Powerless But Not Helpless

 June 29, 2020

When I first came to S-Anon, I could readily admit my unmanageability. I was working two jobs because most of my husband’s income went to support his sexual acting out or to one new business scheme after another. Even though my husband had lost interest in me sexually, and I knew he was sexually active with other women, I was still desperately trying to get pregnant. I frequently had “rage attacks” where I would follow him around the house or even outside screaming — and I couldn’t stop. Often my anger leaked out at co-workers through sarcasm or a very cold, angry tone of voice. When I was confronted with this, I was totally surprised and hurt. How could anyone perceive me this way? I felt I was a very sensitive and caring person. The most blatant sign of my unmanageability was that I was suicidal. I vacillated between praying for my husband to die and praying that I would die. Eventually, I stayed with praying for me to die. I would go to bed each night praying not to wake up. At times I would get into the car in a hysterical rage at two or three o’clock in the morning, trying to get the nerve to drive into a wall.

In spite of the awareness of my unmanageability, it took at least six months in the S-Anon program before I accepted that I was powerless over sexaholism. I don’t think I ever felt responsible for my husband’s acting out, but I did feel that I was capable of curing and fixing it. When I worked evenings, I would take the telephones with me. I thought I was helping — that this would prevent him from engaging in telephone sex. I searched through his wallet, his pockets and his desk drawers, hoping to find clues to his acting out. I participated in degrading and humiliating sexual activities in an attempt to gain his sexual interest and to keep him from acting out with other women. I was obsessed with him and totally out of touch with my own needs and feelings.
The unmanageability of being married to a sexaholic brought me to S-Anon. In meetings, though, I came to recognize that it was actually my mother’s sexaholism that had affected me initially. My mother had many affairs before I was born and shortly after. She was also incestuous with my brother. My brother sexually abused me, and I was sexually abused by an older man when I was 18 years old. Although these facts about my family background and my childhood were very painful to face, I am grateful for the knowledge. In S-Anon I came to realize that it wasn’t just bad luck that I married a sexaholic — I was being groomed for it all my life.

Over time, through the help of my S-Anon friends and my Higher Power, I was able to accept my powerlessness over sexaholism. I was able to see the difference between being powerless and being helpless. I recognized my powerlessness over sexual addiction and my own crazy thinking and behavior. I saw I was not helpless to take positive action to face my pain. With this admission, I really started to work the First Step and my own program.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 9-10.


Striving for Authenticity

 June 1, 2020

Tradition Two has helped me to trust that I can express my thoughts and opinions without fear. As a newcomer, I observed how my S-Anon group members made decisions and worked through problems in a way that was fair to everyone, without yelling or giving each other the silent treatment. This was something new to me. They spoke up and gave their opinions and were still loved and accepted. I learned that I, too, could speak up and still feel safe.

This kind of trust has been more difficult to build in my relationship with the sexaholic. When we disagree, I fear the sexaholic will no longer love me or will turn against me. When I was a child, I learned that disagreement led to criticism and rejection. I was afraid to speak up, and it took a while for me to try it in my S-Anon group. I was relieved to find that I was not criticized or rejected. In fact, some people in the group actually thanked me for saying what I said. In my relationships, I often find myself trying to either please or control. I am learning this is far more harmful to me and to our relationship than I had ever imagined!

In S-Anon, I am discovering how to respect myself. I want to be an equal and sane participant in all of my relationships more than I want to be “right.” My opinions and feelings are valid. I am learning to keep the focus on myself and to let go of my obsession with what other people might be thinking of me. I try to examine my motives before I speak. I can ask my Higher Power to guide me and give me courage as I strive to be authentic in all my relationships.

Reprinted from S-Anon Traditions One, Two, and Three, page 20.

Detaching from and Attaching to

 May 18, 2020

Sexaholism existed in my family as far back as my great-grandfather. He sexually abused my mother and many of her siblings and cousins. His wife, my great-grandmother, overdosed on pain pills shortly after he was caught molesting a neighbor’s child. These topics were taboo and rarely discussed.

Not surprisingly, I chose many sexaholic partners before I found the help of S-Anon. When I look at my history, I see that I was groomed for these relationships; sexaholism is a family disease. I had been surrounded by the effects of sexaholism as well as other forms of addiction and unhealthy behavior, such as alcoholism, self-mutilation, anorexia, food addiction, attempted suicide, and a lot of resentment and isolation.

That environment had seemed “normal,” and to recover I must now work to let go of the disease and the problems it has caused for my relatives and me. I am learning that it is not my job to carry the shame and pain of other family members. In recovery, I can detach from the role of taking care of others, and attach to the safety of my meetings and my Higher Power. I am choosing a “recovery family.” These new relationships are a healing gift of the program – a bigger gift than I possibly could have imagined when I started the process of recovery.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 290.

