Redefining Spiritual Awakening in My Recovery

Redefining Spiritual Awakening in My Recovery

 November 30, 2020

When I first came into program, and I heard people talk about having a spiritual awakening, I was in anticipation of the “big one”. The Twelfth Step talks about having had “one,” and I was definitely ready for it. When I thought about it, I thought it was a one-time event in which I would feel different immediately, and I should be a changed person afterwards. By working through the steps and working with my sponsor, I understand now that my spiritual awakening is a gradual one.

In spite of the painful circumstances that brought me to S-Anon, I was drawn to recovery and excited to do the work. In that sense, when I first entered the meeting rooms I had a sudden awakening. In reality, my spiritual awakening is a daily event that grows as I stay more focused on God and how He works through others and me. My awakening is just that: I have been awakened by God to live differently, to live through God’s eyes. I have noticed how I worry less and obsess less. I am no longer focused on my sexaholic spouse blaming him for all my problems and feelings. In fact, I can see how the unmanageability I felt around the sexaholic’s actions forced me into a more spiritual life. I now can ask for help. I can forgive and pray for forgiveness. I feel my life has changed and that I have changed because now I see the purpose of my life differently. I’m glad that this is not a one-time event. I’m grateful there is no finish line. I’m happy to be in recovery training for the rest of my life.

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

My Needs Count

 November 16, 2020

I spent years covering up my partner’s sexual acting out and protecting him. Even though I experienced severe emotional pain over his affairs, fear of disease due to his involvement with prostitutes, anger over money spent on pornography and telephone calls, and shame over his arrests, I was afraid to get help for myself because of what people would think about my husband. But I’m learning that my needs count! I’m learning to find safe places where I can share my problems and the program. As a recovering S-Anon member, I often cannot avoid mentioning, in general terms, something about my husband’s problem, but there is no need to go into detail. In S-Anon, we learn to place the focus on ourselves and our own recovery, and that’s what I share with others.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 96.

Fear, Courage, and Strength

 November 2, 2020

Eight months ago I discovered my spouse was having an affair. The initial shock and pain lasted three or four months. Just as I was beginning to have hope that this anguish was ending, I realized I was living with daily fear and dread of it happening again. Then the “What if’s” began: What if I got a divorce, how would I ever get through it? How would I survive the grief? Even though my spouse was going to SA meetings, I was now ill at ease in groups, at church, and with friends, family, or strangers.

I recognized I was powerless over this obsession and fear and that it was ruining my life. I cried out to God for relief. At an S-Anon meeting, I heard the words that the courage and strength would come if and when I needed it. It sounded so simple, but I couldn’t understand it when I was grasping and filled with fear and questioning. Gradually, it began to sink in – although I am powerless over the sexaholic and his disease, I am not alone. I can be okay no matter what happens, and I have a Higher Power that I can lean on. Peace was restored to my life.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 72.

Carrying the S-Anon Message with Gratitude

 October 19, 2020

I tried to cope with the sexaholism in our home in many ways — denial, rage and emotional withdrawal were only a few. However, the S-Anon approach is the only one that truly helped me recover from sexaholism’s effects. Working the Steps of this program has given me a serenity and spiritual awakening I did not know were possible. That is why I do whatever I can to be a “trusted servant” when I carry the S-Anon message. For example, I speak up when S-Anon’s Twelve Traditions are not followed in meetings, reminding those present of our group’s commitment to the meeting sharing guidelines. Speaking up is not easy for me, but I know that to say nothing while a member or even the group itself bypasses the structure we have established to ensure unity is to passively participate in the decline of our group’s ability to carry the message that each of us affected by sexaholism seeks.

The gratitude I have for this program also leads me to carry the message by making an extra effort to welcome newcomers and to help them understand the program. Whether it is answering the phone line, leading a newcomers’ meeting or making a point to warmly greet newcomers before and after meetings, I try to remember that carrying the message is the primary purpose of our fellowship. Without the newcomer, S-Anon would eventually cease to exist. On a personal level, I know that the painful stories of the newcomer remind me of the importance of continuing to work the program in my own life.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 149-150.

