Giving the Outcome to God

I remember reading Step three and thinking “I can do this!” Making a decision felt comfortable; that is, a decision is an action, something to do. I’m much better at doing than not doing something. So I “did” Step three; I “decided” every day, every hour, every minute, but I found no relief.

Then it was suggested that once I made the decision, I needed to let go — to surrender. “How does one let go?” I asked myself. I pictured myself holding my husband as he was dangling over the edge of a cliff. Surely letting go would not be caring or loving! To me the word “surrender” implied being forced to do something against my will. Would God force me to do something against my will? Would He expect me to abandon the one I loved? I couldn’t make sense of this, and I prayed and prayed about it.
Then in a meeting, a woman shared about her “God Jar” and about how her life had become peaceful. I had seen a change in her over the months, so I asked her after the meeting to explain her “God Jar.” The idea was to write down on a piece of paper exactly what I wanted to give to God, then drop it (let go of it) into the jar. Taking the thought out of my mind and putting it on paper, then putting the piece of paper into the jar (God’s hands) seemed like a helpful, visual, concrete action to me. Driving home, I began to dismiss the whole idea. When that familiar sinking sensation returned as I drove in my driveway, I decided to try the God Jar anyway. If it didn’t work, I just wouldn’t tell anyone. I found a large jar in a cabinet and wrote down the obsessive thoughts that were spinning in my mind about my husband’s sexaholism and our marriage. I decided to let God have the situation, and I let the note fall into the jar.

I didn’t expect much, but by the next morning I was pleasantly surprised by a sense of peace that I had not known before. I sat down and wrote lots of little notes to add to the jar. On New Year’s Eve, seven months after I began using the God Jar, I opened the jar and read each little note. I could see that almost all my requests had been granted, but not necessarily in the way I had pictured in my mind. Rather, they had been answered completely and beautifully, in surprising and unforeseen ways. Thank God my Higher power is bigger than my imagination!

It has been over three years since I surrendered my husband’s sexaholism and surrendered our marriage to God. I didn’t understand how my husband could choose to continue to act out and not seek recovery, but I had the courage and the strength to let the marriage go when it became time. Today, I am grateful to God for the gifts of that relationship, the changes that have occurred in my life, my rich relationship with my Higher Power and more people who really love me than I could ever have imagined.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 33-34.

Plan A? Plan B? Or Plan C?

Here is my experience with a great sharing I heard at a meeting. It went something like this:

– Sharing: You know, I always come to God with ‘Plan A’ – what I really want.

– My experience: God, I would really like the sexaholic to show me affection the way I think she should.

– Sharing: But I know that God may have something else in mind, so I come prepared with ‘Plan B’ too.

– My experience: OK, God, if I can’t have the affection I want from my wife, could you at least get her to spend more time with me?

– Sharing: What I forget is that God has a much broader point of view than I do, and generally has a ‘Plan C’ – a wonderful plan I could never have dreamed of – tucked away in his back pocket.

– My experience: So what happened was…I got out of my wife’s way, called my S-Anon sponsor and went to a lot more meetings. I stopped being so demanding.

I was able to Let Go and Let God. A few weeks later my wife left me a note saying, “Went to my meeting. Be back soon. I would like to have some time with you. I made a special dinner, please provide the flowers.”

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 291.

Freedom Through Honesty

When I first heard the term sex addiction I began, subconsciously, to deny the truth about it. No way did I choose a sex addict spouse! Then the anger came – anger at my spouse, the world, God and myself. How could I possibly enable anyone? I didn’t have any issues to look at, it was all his problem. I worked so hard to keep up the “How are you – I am fine,” slogan around the house. This all began one year and three months ago, when I first learned my husband was a sex addict. I have since felt this “war” I carried on for all those months was actually, for me, a war against honesty-a war against the acceptance of truth. The truth was I did marry a sex addict. The truth was I did have issues of my own to look at. The truth was anger began long before my sex addict husband came along. The walls I carefully built with blocks of “How are you – I am fine,” have long since been crumbling around me. I could no longer pretend.

My denial of truth began early in my life. Coming from a two-parent alcoholic home, lying became a great survival tool. The very essence of the daily alcoholic chaos prompted dishonesty in all forms. But as recovery made it’s way into my life, so has the desire for truth and honesty. The old tools are rusty and worn. “Oh, it’s just a white lie; who will ever know?”  These have been great rationalizations for me. But as I continue to connect more and more with my Higher Power, I’ve come to realize “they” may never know, but I will. Lies are like tiny drops of water falling into a pail on a rainy day. With time, the pail becomes full and heavy and eventually spills over – over into my self- esteem, my relationships and ultimately, my spirituality.

