Righting My Wrong

 August 8, 2022

On a particularly busy day at my job, I was rushing to get a newsletter ready for mailing before a meeting when I received a telephone call from the postal service. The woman on the line identified herself as a supervisor and in a kind voice began with the words, “I’m afraid I’m the bearer of some bad news.” She explained that post office officials had determined that my employer’s nonprofit newsletter had violated a certain mailing requirement and that we were not paying enough postage. She said they would collect back payment of several thousand dollars for the last two years — money our organization did not have. My fear of not being able to pay turned immediately into defensiveness and then just as quickly into anger and indignation — a pattern of character defects I had developed in part through living with the disease of sexaholism. The supervisor became the unfortunate recipient of my self-righteous indignation. I made accusations and gave full vent to my anger. I ended the phone call and sat there at my desk, flooded with feelings and obsessively reliving the phone call.

As the afternoon wore on, the angry feelings died down and I noticed a tightness in my stomach and some emerging guilty feelings about how I had handled the phone call. I used a spot-check inventory to examine the situation and determine what had prompted my behavior. I acknowledged that the timing of the phone call was unfortunate. Rushed as I was, that phone call did not fit in with “my plans” for the day. My Fourth Step inventory had shown me just how much I liked things in my control, and clearly that defect had triggered part of my angry response. Thinking about the call further, I saw that even though I disagreed with the post office’s interpretation of the situation, there was no reason to explode at their employee. She was simply doing her job. It was ironic how my old people-pleasing behavior had been transformed with my recovery. Now I had no problem letting people know how I felt, but this incident raised the question, “At what cost?” I pictured someone being as angry with me as I had been with that supervisor, and that picture was not pretty. I knew my Higher Power was teaching me to maintain a balance between stuffing feelings and voicing feelings appropriately.

I realized I needed to right this wrong, so I said a prayer asking for God’s help with what I was about to do, and I called the woman back. She, of course, remembered me. I apologized for my actions, briefly stating that while I disagreed with their interpretation of the situation, that was no reason to be disagreeable. I asked her forgiveness for my rudeness, which she granted, saying that she really appreciated my willingness to call back and apologize. I got off the phone feeling clean, a burden lifted. I am so grateful that the Steps of S-Anon do not only apply to overcoming the direct effects of living with sexaholism. They are also a formula for living every part of my life freely.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 117-119.

Let Go and Let God

 July 25, 2022

One of my most challenging character defects is the desire to control people and situations. When I was young, I learned that being in control was a sign of strength and independence. It meant that person had “it” together. Being in control, or trying to be, tied into some of my other defects. I am a perfectionist and a people pleaser. If I’m in control and everything goes my way, then it will be perfect and everyone will be happy. Right?

As I’ve grown in S-Anon, I’ve come to see the fault in that thinking. I’ve learned the hard way that even when things go my way they can turn out very far from perfect. My life, when I was in charge, was full of unhappiness. I felt miserable most of the time. I felt unlovable. I felt like I was a fraud. If people knew the real me, they would never like me. By projecting a people-pleasing, perfectionist appearance, I felt like I was hiding the true, imperfect, unacceptable me. I was in love with the sexaholic who was spending more time and money with his addiction than with me and this only seemed to reinforce my feelings of being unacceptable.

When I arrived at the door of S-Anon, I was desperate for a way out of my despair. I didn’t know how things could change, but I knew I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with myself and was willing to try anything. I wasn’t sure about the Higher Power thing. I was skeptical, but part of being willing to try anything meant setting that skepticism aside, I saw that others were relying on a Higher Power and having good results, even if they struggled with who or what that Power might be. I figured it was worth a try.

At first, I turned over little things, things I wouldn’t be too disappointed with if it didn’t pan out how I wanted. As I practiced, it became easier to let go of bigger things. I recall the first time I handed the sexaholic in my life over to my Higher Power. I pictured a tiny version of him in my hands, and I visualized lifting him up into the air and simply watching as he floated up to whatever was up there. I felt better, but I still felt a weight on my heart, I figured this process needed to be repeated. I kept visualizing this and kept feeling better. By the end of my meditation, I was chucking him up to the heavens! Maybe it ended a bit forcefully that time, but I felt like I could do something to help myself instead of being a passive victim.

Since then I’ve had other times of crisis when this slogan has been useful. When I find myself preoccupied with worry, usually over whether or not the sexaholic will make a healthy decision or not, I turn to prayer and focus on “Let Go and Let God.” My prayer goes something like this:

“God, I know I have no control over this person. Yet the worry over what he is going to do is really getting to me. I feel sick with worry and I can’t pay attention to the things in my life that I need to. I know he is yours and you will take care of him, even if that means learning a lesson. I know you’d do the same for me and will take care of me, too. I’m tired of feeling this way. You do a much better job running the world. You can have it back for today. If something bad does come of this, I know you’ll be there for me, and I will make it through. Let’s go through the things I can do to take care of myself.

By the end of this process I usually feel like things are back in order. I identify what healthy things I can do to take care of myself and what things are Higher Power’s. I feel like that strong, independent person I always wanted to be.

