I Don’t Need a Relationship to Make Me Feel Whole

Some married S-Anons new to our program express surprise at seeing so many single S-Anons regularly attending meetings. “Why do you need to go if you’re no longer married to the sexaholic?” they ask. The reason is that we go to get recovery for ourselves, regardless of our marital status.

I began going to S-Anon at my husband’s suggestion, even though I did not perceive that I had a problem. It was only when as part of my First Step I made an inventory of all my significant past relationships that I realized that indeed I did have a problem. What I recognized was that every important relationship, beginning with my first romance at age 19, was with an emotionally unavailable person. The details differed, but the bottom line was that I had made consistently poor choices in my relationships. I had to face the fact that I was attracted to people with whom I could not have a healthy, intimate relationship. Time after time I had rejected the stable, loving man because he was “boring,” while I pursued the exciting, unavailable, unpredictable guy. And I realized, to my dismay, that if my current marriage were to end, I would undoubtedly once again seek an unhealthy relationship. That was when I knew I needed to work on myself. “Our relationships can only be as healthy as we are,” we learn in the program. Some single S-Anons have also recognized a long-term pattern of making poor choices. If those of us who are single hope at some point to have a healthy relationship, we need to become healthy ourselves first.

In the S-Anon program I also became aware of how my tremendous fear of abandonment had led me to accept unacceptable behaviors in others. I could not establish boundaries as long as being alone felt like a fate worse than death. Now that my self-esteem has improved to where I know I would be comfortable alone, I have real choices in my life. I am in my current relationship by choice, not out of dependency. Single S-Anons who are working on this issue have shared their unhappiness over being alone and their desperation to get into a new relationship. They describe how easily their boundaries erode and how quickly they return to people-pleasing behaviors in attempting to hold onto a new relationship. S-Anons who have separated from spouses who are still acting out have shared their difficulty in staying away from the spouse and their temptation to give her/him another chance although the spouse in not in recovery. In S-Anon we learn that we are worthwhile people who do not need a relationship to make us feel whole.

Our basic emotional health does not depend on our marital status. S-Anon helps us build our self-esteem, love ourselves, and make healthier choices in our lives. Too many of us have let significant others be our Higher Power. In S-Anon we learn to rely on a real Higher Power so that we can be happy whether single or in a relationship.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

Establishing Boundaries…

I used to believe that I had to answer any personal question that was asked of me. I would read newspaper advice columns and wonder how people got the courage to tell other people to “mind their own business” if they asked a question that was too personal. It seemed impossible to me. I can’t say that in recovery I go around telling everyone to mind their own business, but I’m learning how to say things like “Oh, that’s a long story” or “Please, don’t get me started.”  Now I understand that I don’t owe my friends or family any explanation. I may come to the point where I want to share certain things with them, but when to share with them and how much to tell are decisions that are mine to make. Another sentence that I have learned to say is, “I don’t want to talk about that right now.” For me, that is recovery!

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 94.

Life Became Simple and Peaceful

After reading Step One in S-Anon Twelve Steps, I listed where I had been powerless as a result of trying to exert power over others. Topping this list were situations in which I feared being emotionally abandoned.

I learned very early to connect with people who had difficulties, because they inevitably needed help with their problems and consequently would not leave me. Unfortunately, my fear of abandonment tormented me into becoming whatever they wanted. So I stayed with my sexaholic partner, even though his behavior threatened my health.

S-Anon helped me see that my fear had led me to abandon myself through having no boundaries. So I began setting boundaries and taking care of my emotional well-being. In response, my spouse began to physically and emotionally distance himself. I was terrified he would leave, but I had learned to ask myself, “Must I tolerate sexual and emotional abuse in exchange for maintaining a relationship?”  The answer gradually came: to stay with my husband meant accepting things that were unhealthy and intolerable for me, physically and spiritually. I had to risk his abandonment in order to heal.

When I finally accepted I would be in the care of my Higher Power no matter what others chose to do, I was able to let go of the fear and let go of my marriage. Amazingly, my life became so much more simple and peaceful.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 273.

Helping Me See the Light

Writing is the “getting it out” tool for me in my S-Anon program. Expressing my thoughts and feelings verbally is one thing, but going a step further and committing those same sentiments to paper has been really helpful. When I record my feelings, I’ve created a log to refer back to when I find myself obsessing about my spouse, my marriage, my career, life… the painful aspects thereof. I can read what I wrote a week, a month, a year ago and be reminded of the purpose of my process. Also, re-reading what I’ve written may trigger the memory of steps I took that helped me back to a state of surrender and serenity. For me, there’s something about the tool of writing that purges me of my secrets and shame. Writing is the big challenge of Step Four – my personal inventory. Today, to have the willingness to write about my life – my memories, my mistakes and my dreams has truly been the opening of Pandora’s box for me. I believe writing will continue to free my spirit, which had been locked away in darkness for much too long. The written word helps me see the light.

Reprinted from the Summer 2009 issue of S-Anews©.

Being honest About Who I Am and How I Feel

Most of my acting out before I came to S-Anon was really acting in. I sometimes seemed more “sober” then because I was so out of touch with my emotions. Sometimes I still don’t want to appear vulnerable and would like others to think I am “just fine,” when I am most emphatically not “just fine.” I am learning that it’s not necessarily a slip or a bad thing to be angry, fearful or whatever. It’s okay for me to feel and acknowledge my emotions, and I didn’t used to know that. To be sober, though, I need to dig a little deeper, beneath the disturbing emotions, examine the reasons why I am hurt or fearful, and become willing to surrender those attitudes or areas of my life to my Higher Power for healing. For me, this is the process of  “staying sober.”

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 56.