Step Eight suggested that we begin to “own” our character defects and take responsibility for the choices we made, but many of us were so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the wronged party that we could not see how we had wronged others. Reviewing our Fourth Step helped us to recognize people we had harmed. In any past relationship, were we attentive, loving and forgiving, or were we preoccupied, bitter or resentful? We put all the people we had harmed, including ourselves, on our list. If some of the people on the list had also harmed us, we worked toward forgiveness, recognizing that continuing to blame other sick people would just prolong our misery. When we did not feel willing or able to do this, we asked our Higher Power for help until we did feel willing.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 26.
When I came to S-Anon, I had been stuck on Step Eight in another Twelve Step program for a long time. I had a list and I knew the people to whom I needed to make amends. I was willing enough to say “I’m sorry” and to reach out to re-establish relationships with those I had harmed the most — my children from my first marriage from whom I had been estranged. Yet a thought kept going through my mind: “There’s something else I have to do. There’s more to this Step than I have been able to face.”
Through working the Steps again from an S-Anon point of view, I experienced many changes in my life. I became aware of the nature of my own unhealthy behavior in certain relationships and situations. I experienced a wonderful freedom from feelings of guilt and shame. Then I received a letter from my sixteen-year-old daughter that felt like a slap in the face. She essentially said that she needed a mother who would take an active role in her life and that if I wanted a relationship with her, I would have to do my part by at least living in the same city as she did, rather than on another continent. Her message reminded me of a line from the “Big Book” of Alcoholics Anonymous: “The spiritual life is not a theory. We have to live it.” Read more
My sponsor helped me understand why I needed to be on my amends list. She pointed out that I had been my own worst critic. I often accepted blame and said, “I’m sorry,” whether or not I was responsible for a situation. She reminded me of how I had put my interests and priorities, such as finishing my college degree, on the back burner time after time. I indeed had harmed myself and I wrote my name down, too.
God brought to mind the many others who rounded out my amends list: extended family, co-workers, and people I had known socially and in my faith community, even some who had died. Today, even though I’ve moved on in my Step work, I still make it a practice to review my Eighth Step list periodically. I prayerfully consider if there are more things I need to be willing to do in each case. With my mind and heart in a willing place, it’s amazing how my Higher Power leads me.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 210.
Sex addiction came into my life seemingly out of nowhere. It felt like a big, black train in the night. After some serious step-work leading to self-examination, I realized that the “train whistles” had been very loud, and obvious. I now believe that I wasn’t able to see or hear the “train” for many reasons, one of which was that it simply wasn’t God’s timing for me to see it. Another reason was because of my S-Anon Problem — beginning with denial and faulty thinking. It took a long time for me accept my part in this mess and how I resonated with a line from the S-Anon Problem: “We chose friends and partners who could not or would not love and support us in a healthy way.” Once I steadied myself a little, I spent a lot of time smacking myself on the back of the head wondering how I could have missed this glaring problem that existed in my home (and probably had for some time before.) I had always thought of myself as smart and sassy, so this shook my self-esteem to the core on many levels. During those crazy early days of “discovery,” also known, for me, as “shock and awe,” somehow I knew that within all the insanity I had to find some structure, something to stop my mind from wandering, or I would not survive this.
I began dating at age 16 when I was a junior in high school. I married when I was 27 years old. During the intervening eleven years, I was involved in seven significant relationships, each with a very different man. Underlying my dating was the belief that if only I could find the relationship and somehow “get it right this time,” I would be happy. Not surprisingly, these relationships were all with sexaholics, and while their acting out ran the gamut from affairs with other women to compulsive masturbation, each relationship made my life unmanageable. Amazingly, I failed to recognize a pattern when these sexual problems cropped up each time.