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

We cannot cure it…

 July 11, 2022

“I wonder if I’m really a sexaholic,” my husband said one day, about a year into recovery. “Maybe I really don’t need those meetings and the program.” Panic overwhelmed me, and in my mind’s eye I could see nothing but a black future. I imagined my husband going back “out there” to have another affair (or two or three), leaving our marriage in shambles. My first instinct was to try to convince him that he really was a sexaholic. I began to mentally list all the hurtful things he had done in the past which proved (to me!) that he was powerless over his sexual behavior, and I was about to remind him of each and every event in case he had forgotten.

But I, too, had been in recovery for a year, and I remembered all the times we had talked in meetings about “letting go and letting God.” A little inner voice told me this was a time to let go. So I said nothing, just nodded to let him know I had been listening. I hoped he wouldn’t notice how afraid and upset I was. A little while later my husband said, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I guess I am a sexaholic. I think I’ll go to a meeting tonight.” As I reflected on how things worked out, I became aware that my husband must have resented my past efforts to control his thinking, and felt even more need to defend himself and his ideas. Instead, because I kept quiet, this time we were both able to think things through in a calm atmosphere.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 45.


Now It’s My Turn

 June 27, 2022

In my first months of recovery, I spent almost every meeting in tears, feeling deep pain and hopelessness. One evening, the leader of the meeting brought treats for the group to celebrate her S-Anon birthday – another 365 days of working her S-Anon program. She shared how grateful she was to be a part of this fellowship and how happy she was to be celebrating her birthday that evening among fellow S-Anon members.

I found myself in tears again, but this time it was for the hope she gave me. My S-Anon birthday was over eight months away, but I thought if I could feel happiness at my one year S-Anon birthday, then that could be something to hope for and work towards.

Over the months, my hope for happiness became a reality. It is now my tradition to bring treats for the group on my S-Anon birthday. Because of the program, I can rejoice in my new life and freedom that I have received through working the Steps and being part of this fellowship. Now it’s my turn to pass on encouragement, strength, and hope.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 352.


Focusing on Myself and God’s Plan For Me

 June 13, 2022

Like many others, a crisis brought me to S-Anon. While on a camping trip with friends, my husband was arrested for trying to expose himself to a child. I felt confused, in a lot of pain — and totally focused on him and this crisis to the exclusion of everything else in my life. My mind constantly raced: How could he do this to me? I loved him so much, and I treated him so well. Why did he have to be like this? Why couldn’t God just fix him?

When I began to work the program, S-Anon members suggested that I apply the tools of the S-Anon program like the literature, slogans and writing about my problems on a daily basis. As I used them, I began to experience some serenity. Yet when the Steps were read at meetings, I noticed that the words of Step Six — that God could remove defects of character — still seemed hollow and empty. If this was true, why hadn’t God removed the obvious defect in my husband’s character — his sexaholism?

Despite these uncomfortable feelings, I continued to work the program. I got a sponsor and finally started to really work the Steps and practice the principles of the program. Through working Steps Four and Five I learned that I, too, had defects that stood in my way and needed to be removed. The most obvious defect was the way I focused on my husband rather than on myself — a defect that had been so evident in my reaction to the crisis that brought me to S-Anon. My pattern of focusing on my husband and his problems had been my way of denying my own problems and difficult feelings. Unfortunately, this behavior kept me in a lot of pain.

Working the Fourth and Fifth Steps helped me see just how much this “outward” focusing had hurt me. I realized that when I focused on my husband I was not able to focus on God’s plan for me. That was when I finally became willing to surrender this character defect to God. Today I am continuing to practice Step Six by remaining open each day to any revelations God has for me about my shortcomings. I am finding serenity and happiness in my life and my marriage by learning to focus on myself and by allowing my Higher Power to help me.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 66-67.

Self-Centeredness – A Barrier to Detachment

 May 23, 2022

In a recent writing meeting we covered the topic of “detachment with love” and then were given the opportunity to journal about it over the next 15 minutes. This is what I wrote:

I heard a phrase in the reading today about not having the power to change anyone else. Prior to recovery, I was one who wanted power and control over others. I felt it was my duty as a mother and wife — I knew best how to keep my kids safe, teach them responsibility, blah, blah, blah. I was confident that I was the one who knew how to run the household. Heaven forbid if my husband wanted to load the dishwasher, cook a meal, or do the laundry!

I heard the phrase “detachment by amputation” in a local marathon [of meetings]. At that time, my mind immediately went to a news story about a woman who took some radical measures along these lines. I suddenly understood how a wife could get to that point. This scares me. But after more time in my recovery journey, I learned, changed and grew and finally understood what it meant to detach with love.

I have been realizing what effects my self-centeredness has had on me and on those around me. My anger arose when I felt others’ actions were personally directed against me. How self-centered is that? When I think of my spouse’s life before recovery and even before me, I realize he wasn’t acting out in his disease to harm me. Harming me was a side effect that he never had even thought about.

In other areas of my life, I have realized that my anger with people or situations was only played out because I was self-centered and thought only of myself and not of anyone else’s thoughts or reasoning. I hope that with this continued line of thinking and with ongoing recovery work in S-Anon, I can detach with love more fully and maybe then the first line of the Serenity Prayer will come true for me: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

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

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