the humor and absurdity in it, and soon we were all laughing. This is a major transformation for me, since I grew up in an environment where being laughed at meant being humiliated and disdained. Today, I can be both humorous and lovable at the same time, which was something I never knew.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 34.