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.

Recovery, My Recovery

When I first went to an S-Ateen meeting, I thought I’d go once and never go again. But after just one meeting, I was hooked; in a good way of course. Everyone I met there was burdened with their pasts and mistakes, yet there was such hope and cheer in everyone that I thought, “I might have a not-so-nice past, but that doesn’t need to dictate my future.”  You could tell that each person had a story to tell, and struggles to withstand, but also infinite wonders and joys still ahead of them. Going to S-Ateen makes me feel like I have support, comfort and courage to continue the path to recovery. (And I’ve only gone to two meetings so far!!) Already I can see the progress that is pushing my mom, my sister and me forward. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I feel sure that I can handle it and remain on an optimistic track. It won’t always be easy, but I can persevere. A week or so ago, I journaled something that really helped me. It perfectly described my ups and downs and helped me to be focused and cheerful. It gives me hope and somehow makes me truly realize that I have choices in life. I hope it will help anyone who reads it.

“Sometimes, when you’re sitting there musing or walking around completing an errand, you’ll suddenly sigh, a very heavy and emotional sigh. Then fear, sadness, regret, anxiety and hopelessness–these are the feelings that mangle your mind and entice you to their darkness. But just as quickly as this assault descends on you, a faint light presses through the dark, gently letting a ray hold itself out to you, telling you existence doesn’t have to be this way. Then and there, in that space of ten seconds, you know this is one of the many moments of truth that you will face. You, on your own, need to make a decision. What every individual in this life needs to decide is, is that faint light great enough to believe in and pursue? Well, I’ve decided. And I’m not going back to what I once was. (It wasn’t pretty.) And I am sure that many have, and are going to, choose as I did.”

Reprinted from the Summer 2009 issue of S-Anews©.

Powerless Over Others

I was orphaned at 14 and went to live with my sister and her family. Her husband was the first sexaholic in my life.  I was very needy, fragile, and impressionable. I soaked up any attention I could get and learned attitudes in this unhealthy environment that stayed with me as I grew up. What I believed in my teenage years was that women were responsible for meeting all of men’s needs. I also learned that men’s most important need was for sex. I thought my needs were not important, because I was told I was selfish if I voiced them. If I could not meet the needs of others, I thought I was a “failure” and “unlovable.” These unhealthy beliefs caused me to seek out equally unhealthy, often sexaholic, partners when I began dating.

At age 18, my unhealthy world view led me to place myself in a situation in which I was raped. I was unable to report the crime or ask for help in dealing with its effects. In my thinking, it was my fault that it happened and my needs were inconsequential. My life was overshadowed by fear and loneliness, and I felt worthless.

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Spiritual Awakening

Working the Steps has given each of us spiritual awakenings, some dramatic and some so gradual they can only be seen through hindsight, yet our experiences have much in common. We can now do what we had previously been unable to do on our own. We have been transformed through accepting the help of a Higher Power, a previously underused source of strength. We have experienced the freedom of knowing that God’s help is always within reach. We have reached a new level of honesty, inner peace and love. Working the Steps has given us conscious contact with God and a rebirth of our own spirit. Living the Steps has given us new purpose, and we find that we are much more able to accept each challenge we may face as an opportunity for further growth. Practicing our program outside of S-Anon meetings can be difficult at times, but when we extend these spiritual principles into our daily lives, we enjoy a growing emotional maturity and become aware of even more spiritual awakenings. Using the principles of the Twelve Steps, we find that we can detach where we previously were obsessed. We develop compassion for those we had found unlovable. We respect ourselves. We are able to do what we never had been able to do before. We learn to assume our responsibilities and let others do the same. We know that whatever comes, our program and our Higher Power will help us to live fully and deal with problems as they arise. The gifts of the S-Anon program are truly ours.

 

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 151-152.

Becoming Self-Supporting

I used to look to my husband to take care of all my needs, but through my working my program, I have seen that I need to grow up and take responsibility for myself. I have learned to lean on my Higher Power, surrender my sexaholic husband, and focus on improving myself. I know we both have a Higher Power with whom we can work and grow. Taking responsibility for me is critical for my health and welfare, because my husband is still active in his sexaholism. I work to keep the focus on myself by applying the principle of self-support from Tradition Seven.

I am working on taking better care of my responsibilities, such as earning the money I need, paying my own bills, managing my time, dealing with my own frustrations and stress, making recovery connections, and taking care of my physical needs. I am gentle with myself, and I connect with friends in recovery and others who help to nurture me. As a result of being more self-supporting, I spend less time being resentful toward my husband for
not meeting my needs. As I have worked Tradition Seven in my life, I have found that I have lightened up, have reconnected with my creativity, and am having more fun. These are some of the gifts I’ve received by becoming self-supporting.

 

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 237.