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.
I’m an extravert, and no one who I’ve known over the years of Twelve-Step life would ever have called me isolated. I talk about myself a lot, but it wasn’t until I got into S-Anon after hitting a traumatic bottom that I ever talked really honestly about my relationship with the sexaholic. My attitude before recovery was that no one was going to tell me how to run that relationship. I had found the love of my life and I would not let anyone get too close, for fear of losing my hold on my primary relationship no matter how unhealthy the relationship was becoming or, in some ways, may always have been.
So God did for me what I could not do for myself and I found S-Anon, or S-Anon found me (that’s closer to the truth). In the past four years I have truly come out of isolation—a.k.a. out of self-reliance—and into the community of S-Anon. Now I DO let people give me feedback about how I‘m operating in my relationships. My best thinking didn’t get me very far. HP knew all about me but I hung on tightly to doing it my way until the pain got too great. I let the healthy people get close to me. The fortress came tumbling down and it needed to.
I always say that the Number One Affliction in our marriage brought to me the greatest gift in my life!! Sexaholism brought me to my knees as nothing else could ever have. I had a religious upbringing, but had no personal relationship with the God that I “THOUGHT” I was serving.
Once I accepted that I was powerless to control the sexaholic’s sobriety and to control my own life, I needed to find the God of my understanding who I could let be in control of my life.
I found this personal connection from working the S-Anon Steps, going to meetings, attending International Conventions (I’ve been to 20 consecutive Conventions, and a total of 24.), working with my sponsor, and my spiritual director.
I have been a member of S-Anon since 2003. It has been a difficult journey for me living with an active sexaholic not seeking recovery. I have felt guilty because I did not leave him when it seemed any sane person would not choose to live like this. Over the years, I have attended meetings often, worked the Twelve Steps, read my daily readings, prayed for guidance from my Higher Power, and called my sponsor faithfully.
At a critical time when I felt so much guilt over not leaving the sexaholic in my life, my sponsor guided me to make my own decision based upon my own prayer and meditation. She gave me permission to make a decision that I “thought” an intelligent person should not make – and that was to stay with my spouse (a sexaholic who does not practice recovery).
I have shared this before and it hasn’t changed for me. It reminds me on a daily basis why I am “here!” I like to call it my spiritual maintenance.
Tradition Five: “Each S-Anon Family group has but one purpose: to help families of sexaholics. We do this by practicing the Twelve Steps of S-Anon, by encouraging and understanding our sexaholic relatives, and by welcoming and giving comfort to families of sexaholics.”
I have to remember that S-Anon has but one purpose (including the on-line group has but one purpose).
If I haven’t got it I can’t give it away. So I had to work very hard on my own “stuff.” I learned to apply the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions to my life; I came to understand that the Spiritual basis of this Program is universal.
I am able to recognize that my perspective in the past was warped. My family of origin had a belief system based in fear: fear of not being good enough, or lovable, and fear of abandonment. I developed attitudes and mindsets that caused me to seek approval and attention. Later on, I developed the belief that sex was an important sign of love. I had no real feelings of gratitude and I wanted others to be appreciative of what I could offer them. I brought all of this into my marriage of over 30 years.
Through my effort to work this S-Anon program, especially my Step work, I have a new awareness and perspective based in recovery, honesty, and open-mindedness. I am willing to look at myself from this new perspective and my attitudes have changed. Focusing on me as this program suggests is the single most important element for my recovery. I cannot stress this enough.
S-Anon has blessed me with precious gifts over the years. The ones I am most grateful for are: the ability to make better choices for myself; recognizing and responding (not reacting) to unhealthy situations; and knowing and loving myself.
When I listen to others share their experience, strength, and hope I receive insights regarding where I came from and where I am going. It humbles me. I am a work in progress. Years ago that wouldn’t have been good enough: I expected to be perfect and I expected others to be perfect, too.
Some years after coming through the worst pain and grief I could have imagined with the help of my group, my sponsor, and daily application of the tools of the program, I was certain that the pain was behind me and that I could face anything. I felt so much better. I could sleep, eat, think, and work. I could even play and laugh. I relaxed. And I relaxed my grip on my program.
My career was demanding, but I was succeeding in both my personal and work life. I studied the Steps and Traditions, prayed, went to meetings, and sponsored others. On some days, that is. On others, I forgot. I dove right in to handling my life, while paying attention to my program on the side.
It was fall of 2006. I had been attending S-Anon meetings for a few months, but had not yet begun to write out the steps. I was starting to absorb some ideas about what healthy and unhealthy behaviors in me looked like. For example, I heard at meetings that checking on the sexaholic was injurious to me and created turmoil in my daily living. (My home group refers to it as “pain-shopping.”) I also knew that focusing on my own behaviors, feelings, and motivations was helpful. Focusing/obsessing about the sexaholic in my life was not helpful and could be harmful (to me.) Trying to fix myself and change my own faulty thinking was helpful and trying to fix/change and control my husband and others was crazy-making.
Although I was on the right path, and hearing and reading about all kinds of good recovery ideas, there were some practical lessons to be learned along the way. My behaviors hadn’t begun to change yet. I thought that checking on the behavior of others, and knowing what they were doing would keep me safe. “Progress, not perfection.” (I do so love the slogans of this program–they are very affirming.) I believed in my heart that the program was going to help me, yet I hadn’t discovered that S-Anon and the ensuing Step-work was going to change my life in ways that I never dreamed possible.