Carrying the S-Anon Message with Gratitude

Carrying the S-Anon Message with Gratitude


 October 19, 2020

I tried to cope with the sexaholism in our home in many ways — denial, rage and emotional withdrawal were only a few. However, the S-Anon approach is the only one that truly helped me recover from sexaholism’s effects. Working the Steps of this program has given me a serenity and spiritual awakening I did not know were possible. That is why I do whatever I can to be a “trusted servant” when I carry the S-Anon message. For example, I speak up when S-Anon’s Twelve Traditions are not followed in meetings, reminding those present of our group’s commitment to the meeting sharing guidelines. Speaking up is not easy for me, but I know that to say nothing while a member or even the group itself bypasses the structure we have established to ensure unity is to passively participate in the decline of our group’s ability to carry the message that each of us affected by sexaholism seeks.

The gratitude I have for this program also leads me to carry the message by making an extra effort to welcome newcomers and to help them understand the program. Whether it is answering the phone line, leading a newcomers’ meeting or making a point to warmly greet newcomers before and after meetings, I try to remember that carrying the message is the primary purpose of our fellowship. Without the newcomer, S-Anon would eventually cease to exist. On a personal level, I know that the painful stories of the newcomer remind me of the importance of continuing to work the program in my own life.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 149-150.

Showing Up Authentically


 October 5, 2020

Soon after I entered S-Anon, someone said to me, “It sounds to me like you don’t know who you are.” My eyes widened as I processed this, and then I just sobbed. It was true. I had spent much of my life as a chameleon, adjusting my behavior, speech patterns, and opinions to what I thought the other person wanted from me. This was exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying as I felt that my efforts to meet (what I thought were) other people’s needs didn’t result in meaningful friendships. On the other hand, I felt that the few people with whom I had been authentically “me” had ultimately rejected me. So what option did I have? I felt that there must be something wrong with me, since I couldn’t be accepted as myself or again when I morphed into what other people wanted me to be.

Though I didn’t know it when I started S-Anon, my program has been a process of learning who I am and being OK with that person. I have had to learn how to lovingly detach not just from the sexaholic, but from every human being, and instead attach myself to my Higher Power and His perception of me.

A turning point for me was a relatively recent interaction with someone from my childhood. This relationship was indicative of many hurtful relationships in my youth — someone who was in and out of my life (mostly out) and I felt she had rejected me because of who I was. She reached out to me to reconnect a few years ago, and I reluctantly allowed the connection. In the course of interacting, she repeatedly brought up a painful instance from my childhood. Through my program work (and unbeknownst to her), I learned this issue was the source of much of my relationship dysfunction. After stewing in my resentment for a while, I chose to address the situation by sharing a little of what I had learned about how that situation had negatively impacted my life and how I was trying to undo the unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns I had used to cope with it. I then asked her not to keep bringing it up.

For someone who avoids conflict, this was a huge step and I braced myself for the expected barrage of criticism. Instead, she responded very graciously, admitting that her behavior toward me in our youth stemmed from jealousy, and she apologized for her treatment of me!

I was stunned by this turn of events, and it showed me two things: 1) we are all on our own personal growth paths and since we’re all imperfect, we’re bound to hurt and be hurt by people along the way; and 2) the “problem” isn’t always me! As I reviewed lost relationships in my life, I began to see that I almost always accepted the blame for what went wrong. I had always accepted what other people said about me as truth rather than filtering it through the knowledge that they are also imperfect and may need to grow in a particular area.

At a recent S-Anon International Convention, I attended a session on “showing up authentically” in relationships. In the session someone suggested viewing another person’s words and actions as objective data which could help both parties know whether their authentic selves were compatible for a healthy relationship. “Can this person handle ME at full strength?” Why would I choose to be in a relationship where I couldn’t be me? And realizing that a person can’t “handle me” doesn’t have to mean there’s anything wrong with me or the other person. It may just be that we are not a compatible match. This mindset has helped me dilute (or remove) the emotion from situations which in the past would have compounded my feelings of inadequacy and fed my unhealthy pattern of being a “chameleon.”

I am still new to this way of thinking and don’t always remember these principles. But when I do, I’m amazed at the freedom I feel and am grateful for one more step forward on my recovery path.

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

Learning to Parent


 September 21, 2020

Working the program in my relationship with my husband is a piece of cake when I compare it to working the program regarding my son. I constantly wrestle with questions of whether I am a controlling parent or a parent providing structure. When is detachment appropriate with my seven-year-old son and when am I allowing too much freedom? When am I providing too much information about the family addiction dynamics and when am I keeping secrets? What is normal behavior on my son’s part and when is his behavior a reaction to being part of an addictive family? What makes answering these questions all the more difficult is the fact that I grew up in a dysfunctional family, so I don’t have a clue as to what is “normal.”