So I have begun to take baby steps toward daily honesty. It means, for me, tending the smallest of lies. It has had a very humbling but powerful effect on my life. It keeps me focused on my own issues and my own recovery. I have begun to experience the freedom that truth and honesty has given me. For this I am grateful. The truth has begun to set me free.

Reprinted from the Fall 1992 issue of S-Anews©.

Commitment to Reality…

I can see now that before recovery I was committed to fantasies of what I wanted things to be like, particularly in my relationship with my husband. Today when I have difficulty in our relationship, it is often due to my bumping up against my old ideas of how things “should” be. In recovery I’m learning that commitment means being committed to the dynamic process of life the way it is, and that I can’t control the other person or the outcome. Committing myself to hanging in there—when pain, loss, and conflict are inevitable—is really hard for me. Through working the program, I’m beginning to accept the inevitability of pain and change. Today my commitment means that I am committed to my recovery with the reality, not the fantasy, of who my husband is, as well as who I am and who I’m becoming. It also means that I must surrender my self-righteous attitude that I have all the answers and that I know the way everything should be.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 72.

Willing to Let Go of All These Defects of Character

By working Steps Four and Five I became aware that jealousy had always been a major problem for me. Even though my recovering partner and I had not yet made a formal commitment to each other, I resented any woman with whom he interacted, regardless of whether or not there was cause to be angry. My resentful feelings were especially acute when my fear of rejection and abandonment surfaced. I acted out these feelings by pouting and withdrawing from my partner and being cold and distant toward the woman. When anger fueled my jealousy, it really did seem that I could control my partner with the force of my angry feelings. I had difficulty understanding that what I had used to survive in this relationship was a “character defect.” I could not imagine how our rela- tionship would last if I was not trying to control how he related to other women.

I talked about my jealousy character defect in my Fifth Step, and from time to time I did feel willing to have the jealousy removed, but my fear was great, and I did not know how to become any more “ready.” I tried replacing feelings of inadequacy and inferiority with thoughts of the love and care of my Higher Power. I knew I needed to get my sense of self-worth from a relationship with a real Higher Power, not a human one, but I still struggled with being “entirely ready.”

One night I sat outside his apartment in my car, knowing that a woman with whom he had been in treatment was visiting him. He was working a good recovery program and I was seeing the results of that, so I had no reason to believe there was anything inappropriate about her visit with him. Yet my jealousy, driven by feelings of betrayal from the past, made my pain nearly unbearable. I hated my partner, the woman, and myself, and I felt like a rat in a trap with no way out. I knew I could never be happy, joyous and free if I was jealous of every woman with whom he had a conversation. I thought to myself, “I can’t live this way,” and for the first time I finally accepted the truth that my partner’s attention was his to give, not mine to control. God granted me a gut-level awareness that the pain of holding onto my jealousy was worse than the pain would be if the relationship ended (my greatest fear). In that moment I finally felt entirely ready to be rid of my jealousy.

This process of becoming entirely ready was a powerful lesson in how a particular defect works for me (for example, by providing an illusion of control) and works against me (usually by reducing my ability to love and care for others and myself ). I learned that becoming “willing” takes as long as it takes. The pain of holding onto this destructive defect of character had to become worse than my fear of change. This incident helped me learn that regardless of the issue, I can turn my will and my life as well as my character defects over to my Higher Power, trusting in His love and care for me.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 67-68.

Accepting Reality

“I’ve been doing this for a year now and nothing is better,” I muttered to myself as I trudged from my car to the S-Anon meeting room. I was angry. I wanted the pain to be over and the stress to be gone. I wanted to find some peace in my marriage and in myself.

The topic of the meeting that night was acceptance. As I listened to the sharing, I found my anger dissipating and my clarity growing. It occurred to me that I had been trying to move ahead with my marriage, rather than facing my pain and the lessons it had for me. I had not fully accepted the reality that the trust in the marriage had been broken and needed to be rebuilt with honesty.

When it was my turn to speak that evening, I shared some of these thoughts. I also shared that the hardest part of acceptance was admitting I was not in control, and that the anger that continued to plague me was really anger at God because I was not in control.

Since my awareness at that meeting, I have tried to slow myself down and make sure I come to acceptance before I take action on any issue. Regarding my marriage, I pray for “the serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I trust that the correct course of action will be clear when the time is right. The S-Anon fellowship reminds me that I can have serenity now if I am willing to trust the process.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 305.

I Don’t Need a Relationship to Make Me Feel Whole

Some married S-Anons new to our program express surprise at seeing so many single S-Anons regularly attending meetings. “Why do you need to go if you’re no longer married to the sexaholic?” they ask. The reason is that we go to get recovery for ourselves, regardless of our marital status.

