S-Anon International Family Groups
We asked some people, who are recovering in S-Anon, to write down what they remember about their first meetings. We hope that newcomers reading these stories will be able to identify with some of the feelings and realize that almost none of us came to S-Anon brimming over with joy and gladness. At the same time, we know that each of us will respond differently, in some respects, to the same event. As you begin your recovery in S-Anon, whatever feelings you may be having are completely acceptable and okay. Many of us believe that our first experience of unconditional love and acceptance occurred in the S-Anon fellowship.
Once I learned that S-Anon existed, I knew I would attend, but my motives were mixed. Mostly I felt that I “should” go, to be the loving wife that could never be accused of not supporting her husband, an addict. But part of me knew that I needed to talk in an environment that allowed open discussion of a painful, even embarrassing, disease. The complexities of being married to a sexaholic – a respected leader in the community – were such that I was desperate to talk to someone who would understand. Going to the first meeting was hard. Only one other member was there, and at first I was disappointed and felt some pressure that my first meeting was to be a one-on-one conversation. But I was able to tell her my story, and to hear hers, before a few other people arrived quite late. Before the meeting, I expected to meet horrible people who were married to perverts. During that meeting, and those that have followed in the time I’ve been working this program, I’ve met some wonderfully honest and compassionate people. I went at first because of my husband’s addiction. Now I go because of my own difficulties and struggles.
It was like coming home! Several years before I found S-Anon I was hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. At that time I said to my therapist, “I wish there was a group like Al-Anon for me because I feel completely alone.” But the S-Anon people at that first meeting knew my pain and my despair. The topic of the discussion was “enabling,” and it nearly broke my heart to find out that all my frantic efforts to “help” had actually “helped” my husband stay in addiction. At the same time, a two-ton weight was lifted from my shoulders when I was told this behavior was not my responsibility. Finally I was given the chance to work on myself and it hurts so good!
I was angry with God, and felt that God had been punishing me. I would never have believed that a group of people could be part of my Higher Power. I would have thought that would be sacrilegious or something, but I see now how that works, and how God speaks through every one of us. I just could not have healed from the shame in my life without looking into other people’s eyes and seeing other faces and the nodding of their heads. When somebody in S-Anon says, “Yeah, I know how you feel,” they really do know! It’s as if they grew up in my house or were married to my husband. That has been very comforting and necessary for me as I have grown in the S-Anon program.
I thought all the people were crazy and I was not coming back! My husband had gotten into recovery, which is what I had wanted for ten years. He started going to meetings, but I was so mad! I felt very left out, and inside I was raging, “He’s getting all this support when I’m the one who’s been injured! I’m the one who’s been hurt! Help me!” So I would drill him when he came home from meetings and ask, “What did you talk about?” It got to the point where one night my very soft-spoken husband exploded in anger, “If this is the way it’s going to be every time I go to a meeting, I’m going to stay home!” And I thought, “Oh no! Is he going to stop this because I’m angry that he’s getting better?”
It took weeks to conquer my fear and resentment, but finally I walked through the door into a meeting. For the first three meetings I was thinking, “They’re all crazy in here. They really have problems!” But by my fifth or sixth meeting I realized that I had a problem too, and there was no turning back. I’m so grateful for those people. They kept loving me and affirming me even though I thought they were so weird. They would thank me for being there, and say, “If there’s anything I can ever do to help you…” Their support made it possible for me to take the leap of faith to make a phone call and say “I think I need to understand this powerlessness, and could you help me with the First Step?” That was the beginning of my recovery
I had been in Al-Anon for two years when I found out about my
husband’s sexaholism. I took some positive steps toward my own
recovery, but I had every excuse in the book not to attend S-Anon –
“My other program is helping me. The S-Anon meeting is too small…I
need a larger meeting. I’m not like those people. He never did those
things. I might run into a client or former client.” It never
occurred to me to question why the same excuses didn’t keep me away
from my other program. When I did start to attend S-Anon meetings, I
felt like a complete newcomer. I struggled with my wish to control,
my guilt, and my anger. It was a relief to hear people talk about
sexual issues. I began to look at what sex means to me and how I
used sex to manipulate my husband and reassure myself of my
self-worth. I talked about boundaries and abstinence. Today, I
continue to work both programs because I need both. Ironic as it may
seem, I am grateful for my husband’s sexaholism, because it has
forced me to look at my own addition to people and to the illusion
of control. I’ve learned that I can draw strength from my Higher
Power and the power of both of my groups.
I hoped I would find some answers on how I could fix my husband. Even though I was suicidal, I really didn’t think that I had that much of a problem. Talk about minimizing! It was a humbling experience for me to realize that my addiction to my husband was just as devastating as my husband’s addiction to lust. I realized that my recovery was really and truly a matter of life and death for me, and that there was no in-between. I never did figure out how to fix my husband, but the longer I keep coming back to S-Anon just for myself, the more joy and serenity I feel.
I went to my first meeting immediately after learning that my husband’s string of affairs was an addiction to lust. I was in so much pain from the discovery of the betrayal I was desperate enough to try anything. I also wanted answers about living with a sexaholic, like “What is the percentage of sexaholics who relapse?” and “How would I know if relapse had occurred?” I never did get the percentages I wanted, but I got to know a group of people who understood my pain as no one else could, having been there themselves. I was one of those who could disregard what therapists told me, saying to myself, “They haven’t been betrayed as I have!” But I couldn’t dismiss what I heard in these meetings. In the beginning I cried, meeting after meeting, but I always felt reassured when they told me they had been where I was and understood. It seemed that by sharing the pain with them, it was lessened. I came to learn that I was dependent upon another person for my happiness and for life itself, and that was part of my problem. S-Anon has helped me to gradually gain an independence, self-confidence, and serenity I never thought possible.
I was real familiar with going into a group and blending into the woodwork. I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, hurting somebody’s feelings, or making a fool of myself. I always worried about how other people saw me, so I thought the best approach for me at my first meeting was not to speak, and I wondered if I would ever be able to share with the group. After I had been coming to meetings for a while someone told me, “If you want to get better, you have to raise your hand. You have to share what’s going on with you.” And when I felt ready, I did. And it really does work.
I remember sitting there and having no idea what was happening. I didn’t understand what they meant by “powerlessness” and I didn’t understand how my life was unmanageable. I could hear it in other people’s stories, but I thought I was there to support my husband – he was the one with the problem, not me! The topic of the meeting that night was “Anger” and I remember being appalled and thinking to myself, “This is the angriest bunch of people I ever met in my life!” I didn’t know then that “If you spot it, you got it.” I didn’t know at that point how angry I was inside. I slowly came to realize that I was powerless over a lot of things…finally after about five meetings I was able to start listening. I had to come to the point of despair in order to come out of denial, but it was wonderful that my S-Anon group was there to support me.
I came to S-Anon based on a clear ultimatum from my wife—make some changes now or she was leaving. Despite her recovery and sexual sobriety, and my attendance at meetings of another Twelve Step Fellowship, my life was still unmanageable. On the advice of a counselor and people in other fellowships, I started attending S-Anon meetings. I felt uncomfortable attending my first few meetings, all those women and very few, if any, men. How could I relate to them or them to me? Slowly, as I became willing to listen and not judge, I heard pieces of my own story—the need to fix, the feeling that everything was my fault, and the resentment toward the sexaholic. What really amazed me was seeing some members, still living with active addiction, who seemed to be able to find serenity when I had none.
This page was last
modified on 12/5/15.