For me, a slip in S-Anon is going back to the beliefs and behaviors which characterized my adult life until I got into the S-Anon program. For many years I believed that I could control others and that I was responsible for their behavior. I was sexual with my husband before he traveled in the delusional belief that it would make him less likely to look at other women while he was away from home. I reminded my children several times about every appointment and obligation they had – and the result was that they never had to learn to be responsible themselves. I snooped through my husband’s mail in the belief that knowledge is power. My efforts to change others were unending – and usually fruitless.
In S-Anon I learned that I could not control others, that I was not responsible for others’ behavior, and that my efforts to spare others from experiencing any negative consequences had a name – enabling – and that it wasn’t beneficial to them. I learned to let others be responsible for themselves and to focus on myself. I found out that people need to learn things for themselves; that even if I believe I have all the answers, I need to let them figure it out in their own way.
I still have slips, but I’m getting better at recognizing them for what they are. When my husband and I are to be separated for a week or two, I sometimes find myself tempted to make our last night together “a night to remember,” whether or not I myself am feeling sexual. I still have to bite my tongue in order not to explain to my husband the reasons for the way he’s feeling, how it relates to his family of origin, and what he can do about it. And I often get confused between what is healthy parenting and what is codependency in dealing with my children.
I felt a sense of triumph when I did not remind my teenage daughter about an important test she had signed up for – and which she then forgot to take. That was the last time she forgot an important test. Another triumph was not giving my husband my opinion when he was considering agreeing to meet a former girlfriend in another city, even though in my head I was citing chapter and verse about the foolhardiness of such a meeting. Because I kept my mouth shut, he was able to work through the consequences himself, with the help of his Higher Power, and he did not have to worry about pleasing me.
Having had many more years of practicing non-recovery than I’ve had practicing recovery, often my initial impulse still is to control, manage, and feel responsible. Feelings of abandonment surface unbidden at times and cry out for preventive action. In recovery I’m learning that although I may not have a choice about feeling these feelings, I do have a choice about whether to act on them or not. With time it gets easier to recognize these feelings as irrational and to avoid acting on them. Slips still do occur, but they happen less frequently, and I’m learning to recognize them more quickly. Thank you, S-Anon!
Reprinted from the 1990 Summer issue of S-Anews©.