S-Ateen Story…

I knew about the sexaholism in our family. My parents were in the process of a divorce, when one night I received a phone call from my father, who said that he needed to tell me that he had sexually abused me as a child and that the abuse would be reported to our local children’s welfare agency. I know that if I had not been in S-Ateen and not had a program and a sponsor, I probably would not be here today. My sponsor let me cry it all out and helped me accept my feelings. I began to understand that even though this was very painful and sad, that everything was going to be all right; that God had a reason even for this.

The children’s welfare agency did press charges against my father on my behalf, and my father served a year in jail. I love my father so much, and I felt guilty because I agreed to continue with the trial and felt partially responsible for his having to go to jail. I believed I had to do what I could to protect others whom he could possibly harm because of his profession. My S-Ateen sponsor and the people in my group told me it was not my fault; what had happened to me was because of my father’s illness and the choices he made, and I was doing what I needed to do for my recovery. S-Ateen has also been a great help in dealing with some difficult feelings about my mother. Part of my recovery has been to accept that my mother tried to do what was best in the situation, but also to accept that I still felt a lot of anger and resentment that she could not see what was going on. Sharing with other S-Ateens helped me work through that anger and resentment, and it helped me to realize that both of my parents were sick people, not bad people. They didn’t mean to harm me. I know that eventually I will need to address my part in keeping the family secrets and the reasons why I did not come forward to talk to my mom about what was happening to me.

While working on Step Two, I realized that I also blamed God for allowing this situation to occur in the first place. I believed I had done nothing to deserve this abuse, and I asked myself why God would let this happen to me. I have come to believe that the God of my understanding does not have control over our decisions. He tries to show us the right way to go, but he does not make the decisions for us. And I realized that my Higher Power really is loving and caring. After all, he provided all the wonderful people in S-Anon and S-Ateen who have shared their experience, strength, hope, support, and courage with me.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 76-77.

Finding a God of My Understanding

My parents were not religious at all, and I was brought up with more of an ethnic and cultural identity than a religious one. When I met the man I would marry, I found that his family was much more religiously-oriented than mine; his brother was even a religious leader. My husband wanted us to follow religious teachings and so I agreed to do that. We had four children and taught them the principles of our faith. We even sent them to religious school for education. We followed the tenets and were a “religious family.”

Then sexaholism broke through all the boundaries of our religion and came full force into our home. My view of religion became very negative and I was angry. I had participated in religious activities in order to be a “good wife” and not create problems, yet this disease had brought insanity into our home.

I was still feeling angry when I started going to S-Anon meetings. In my group there was an older woman who seemed very different than me and who talked about God and how important God was to her. She would say in the meetings time and time again to“hit your knees.”  Whenever she said that, I wanted to leave because I was not about to have anything to do with God. I kept coming to meetings, but I wouldn’t sit next to her.

I went on for many months rejecting the “God part” of the program. I would walk in the mornings and recite the Twelve Steps. I would go to meetings almost nightly, but I would not accept that there was a power greater than myself. One day as I was walking and obsessing about a hypothetical conversation that might or might not ever happen, it occurred to me that even though I didn’t believe in God, I could call a higher being “HP.” I felt fairly comfortable with that. Even though I was doubtful that HP could do anything for me, I began visualizing a little gnome sitting on my left shoulder. This little shoulder gnome was with me all the time and believed in me. When my thoughts became too terrifying for me, I talked to the little gnome and I felt better. It took another six or seven months before I took that woman’s suggestion and “hit my knees.” I remember that morning and the relief I felt by taking the action of going to my knees. I knew then that I, too, could have a God of my understanding who would be with me and help me. In my Step Two process I became acutely aware that religion and spirituality were not the same, and I could believe in God as I have come to understand God. That is a comforting thought for me.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 18-19.

Being Restored to Sanity

Early in recovery, I was challenged by Step Two to understand sanity and insanity at a time when my life seemed to be turned upside down. I felt that I lived in a world where the attitude seemed to be “do as you please” with no accountability. Needless to say, there didn’t seem to be much sanity in the world around me.

It was relatively easy for me to lie to myself and say that I had not behaved in an insane way. Yet when I reflected on my family of origin and my religion’s doctrines and teachings as a part of my Step Two work, I came to understand that insane thinking was “normal” in my family. I had learned to think that way from early childhood. It was this insane thinking that enabled me to deny and tolerate the sexaholism that was active in my home, and eventually to participate in it as well.

Through S-Anon, I am breaking the chain of the “family disease.” I am slowly being restored to sanity. My peace, serenity, and connection to a Higher Power are greater than the insanity with which I grew up. I am grateful that I have made a commitment to the S-Anon Steps, so that I have the opportunity to know that there is a better way for me to live.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 98.