Showing Up Authentically

 October 5, 2020

Soon after I entered S-Anon, someone said to me, “It sounds to me like you don’t know who you are.” My eyes widened as I processed this, and then I just sobbed. It was true. I had spent much of my life as a chameleon, adjusting my behavior, speech patterns, and opinions to what I thought the other person wanted from me. This was exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying as I felt that my efforts to meet (what I thought were) other people’s needs didn’t result in meaningful friendships. On the other hand, I felt that the few people with whom I had been authentically “me” had ultimately rejected me. So what option did I have? I felt that there must be something wrong with me, since I couldn’t be accepted as myself or again when I morphed into what other people wanted me to be.

Though I didn’t know it when I started S-Anon, my program has been a process of learning who I am and being OK with that person. I have had to learn how to lovingly detach not just from the sexaholic, but from every human being, and instead attach myself to my Higher Power and His perception of me.

A turning point for me was a relatively recent interaction with someone from my childhood. This relationship was indicative of many hurtful relationships in my youth — someone who was in and out of my life (mostly out) and I felt she had rejected me because of who I was. She reached out to me to reconnect a few years ago, and I reluctantly allowed the connection. In the course of interacting, she repeatedly brought up a painful instance from my childhood. Through my program work (and unbeknownst to her), I learned this issue was the source of much of my relationship dysfunction. After stewing in my resentment for a while, I chose to address the situation by sharing a little of what I had learned about how that situation had negatively impacted my life and how I was trying to undo the unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns I had used to cope with it. I then asked her not to keep bringing it up.

For someone who avoids conflict, this was a huge step and I braced myself for the expected barrage of criticism. Instead, she responded very graciously, admitting that her behavior toward me in our youth stemmed from jealousy, and she apologized for her treatment of me!

I was stunned by this turn of events, and it showed me two things: 1) we are all on our own personal growth paths and since we’re all imperfect, we’re bound to hurt and be hurt by people along the way; and 2) the “problem” isn’t always me! As I reviewed lost relationships in my life, I began to see that I almost always accepted the blame for what went wrong. I had always accepted what other people said about me as truth rather than filtering it through the knowledge that they are also imperfect and may need to grow in a particular area.

At a recent S-Anon International Convention, I attended a session on “showing up authentically” in relationships. In the session someone suggested viewing another person’s words and actions as objective data which could help both parties know whether their authentic selves were compatible for a healthy relationship. “Can this person handle ME at full strength?” Why would I choose to be in a relationship where I couldn’t be me? And realizing that a person can’t “handle me” doesn’t have to mean there’s anything wrong with me or the other person. It may just be that we are not a compatible match. This mindset has helped me dilute (or remove) the emotion from situations which in the past would have compounded my feelings of inadequacy and fed my unhealthy pattern of being a “chameleon.”

I am still new to this way of thinking and don’t always remember these principles. But when I do, I’m amazed at the freedom I feel and am grateful for one more step forward on my recovery path.

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

Learning to Parent

 September 21, 2020

Working the program in my relationship with my husband is a piece of cake when I compare it to working the program regarding my son. I constantly wrestle with questions of whether I am a controlling parent or a parent providing structure. When is detachment appropriate with my seven-year-old son and when am I allowing too much freedom? When am I providing too much information about the family addiction dynamics and when am I keeping secrets? What is normal behavior on my son’s part and when is his behavior a reaction to being part of an addictive family? What makes answering these questions all the more difficult is the fact that I grew up in a dysfunctional family, so I don’t have a clue as to what is “normal.”

One day in an S-Anon meeting I shared these concerns with some members of the group. One member said she reads everything she can find about parenting and normal developmental stages for children. That was helpful to me, but I felt this kind of knowledge does not answer the basic question of “When am I providing guidance and when am I acting out my need to be in control?” Today when I am in the middle of a heated interchange with my son, I take some time out. If I am at home, I read recovery literature about control. If we are in public, I repeat the serenity prayer in my head. These actions calm me so that I can get in touch with my underlying feelings. I have been able to identify a feeling I call “wanting to shove a square peg into a round hole”—the “do it my way or else” feeling. Those are the times that I am not really parenting, but acting out my own fears by trying to controlling others.

I am a long way from being the kind of parent I would like to be, but I have become the kind of parent who can admit her shortcomings. Hopefully this will create an atmosphere in my home where things can be questioned and discussed. If my child feels safe engaging in conversation with me, I have come a long way toward healing in our relationship.

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

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