Being honest About Who I Am and How I Feel

Most of my acting out before I came to S-Anon was really acting in. I sometimes seemed more “sober” then because I was so out of touch with my emotions. Sometimes I still don’t want to appear vulnerable and would like others to think I am “just fine,” when I am most emphatically not “just fine.” I am learning that it’s not necessarily a slip or a bad thing to be angry, fearful or whatever. It’s okay for me to feel and acknowledge my emotions, and I didn’t used to know that. To be sober, though, I need to dig a little deeper, beneath the disturbing emotions, examine the reasons why I am hurt or fearful, and become willing to surrender those attitudes or areas of my life to my Higher Power for healing. For me, this is the process of  “staying sober.”

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 56.

Forgiving Myself…

My children were deeply affected by growing up in a home with active sexaholism. They have had to deal with some rough times and have developed some dysfunctional ways of relating to others. I am afraid that my youngest child will become an addict. My oldest child has worked through many issues and is doing much better. Today I know that I can’t protect them from themselves, and I don’t want to enable them either.

Feeling overwhelmed by guilt during early recovery, I continuously allowed them to blame me for their problems. I thought it would be harsh to confront them, but eventually, as I grew in my recovery, I began to see that I was enabling them to stay stuck in “blame” and victimization.” I learned that just as I cannot continue to see myself as a victim, they must abandon the victim role if they want to live happy and healthy lives. I cannot accept their accusations and continue to live in shame and guilt, while trying to stay “sober” in my recovery. I have had to just let go and let God.

S-Anon has taught me that I did the best I could with the tools and skills handed down to me by my parents. I believe I will always feel some pain, wishing I had gotten into recovery earlier. When I finally forgave myself, it was a great relief. I have learned to look at what is going on with my children as a part of their “journey” in life, knowing that no one escapes the problems inherent in his/her own journey. I cannot afford to enable them by accepting the blame for all their troubles. I know they are doing the best they can at this time, and I pray for them both, knowing they both have a deep and abiding faith in God. Today, I validate their feelings—but I also tell them that it is their right to feel the way they do — but also tell them that I hope that one day they will choose to stop feeling victimized; and as adults, get help and move on.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 91-92.

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.

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.

 

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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Sex Is Optional…

I felt resentful when my spouse told me that we would need to go through a period of abstinence. It wasn’t so much that I missed having sex with him, I just resented being told what to do by a person who had hurt me deeply in this area. The first gift of the abstinence, however, was an awareness that my partner was serious about his recovery. I learned to respect his desire for abstinence, rather than seeing it as a challenge to my powers of persuasion. I also needed to look at our relationship without the false intimacy I had found in the past by being sexual. I would never have even begun to find out the truth about myself if we had continued to be sexual in the old way. Other gifts have been a better understanding of my sexuality and an in-depth acceptance of the mystery and difficulty of a sexual relationship. I have a high level of comfort with the idea that“sex is optional.”This statement made no sense to me as long as I thought that sex was the most important sign of love.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 68.

Humility

My first S-Anon meeting was at an International Convention since there were no S-Anon meetings in my area. My husband, who was in SA, wanted to go to the convention and wanted me to go, too. I was scared. I thought I wouldn’t want to look anyone in the eye. I feared there would be sex addicts hanging around looking for trouble. Going to the convention was a life-changing experience for me. I heard honesty and courage from both sexaholics and their family members and friends. I had a spiritual renewal as I humbled myself and realized I was really no better or worse than anyone else there.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 5.

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.

Recognizing Loss of Sobriety

I struggle with my sobriety often, and I can certainly define what it isn’t. I know that I have lost it when I dig through my spouse’s briefcase to read his journal. I know that I have lost it when I drive to where my spouse works to see if his car is in the parking lot when he does not answer my phone call. I know that I have lost it when I go through his dresser drawers looking for evidence. I know I have lost it when I look under my son’s bed for pornography. I have done all these things and more. I know I have lost it because the behavior is premeditated and while I am doing these things my fear of being “caught” produces physical stress responses. I sweat, breathe rapidly, my heart rate increases, and I want to either fight with someone or run away. When I do lose it, I try to take corrective action. When I read the journal, I told my spouse, my therapist and my S-Anon group. Knowing that I will “own” my behavior afterward now helps me to keep from slipping again. I no longer have pre-disclosure blind faith in the relationship, but I believe that if I need to know something or find something out, God will reveal it and I do not have to go looking for it.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 58.

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.