A Real Higher Power

Last summer we got a cute and very lovable puppy. Not more than a few days after bringing her home, she started to have some health problems. Despite her problems she captured my heart with her playful nature, wagging tail, and multitude of wet kisses. Needless to say I felt enormously sad when I learned her health problems were so severe that we would have to put her to sleep.
The intensity of my feelings began to overwhelm me. At the time, I did not realize that I had tried to avoid the feelings by getting angry with my husband. I wanted him to fix things. I slipped into my old behavior and blamed him for not doing enough.
After he left the house to do some yard work, I found myself feeling angry and alone. All of a sudden, it was as if a small miracle happened: I realized I was being very willful. I wanted things my way. I had tried to make things go my way and when they did not, I wanted my husband to do what I could not do, which was to make it work out my way. I could see how I had tried to turn him into my Higher Power! In doing so, I had hurt him and myself, and had not really turned it over to a Higher Power. I knew then that the anger was easier for me to face than the intense feelings of sadness, but to not feel the sadness was to not be honest with myself.

So, right then and there, I spoke to my Higher Power and acknowledged my willful, self-seeking ways. I totally, and without reservation turned it over to God, to do with it what He willed. Then I apologized to my husband. I shared the peace and serenity I felt in knowing that I had done all that I could and whatever was to be would according to God’s will, not mine. I had been draining myself of energy that could be spent in a healthier and more productive way.

Through letting go, I found, with God’s help, I could face the sad feelings. We were then blessed by being able to get another puppy. He has brought all of his warm puppy love into our hearts and home – that unconditional love that puppies know so well how to give.

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

Trusting in a Higher Power First…

I’m beginning to see that trusting my Higher Power underlies learning to trust in all areas of my life. I’m learning that turning it over to my Higher Power and surrendering my will, allows me to be open to finding the solution. This is particularly true when I’m struggling in my relationship with my partner. It has never failed that after surrendering, within a short period of time there seems to be something changing. I often don’t know whether the change is in me or my partner or both of us, but changes happen, and then healing starts. Surrendering to my Higher Power is working for me. Turning my will and my life over to my Higher Power is the only tool I know that has saved me at times when I was at my lowest and didn’t know where to turn next.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 61.

Giving the Outcome to God

I remember reading Step three and thinking “I can do this!” Making a decision felt comfortable; that is, a decision is an action, something to do. I’m much better at doing than not doing something. So I “did” Step three; I “decided” every day, every hour, every minute, but I found no relief.

Then it was suggested that once I made the decision, I needed to let go — to surrender. “How does one let go?” I asked myself. I pictured myself holding my husband as he was dangling over the edge of a cliff. Surely letting go would not be caring or loving! To me the word “surrender” implied being forced to do something against my will. Would God force me to do something against my will? Would He expect me to abandon the one I loved? I couldn’t make sense of this, and I prayed and prayed about it.
Then in a meeting, a woman shared about her “God Jar” and about how her life had become peaceful. I had seen a change in her over the months, so I asked her after the meeting to explain her “God Jar.” The idea was to write down on a piece of paper exactly what I wanted to give to God, then drop it (let go of it) into the jar. Taking the thought out of my mind and putting it on paper, then putting the piece of paper into the jar (God’s hands) seemed like a helpful, visual, concrete action to me. Driving home, I began to dismiss the whole idea. When that familiar sinking sensation returned as I drove in my driveway, I decided to try the God Jar anyway. If it didn’t work, I just wouldn’t tell anyone. I found a large jar in a cabinet and wrote down the obsessive thoughts that were spinning in my mind about my husband’s sexaholism and our marriage. I decided to let God have the situation, and I let the note fall into the jar.

I didn’t expect much, but by the next morning I was pleasantly surprised by a sense of peace that I had not known before. I sat down and wrote lots of little notes to add to the jar. On New Year’s Eve, seven months after I began using the God Jar, I opened the jar and read each little note. I could see that almost all my requests had been granted, but not necessarily in the way I had pictured in my mind. Rather, they had been answered completely and beautifully, in surprising and unforeseen ways. Thank God my Higher power is bigger than my imagination!

It has been over three years since I surrendered my husband’s sexaholism and surrendered our marriage to God. I didn’t understand how my husband could choose to continue to act out and not seek recovery, but I had the courage and the strength to let the marriage go when it became time. Today, I am grateful to God for the gifts of that relationship, the changes that have occurred in my life, my rich relationship with my Higher Power and more people who really love me than I could ever have imagined.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 33-34.

Plan A? Plan B? Or Plan C?

Here is my experience with a great sharing I heard at a meeting. It went something like this:

– Sharing: You know, I always come to God with ‘Plan A’ – what I really want.

– My experience: God, I would really like the sexaholic to show me affection the way I think she should.

– Sharing: But I know that God may have something else in mind, so I come prepared with ‘Plan B’ too.

– My experience: OK, God, if I can’t have the affection I want from my wife, could you at least get her to spend more time with me?

– Sharing: What I forget is that God has a much broader point of view than I do, and generally has a ‘Plan C’ – a wonderful plan I could never have dreamed of – tucked away in his back pocket.

– My experience: So what happened was…I got out of my wife’s way, called my S-Anon sponsor and went to a lot more meetings. I stopped being so demanding.

I was able to Let Go and Let God. A few weeks later my wife left me a note saying, “Went to my meeting. Be back soon. I would like to have some time with you. I made a special dinner, please provide the flowers.”

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 291.

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.