Adult Child of a Sexaholic

 May 13, 2024

My father’s sexaholism had a profound impact on me. I lived under a cloud of impending disaster, even when things were going fine. I couldn’t see the harmful effects on my life of living with and reacting to that dread. I had become too emotionally connected with my father—I didn’t know where he left off and I began. Sexaholism was the big, bad secret in our family, and I loyally guarded that secret for years. In my family it was more important to give an appearance of being happy than to experience the genuine emotion. My main method of coping with the turmoil was to become over-involved with educational pursuits, with extra-curricular projects, and excessive religious activity.

When I left home and got married, I still relied on emotionally withdrawing and piling on activities when circumstances became difficult. I could justify everything I was doing, but I couldn’t prevent my partner from feeling abandoned and unloved. She also reacted strongly toward my father’s sexual acting out and refused to allow him to babysit for his grandchildren. When I felt forced to choose between my wife and my father, I clearly felt my life had become unmanageable, and I decided to get help.

Taking my First Step was painful, but as that truth deep down inside of me came to the surface, I felt reunited with a deep part of myself, and it felt good. My pain had begun when the effects of my father’s sexaholism began to affect me emotionally and spiritually. It was only when life became hopeless that I surrendered, took my First Step, and gave God a chance to restore my life.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 75.

Focusing on Myself

 April 22, 2024

I have noticed a huge spurt in my emotional growth since attending a recent S-Anon International Convention. I drove away from the Convention with an important awareness: I must focus on my behavior rather than anyone else’s. I have always known that focusing on ourselves is a key principle of the S-Anon program, but I didn’t have the insight into my own behavior until the Convention. This awareness has helped me change my behavior toward my sexaholic family member. I no longer try to manipulate by making “helpful hints.” I do not make sarcastic remarks, putting down the sexaholic for his behavior. I see the insanity of my thinking and behavior. I thought if I acted mean and said hurtful things, it would cure or control the sexaholic from acting out in his disease. Instead, I am now asking myself, “What’s going on with me when I feel that ‘urge’ to put others down? How is my behavior helping or hindering my serenity? Can I feel compassion for myself and others?”

My behavior has changed with other family members also: I am no longer pushing myself on my adult children. If they don’t want my input on something, or if they have a change of plans and are unable to visit me, I use my program tools to work through how I am feeling. I can then make a plan to get on with my day. By changing the things I can, I have a better understanding of why we call this a “family disease” and of my part in it. This new awareness has done wonders for my serenity!

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 11.

Able to Meet My Own Needs

 April 8, 2024

One way that I can be personally self-supporting is to stop my self-defeating behaviors. When I first came to S-Anon, I did not recognize that expecting my spouse to read my mind and take care of me was self-defeating. I thought I could read her mind, and my well-being was dependent on how she was doing. If she was happy, I was happy; if she was angry, I was angry.

Slowly I began to release my grip on my sexaholic spouse. I realized that I was enmeshed with her. Through working the program, I began to see myself as an individual, both separate and significant. I began to consider how I could meet my own needs. Now, I don’t depend on others to make me happy. I can take responsibility, one day at a time, for meeting my needs–spiritually, emotionally, socially, and physically. I can be proactive in improving my conscious contact with God. I don’t have to wait for someone to go with me to pursue my spiritual growth. I can do things for myself and by myself as well as with others. At times my spouse and I do things together, but my ability to enjoy myself now is not contingent upon my being part of a couple. I am grateful for my progress.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Traditions, page 95.

My Anniversary Coins

 March 25, 2024

My first six months in S-Anon were marked with trauma about all the discoveries in my 20 plus years of marriage. I was focused on what I thought I had and on fears about what I might lose. I went to meetings and I felt better when I left than when I came. I bought the literature and tried to read something every day to steady myself. People kept saying; “Try this it will help” and “Keep coming back.” I was in such deep pain and was just trying to function on a very basic level (sleep, eat, and work). God had opened the blinds for me to see reality, but now I had to turn around and look out the window.

