The Structure of My Recovery

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.

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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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The Twelve Traditions

The Traditions can apply to my everyday life in very simple ways also. Here’s my interpretation:

Tradition One taught me to stick with the group that helped me to get better. Preserve the union that was really formed by God through other people.

Tradition Two — Keep God in the process of all our group business. He is the head and the S-Anon members are the body of our groups.

Tradition Three — I need to welcome and help all that qualify, if they seek it.

Tradition Four — Be myself. Give my brand of recovery to those who are attracted. Speak my mind in group conscience. Remember that “It takes a village…”

Tradition Five – Keep our primary purpose in mind during all our group dealings ( financial etc…)

Tradition Six — Don’t be controlling with others, even covertly—study ways this occurs. Read more

Stepping Into Recovery

Coming to my first S-Anon meeting, I was thinking that I’d find the “keys to recovery for the sexaholic in my life.” Instead, what I found was the S-Anon Problem. It hit me square in the eyes — and it left a welt for days. But it was a spiritual awakening for me. I was broken enough to know that my self-reliance had run riot in my life and I was out of other options. I was lucky that day because a woman who’d had decades of program experience said to me “Honey, I can tell you one thing, and one thing only. Your only hope is the Steps and the Traditions. Don’t skip either.” I believed her and so I surrendered. My disease had me beat.

We were a new group — and we felt alone. None of us had done S-Anon work before and we all lacked sponsors. We called the WSO [World Service Office] and were given the names of some established, larger groups in our region. Most of us found out of town sponsors – something for which we are eternally grateful. In talking to these women I learned that in one city they did annual Step Studies. I thought: “OK; I can do that.” This really appealed to me because the commitment I had to myself was never as strong as my commitment to others. If I could get a Step Study going, I knew my desire to honor the group would keep me coming back and doing the work. For three weeks I announced in the meeting that I was going to start a Step Study and that if you wanted to participate, come to the planning meeting. Miraculously, ten women joined the study and the spiritual journey began. We met each Saturday morning for 2 hours and we went over 3 questions from the S-Anon Twelve Step Workbook out loud. We established guidelines – this was not to be a therapy group, no cross-talk, and no breeches of anonymity outside this room. We committed to each other and to ourselves. And it literally saved our lives. Read more

Steps and Traditions: Practicing These Principles In All Our Affairs

I have to begin by saying that I really never saw myself sitting in a Twelve Step Meeting. Even after I became aware of the existence of sexaholism in my life and the need to recover from its effects upon me, I was still a little resistant to the idea. When it became painfully obvious to me that I needed to do something in order to get spiritually healthy (let’s say that God gave me the gift of desperation), I became more open to trying something different. I still had my doubts, though. I thought to myself, “Why do they keep saying “hi” over and over?” I didn’t really like the hand-holding circle at the end either. However, I knew that I couldn’t go on any longer as I had been. I went to my first meeting and people kept saying “Keep coming back.” I did. I really had no choice; I had to do something. Then about a year into it I joined a Step Study group. As I sit here today four years later, I have come to view the Twelve Steps as a God-given, fool-proof (It works when you work it) method for resolving internal conflict. They are a vehicle for me to work through the grief/pain from problems and situations that arise every day –a kind of spiritual road map for my soul that God drew for me.

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My Anniversary Coins

My first six months in S-Anon were marked with trauma about all the discoveries in my 20 plus years of marriage. I was focused on what I thought I had and on fears about what I might lose. I went to meetings and I felt better when I left than when I came. I bought the literature and tried to read something every day to steady myself. People kept saying; “Try this it will help” and “Keep coming back.” I was in such deep pain and was just trying to function on a very basic level (sleep, eat, and work). God had opened the blinds for me to see reality, but now I had to turn around and look out the window.

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My Favorite Line

“Compulsive lusting respects no particular religion” is one of my favorite lines from our meeting guidelines that I hear at each meeting. I think the point is that anyone from any religious faith can have this addiction or be suffering from the affects of someone else’s sexaholism, but it means more than that to me. One of the challenges of my S-Anon Problem is not respecting myself, and therefore not being able to feel respected by others. Since this is already a sensitive issue for me, dealing with the disrespect I have felt from my sexaholic was a monumental task before I found S-Anon. Instead of respecting our marriage vows, I felt that he had violated them. Because of his acting out, I assumed I was a failure as a wife, and that the betrayals were due to something lacking in me. What a relief it was to come to my first meeting and hear that line. It isn’t any particular religion’s fault that compulsive lusting does not respect its teaching. This disease can exist in any member of any religion (or lack thereof). And there is not one religion that has the power to prevent its members from having this disease. Not one. This disease can exist in any particular marriage as well. Not just mine. I imagined a corollary line, “Compulsive lusting respects no particular__________ (Fill in the blank.)” Suddenly I felt off the hook. The “disrespect” for our marriage wasn’t my fault! I didn’t have the power to prevent my spouse from having this disease. The disease didn’t occur because of something I was doing or not doing or some inadequacy in me. It was simply the nature of the addiction not to be stopped by my power or the power of a religion or by the power of __________ (Fill in the blank). Only a Power Greater Than Myself has that power. I still sigh and smile and feel a sense of freedom every time that line is read at a meeting.

