I have to begin by saying that I really never saw myself sitting in a Twelve Step Meeting. Even after I became aware of the existence of sexaholism in my life and the need to recover from its effects upon me, I was still a little resistant to the idea. When it became painfully obvious to me that I needed to do something in order to get spiritually healthy (let’s say that God gave me the gift of desperation), I became more open to trying something different. I still had my doubts, though. I thought to myself, “Why do they keep saying “hi” over and over?” I didn’t really like the hand-holding circle at the end either. However, I knew that I couldn’t go on any longer as I had been. I went to my first meeting and people kept saying “Keep coming back.” I did. I really had no choice; I had to do something. Then about a year into it I joined a Step Study group. As I sit here today four years later, I have come to view the Twelve Steps as a God-given, fool-proof (It works when you work it) method for resolving internal conflict. They are a vehicle for me to work through the grief/pain from problems and situations that arise every day –a kind of spiritual road map for my soul that God drew for me.
My first six months in S-Anon were marked with trauma about all the discoveries in my 20 plus years of marriage. I was focused on what I thought I had and on fears about what I might lose. I went to meetings and I felt better when I left than when I came. I bought the literature and tried to read something every day to steady myself. People kept saying; “Try this it will help” and “Keep coming back.” I was in such deep pain and was just trying to function on a very basic level (sleep, eat, and work). God had opened the blinds for me to see reality, but now I had to turn around and look out the window.
“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©.
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©.
I say that if my life before the program was the B.S. era (the Before S-Anon era), my life now might be referred to as the S.O.S. era – the Serenity of S-Anon. I’m at a point in my program where it could be easy for me to coast. I completed my Step work with my sponsor. I took my own sponsee through her Step work, and now I’ve got “grand-sponsees.” When I moved to a place with no meetings, I made an effort to keep connected by working the Traditions with my sponsor and another S-Anon member. I’m past the urgency that I felt in the early days, but I’m afraid of what my complacency might cost me. Not long ago, I began to realize another aspect of Step Twelve – the part about “trying to carry the message.” So, after months of false starts and being turned down for a location, I finally opened the doors to my area’s first S-Anon meeting. It’s been a meeting of “one” since it started, but I have been reminded that there are really two of us there – my Higher Power and me. Despite that, I have felt frustrated with the lack of attendance, taking it as a personal failure. And lately I really don’t want to go. My kids are playing ball now, and I have to miss the beginnings of their games. But the possibility of missing a newcomer, of not being there to welcome and give comfort to the family member of a sexaholic, ensures that I go. Recently, I was thrilled to receive my first S-Anon call from the number I had posted on the WSO website. I’m not sure that being thrilled by someone else’s agony over sexaholism is appropriate, but I really was excited to get that call. Although this person has not been able to attend a meeting, we have spoken on a regular basis on the phone and I am slowly introducing her to the S-Anon program. Once again, the 12 Steps of S-Anon – particularly Step Twelve – have taken on a new meaning for me. I’m getting back, while I’m giving. And technically, still no one has come to the new meetings here. But I have had to get REALLY busy so I can get better because the sexaholic in my life has had a relapse.
Reprinted from the Summer 2009 issue of S-Anews©.
This week, during a meeting on Step One and Tradition One, I became filled with gratitude for S-Anon and the courageous souls who share. A newcomer was in the meeting, sharing how she had tried to “go it alone,” but knew that the meetings were necessary for her. It felt as if Step One was coming to life right in front of me. I shared that in the beginning, I had fought with myself over the word “powerless”. If I were to be “powerless,” who was going to care for our young child? Clean the house? Pay the bills? Organize our lives? I could not bring myself to say that I was powerless! My life had just blown up and what I thought I knew, at the time, was just turned upside down. I shared my beginning because when a newcomer comes in, I retell some of my story, and it reminds me of where I started.
Another wave of gratitude filled me: I know what works – the S-Anon program works. The stories being told felt like part of ‘my story.’ I’m an S-Anon. I speak about and from the point of view of an S-Anon. I remember the hurt, shock and sadness that enveloped me, not only in my first meeting, but everywhere I went. Even though this pain persisted, my meeting became my lifeline, which held me from week to week. I heard the truth. My whole being experienced what the truth sounded like, and I began to heal. I continue to be healed by the meetings. At the recent LA convention, I heard other S-Anon’s share in meetings. A feeling of deep and abiding gratitude filled me for all those who walked before me, continue to walk with me, and who have the courage to show up each week.
Reprinted from the Spring 2011 issue of S-Anews©.
“We are seeking recovery from our own progressive illness. My thinking became confused and my perspective became distorted.” Some symptoms of my disease include faulty thinking, obsessive thoughts, controlling behaviors, and my personal favorite, denial of reality. When first faced with the harsh, spirit-crushing existence of my spouse’s sexaholism in my life—probably for many, many years, I started grabbing at God and anything else I thought would help me. But some of the behaviors I exhibited were very, injurious to me. Examples are: constant checking on the sexaholic (a.k.a. pain-shopping), believing lies (denial), and arguing and pleading with a non-recovering, active sexaholic (an exercise in futility.) I now compare some of my actions with running back into a burning building. Insanity. A spiritually healthy person probably wouldn’t do them, but I did.
When I first found out about the lies and betrayal that was sexaholism, the effects upon me were catastrophic. My hair fell out, I lost 20 lbs in about 3 weeks, and sleep became a lost luxury. I would actually sit bolt upright in bed during the night and loudly exclaim; “Oh My God!!” Anxiety and fear were my companions.
I found my way to S-Anon and eventually got a sponsor. Here I am 4 to 5 years later with a full set of unbitten nails, a solid, trusting relationship with my Higher Power, a room full of people some of whom I now call friends, my sense of humor intact, a little worn, but definitely not broken. In fact I feel more steady and peaceful than ever, on most days.
During one of my many phone conversations with my first sponsor, I explained that I really wanted my husband (a non-recovering sex addict) to see and hear how much he had hurt me. He didn’t think he had a problem and refused any counseling or recovery of any kind. I thought that if he saw how badly hurt I was, he might stop. Her response was; “Why are you going to an active addict with your feelings? They can’t even process their own feelings, much less yours. It’s like going to the casino. You never know how you’re going to end up.”
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?
Lying in the floor in a puddle of tears shortly after disclosure from my spouse, I realized that my life was unmanageable. However, true to my deep self-reliance, I moved forward and kept busy. One week later the sexaholic in my life offered me information about S-Anon. I was too angry to listen and believed I couldn’t trust him anymore and so I stayed away.
Four weeks later, after performing my own due diligence and checking on the S-Anon fellowship, I found a hotline number for my local area meetings on the website. I called the hotline and was given information about meetings in my area. Was it coincidence that the earliest meeting was on the rare night I had to myself?
As I walked into the meeting my thoughts were racing and I KNEW no one could know what I was going through. As I listened to the members my heart sighed with relief. I shared my story, and again wept (as I had four weeks earlier) knowing that my life was unmanageable. I looked around and realized that the members KNEW where I was. I could see that they truly understood how I felt. People were not surprised by my story. Nobody reacted. They shared pieces of their stories with me and while I was still feeling awkward in my first Twelve Step room, I felt I belonged. Most importantly, they shared that they all felt so much better because of S-Anon and several members stayed after the meeting to offer their support and their encouragement.