My S-Anon group was starting a Step-Study and I toyed with the idea of trying it. I decided to join—thinking to myself,“If I don’t like it, I’ll just quit.”After a few weeks of writing out Steps in our S-Anon Twelve Steps, I began to realize that there was definitely something to this. I actually began to feel better. After a few months, I was completely hooked, but still not without some apprehension. Later that year, my first sponsor reminded me that my one year anniversary was approaching. I was grateful to have found S-Anon but still grieving about the sudden turn my life had taken. I told her that I didn’t care much about trinkets but that she could announce the anniversary. She did, and everyone congratulated me. At the next meeting there was another anniversary and as was our custom we passed around the coin. I saw everyone praying and thinking good recovery thoughts and wishes over the coin. When it came to me, I looked at it and saw “The Serenity Prayer”—something I had said to myself thousands of times in the previous year. I then turned it over and saw; “To thine own self be true.” I got a little misty-eyed. I raised my hand and said “Can I have my coin from last week?” I now carry all of my anniversary coins in my purse at all times. The weight of them is very reassuring.

Reprinted from the Spring/Summer 2010 issue of S-Anews©.

Forgiveness and Healing

 March 11, 2024

I know that many of us come into S-Anon feeling deeply lonely with a strong sense of not belonging. I definitely felt that when I came in. This loneliness and isolation made the prospect of admitting my wrongs to God and to another human being very hard. Underneath, though, I knew the Fifth Step would bring me freedom and peace. So using the principle of this Step, I chose to admit my worst secret to my group and to God — that I had stood by and done nothing about my daughter’s incest. It was very painful to admit that I had not been there for her and that I had not been the mother she needed — that I had been so out of touch with my reality and hers. As I had hoped, admitting it to the group brought me a sense of forgiveness and healing. Some of the group members were the age of my children. Feeling their compassion and forgiveness was particularly healing for me. One even came up to me and said she wished that I was her mom, because I was able to admit my wrongs and say that I was sorry.

After doing the Fifth Step on this issue I gradually forgave myself and released the guilt. My life is now increasingly better on a daily basis, even though I still occasionally feel some sadness when I think of how my actions affected my children. Yet I am grateful that I was able to share the secret. Sharing it gave me the strength that comes with knowing I can identify my truths and I can share them. Sharing about my denial of the incest also gave me the courage to go on and formally work an entire Fifth Step with my sponsor. Today when I’m stuck in difficult feelings or a problem, I turn to Step Five. It helps me live in reality.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 56-57.

Achieving Balance

 February 26, 2024

When I began my recovery, my children were all in elementary school. Our home had an atmosphere of tension and insecurity.I was bound and determined to be the perfect mother—loving, compassionate, understanding—but I really did not know how to manifest those qualities in a balanced way. I sometimes went to extremes in caring for my children. There was a constant feeling of impending disaster and if someone made a mistake (and there were plenty!), I reacted in extreme ways. I neglected the children emotionally, obsessing about my husband when he was acting out and worrying about the “next time” when he was not. I lived my life through my kids because I didn’t even realize at that time that I had my own separate life. If they passed a science test, I felt I was a success. If they got a low grade, I was a failure as a mom. Their grades were my grades and their emotions became my emotions.

Today, after several years in S-Anon, my children know that when I go to a meeting, make a telephone call, or receive a telephone call from a program friend, I am trying to stay balanced. I don’t force heavy conversation with my children, but I try to be aware of any opportunity where I might be able to share my recovery with them, and be emotionally available in that moment. I have told them that there are certain groups and people whom God has given to both their dad and me to help us learn how to truly love ourselves and others. I talk with them about being aware of feelings and learning to express feelings honestly in appropriate ways. I talk with them about the need for each of us to have boundaries, how we need to learn to “mind our own business” in a loving manner, and how I am not going to get this all perfect for probably a very long time — if ever! Above all, I try to make amends where needed as quickly as possible, and stay current with any issue needing our attention. I have not disclosed the details of their dad’s addiction. I feel that is his responsibility when he feels the time is appropriate. Now, if I get off track, usually one of the children will bring it to my attention, and I again have the opportunity to put the program into practice! I cannot count the number of times my 13-year old has said to me in so many words “Mom, you are starting to get into other people’s ‘stuff’!” but if I am working the program on a daily basis, they will see it, feel it, and I can share what I have learned in S-Anon with my children at their level.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, pages 88-89.

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