I felt resentful when my spouse told me that we would need to go through a period of abstinence. It wasn’t so much that I missed having sex with him, I just resented being told what to do by a person who had hurt me deeply in this area. The first gift of the abstinence, however, was an awareness that my partner was serious about his recovery. I learned to respect his desire for abstinence, rather than seeing it as a challenge to my powers of persuasion. I also needed to look at our relationship without the false intimacy I had found in the past by being sexual. I would never have even begun to find out the truth about myself if we had continued to be sexual in the old way. Other gifts have been a better understanding of my sexuality and an in-depth acceptance of the mystery and difficulty of a sexual relationship. I have a high level of comfort with the idea that“sex is optional.”This statement made no sense to me as long as I thought that sex was the most important sign of love.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 68.
Growing up, I never felt very close to my father. I think I compensated for my hunger for love by trying desperately to please the men I dated, hoping to gain their love. It seemed to me that sex was the core of experiencing intimacy with a man – the most important sign of love. I thought if I were sexually active and did what these men wanted, I would in turn have my emotional needs met. Eventually I married a sexaholic, and thankfully entered the doors of S-Anon.
My recovering husband relapsed about a year and a half ago. My husband and I decided to completely abstain from sex for a while. Our abstinence revealed so much about our connection – or lack of connection – with each other. We began to learn other ways of being intimate – through sharing, listening, giving or receiving a touch, a glance, a smile, or a tear. I also started to love myself and accept the love of a Higher Power.
As I look back at the time of my husband’s relapse, I can see how a“bad” thing became a wonderful opportunity for me, and for us and for our marriage. Through abstinence, I have had so many insights into myself and my history of relationships. I now know sex is not the most important sign of love.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 191.
I had wanted very much to plant a vegetable garden this last spring, but I got a late start due to illness and deadlines at work. So, I dug up a smaller section of the huge garden that was once there. I couldn’t afford to buy or even rent a tiller, so I did this with a shovel, rake, and hoe, in the heat of early summer. I made enough room for just a few of my favorites…maybe some tomatoes and peppers and a row of okra. It was too late for seeds, and I found myself too broke even to buy plants at the nursery.
I decided to tend and weed the area I’d dug up, thinking that then I’d have a few extra dollars next payday to buy plants. So, I walked out early one Saturday to weed in the cool of the morning. I decided to survey the weed-choked back area of the garden, to see if I should mow it and turn it back into law or continue to enlarge the garden. It was a real mess, and it reminded me of my life at the moment…overgrown with stuff that had needed tending, hurried, tangled in broken relationship, a failing marriage, financial troubles, a recent separation, and a fear of going it alone. I slowly ventured into the thicket of tall weeds, some over my head.
My first S-Anon meeting was at an International Convention since there were no S-Anon meetings in my area. My husband, who was in SA, wanted to go to the convention and wanted me to go, too. I was scared. I thought I wouldn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I feared there would be sex addicts hanging around looking for trouble. Going to the convention was a life-changing experience for me. I heard honesty and courage from both sexaholics and their family members and friends. I had a spiritual renewal as I humbled myself and realized I was really no better or worse than anyone else there.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 5.
I was afraid that if I asked God to remove my shortcomings, I would have nothing left. I was particularly fearful about shortcomings I had gotten a lot of mileage out of —- sarcasm, arguing with my spouse, being resentful over his acting-out with men, etc. What would I do with all the time I spent thinking about the other person, the time I spent obsessing about the “problem,” the time I spent telling people how unfair it was? Indeed, that time could be better spent in countless other ways, but letting go of shortcomings can be difficult. S-Anon helped me find the clarity to ask myself, “Is this defect really so useful — particularly when it also brings up the hurt, humiliation and guilt of my past?” Even though my answer is usually “No,” I sometimes still hesitate to ask God to remove my shortcomings.
I remember one incident very clearly. I was in a restaurant observing (actually judging) people around me. I was consumed with thoughts of how people should order, should look, should dress, should, should and more should. I was so preoccupied with“correcting”all these people that I lost sight of the reason I was at the restaurant — to enjoy myself and my dinner companions! Read more
In Step Seven, I struggled with humility. I used to think that either I had to be the best or I was the absolute worst. In my relationship with my sexaholic partner, I always thought of myself as having authority because I believed I was stronger, more capable, righteous, and the responsible one – I was at the top of the ladder so I didn’t need to be humble. Humility was for my sexaholic partner – somewhere down toward the bottom of the ladder.
