More Than My Emotions

After I came out of denial and faced the reality that my beloved partner was a sexaholic, I experienced terrible emotional pain, especially fear. It seemed like much of the time I felt so overwhelmed by those emotions that I actually became the fear and pain.

To calm myself, I have found that it helps to first acknowledge my pain and fear. Just noticing my emotions allows me to separate myself from those awful nagging feelings. This distance helps me see that I am not just a lump of pain or fear – I am more than my emotions. One of our S-Anon slogans says, “This Too Shall Pass.” In thirty minutes (or a day or week), I may well feel better.

I also focus on observing my breathing as a method of detaching from my obsessive thoughts and overwhelming feelings. By focusing on my breath and following the rising and falling of my abdomen, I actually slow down my racing thoughts, and I am released from obsession. Focusing on my physical body gently brings me back to key realities: I am a living, breathing being, and I am on a path led by my Higher Power.

I need not give in to despair or painful emotions. I can find relief in the present moment when I breathe, acknowledge my feelings, and remember that they are not permanent.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 335.

Forgiveness and Serenity

Growing up, I thought forgiveness was something I had to feel all the time, so forgiveness seemed impossible for me. In working the S-Anon Steps, I not only found forgiveness, but also the serenity it can bring.

Seven years after my first husband, a sexaholic, died, I still visited his grave each year. By his graveside, I would remember and relive the hurtful betrayal I felt during our nineteen years of marriage. This year when I visited his grave, I felt a peace that hadn’t been there before. In the months leading up to my visit, I had been working Step Nine, which helped me understand that I had never forgiven my husband for his infidelities in our marriage, and that I had been holding onto the past. I also realized I had not forgiven myself for my role in our misery together.

Today I choose to let go of past hurts and I offer my experiences to others to help carry the message. I pray for people who have harmed me, which helps me to let go and begin to heal. I ask God to forgive me for my part, and for the willingness to forgive. If I need to make direct amends, I do so promptly. When the matter returns to my mind, I pray, “God bless that person” instead of replaying the incident in my mind. As a result of these ongoing Step Nine and Ten actions, I am enjoying the peace and serenity that come with forgiveness.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 316.

 

A Message of Hope

When I first discovered the sexaholic behavior of my spouse, I was angry enough to implode. I became so over- whelmed that I used a survival technique learned long ago: distracting myself with busyness to numb my feelings. Months later, my fear and anxiety re-surfaced, and I became very ill. I could no longer deny the reality of my situation. My illness was a wake-up call, helping me realize how severely I had been affected by the sexaholic behavior of not only my spouse, but also of three other intimate partners previous to my marriage.

Fortunately, I made a phone call to the local S-Anon hotline. After I poured out my story to the person who an- swered my call, she read “The S-Anon Problem” from the Newcomer’s Booklet – Helpful Information for the New- comer.” I could relate to every word! Hearing that reading profoundly changed my life.

I attended my first meeting and, in the midst of my pain, I knew S-Anon was where I belonged and that it would be the source of my healing. Now I keep our booklet for newcomers close to the phone so when anyone calls out for help, I can choose a section to read to them. I, too, can carry the S-Anon message of hope.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 12.

Recovery from Snooping

Before I got into recovery, I was a terrible snooper. I would go through the sexaholic’s personal belongings, try to listen in on phone conversations, and read his e-mail. When I actually did find evidence of his acting out, I was too ashamed of my behavior to admit what I had been doing. I suffered through the pain of what I had seen, and I also stuffed my feelings of rage because I did not think I could confront him.

In recovery, I have learned that I do not have to hurt myself by searching for evidence of my spouse’s acting out. Trying to catch the sexaholic keeps the focus on my spouse, and is a way for me to avoid my own recovery. I have a right to know if I am in danger of getting a sexually transmitted disease. Rather than snooping, however, I can directly ask my spouse for the truth, trust my intuition, and ask my sponsor’s perspective.

