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©.

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©.

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©.

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©.

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.

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©.

Step Eight and Being of Service

When I first heard people say in S-Anon meetings that they were focusing on themselves, I thought this sounded like a selfish and self-absorbed fellowship. In my childhood, I was taught that giving to others first was the way to go. Being generous and self-sacrificing was being good. How could focusing on myself be of any good to anyone including me? Working through the Twelve Steps has been an opportunity for me to examine my motives and my relationship with God and others. Through the Twelve Steps and using other tools of the program, I have learned to focus on myself. I saw the truth about harm I had caused others and myself in my noble effort to be helpful. How could trying to be helpful be harmful? That didn’t make much sense to me for a long time. I still sometimes forget.

I found S-Anon was a fellowship that welcomed me and allowed me to collapse in exhaustion and despair. Even in program, I needed to feel helpful, worthwhile, and approved of. What would I do if I couldn’t do for others what they weren’t doing? There was plenty of stuff around that needed to be done. Who’s going to do it? Why not me? Read more

The Structure of My Recovery

Sex addiction came into my life seemingly out of nowhere. It felt like a big, black train in the night. After some serious step-work leading to self-examination, I realized that the “train whistles” had been very loud, and obvious. I now believe that I wasn’t able to see or hear the “train” for many reasons, one of which was that it simply wasn’t God’s timing for me to see it. Another reason was because of my S-Anon Problem — beginning with denial and faulty thinking. It took a long time for me accept my part in this mess and how I resonated with a line from the S-Anon Problem: “We chose friends and partners who could not or would not love and support us in a healthy way.” Once I steadied myself a little, I spent a lot of time smacking myself on the back of the head wondering how I could have missed this glaring problem that existed in my home (and probably had for some time before.) I had always thought of myself as smart and sassy, so this shook my self-esteem to the core on many levels. During those crazy early days of “discovery,” also known, for me, as “shock and awe,” somehow I knew that within all the insanity I had to find some structure, something to stop my mind from wandering, or I would not survive this.

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The Garden

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.

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The Twelve Traditions

The Traditions can apply to my everyday life in very simple ways also. Here’s my interpretation:

Tradition One taught me to stick with the group that helped me to get better. Preserve the union that was really formed by God through other people.

Tradition Two — Keep God in the process of all our group business. He is the head and the S-Anon members are the body of our groups.

Tradition Three — I need to welcome and help all that qualify, if they seek it.

Tradition Four — Be myself. Give my brand of recovery to those who are attracted. Speak my mind in group conscience. Remember that “It takes a village…”

Tradition Five – Keep our primary purpose in mind during all our group dealings ( financial etc…)

Tradition Six — Don’t be controlling with others, even covertly—study ways this occurs. Read more