Freedom Through Honesty

When I first heard the term sex addiction I began, subconsciously, to deny the truth about it. No way did I choose a sex addict spouse! Then the anger came – anger at my spouse, the world, God and myself. How could I possibly enable anyone? I didn’t have any issues to look at, it was all his problem. I worked so hard to keep up the “How are you – I am fine,” slogan around the house. This all began one year and three months ago, when I first learned my husband was a sex addict. I have since felt this “war” I carried on for all those months was actually, for me, a war against honesty-a war against the acceptance of truth. The truth was I did marry a sex addict. The truth was I did have issues of my own to look at. The truth was anger began long before my sex addict husband came along. The walls I carefully built with blocks of “How are you – I am fine,” have long since been crumbling around me. I could no longer pretend.

My denial of truth began early in my life. Coming from a two-parent alcoholic home, lying became a great survival tool. The very essence of the daily alcoholic chaos prompted dishonesty in all forms. But as recovery made it’s way into my life, so has the desire for truth and honesty. The old tools are rusty and worn. “Oh, it’s just a white lie; who will ever know?”  These have been great rationalizations for me. But as I continue to connect more and more with my Higher Power, I’ve come to realize “they” may never know, but I will. Lies are like tiny drops of water falling into a pail on a rainy day. With time, the pail becomes full and heavy and eventually spills over – over into my self- esteem, my relationships and ultimately, my spirituality.

So I have begun to take baby steps toward daily honesty. It means, for me, tending the smallest of lies. It has had a very humbling but powerful effect on my life. It keeps me focused on my own issues and my own recovery. I have begun to experience the freedom that truth and honesty has given me. For this I am grateful. The truth has begun to set me free.

Reprinted from the Fall 1992 issue of S-Anews©.

Commitment to Reality…

I can see now that before recovery I was committed to fantasies of what I wanted things to be like, particularly in my relationship with my husband. Today when I have difficulty in our relationship, it is often due to my bumping up against my old ideas of how things “should” be. In recovery I’m learning that commitment means being committed to the dynamic process of life the way it is, and that I can’t control the other person or the outcome. Committing myself to hanging in there—when pain, loss, and conflict are inevitable—is really hard for me. Through working the program, I’m beginning to accept the inevitability of pain and change. Today my commitment means that I am committed to my recovery with the reality, not the fantasy, of who my husband is, as well as who I am and who I’m becoming. It also means that I must surrender my self-righteous attitude that I have all the answers and that I know the way everything should be.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 72.

Willing to Let Go of All These Defects of Character

By working Steps Four and Five I became aware that jealousy had always been a major problem for me. Even though my recovering partner and I had not yet made a formal commitment to each other, I resented any woman with whom he interacted, regardless of whether or not there was cause to be angry. My resentful feelings were especially acute when my fear of rejection and abandonment surfaced. I acted out these feelings by pouting and withdrawing from my partner and being cold and distant toward the woman. When anger fueled my jealousy, it really did seem that I could control my partner with the force of my angry feelings. I had difficulty understanding that what I had used to survive in this relationship was a “character defect.” I could not imagine how our rela- tionship would last if I was not trying to control how he related to other women.

I talked about my jealousy character defect in my Fifth Step, and from time to time I did feel willing to have the jealousy removed, but my fear was great, and I did not know how to become any more “ready.” I tried replacing feelings of inadequacy and inferiority with thoughts of the love and care of my Higher Power. I knew I needed to get my sense of self-worth from a relationship with a real Higher Power, not a human one, but I still struggled with being “entirely ready.”

One night I sat outside his apartment in my car, knowing that a woman with whom he had been in treatment was visiting him. He was working a good recovery program and I was seeing the results of that, so I had no reason to believe there was anything inappropriate about her visit with him. Yet my jealousy, driven by feelings of betrayal from the past, made my pain nearly unbearable. I hated my partner, the woman, and myself, and I felt like a rat in a trap with no way out. I knew I could never be happy, joyous and free if I was jealous of every woman with whom he had a conversation. I thought to myself, “I can’t live this way,” and for the first time I finally accepted the truth that my partner’s attention was his to give, not mine to control. God granted me a gut-level awareness that the pain of holding onto my jealousy was worse than the pain would be if the relationship ended (my greatest fear). In that moment I finally felt entirely ready to be rid of my jealousy.

This process of becoming entirely ready was a powerful lesson in how a particular defect works for me (for example, by providing an illusion of control) and works against me (usually by reducing my ability to love and care for others and myself ). I learned that becoming “willing” takes as long as it takes. The pain of holding onto this destructive defect of character had to become worse than my fear of change. This incident helped me learn that regardless of the issue, I can turn my will and my life as well as my character defects over to my Higher Power, trusting in His love and care for me.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 67-68.

Accepting Reality

“I’ve been doing this for a year now and nothing is better,” I muttered to myself as I trudged from my car to the S-Anon meeting room. I was angry. I wanted the pain to be over and the stress to be gone. I wanted to find some peace in my marriage and in myself.

The topic of the meeting that night was acceptance. As I listened to the sharing, I found my anger dissipating and my clarity growing. It occurred to me that I had been trying to move ahead with my marriage, rather than facing my pain and the lessons it had for me. I had not fully accepted the reality that the trust in the marriage had been broken and needed to be rebuilt with honesty.

When it was my turn to speak that evening, I shared some of these thoughts. I also shared that the hardest part of acceptance was admitting I was not in control, and that the anger that continued to plague me was really anger at God because I was not in control.

Since my awareness at that meeting, I have tried to slow myself down and make sure I come to acceptance before I take action on any issue. Regarding my marriage, I pray for “the serenity to accept what I cannot change, courage to change what I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” I trust that the correct course of action will be clear when the time is right. The S-Anon fellowship reminds me that I can have serenity now if I am willing to trust the process.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 305.