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.

Trusting the Process of Recovery

 September 7, 2020

During those first months in recovery, when my life seemed so chaotic, I was sharing with an S-Anon friend when I used this image to describe how I was feeling. I was blessed with her wise response.

The image: “I feel as if I’m in a little boat, out in the middle of the ocean. I’m adrift with no rudder, no sail, no motor, and no oars. I’m terrified and just want to put my arms over the side and start paddling.”

Her response: “Well, you could do that, but you might paddle away from the current. Perhaps you just need to lie back and wait to catch the current that will send you where you need to go.”

My friend’s response helped me to regain a sense of calm even in the chaos and pain of that time. She reminded me that I am powerless over the reality of the present moment, but that I can have faith in my Higher Power. If I put myself in God’s hands I will probably find that I have more options than the ones I am considering. My friend’s gentle words helped me to surrender and trust the process of recovery.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 322.

A Kinship With My Higher Power

 August 24, 2020

My faith was an important part of my life long before I came to the S-Anon program. It gave me strength and encouragement when I divorced and became a single parent, began to work full-time, and tried to juggle a busy schedule with two toddlers. I leaned on my Higher Power because that was all I could do. Fortunately, that was enough; I did not need to do anything more for God’s help. During this time I was gifted with the knowledge of things I needed to change about myself and the ability to do so. One awareness was that I had been in a number of relationships with sexaholics. This insight led me to S-Anon.

After about five years of working the S-Anon program, I began to experience a stagnation and a sense of unrest regarding my Higher Power. I felt that my difficulty was due to the fact that I could not “see” God. For me, it was like trying to relate to a cloud. One morning during my regular meditation in which I visualize coming into God’s presence, it came to me that I had a relationship with God, so all I had to do was practice my part. It made sense that if I brought the same attitudes, actions, and behavior that S-Anon had helped me learn to apply in my other relationships into the relationship with my Higher Power, this relationship would be enriched as well.

I began to practice the qualities of a good relationship, such as honesty, devoting my time, and open-mindedness. When I made a conscious connection with God in the morning or in the evening, I began to feel that I was spending time with my very best friend, and it was a sweet experience for me. An added bonus was the growing knowledge that God wanted an intimate relationship with me, too. More and more I felt that I was being drawn into a deep kinship with my Higher Power.

In all my relationships, whether with people or with my Higher Power, I experience varying degrees of success. However, when my day begins and ends with focusing on my most important relationship — the one with God — the other areas of my life are much saner. I still experience normal ups and downs as well as some major curves, particularly when it comes to discerning God’s will for me versus my own. As I continue to work Step Eleven, my growing relationship with my Higher Power invites me to practice tolerance, love and acceptance of myself, just as I am learning to exercise those qualities with others on their journeys. As my Higher Power strengthens my serenity, I am enabled to meet life’s challenges and encouraged to grow into the person God created me to be.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 2.

When I Detach, I Gain

 August 10, 2020

In a recent S-Anon meeting, we read an essay on detachment from a CAL source and then were asked to spend some time in writing. I considered the reading, my own work, and the shares of others. Then, as I reflected upon how detachment fit in with the other pieces of the recovery “puzzle” for me, I wrote a few lines. While it didn’t seem like much on paper, I realize how important these ideas are for me in my own journey. I was encouraged to share my writing as a service to others in program. This is what I wrote:

When I feel like someone else has to change or my life needs to unfold in a certain way for me to be happy, I am in my S-Anon Problem.

Yet, the paradox is that when I detach, I actually gain.

When I detach from my desire to alter the people and circumstances of my life and acknowledge my feelings and release them to God, I gain acceptance.

When I detach from the anger, sadness, and pain and I believe that things are being worked out and that God has a bigger plan for me, better than anything I can imagine, I gain faith.

When I detach from the anxiety and fear that stands in the way of my relationship with Higher Power, and learn to take positive action on behalf of my highest good, I gain recovery.


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

Detaching with Love and Compassion

 July 27, 2020

After I ended my relationship with my partner, I received a call from him in which he described how much pain he was in. My previous response would have been to rescue him, but while he was talking, I remembered that I am powerless to change or control him. I have learned in S-Anon that I cannot make him go to meetings or take responsibility for his sexaholic behavior. I do not have the power to alter his path. The gift S-Anon has given me is to know that I have choices. I chose to listen with love and compassion – a skill I am learning in S-Anon.

Detaching with love has given me the freedom to take better care of myself. I was able to end the phone call knowing that, in ending the relationship, I had made the right choice for me, while allowing him to experience his pain and do what he needs to take care of himself. Working the Steps has opened my life to accept others for who they are, good and bad. I can also accept myself for who I am – a very grateful recovering S-Anon.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 59.

Admitting My Unmanageability and Returning to Living

 July 13, 2020

My first husband left me for a younger woman, leaving me with a sense of personal failure. I decided that my mistake had been marrying a man with “poor values” — alcoholism, materialism, and bizarre sexual preferences. So I decided to find someone who shared my moral values: my second husband was a minister who seemed to be smart, fun, honest, thoughtful, and kind.

Four years into our marriage I became painfully aware of a passionate affair he was having. I asked myself, “How could this be? He is so different from my first husband.” I was sure somehow I was wrong, so I rationalized and made it a practice to trust — and not to look for things I didn’t want to see. I tried to make things better, to focus on the kids, to stick with it and try to work things out. I channeled my discomfort about my marriage into resentment, anger and criticism of issues at work, in my community and in politics. That approach worked fairly well for the next four years or so. One day, it stopped working.

There were too many suspicious lunches, notes, telephone calls, night meetings and an eerie absence even when we seemed to be most intimate. Finally my jealousy and a sense that I was competing for affection against an elusive other lover burst through my facade. I was tired of always having to keep my guard up, of competing and always losing. It was eating away at my sense of who I was, depleting what little I had left. I finally gave up. I knew that to save myself, he had to go. So I confronted him, and when I saw panic cloud his face, I knew I had been right all along. I raged and told him to get out. I couldn’t live this way any more. I was screaming and throwing rocks in the middle of the night in our front yard. The unmanageability of my life lay in our rock-strewn lawn.

In the morning he asked that we make an appointment with a marriage counselor, just to help us through the separation process and to protect our son from unnecessary pain. I agreed, looking forward to the end of the madness. At that appointment the counselor confronted my husband with his sexaholism. She also confirmed my powerlessness, saying that he had to choose to get better; there was nothing I could do to change him. She suggested that he attend SA and I attend S-Anon, and I am forever grateful for that suggestion. My husband clung to his new program and I immediately grabbed hold of mine. It was a confirmation of all I had experienced — I wasn’t crazy. The lasting gift of this program for me, though, has been my renewed sense of purpose and joy in myself, the knowledge that I can not only survive, but joyfully live with or without my husband. Today I use the program to live, not just live with sexaholism, and for that I am grateful.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 3-4.

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