Filling the Vacuum

 February 12, 2024

In my first science class, years ago, I learned a fact that intrigued me: nature abhors a vacuum. I was reminded of that fact of nature recently at an S-Anon meeting. A member spoke words that could have come right from my own mouth – if I had been honest enough to say them.

She spoke of wanting to stop being so judgmental of the sexaholic and others in her family. She shared about surrendering her critical and judgmental attitude to her Higher Power, and how God was replacing that attitude with a spirit of compassion and cooperation. She said she was feeling so much better about herself and others.

I knew that was what I wanted. I didn’t want to have to be so “right” all the time. I prayed to be released from my own judgmental and critical spirit and to be given an attitude of compassion.

I find that now I am learning to be more affirming and encouraging – not only to others, but to myself as well. Since I was given the words by my S-Anon friend, I am beginning to walk alongside my sexaholic with a more understanding heart. A spirit of compassion and cooperation is replacing my judgmental and critical spirit; it is filling the vacuum.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 140.

Reclaiming Me

 January 22, 2024

At the time I found out that my spouse was an active sexaholic, I was a new mom, jobless, and nearly devoid of my own identity. My only definition of myself revolved around my family. Having a spouse who was acting out led me to think I wasn’t good enough. If I was enough, how could he look elsewhere? I simply crumbled. Depression is an understatement. Those were dark days.

In time, I found S-Anon. Going to meetings was the first individual action I had taken in a long time. I had entirely lost myself in the roles of mother, daughter, and wife. I had lost myself in trying to get my husband sober. Really, I had lost myself in many ways. S-Anon helped me reclaim me.

While Tradition Six talks about many other things, it was the first place that I saw the idea of being a “separate entity” — and these two words are invaluable to me. I had been giving others power over me because I didn’t realize I was distinct and important on my own. I was a stranger to myself. I felt really sad about that. I began asking my Higher Power to enable my voice. I prayed to get to know myself again, and for the splintered pieces of my womanhood to be reunited into the person God intended me to be.

As I did the work that the Steps, Traditions, and Concepts of Service laid out for me, God helped me to discover and accept myself — my story, my assets, my defects, my sexuality, my parenting, my artistic self, and my sense of humor. These things had been lost to me for so long. As I grew in my autonomy, I could detach more easily and was able to let my spouse be his own person, too. I came to accept both of us as individuals.

Today, I know that I am a separate being. I can choose to cooperate as situations occur, or I can choose to walk away. I can ask myself what I believe, what I feel is right, and what it is that I want to do. I can pray and meditate. I can seek mentorship from others in program who share their decisions and experiences. I can take my time and decide how to participate. I don’t have to lose myself in someone else’s ideas or disease. I am separate. I am enough. I am.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Traditions, pages 78-79.

Letting Go of My Spouse’s Program

 January 8, 2024

“I wonder if I’m really a sexaholic after all,” said my husband one day after a year or so in recovery. “Maybe I really don’t need those meetings and the program.” Panic overwhelmed me, and in my mind’s eye, I could see a dark future – my husband undertaking a series of progressively more risky behaviors, culminating with his going back “out there” to have another affair or two or three, and our marriage in shambles. My first instinct was to marshal the evidence to convince him that indeed he is a sexaholic. I mentally ran through all the events of the past which proved conclusively that he was powerless over his sexual behavior, and I was about to remind him of them in case he had forgotten.

But I too have 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 one of those times. So I bit my tongue and said nothing, just nodded to let him know I had been listening. I hoped he wouldn’t notice my inner turmoil, agitation, and fear.

A little while later my husband said “I’ve been thinking about it and I guess I am a sexaholic after all. I think I’ll go to a meeting tonight”.

What would have happened if I had followed my first instinct and launched a barrage of arguments? Probably he would have felt attacked and would have rushed to defend the position that he was not an addict He would have seen me as controlling. There would have been tension between us. He would have had a stake in maintaining his original position. Instead, because I had kept quiet, he was able to think through the possibility that he was not an addict and to conclude, on his own, that he was. I am sure that this conclusion was more convincing to him than if it had come as a result of my efforts to persuade him.

