Acting As If…

I had been learning in S-Anon that I had been doing lots of things that were keeping me from serenity and peace of mind, and it seemed impossible that I would ever be able to stop doing all those things. Later on, I began to realize that I would have little chance of changing my behavior in any kind of lasting way if my attitude didn’t change as well. My controlling, angry, self-righteous, self-willed, fearful, obsessive thinking was at the root of my problems. Yet how could I stop being angry, for example? I was also learning that I was entitled to my feelings, and that I had to acknowledge my real feelings, and not deny them and pretend to be something I wasn’t. I realized that emotional sobriety might be many years away if I waited for my feelings and attitudes to change just because I wanted them to. I decided to ask my Higher Power to remove my shortcomings, and in the meantime to help me, in certain situations, to “act” sober, even if I wasn’t feeling particularly sober at the time. It works, one day and one behavior at a time!

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 57.

Willing to Go to Any Lengths

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

The Garden

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.

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Quiet Time

It’s so hard for me to sit down for some quiet time with my Higher Power. I know an uncontrollable fear is at the root of this. I fear the challenges that I must face if I am honest with myself. So here I sit with all my fears. I feel a gentle tugging to stay in the quiet and let it do its work. Why do I resist? My Higher Power has given me this precious time alone. I need to get in touch with what’s going on with me (and only me) for today. I don’t want to, but I do need to. It’s time to leave any expectations at the door. Any expectations of suffocating fears or of being swept away in my self-defeating thinking must be put aside. I don’t even expect to get a clear, immediate message from my Higher Power. For now, it’s time to let go of each little thing that crowds me, even if it means letting go for just a minute at a time. In this quiet it is just me and my Higher Power. It is in this silence that I realize how little I really do know. Maybe that’s the best place to start. Humble beginnings. I pray I can be open to whatever comes my way in the quiet. I ask God to help me loosen my grip. I ask Him to help me open up to His will for me. I know I am not alone now.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 40.

Willing to Believe

Step Two for me has been like the bigger-and-bigger hammer theory exemplified in the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. Bugs hits Daffy Duck over the head with a hammer, only the hammer is the size of a gavel, insufficient to get Daffy’s attention. By the time all is said and done, Bugs is whamming Daffy with a mallet the size of a family car. In an exaggerated and humorous way, this cartoon reminds me of how my Higher Power lovingly tried to reach me my whole life. Even though I grew up in a very religious family, my ego thrived as my personal god well into my adulthood. Consequently I did not have a real relationship with God. Instead, my attention was focused on controlling my own life and manipulating other peoples’ lives. The little gavels of life didn’t work on me. It took a huge “hammer” to get through to me — the crisis of sexaholism in my home — before I could understand the need for a Higher Power in my life.

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A Real Higher Power…

In my life before recovery, many people I considered to be “powers greater than myself” abused me with that power emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually. As a result, when I came to S-Anon I was not eager to willingly “turn myself over” to any power. Building on the foundation of Step Two, I have begun to experience a true spiritual connection with a Power greater than myself and have become willing to turn my will and my life over to that Power. I have begun to trust in the experiences of others and have surrendered my need to control every situation to protect myself from nameless, faceless, countless dangers. I have seen that this Power can be trusted, will always be with me and will never abandon or betray me. This does not mean that my life will be free of difficulties – it does mean that I will have what I need to face them and will not have to face them alone.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 39-40.

Being Restored to Sanity

Living with the effects of sexaholism wore me out, and I finally reached the limits of my own power. I realized that I could not solve my problems without help. I had no other options, so I turned to God once more. This time it was with a different attitude. I said a prayer that went something like this: “God, I can’t take it anymore. I need your help. I realize that in the past you have answered my prayers with some painful truths. If there is more pain to go through in order to stop my suffering, then I’m willing to accept it, whatever the cost.” Following the prayer, I asked my husband to level with me about the other women. Instead of the standard denial and counterattack, he admitted everything. As I had feared, it was painful to face the truth, but in doing so I began laying the foundation for the serenity I would come to find. It has been over ten years since the day I first came to believe that God could, and would, restore me to sanity. I had feared that facing the truth would mean the end of my relationship with my partner, but it turned out to be just the beginning. With God’s help and some time, the wounds healed. I no longer turn to God only in a crisis. I apply God’s will to the little things in life as well, like struggles at work. I’ve learned that frustration is a sign that I have lost sight of Step Two — that I am relying on my own plan and power instead of God’s plan and God’s power. The program slogans “Turn it Over” and “Let Go and Let God” remind me that there is a Higher Power. Each time I practice these slogans, I come to believe on a deeper level.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 20-21.

A Foundation for Living

The combination of self-examination, meditation and prayer gives us a foundation for living. The regular practice of prayer and meditation rewards us with emotional balance, a sense of belonging and knowing that God watches lovingly over us. Even when we feel cut off from our Higher Power’s help and direction (which we all experience sometimes), we should simply resume prayer as soon as we can, doing what we know to be good for us. Our situation then becomes less disturbing and we begin to feel safer in the world. As we gain small glimpses of God’s reality, we know our path will continue to lead us to greater knowledge of His will.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 129.

 

I Must Stop Playing God in My Partner’s Life…

When I feel the urge to try to be my husband’s “sponsor,” I know I need to do two things. First, I can put one of the S-Anon slogans into practice, and “keep the focus on myself.” I can ask myself questions like: “Does this situation make me feel afraid of abandonment? If so, why? Am I afraid to trust the program? Do I secretly feel superior to my spouse, believing that he cannot function without my “help”?  My own road to recovery has been based upon the answers to questions like these, not upon the actions or feelings of my husband.

The second thing I can do is realize that for my own good, I must stop playing God in my partner’s life. I can learn to trust that the life and recovery
of my spouse is also in the care of a “power greater than myself.” If I have come to believe that a Higher Power can restore me to sanity, I can trust that the same is true for my partner.

 

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 47.

Letting Go of “I Know Best”

We come to see that the foundation of Step Seven is humility, that is, a willingness to accept ourselves as we are and to accept God’s help. Humility is not about weakness, submissiveness, or humiliation. Rather it is about surrendering the attitude that seems to be the root of many of our troubles: “I know best.” Being humble does not mean we stop trying to take positive action on our own behalf. Instead we stop relying exclusively on our own
strength and intelligence and come to genuinely trust in our Higher Power’s will for us, asking God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Like Step Three, Step Seven is an action Step in the form of a prayer. For most of us, exactly how we ask God to remove our defects does not seem to matter, so long as we express our complete willingness to be changed and believe that our Higher Power can and will help us. Many take Step Seven through praying as it is traditionally understood, for example, using the Seventh Step prayer found on page 76 of Alcoholics Anonymous. Others request God to remove their shortcomings through methods like writing, creatively visualizing or meditating. We keep in mind that Step Seven is not about begging, pleading or groveling. Neither is it coming to our Higher Power with a wish list of exactly what we think we need. Rather, Step Seven is a process of humbly acknowledging our ongoing need to rely on God.

 

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 82.