One day in an S-Anon meeting I shared these concerns with some members of the group. One member said she reads everything she can find about parenting and normal developmental stages for children. That was helpful to me, but I felt this kind of knowledge does not answer the basic question of “When am I providing guidance and when am I acting out my need to be in control?” Today when I am in the middle of a heated interchange with my son, I take some time out. If I am at home, I read recovery literature about control. If we are in public, I repeat the serenity prayer in my head. These actions calm me so that I can get in touch with my underlying feelings. I have been able to identify a feeling I call “wanting to shove a square peg into a round hole”—the “do it my way or else” feeling. Those are the times that I am not really parenting, but acting out my own fears by trying to controlling others.

I am a long way from being the kind of parent I would like to be, but I have become the kind of parent who can admit her shortcomings. Hopefully this will create an atmosphere in my home where things can be questioned and discussed. If my child feels safe engaging in conversation with me, I have come a long way toward healing in our relationship.

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 91.

Trusting the Process of Recovery


 September 7, 2020

During those first months in recovery, when my life seemed so chaotic, I was sharing with an S-Anon friend when I used this image to describe how I was feeling. I was blessed with her wise response.

The image: “I feel as if I’m in a little boat, out in the middle of the ocean. I’m adrift with no rudder, no sail, no motor, and no oars. I’m terrified and just want to put my arms over the side and start paddling.”

Her response: “Well, you could do that, but you might paddle away from the current. Perhaps you just need to lie back and wait to catch the current that will send you where you need to go.”

My friend’s response helped me to regain a sense of calm even in the chaos and pain of that time. She reminded me that I am powerless over the reality of the present moment, but that I can have faith in my Higher Power. If I put myself in God’s hands I will probably find that I have more options than the ones I am considering. My friend’s gentle words helped me to surrender and trust the process of recovery.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 322.

A Kinship With My Higher Power


 August 24, 2020

My faith was an important part of my life long before I came to the S-Anon program. It gave me strength and encouragement when I divorced and became a single parent, began to work full-time, and tried to juggle a busy schedule with two toddlers. I leaned on my Higher Power because that was all I could do. Fortunately, that was enough; I did not need to do anything more for God’s help. During this time I was gifted with the knowledge of things I needed to change about myself and the ability to do so. One awareness was that I had been in a number of relationships with sexaholics. This insight led me to S-Anon.

After about five years of working the S-Anon program, I began to experience a stagnation and a sense of unrest regarding my Higher Power. I felt that my difficulty was due to the fact that I could not “see” God. For me, it was like trying to relate to a cloud. One morning during my regular meditation in which I visualize coming into God’s presence, it came to me that I had a relationship with God, so all I had to do was practice my part. It made sense that if I brought the same attitudes, actions, and behavior that S-Anon had helped me learn to apply in my other relationships into the relationship with my Higher Power, this relationship would be enriched as well.

I began to practice the qualities of a good relationship, such as honesty, devoting my time, and open-mindedness. When I made a conscious connection with God in the morning or in the evening, I began to feel that I was spending time with my very best friend, and it was a sweet experience for me. An added bonus was the growing knowledge that God wanted an intimate relationship with me, too. More and more I felt that I was being drawn into a deep kinship with my Higher Power.

In all my relationships, whether with people or with my Higher Power, I experience varying degrees of success. However, when my day begins and ends with focusing on my most important relationship — the one with God — the other areas of my life are much saner. I still experience normal ups and downs as well as some major curves, particularly when it comes to discerning God’s will for me versus my own. As I continue to work Step Eleven, my growing relationship with my Higher Power invites me to practice tolerance, love and acceptance of myself, just as I am learning to exercise those qualities with others on their journeys. As my Higher Power strengthens my serenity, I am enabled to meet life’s challenges and encouraged to grow into the person God created me to be.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 2.

When I Detach, I Gain


 August 10, 2020

In a recent S-Anon meeting, we read an essay on detachment from a CAL source and then were asked to spend some time in writing. I considered the reading, my own work, and the shares of others. Then, as I reflected upon how detachment fit in with the other pieces of the recovery “puzzle” for me, I wrote a few lines. While it didn’t seem like much on paper, I realize how important these ideas are for me in my own journey. I was encouraged to share my writing as a service to others in program. This is what I wrote:

When I feel like someone else has to change or my life needs to unfold in a certain way for me to be happy, I am in my S-Anon Problem.

Yet, the paradox is that when I detach, I actually gain.

When I detach from my desire to alter the people and circumstances of my life and acknowledge my feelings and release them to God, I gain acceptance.

When I detach from the anger, sadness, and pain and I believe that things are being worked out and that God has a bigger plan for me, better than anything I can imagine, I gain faith.

When I detach from the anxiety and fear that stands in the way of my relationship with Higher Power, and learn to take positive action on behalf of my highest good, I gain recovery.

 

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

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