As I began to work the Steps, I was able to look at my own shortcomings, such as perfectionism, self-righteousness, pride, and even arrogance. Over time I have learned to accept these shortcomings as part of my humanity, part of what makes me no better and no worse than anyone else.
It’s so hard for me to sit down for some quiet time with my Higher Power. I know an uncontrollable fear is at the root of this. I fear the challenges that I must face if I am honest with myself. So here I sit with all my fears. I feel a gentle tugging to stay in the quiet and let it do its work. Why do I resist? My Higher Power has given me this precious time alone. I need to get in touch with what’s going on with me (and only me) for today. I don’t want to, but I do need to. It’s time to leave any expectations at the door. Any expectations of suffocating fears or of being swept away in my self-defeating thinking must be put aside. I don’t even expect to get a clear, immediate message from my Higher Power. For now, it’s time to let go of each little thing that crowds me, even if it means letting go for just a minute at a time. In this quiet it is just me and my Higher Power. It is in this silence that I realize how little I really do know. Maybe that’s the best place to start. Humble beginnings. I pray I can be open to whatever comes my way in the quiet. I ask God to help me loosen my grip. I ask Him to help me open up to His will for me. I know I am not alone now.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 40.
Like so many in S-Anon who struggle with perfectionism, I initially experienced the words “entirely ready” as a huge obstacle. I thought I needed to achieve a state of perfect readiness in order to have my defects removed. I thought I could make Step Six “happen” if I somehow worked the perfect program. Working the S-Anon Steps with my sponsor has given me a new understanding of “entirely ready.” I do not need to work my program perfectly and I cannot force Step Six to happen by my own doing. For me “entirely ready” now means I need only let God point out my defects that need work and then allow God to help me explore a deeper level of self-honesty. For example, within a recent two-week period I became intensely aware of my character defect of dwelling in fantasy, a refusal to accept reality by clinging to the way I think things should be and ignoring the way things are. One day I complained incessantly about the weather — “Spring shouldn’t be this cold!” Another day I felt my blood pressure rise as I argued with my health insurer over the phone — “it shouldn’t take two weeks to get an authorization!” Read more
There was a time, not so long ago, when I had given up on having any expectations for my relationship. I thought I had to accept whatever treatment I received from my partner. I had heard in meetings that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen,” so I thought, “I better not have any of those expectations!” As I continued to grow in S-Anon, I came to believe that I was worthy of respect and consideration. I found the answer in exploring the difference between expectations (looking forward into the future) and needs (which are mine to express today). I need to be treated with affectionate love and regard. I am not always right, but I need my ideas to be met with respectful consideration. My interests and hobbies are important, and I need time to pursue them. I need a partner to help carry out the routine tasks of maintaining a household. I need a satisfying sex life, and, most important, a partner willing to work with me in all these areas to improve the relationship. If my most important needs are to be met, I must let go of the expectation that “somebody” will meet my needs “someday” and, instead, consider the alternatives available to me today. Just for today, I will acknowledge my needs, affirm their importance, and choose to take one positive action in the direction of seeing that those needs are met.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 50.
I struggle with my sobriety often, and I can certainly define what it isn’t. I know that I have lost it when I dig through my spouse’s briefcase to read his journal. I know that I have lost it when I drive to where my spouse works to see if his car is in the parking lot when he does not answer my phone call. I know that I have lost it when I go through his dresser drawers looking for evidence. I know I have lost it when I look under my son’s bed for pornography. I have done all these things and more. I know I have lost it because the behavior is premeditated and while I am doing these things my fear of being “caught” produces physical stress responses. I sweat, breathe rapidly, my heart rate increases, and I want to either fight with someone or run away. When I do lose it, I try to take corrective action. When I read the journal, I told my spouse, my therapist and my S-Anon group. Knowing that I will “own” my behavior afterward now helps me to keep from slipping again. I no longer have pre-disclosure blind faith in the relationship, but I believe that if I need to know something or find something out, God will reveal it and I do not have to go looking for it.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 58.