Each relationship cost me dearly. Some of the problems I encountered included missing time from college and graduate school and not completing my assignments and job tasks. This was due to my preoccupation with the relationship and being distracted by problems the relationship created. I allowed these men to use my cars, my apartments, my food, phone, drugs, body, and time. I paid for gas and car repairs for which I was not responsible. I became involved in their projects and lives, while losing myself and my life. I bought and wore clothes solely to please them. I wasted hours of time sitting in my parked car waiting for him to come out of “her” apartment. Read more
I felt resentful when my spouse told me that we would need to go through a period of abstinence. It wasn’t so much that I missed having sex with him, I just resented being told what to do by a person who had hurt me deeply in this area. The first gift of the abstinence, however, was an awareness that my partner was serious about his recovery. I learned to respect his desire for abstinence, rather than seeing it as a challenge to my powers of persuasion. I also needed to look at our relationship without the false intimacy I had found in the past by being sexual. I would never have even begun to find out the truth about myself if we had continued to be sexual in the old way. Other gifts have been a better understanding of my sexuality and an in-depth acceptance of the mystery and difficulty of a sexual relationship. I have a high level of comfort with the idea that“sex is optional.”This statement made no sense to me as long as I thought that sex was the most important sign of love.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 68.
Growing up, I never felt very close to my father. I think I compensated for my hunger for love by trying desperately to please the men I dated, hoping to gain their love. It seemed to me that sex was the core of experiencing intimacy with a man – the most important sign of love. I thought if I were sexually active and did what these men wanted, I would in turn have my emotional needs met. Eventually I married a sexaholic, and thankfully entered the doors of S-Anon.
My recovering husband relapsed about a year and a half ago. My husband and I decided to completely abstain from sex for a while. Our abstinence revealed so much about our connection – or lack of connection – with each other. We began to learn other ways of being intimate – through sharing, listening, giving or receiving a touch, a glance, a smile, or a tear. I also started to love myself and accept the love of a Higher Power.
As I look back at the time of my husband’s relapse, I can see how a“bad” thing became a wonderful opportunity for me, and for us and for our marriage. Through abstinence, I have had so many insights into myself and my history of relationships. I now know sex is not the most important sign of love.
Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 191.
I had wanted very much to plant a vegetable garden this last spring, but I got a late start due to illness and deadlines at work. So, I dug up a smaller section of the huge garden that was once there. I couldn’t afford to buy or even rent a tiller, so I did this with a shovel, rake, and hoe, in the heat of early summer. I made enough room for just a few of my favorites…maybe some tomatoes and peppers and a row of okra. It was too late for seeds, and I found myself too broke even to buy plants at the nursery.
I decided to tend and weed the area I’d dug up, thinking that then I’d have a few extra dollars next payday to buy plants. So, I walked out early one Saturday to weed in the cool of the morning. I decided to survey the weed-choked back area of the garden, to see if I should mow it and turn it back into law or continue to enlarge the garden. It was a real mess, and it reminded me of my life at the moment…overgrown with stuff that had needed tending, hurried, tangled in broken relationship, a failing marriage, financial troubles, a recent separation, and a fear of going it alone. I slowly ventured into the thicket of tall weeds, some over my head.
My first S-Anon meeting was at an International Convention since there were no S-Anon meetings in my area. My husband, who was in SA, wanted to go to the convention and wanted me to go, too. I was scared. I thought I wouldn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I feared there would be sex addicts hanging around looking for trouble. Going to the convention was a life-changing experience for me. I heard honesty and courage from both sexaholics and their family members and friends. I had a spiritual renewal as I humbled myself and realized I was really no better or worse than anyone else there.
Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 5.
I was afraid that if I asked God to remove my shortcomings, I would have nothing left. I was particularly fearful about shortcomings I had gotten a lot of mileage out of —- sarcasm, arguing with my spouse, being resentful over his acting-out with men, etc. What would I do with all the time I spent thinking about the other person, the time I spent obsessing about the “problem,” the time I spent telling people how unfair it was? Indeed, that time could be better spent in countless other ways, but letting go of shortcomings can be difficult. S-Anon helped me find the clarity to ask myself, “Is this defect really so useful — particularly when it also brings up the hurt, humiliation and guilt of my past?” Even though my answer is usually “No,” I sometimes still hesitate to ask God to remove my shortcomings.
I remember one incident very clearly. I was in a restaurant observing (actually judging) people around me. I was consumed with thoughts of how people should order, should look, should dress, should, should and more should. I was so preoccupied with“correcting”all these people that I lost sight of the reason I was at the restaurant — to enjoy myself and my dinner companions! Read more