Just as I have to work my own program, my husband has to work his. When I interfere, or try to make things turn out the way I think they should, I am only impeding the process. When I feel compelled to interfere, I need to examine my own motivation. Am I frightened of abandonment? Am I afraid to trust the program? I need to keep the focus on myself, and trust that my husband, with the help of his Higher Power, will work through the problem without my “help.”

Reprinted from the Summer 1991 issue of The S-Anews©.

Love and Acceptance – Just As I Am

 December 11, 2023

When I was about halfway through my Fourth Step inventory, I made a date with my sponsor to do the sharing with “another human being” part of my Fifth Step.  Since she lived in a distant city, this date coincided with the next time my husband and I were scheduled to be there for business. I continued to work on my inventory as the deadline approached.

I finally completed my Fourth Step the night before leaving to see her. I was ecstatic to have the burden lifted. At the same time I was filled with fearful obsession over what I imagined was to come. I had dared to be completely honest in my Fourth Step, writing down things i had never told another person. I was afraid of sharing certain shameful parts of the inventory with her, even though she had never given me any reason to be afraid.

On the plane ride there, I started feeling sick. At first I thought it was just the physical manifestation of my fear, but before long it became clear that I was really sick with the flu. I couldn’t believe it — I had worked so hard to be ready and now this! I knew it would be months before I could see my sponsor again, and I wanted to do the Fifth Step in person, so we forged ahead.

In my weakened physical condition, I did not have the energy to do my usual routine of “putting the best face on things.” Instead I bared my soul — truly for the first time. I was amazed. My sponsor accepted me just as I was, at my very worst. Her nurturing support gave me the courage to go on, particularly as the shameful items moved closer and closer to the top of my sharing list. I couldn’t believe it when she didn’t bat an eye at the stuff I had been so afraid to reveal. She just nodded her head in support. When I was done sharing, she suggested that some of the shame I had been walking around with was not really mine to carry. As for the rest of the defects, she smiled and said I was “a pretty average S-Anon.” She also validated my strengths and even came up with some I had never considered.

I felt relieved and even proud — I had completed this part of the Fifth Step. While I do not recommend the “flu method,” it certainly was a blessing to me. It shattered the remaining layer of emotional isolation that was so characteristic of me previously. More importantly, my willingness to finally get honest and my sponsor’s acceptance was a springboard for my own self-acceptance and for my belief that my Higher Power accepts me just as I am. The experience seemed to melt my fear about opening up with God. When I did share the truth about myself with my Higher Power, I finally started to have a real relationship with God. It was a turning point in my recovery.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 54-55.

Finding Help

 November 27, 2023

When I heard “keep coming back” at the end of meetings, I felt the tug to come back even though I felt discouraged with my situation. I came back (trudged back) and found help and friendship. Now I am aware that I need these meetings and need to continue to hear the other group members’ experience.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 4.


I Like What I See

 November 14, 2023

Before coming to S-Anon, I couldn’t understand how I ended up in a relationship where lies, deception, and betrayal were common. I could barely look at myself in the mirror without feeling shame and humiliation. I felt resentful toward my husband for putting my health and life at risk, and for spending a large portion of our earnings on prostitution and pornography; yet I put up with it.

Why did I put up with it? Was I clinging to a fantasy of what the relationship could be through denying reality? Was I fearful of the unknown or of being alone? Was I afraid of change?

Coming to S-Anon and hearing the stories of others helped me acknowledge reality – I was powerless over how I was living and my life was truly unmanageable. Through sharing with others and listening, I found strength and faith in a Higher Power. I came to understand that I could not change the sexaholic, but I could learn to see reality, detach, and make healthy changes for myself.

It wasn’t easy. There were many times I thought my life would not get better. The Gifts of the S-Anon Program are slowly coming true in my life. I can look at myself in the mirror today… and I like what I see.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 115.

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