Using Prayer to Change the Things I Can

A discussion on the Eleventh Step in an S-Anon couples meeting led me to question exactly how I could improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power. Even after many years of attending S-Anon and finding freedom from many of the effects of sexaholism, I was aware that I tended to forget my Higher Power during the day when things were going well. I decided to use a favorite prayer, the Third Step prayer (found on page 63 of Alcoholics Anonymous), whenever possible during the day to improve communication with my Higher Power. I wanted to use this prayer to increase my conscious contact with God and as a reminder to humbly give myself over to my Higher Power. I made the commitment to stay open to whatever my Higher Power might show me and to carry out God’s will to the best of my ability. I decided to use my commuting time to begin the process. I was usually an angry, aggressive person behind the wheel, a habit I still had from the crazy days of reacting to sexaholism. I knew from recent Tenth Step inventories that this was an area of my life that required major revision. The first change I made was choosing to stay in one lane instead of weaving and racing through traffic. When traffic stopped or slowed to a crawl, I began my prayer. Whenever I was stopped at a traffic light, I recited the prayer, repeating it over and over until it was time to move again.

Before the month was over I sensed a welcome change in my attitude in many areas of my life. I found serenity on the roadways — abstinence from “road rage.” I was feeling better about myself and about my relationships. Then my employer made cuts in staff, and I was one of those who lost their job.

Like virtually anyone in that situation, I suffered great anger and distress for several days. When I shared my feelings at my S- Anon meeting, the group helped me come to accept those feelings and also helped me to see what a great opportunity this was for me. The group became the source of my awareness of my Higher Power acting in my life, even in that situation. They could see the advantages of my position and the unlimited opportunities open to me to make a positive change in my line of work. I became aware that moving on to work that I loved was another way in which I could do my Higher Power’s will for me. This realization put to rest the fear that God’s will for me must always be unpleasant or downright burdensome. My group and I celebrated the change, and the fellowship has continued to support me as I have moved into a new career.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 134-135.

More Than My Emotions

After I came out of denial and faced the reality that my beloved partner was a sexaholic, I experienced terrible emotional pain, especially fear. It seemed like much of the time I felt so overwhelmed by those emotions that I actually became the fear and pain.

To calm myself, I have found that it helps to first acknowledge my pain and fear. Just noticing my emotions allows me to separate myself from those awful nagging feelings. This distance helps me see that I am not just a lump of pain or fear – I am more than my emotions. One of our S-Anon slogans says, “This Too Shall Pass.” In thirty minutes (or a day or week), I may well feel better.

I also focus on observing my breathing as a method of detaching from my obsessive thoughts and overwhelming feelings. By focusing on my breath and following the rising and falling of my abdomen, I actually slow down my racing thoughts, and I am released from obsession. Focusing on my physical body gently brings me back to key realities: I am a living, breathing being, and I am on a path led by my Higher Power.

I need not give in to despair or painful emotions. I can find relief in the present moment when I breathe, acknowledge my feelings, and remember that they are not permanent.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 335.

Forgiveness

“My husband/wife says that they’re sorry, but how can I ever forgive them after what they did to me?”  “I’ll never forgive my parents!”  “Why should I forgive him? He still doesn’t admit he did anything wrong!” Other members of S-Anon expressed these sentiments, and many of us have them ourselves. Why should we forgive? Does forgiving mean forgetting?

I met a woman whose husband had left her for another woman seven years previously. He was now remarried and she had not seen him in years. But when she spoke about her pain and anger, it was though the betrayal had occurred a week or perhaps a month ago. She seemed to be stuck in a time warp. Because she had not let go of the past and forgiven her husband, she had been unable to move past her negative emotions and to get on with her life. Her ex-husband was still the focus of her inner life. She had continued to give him free rent in her head all these years.

It is easier to forgive another person when that person wants forgiveness. But even if they are dead, or remarried, or still acting out, we still need to forgive them. The reason is that we forgive them in order to have serenity in our own life. Forgiveness is being able to remember the past without experiencing the pain all over again. When we have forgiven someone, we can think about that person and what they did to us without losing our serenity. Without forgiveness, there is no peace of mind.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

Forgiving Myself…

My children were deeply affected by growing up in a home with active sexaholism. They have had to deal with some rough times and have developed some dysfunctional ways of relating to others. I am afraid that my youngest child will become an addict. My oldest child has worked through many issues and is doing much better. Today I know that I can’t protect them from themselves, and I don’t want to enable them either.

Feeling overwhelmed by guilt during early recovery, I continuously allowed them to blame me for their problems. I thought it would be harsh to confront them, but eventually, as I grew in my recovery, I began to see that I was enabling them to stay stuck in “blame” and victimization.” I learned that just as I cannot continue to see myself as a victim, they must abandon the victim role if they want to live happy and healthy lives. I cannot accept their accusations and continue to live in shame and guilt, while trying to stay “sober” in my recovery. I have had to just let go and let God.

S-Anon has taught me that I did the best I could with the tools and skills handed down to me by my parents. I believe I will always feel some pain, wishing I had gotten into recovery earlier. When I finally forgave myself, it was a great relief. I have learned to look at what is going on with my children as a part of their “journey” in life, knowing that no one escapes the problems inherent in his/her own journey. I cannot afford to enable them by accepting the blame for all their troubles. I know they are doing the best they can at this time, and I pray for them both, knowing they both have a deep and abiding faith in God. Today, I validate their feelings—but I also tell them that it is their right to feel the way they do — but also tell them that I hope that one day they will choose to stop feeling victimized; and as adults, get help and move on.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 91-92.