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.