Reprinted from the Fall 2011 issue of S-Anews©.

Recovery, My Recovery

When I first went to an S-Ateen meeting, I thought I’d go once and never go again. But after just one meeting, I was hooked; in a good way of course. Everyone I met there was burdened with their pasts and mistakes, yet there was such hope and cheer in everyone that I thought, “I might have a not-so-nice past, but that doesn’t need to dictate my future.”  You could tell that each person had a story to tell, and struggles to withstand, but also infinite wonders and joys still ahead of them. Going to S-Ateen makes me feel like I have support, comfort and courage to continue the path to recovery. (And I’ve only gone to two meetings so far!!) Already I can see the progress that is pushing my mom, my sister and me forward. I don’t know what lies ahead, but I feel sure that I can handle it and remain on an optimistic track. It won’t always be easy, but I can persevere. A week or so ago, I journaled something that really helped me. It perfectly described my ups and downs and helped me to be focused and cheerful. It gives me hope and somehow makes me truly realize that I have choices in life. I hope it will help anyone who reads it.

“Sometimes, when you’re sitting there musing or walking around completing an errand, you’ll suddenly sigh, a very heavy and emotional sigh. Then fear, sadness, regret, anxiety and hopelessness–these are the feelings that mangle your mind and entice you to their darkness. But just as quickly as this assault descends on you, a faint light presses through the dark, gently letting a ray hold itself out to you, telling you existence doesn’t have to be this way. Then and there, in that space of ten seconds, you know this is one of the many moments of truth that you will face. You, on your own, need to make a decision. What every individual in this life needs to decide is, is that faint light great enough to believe in and pursue? Well, I’ve decided. And I’m not going back to what I once was. (It wasn’t pretty.) And I am sure that many have, and are going to, choose as I did.”

Reprinted from the Summer 2009 issue of S-Anews©.

Step Twelve – Carrying the Message

I say that if my life before the program was the B.S. era (the Before S-Anon era), my life now might be referred to as the S.O.S. era – the Serenity of S-Anon. I’m at a point in my program where it could be easy for me to coast. I completed my Step work with my sponsor. I took my own sponsee through her Step work, and now I’ve got “grand-sponsees.” When I moved to a place with no meetings, I made an effort to keep connected by working the Traditions with my sponsor and another S-Anon member. I’m past the urgency that I felt in the early days, but I’m afraid of what my complacency might cost me. Not long ago, I began to realize another aspect of Step Twelve – the part about “trying to carry the message.” So, after months of false starts and being turned down for a location, I finally opened the doors to my area’s first S-Anon meeting. It’s been a meeting of “one” since it started, but I have been reminded that there are really two of us there – my Higher Power and me. Despite that, I have felt frustrated with the lack of attendance, taking it as a personal failure. And lately I really don’t want to go. My kids are playing ball now, and I have to miss the beginnings of their games. But the possibility of missing a newcomer, of not being there to welcome and give comfort to the family member of a sexaholic, ensures that I go. Recently, I was thrilled to receive my first S-Anon call from the number I had posted on the WSO website. I’m not sure that being thrilled by someone else’s agony over sexaholism is appropriate, but I really was excited to get that call. Although this person has not been able to attend a meeting, we have spoken on a regular basis on the phone and I am slowly introducing her to the S-Anon program. Once again, the 12 Steps of S-Anon – particularly Step Twelve – have taken on a new meaning for me. I’m getting back, while I’m giving. And technically, still no one has come to the new meetings here. But I have had to get REALLY busy so I can get better because the sexaholic in my life has had a relapse.

 

Reprinted from the Summer 2009 issue of S-Anews©.

Gratitude

This week, during a meeting on Step One and Tradition One, I became filled with gratitude for S-Anon and the courageous souls who share. A newcomer was in the meeting, sharing how she had tried to “go it alone,” but knew that the meetings were necessary for her. It felt as if Step One was coming to life right in front of me. I shared that in the beginning, I had fought with myself over the word “powerless”. If I were to be “powerless,” who was going to care for our young child? Clean the house? Pay the bills? Organize our lives? I could not bring myself to say that I was powerless! My life had just blown up and what I thought I knew, at the time, was just turned upside down. I shared my beginning because when a newcomer comes in, I retell some of my story, and it reminds me of where I started.

Another wave of gratitude filled me: I know what works – the S-Anon program works. The stories being told felt like part of ‘my story.’ I’m an S-Anon. I speak about and from the point of view of an S-Anon. I remember the hurt, shock and sadness that enveloped me, not only in my first meeting, but everywhere I went. Even though this pain persisted, my meeting became my lifeline, which held me from week to week. I heard the truth. My whole being experienced what the truth sounded like, and I began to heal. I continue to be healed by the meetings. At the recent LA convention, I heard other S-Anon’s share in meetings. A feeling of deep and abiding gratitude filled me for all those who walked before me, continue to walk with me, and who have the courage to show up each week.

 

Reprinted from the Spring 2011 issue of S-Anews©.