I began going to S-Anon at my husband’s suggestion, even though I did not perceive that I had a problem. It was only when as part of my First Step I made an inventory of all my significant past relationships that I realized that indeed I did have a problem. What I recognized was that every important relationship, beginning with my first romance at age 19, was with an emotionally unavailable person. The details differed, but the bottom line was that I had made consistently poor choices in my relationships. I had to face the fact that I was attracted to people with whom I could not have a healthy, intimate relationship. Time after time I had rejected the stable, loving man because he was “boring,” while I pursued the exciting, unavailable, unpredictable guy. And I realized, to my dismay, that if my current marriage were to end, I would undoubtedly once again seek an unhealthy relationship. That was when I knew I needed to work on myself. “Our relationships can only be as healthy as we are,” we learn in the program. Some single S-Anons have also recognized a long-term pattern of making poor choices. If those of us who are single hope at some point to have a healthy relationship, we need to become healthy ourselves first.

In the S-Anon program I also became aware of how my tremendous fear of abandonment had led me to accept unacceptable behaviors in others. I could not establish boundaries as long as being alone felt like a fate worse than death. Now that my self-esteem has improved to where I know I would be comfortable alone, I have real choices in my life. I am in my current relationship by choice, not out of dependency. Single S-Anons who are working on this issue have shared their unhappiness over being alone and their desperation to get into a new relationship. They describe how easily their boundaries erode and how quickly they return to people-pleasing behaviors in attempting to hold onto a new relationship. S-Anons who have separated from spouses who are still acting out have shared their difficulty in staying away from the spouse and their temptation to give her/him another chance although the spouse in not in recovery. In S-Anon we learn that we are worthwhile people who do not need a relationship to make us feel whole.

Our basic emotional health does not depend on our marital status. S-Anon helps us build our self-esteem, love ourselves, and make healthier choices in our lives. Too many of us have let significant others be our Higher Power. In S-Anon we learn to rely on a real Higher Power so that we can be happy whether single or in a relationship.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

Establishing Boundaries…

I used to believe that I had to answer any personal question that was asked of me. I would read newspaper advice columns and wonder how people got the courage to tell other people to “mind their own business” if they asked a question that was too personal. It seemed impossible to me. I can’t say that in recovery I go around telling everyone to mind their own business, but I’m learning how to say things like “Oh, that’s a long story” or “Please, don’t get me started.”  Now I understand that I don’t owe my friends or family any explanation. I may come to the point where I want to share certain things with them, but when to share with them and how much to tell are decisions that are mine to make. Another sentence that I have learned to say is, “I don’t want to talk about that right now.” For me, that is recovery!

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 94.

Life Became Simple and Peaceful

After reading Step One in S-Anon Twelve Steps, I listed where I had been powerless as a result of trying to exert power over others. Topping this list were situations in which I feared being emotionally abandoned.

I learned very early to connect with people who had difficulties, because they inevitably needed help with their problems and consequently would not leave me. Unfortunately, my fear of abandonment tormented me into becoming whatever they wanted. So I stayed with my sexaholic partner, even though his behavior threatened my health.

S-Anon helped me see that my fear had led me to abandon myself through having no boundaries. So I began setting boundaries and taking care of my emotional well-being. In response, my spouse began to physically and emotionally distance himself. I was terrified he would leave, but I had learned to ask myself, “Must I tolerate sexual and emotional abuse in exchange for maintaining a relationship?”  The answer gradually came: to stay with my husband meant accepting things that were unhealthy and intolerable for me, physically and spiritually. I had to risk his abandonment in order to heal.

When I finally accepted I would be in the care of my Higher Power no matter what others chose to do, I was able to let go of the fear and let go of my marriage. Amazingly, my life became so much more simple and peaceful.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 273.

Helping Me See the Light

Writing is the “getting it out” tool for me in my S-Anon program. Expressing my thoughts and feelings verbally is one thing, but going a step further and committing those same sentiments to paper has been really helpful. When I record my feelings, I’ve created a log to refer back to when I find myself obsessing about my spouse, my marriage, my career, life… the painful aspects thereof. I can read what I wrote a week, a month, a year ago and be reminded of the purpose of my process. Also, re-reading what I’ve written may trigger the memory of steps I took that helped me back to a state of surrender and serenity. For me, there’s something about the tool of writing that purges me of my secrets and shame. Writing is the big challenge of Step Four – my personal inventory. Today, to have the willingness to write about my life – my memories, my mistakes and my dreams has truly been the opening of Pandora’s box for me. I believe writing will continue to free my spirit, which had been locked away in darkness for much too long. The written word helps me see the light.

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