Meetings: I Keep Coming Back

As a tool, I see S-Anon meetings as truly one of the most powerful. When I came to my first meeting, I did not understand why I was there. This disease was my husband’s problem, not mine. Yet, I was empty – dead inside. Even so, I sensed that first meeting room I walked into was a place of hope. As a newcomer, I quickly began to realize that this hope I sensed was for me, not my husband. Yes, I could rebuild my life. The meeting that I came to on that first night would be the meeting I’d attend, without fail, for two years to come. If rebuilding was what I was after, the image of meetings being the hardware store of spiritual and emotional supplies serves me as far as analogies go. The collective support, acceptance, love and honesty I feel at my S-Anon meetings has taught me how to own and share my own feelings without fear or self-judgment. For me, to have learned how to share my feelings has been the saving grace of my life. Attending S-Anon meetings and opening my mouth was the beginning of the salvation. It still amazes me to know that S-Anon meetings cost nothing (other than the seventh tradition), hold me to no obligations, and yet have saved my life.

“Keep Coming Back” to meetings – that’s just a given in my life now.

What Is A Slip In S-Anon?

For me, a co-addictive slip is going back to the beliefs and behaviors which characterized my adult life until I got into the S-Anon program. For many years I believed that I could control others and that I was responsible for their behavior. I was sexual with my husband before he traveled in the illusory belief that it would make him less likely to look at other women while he was away from home. I reminded my children several times about every appointment and obligation they had – as a result of which they never had to learn to be responsible themselves. I snooped through my husband’s mail in the belief that knowledge is power. My efforts to change others were unending – and usually fruitless.

In S-Anon I learned that I could not control others, that I was not responsible for others’ behavior, and that my efforts to spare others from experiencing any negative consequences had a name – enabling- and that it wasn’t beneficial to them. I learned to let others be responsible for themselves and to focus on myself. I found out that people need to learn things for themselves; that even if I believe I have all the answers I need to let them figure it out in their own way.

Reprinted from the 1990 issue of S-Anews©.

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

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©.