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.
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).