Forgiveness

“My husband/wife says that they’re sorry, but how can I ever forgive them after what they did to me?”  “I’ll never forgive my parents!”  “Why should I forgive him? He still doesn’t admit he did anything wrong!” Other members of S-Anon expressed these sentiments, and many of us have them ourselves. Why should we forgive? Does forgiving mean forgetting?

I met a woman whose husband had left her for another woman seven years previously. He was now remarried and she had not seen him in years. But when she spoke about her pain and anger, it was though the betrayal had occurred a week or perhaps a month ago. She seemed to be stuck in a time warp. Because she had not let go of the past and forgiven her husband, she had been unable to move past her negative emotions and to get on with her life. Her ex-husband was still the focus of her inner life. She had continued to give him free rent in her head all these years.

It is easier to forgive another person when that person wants forgiveness. But even if they are dead, or remarried, or still acting out, we still need to forgive them. The reason is that we forgive them in order to have serenity in our own life. Forgiveness is being able to remember the past without experiencing the pain all over again. When we have forgiven someone, we can think about that person and what they did to us without losing our serenity. Without forgiveness, there is no peace of mind.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

Forgiving Myself…

My children were deeply affected by growing up in a home with active sexaholism. They have had to deal with some rough times and have developed some dysfunctional ways of relating to others. I am afraid that my youngest child will become an addict. My oldest child has worked through many issues and is doing much better. Today I know that I can’t protect them from themselves, and I don’t want to enable them either.

Feeling overwhelmed by guilt during early recovery, I continuously allowed them to blame me for their problems. I thought it would be harsh to confront them, but eventually, as I grew in my recovery, I began to see that I was enabling them to stay stuck in “blame” and victimization.” I learned that just as I cannot continue to see myself as a victim, they must abandon the victim role if they want to live happy and healthy lives. I cannot accept their accusations and continue to live in shame and guilt, while trying to stay “sober” in my recovery. I have had to just let go and let God.

S-Anon has taught me that I did the best I could with the tools and skills handed down to me by my parents. I believe I will always feel some pain, wishing I had gotten into recovery earlier. When I finally forgave myself, it was a great relief. I have learned to look at what is going on with my children as a part of their “journey” in life, knowing that no one escapes the problems inherent in his/her own journey. I cannot afford to enable them by accepting the blame for all their troubles. I know they are doing the best they can at this time, and I pray for them both, knowing they both have a deep and abiding faith in God. Today, I validate their feelings—but I also tell them that it is their right to feel the way they do — but also tell them that I hope that one day they will choose to stop feeling victimized; and as adults, get help and move on.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 91-92.

Making “Living” Amends

During our early adult years, my brother and I had a very strained relationship. I felt he had physically and emotionally abused me as a child. For my safety, I chose to become very remote from him. As time went by, what had once seemed like a necessary attitude of detachment became a punishing coldness. Working the Steps made it clear that my serenity depended on keeping my behavior “clean,” regardless of the behavior of others. I knew it was time to make amends for my own punishing, abusive behavior, yet I felt stuck. I was afraid that if I made direct amends to my brother, he would attack me verbally. I needed to be able to make the amends safely.

I brought the problem of making this amends to my sponsor. She suggested I make a “living” amends. As a start, she suggested that each time I encountered my brother on the telephone or in person, I actively initiate a friendly “Hello, how are you?” — each and every time. After several months, I noticed that I was less tense around him. We actually seemed to be somewhat friendly with each other. This was certainly progress.

Her next suggestion was that whenever I was in his presence I should try to stay in the same room he was in, at least for a brief time. I had spent years going from room to room to avoid his presence at family gatherings. Staying put was very awkward for me initially, but as time passed, it became more comfortable. Slowly I began to have more compassion for him and began to separate my brother, the human being, from the sexaholism that affected all of us.

Over time we began to interact with one another. Today, I can ask his advice on topics about which he is knowledgeable. Our relationship has grown tremendously, and I am grateful because now we must all contribute and communicate to cope with our mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease. Does this improved relationship mean I have forgotten my brother’s abusive behavior? No, but I have worked hard at my own healing in therapy and through Step work. I thank God for my recovery from the abuse and for the benefits I have received from following my sponsor’s suggestions on this amends.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 103-104.

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.