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.

Using Prayer to Change the Things I Can

A discussion on the Eleventh Step in an S-Anon couples meeting led me to question exactly how I could improve my conscious contact with my Higher Power. Even after many years of attending S-Anon and finding freedom from many of the effects of sexaholism, I was aware that I tended to forget my Higher Power during the day when things were going well. I decided to use a favorite prayer, the Third Step prayer (found on page 63 of Alcoholics Anonymous), whenever possible during the day to improve communication with my Higher Power. I wanted to use this prayer to increase my conscious contact with God and as a reminder to humbly give myself over to my Higher Power. I made the commitment to stay open to whatever my Higher Power might show me and to carry out God’s will to the best of my ability. I decided to use my commuting time to begin the process. I was usually an angry, aggressive person behind the wheel, a habit I still had from the crazy days of reacting to sexaholism. I knew from recent Tenth Step inventories that this was an area of my life that required major revision. The first change I made was choosing to stay in one lane instead of weaving and racing through traffic. When traffic stopped or slowed to a crawl, I began my prayer. Whenever I was stopped at a traffic light, I recited the prayer, repeating it over and over until it was time to move again.

Before the month was over I sensed a welcome change in my attitude in many areas of my life. I found serenity on the roadways — abstinence from “road rage.” I was feeling better about myself and about my relationships. Then my employer made cuts in staff, and I was one of those who lost their job.

Like virtually anyone in that situation, I suffered great anger and distress for several days. When I shared my feelings at my S- Anon meeting, the group helped me come to accept those feelings and also helped me to see what a great opportunity this was for me. The group became the source of my awareness of my Higher Power acting in my life, even in that situation. They could see the advantages of my position and the unlimited opportunities open to me to make a positive change in my line of work. I became aware that moving on to work that I loved was another way in which I could do my Higher Power’s will for me. This realization put to rest the fear that God’s will for me must always be unpleasant or downright burdensome. My group and I celebrated the change, and the fellowship has continued to support me as I have moved into a new career.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 134-135.

Making “Living” Amends

During our early adult years, my brother and I had a very strained relationship. I felt he had physically and emotionally abused me as a child. For my safety, I chose to become very remote from him. As time went by, what had once seemed like a necessary attitude of detachment became a punishing coldness. Working the Steps made it clear that my serenity depended on keeping my behavior “clean,” regardless of the behavior of others. I knew it was time to make amends for my own punishing, abusive behavior, yet I felt stuck. I was afraid that if I made direct amends to my brother, he would attack me verbally. I needed to be able to make the amends safely.

I brought the problem of making this amends to my sponsor. She suggested I make a “living” amends. As a start, she suggested that each time I encountered my brother on the telephone or in person, I actively initiate a friendly “Hello, how are you?” — each and every time. After several months, I noticed that I was less tense around him. We actually seemed to be somewhat friendly with each other. This was certainly progress.

Her next suggestion was that whenever I was in his presence I should try to stay in the same room he was in, at least for a brief time. I had spent years going from room to room to avoid his presence at family gatherings. Staying put was very awkward for me initially, but as time passed, it became more comfortable. Slowly I began to have more compassion for him and began to separate my brother, the human being, from the sexaholism that affected all of us.

Over time we began to interact with one another. Today, I can ask his advice on topics about which he is knowledgeable. Our relationship has grown tremendously, and I am grateful because now we must all contribute and communicate to cope with our mother’s Alzheimer’s Disease. Does this improved relationship mean I have forgotten my brother’s abusive behavior? No, but I have worked hard at my own healing in therapy and through Step work. I thank God for my recovery from the abuse and for the benefits I have received from following my sponsor’s suggestions on this amends.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 103-104.

Identifying with Our Fellow S-Anons

I came to S-Anon hoping to find answers. I wanted to know the statistics on his chances of acting out again and how soon it was going to be. Though I didn’t find statistics, I did find a supportive group who gave me unconditional love, acceptance and understanding. At a gut level they understood my situation like no one else could — not the therapist I was seeing, not my sisters, not my friends. I was in so much pain, and I was so angry. The group helped me to see that I cannot control a sexaholic’s behavior and that I am powerless over trying to control him. Today, with the help of this fellowship and the Twelve Steps, I am happy. I am grateful to have this program and to be in this relationship with a recovering sexaholic. I also am excited and hopeful for the futures of my children, perhaps the ultimate recipients of what I’m doing today.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 9.

Not Our Reponsibility

We had learned to be reactors rather than responders in our relationships. Some of us had taken part in the sexaholic’s activities in an attempt to hold the relationship together; others had lectured and scolded in vehement opposition. Some of us had cried and pleaded and asked for promises. Others had suffered quietly, hoping and praying, afraid to tell anyone about the problem. Many of us had tried all of the above.

We became preoccupied, even obsessed, with the sexual behavior of another person. We were suspicious and tried to catch the sexaholic practicing the addiction. Some of us denied the problem, refusing to acknowledge to ourselves or others the source of our guilt, fear, and confusion. We isolated ourselves from those closest to us in an attempt to keep our secrets. We suffered fear, anxiety, depression, guilt, loneliness, rage and a lack of energy and motivation.

In S-Anon we come to realize that just as we did not cause the sexaholic’s acting out, we cannot “cure” it either. We learn that it is not our responsibility to keep the sexaholic sexually sober. Instead, it is our job to manage our own lives, whether or not the sexaholic chooses sobriety.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 2.

Step Eight and Being of Service

When I first heard people say in S-Anon meetings that they were focusing on themselves, I thought this sounded like a selfish and self-absorbed fellowship. In my childhood, I was taught that giving to others first was the way to go. Being generous and self-sacrificing was being good. How could focusing on myself be of any good to anyone including me? Working through the Twelve Steps has been an opportunity for me to examine my motives and my relationship with God and others. Through the Twelve Steps and using other tools of the program, I have learned to focus on myself. I saw the truth about harm I had caused others and myself in my noble effort to be helpful. How could trying to be helpful be harmful? That didn’t make much sense to me for a long time. I still sometimes forget.

I found S-Anon was a fellowship that welcomed me and allowed me to collapse in exhaustion and despair. Even in program, I needed to feel helpful, worthwhile, and approved of. What would I do if I couldn’t do for others what they weren’t doing? There was plenty of stuff around that needed to be done. Who’s going to do it? Why not me? Read more

Becoming Accountable for Our Choices

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.

 

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 Courage to Change the Things I Can

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

Humble Heart

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