For me, a co-addictive slip is going back to the beliefs and behaviors which characterized my adult life until I got into the S-Anon program. For many years I believed that I could control others and that I was responsible for their behavior. I was sexual with my husband before he traveled in the illusory belief that it would make him less likely to look at other women while he was away from home. I reminded my children several times about every appointment and obligation they had – as a result of which they never had to learn to be responsible themselves. I snooped through my husband’s mail in the belief that knowledge is power. My efforts to change others were unending – and usually fruitless.
In S-Anon I learned that I could not control others, that I was not responsible for others’ behavior, and that my efforts to spare others from experiencing any negative consequences had a name – enabling- and that it wasn’t beneficial to them. I learned to let others be responsible for themselves and to focus on myself. I found out that people need to learn things for themselves; that even if I believe I have all the answers I need to let them figure it out in their own way.
Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.
I had been learning in S-Anon that I had been doing lots of things that were keeping me from serenity and peace of mind, and it seemed impossible that I would ever be able to stop doing all those things. Later on, I began to realize that I would have little chance of changing my behavior in any kind of lasting way if my attitude didn’t change as well. My controlling, angry, self-righteous, self-willed, fearful, obsessive thinking was at the root of my problems. Yet how could I stop being angry, for example? I was also learning that I was entitled to my feelings, and that I had to acknowledge my real feelings, and not deny them and pretend to be something I wasn’t. I realized that emotional sobriety might be many years away if I waited for my feelings and attitudes to change just because I wanted them to. I decided to ask my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, and in the meantime to help me, in certain situations, to “act” sober, even if I wasn’t feeling particularly sober at the time. It works, one day and one behavior at a time!
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 57.
We had learned to be reactors rather than responders in our relationships. Some of us had taken part in the sexaholic’s activities in an attempt to hold the relationship together; others had lectured and scolded in vehement opposition. Some of us had cried and pleaded and asked for promises. Others had suffered quietly, hoping and praying, afraid to tell anyone about the problem. Many of us had tried all of the above.
We became preoccupied, even obsessed, with the sexual behavior of another person. We were suspicious and tried to catch the sexaholic practicing the addiction. Some of us denied the problem, refusing to acknowledge to ourselves or others the source of our guilt, fear, and confusion. We isolated ourselves from those closest to us in an attempt to keep our secrets. We suffered fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, loneliness, rage and a lack of energy and motivation.
In S-Anon we come to realize that just as we did not cause the sexaholic’s acting out, we cannot “cure” it either. We learn that it is not our responsibility to keep the sexaholic sexually sober. Instead, it is our job to manage our own lives, whether or not the sexaholic chooses sobriety.
Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 2.
Before I got into recovery, I was a terrible snooper. I would go through the sexaholic’s personal belongings, try to listen in on phone conversations, and read his e-mail. When I actually did find evidence of his acting out, I was too ashamed of my behavior to admit what I had been doing. I suffered through the pain of what I had seen, and I also stuffed my feelings of rage because I did not think I could confront him.
In recovery, I have learned that I do not have to hurt myself by searching for evidence of my spouse’s acting out. Trying to catch the sexaholic keeps the focus on my spouse, and is a way for me to avoid my own recovery. I have a right to know if I am in danger of getting a sexually transmitted disease. Rather than snooping, however, I can directly ask my spouse for the truth, trust my intuition, and ask my sponsor’s perspective.
I have learned to ask for God’s help to see things as they are. Then I can decide if there are boundaries I need to set and implement for myself, such as a period of abstinence for my safety or for my S-Anon sobriety. Keeping the focus on myself has eased my pain and increased my serenity. I know that I can trust God to reveal whatever “evidence” I need to know.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 48.