I’m Worth It

 May 4, 2020

When I first came to S-Anon, I needed to be scraped off the unmanageability floor. I was bottomed-out in pain, cynicism, and anger. I couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks, and felt like my life was on the outer rim of an F-5 tornado. I believed that in order to calm down I needed to make sure that the sexaholic never “duped” me again. As angry as I was at him, I was angrier at myself. I felt like something must have been very wrong with me for me to not know what was really going on around me. I promised myself I would never, EVER, miss the signs of active addiction in my home again. I was going to “work it” all right! I was going to “work” a detective/prosecuting attorney angle and I was going to sleep with one eye open at night. My “knowing” became my Higher Power.

I was lucky enough to find an out-of-town sponsor that told me there was another way to serenity other than morphing into “Super-Sleuth.” She told me that the way out of my chaos was through using the program tools and not just reading them. She asked me how my own white-knuckle plan was working for me. It wasn’t. She asked me if we said the (dreaded) slogan “It works when you work it and you’re worth it” at the end of the meetings. I told her we did and that I preferred not to be touched or lectured to. She was gentle and patient with me. As she held me in our conversations, I realized that I was not alone in the dark. She said focusing on me and “working it” wasn’t about letting my spouse off the hook; it was about letting me off the hook. Being “worth it” is simply a God-given truth: that I am designed and loved by a Higher Power, even if I can’t love myself today. She told me that I’m worth doing the work for, not necessarily for my marriage or my husband. He wasn’t the focus of my program, I was. Gulp. What? Who me?

Growing up in a home with untreated sexaholism and S-Anon parents, I had lost “me” a long, long time ago. My heart needed to be sprinkled with Miracle Grow. I didn’t love myself— not even a little. This small bit of nurture from my sponsor touched the part of me that longed for healthy connection. Tears quietly tracked down my cheeks as a layer of gratitude mixed with grief unfolded within me. I looked in the mirror at an exhausted, frazzled woman. I saw something I no longer wanted to be. I wanted to be more like my sponsor (relaxed, spiritually-centered, sleeping through the night, in good humor, and able to let herself be human). I was desperate enough to listen to those who weren’t spinning anymore. Isolation from others and from their ideas had to end. So, still angry at my life circumstances, but sick and tired of being sick and tired, I “worked it” — for me. And it worked. And I’m worth it.

Reprinted from the Fall 2010 issue of S-Anews©.

The Power of Healthy Choices

 April 20, 2020

Long before joining S-Anon, isolation was a way of life for me. Isolating myself from others perpetuated my magical thinking that maybe things would get better at home. Consequently, I did not face my fears and take responsibility for my choices. Isolation and ignoring the effects of living with sexaholism enabled me to hide from the reality of my life and the unproductive way I was parenting my daughter. Isolation had become an unhealthy habit.

S-Anon gave me back the power of healthy choices. Now I can choose to reach out by calling my sponsor regularly, and I encourage my sponsees to do the same. I volunteer for service at meetings, which gives me that extra nudge to show up and break my isolation. There are other options too. I can have the World Service Office put me in contact with S-Anons in other communities. I can attend S-Anon Conventions, where I am reminded that my local group and I are connected to a bigger fellowship. Writing a daily Tenth Step increases my awareness of what is happening inside me, and helps clear up little misunderstandings that motivate my isolation. I can use the slogans: “This Too Shall Pass” and “How Important Is It?”

Most importantly, I can ask my Higher Power for help when I wake up and remember to say “Thank you” to God before I fall asleep. Isolating complicates my life. Choosing to stay out of isolation through working my program helps me “Keep It Simple.”

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 105.

Good Enough

 April 6, 2020

After working the S-Anon program for some time, I realized my fear of abandonment had influenced my attitudes and actions my entire life. My father died when I was very young. This was clearly the root of why I continued to expect to be abandoned in relationships. All the changes, challenges, and wounds after my father’s death reinforced my fear that I wasn’t good enough.

This affected my life in a number of ways. The men I chose for serious relationships turned out to be either incapable of commitment or emotionally unavailable. It was as though I unconsciously set myself up for repeated abandonment. Another example was my faith. While I believed that God loved me and would always be with me, there was a disconnection between what my head knew and what my heart felt. It wasn’t until I had the very down-to-earth, practical experience of working this program that I came fully to trust God – for the past, the present, and the future.

Working the S-Anon program has taught me a new lesson: I will never be abandoned by God – the one who loves me the most and considers me definitely good enough.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 170.

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