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.

A Real Higher Power…

In my life before recovery, many people I considered to be “powers greater than myself” abused me with that power emotionally, physically, sexually and spiritually. As a result, when I came to S-Anon I was not eager to willingly “turn myself over” to any power. Building on the foundation of Step Two, I have begun to experience a true spiritual connection with a Power greater than myself and have become willing to turn my will and my life over to that Power. I have begun to trust in the experiences of others and have surrendered my need to control every situation to protect myself from nameless, faceless, countless dangers. I have seen that this Power can be trusted, will always be with me and will never abandon or betray me. This does not mean that my life will be free of difficulties – it does mean that I will have what I need to face them and will not have to face them alone.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 39-40.

Being Restored to Sanity

Living with the effects of sexaholism wore me out, and I finally reached the limits of my own power. I realized that I could not solve my problems without help. I had no other options, so I turned to God once more. This time it was with a different attitude. I said a prayer that went something like this: “God, I can’t take it anymore. I need your help. I realize that in the past you have answered my prayers with some painful truths. If there is more pain to go through in order to stop my suffering, then I’m willing to accept it, whatever the cost.” Following the prayer, I asked my husband to level with me about the other women. Instead of the standard denial and counterattack, he admitted everything. As I had feared, it was painful to face the truth, but in doing so I began laying the foundation for the serenity I would come to find. It has been over ten years since the day I first came to believe that God could, and would, restore me to sanity. I had feared that facing the truth would mean the end of my relationship with my partner, but it turned out to be just the beginning. With God’s help and some time, the wounds healed. I no longer turn to God only in a crisis. I apply God’s will to the little things in life as well, like struggles at work. I’ve learned that frustration is a sign that I have lost sight of Step Two — that I am relying on my own plan and power instead of God’s plan and God’s power. The program slogans “Turn it Over” and “Let Go and Let God” remind me that there is a Higher Power. Each time I practice these slogans, I come to believe on a deeper level.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 20-21.

Our Unique Gift

We try to carry the S-Anon message by sharing our experience, strength and hope with others, and we have found our joy and gratitude growing when we see the attitudes of other women and men change from despair to hope. We have seen that we can be uniquely helpful to those who are still suffering from the effects of sexaholism. We also strive to bring the same love and tolerance we are developing in our S-Anon group and in our close family relationships into our other personal, work and community relationships. We have found this to be the path toward continued spiritual growth.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 28.

Recovery Through Service

Early in my S-Anon recovery I was comfortable and enjoyed doing service work for my home group. But I learned the most about myself and took my recovery to new levels when I did service work beyond my group. I came to recognize and develop talents I didn’t even know I had. This brought up some of my faulty thinking. I had grown up hearing old slogans/tapes: You can do that, if you just try harder; I know you will not let the family down; Do you think you are better than the others? Is your time more valuable? No excuses; You are being lazy; Can’t you do what is expected of you? and so on. In my S-Anon recovery I have heard and learned new slogans that promote gentleness and self-care. Through S-Anon service work, I have learned that it is absolutely my job, and my job alone, to look after and care for myself by setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. I’ve learned to respectfully say what I mean and mean what I say. I have the courage to say no when necessary. I am very grateful for the opportunity to do this service work; I learn more about myself in the process, and give myself the gift of a more balanced life. Today I am grateful for a whole set of new slogans (such as: Easy Does It; Keep It Simple; One Day at a Time; H.A.L.T.; Live and Let Live) and the S-Anon program. My Higher Power continues to provide me with opportunities to learn and grow in my service work beyond my local group.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, pages 106-107.