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
Step Eight suggested that we begin to “own” our character defects and take responsibility for the choices we made, but many of us were so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the wronged party that we could not see how we had wronged others. Reviewing our Fourth Step helped us to recognize people we had harmed. In any past relationship, were we attentive, loving and forgiving, or were we preoccupied, bitter or resentful? We put all the people we had harmed, including ourselves, on our list. If some of the people on the list had also harmed us, we worked toward forgiveness, recognizing that continuing to blame other sick people would just prolong our misery. When we did not feel willing or able to do this, we asked our Higher Power for help until we did feel willing.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 26.
When I came to S-Anon, I had been stuck on Step Eight in another Twelve Step program for a long time. I had a list and I knew the people to whom I needed to make amends. I was willing enough to say “I’m sorry” and to reach out to re-establish relationships with those I had harmed the most — my children from my first marriage from whom I had been estranged. Yet a thought kept going through my mind: “There’s something else I have to do. There’s more to this Step than I have been able to face.”
Through working the Steps again from an S-Anon point of view, I experienced many changes in my life. I became aware of the nature of my own unhealthy behavior in certain relationships and situations. I experienced a wonderful freedom from feelings of guilt and shame. Then I received a letter from my sixteen-year-old daughter that felt like a slap in the face. She essentially said that she needed a mother who would take an active role in her life and that if I wanted a relationship with her, I would have to do my part by at least living in the same city as she did, rather than on another continent. Her message reminded me of a line from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous: “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.” Read more
My sponsor helped me understand why I needed to be on my amends list. She pointed out that I had been my own worst critic. I often accepted blame and said, “I’m sorry,” whether or not I was responsible for a situation. She reminded me of how I had put my interests and priorities, such as finishing my college degree, on the back burner time after time. I indeed had harmed myself and I wrote my name down, too.
God brought to mind the many others who rounded out my amends list: extended family, co-workers, and people I had known socially and in my faith community, even some who had died. Today, even though I’ve moved on in my Step work, I still make it a practice to review my Eighth Step list periodically. I prayerfully consider if there are more things I need to be willing to do in each case. With my mind and heart in a willing place, it’s amazing how my Higher Power leads me.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 210.