I have learned to ask for God’s help to see things as they are. Then I can decide if there are boundaries I need to set and implement for myself, such as a period of abstinence for my safety or for my S-Anon sobriety. Keeping the focus on myself has eased my pain and increased my serenity. I know that I can trust God to reveal whatever “evidence” I need to know.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 48.

I Had Been My Own Worst Critic

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.

Loving Connections

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.

Understanding Humility

In Step Seven, I struggled with humility. I used to think that either I had to be the best or I was the absolute worst. In my relationship with my sexaholic partner, I always thought of myself as having authority because I believed I was stronger, more capable, righteous, and the responsible one – I was at the top of the ladder so I didn’t need to be humble. Humility was for my sexaholic partner – somewhere down toward the bottom of the ladder.

As I began to work the Steps, I was able to look at my own shortcomings, such as perfectionism, self-righteousness, pride, and even arrogance. Over time I have learned to accept these shortcomings as part of my humanity, part of what makes me no better and no worse than anyone else.

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Expectations and Needs

There was a time, not so long ago, when I had given up on having any expectations for my relationship. I thought I had to accept whatever treatment I received from my partner. I had heard in meetings that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen,” so I thought, “I better not have any of those expectations!” As I continued to grow in S-Anon, I came to believe that I was worthy of respect and consideration. I found the answer in exploring the difference between expectations (looking forward into the future) and needs (which are mine to express today). I need to be treated with affectionate love and regard. I am not always right, but I need my ideas to be met with respectful consideration. My interests and hobbies are important, and I need time to pursue them. I need a partner to help carry out the routine tasks of maintaining a household. I need a satisfying sex life, and, most important, a partner willing to work with me in all these areas to improve the relationship. If my most important needs are to be met, I must let go of the expectation that “somebody” will meet my needs “someday” and, instead, consider the alternatives available to me today. Just for today, I will acknowledge my needs, affirm their importance, and choose to take one positive action in the direction of seeing that those needs are met.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 50.

 

Changing the Channel in My Brain

For a long time I constantly obsessed about the sexaholic’s behavior. Vivid pictures ran through my head like a grainy, X-rated film. Unfortunately, my obsession was like pouring salt on an open wound — over and over again. After several meetings and learning to apply the tools and principles of the S-Anon program to my life, I was able to go a few days without constantly focusing on the sexaholic. I started replacing my obsessive thoughts with working Steps One and Two, and with making outreach calls. After a few more months of meetings, I found I could go a week at a time without brooding over the past. I had a sponsor who I called regularly and spoke with whenever the old images and thoughts popped into my head. Reaching out helped me redirect my thinking and my behavior. My sponsor suggested that when the images and thoughts came to my mind, I turn them over to my Higher Power and visualize placing the sexaholic in God’s hands. I am powerless over whether or not the obsessive thoughts come, but when the images come into my head, I now have the tools necessary to change the channel in my brain. I can pray to my Higher Power, ask my sponsor for help and guidance, and write about my feelings and share them with another program member. I don’t have to feel obsession and pain; I can have serenity.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 351.

A Serenity Boost

I came to S-Anon a very short time before moving to a new city with my partner. It was a well-timed gift. When I first started attending meetings, my goal was to learn how to live with a sexaholic on a daily basis. Learning to live life in the present, and “doing the next right thing” with the help of my Higher Power, were a real help to me. Coming to see my own level of denial about many aspects of my life was painful, but it was helpful to understand that I am a work in progress. Meeting such wonderful friends in this program really helped me become acclimated to my new hometown and to my new “eyes open” way of life. A few months after beginning the program, I attended my first local S-Anon convention. It was a wonderful event and I returned home with a serene recovery boost. I found I needed it, because the next week I discovered my partner had relapsed. I was shocked and disappointed. Thankfully, I had my convention “booster shot.” I was prepared with recovery tools and the reinforced knowledge that his relapse was not my fault and I could not work his program for him. While it was not an easy time for me, I was so grateful I had this program and my wonderful fellow S-Anon members to help me through it with new-found serenity.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 162.