Detaching with Love and Compassion

Detaching with Love and Compassion

 July 27, 2020

After I ended my relationship with my partner, I received a call from him in which he described how much pain he was in. My previous response would have been to rescue him, but while he was talking, I remembered that I am powerless to change or control him. I have learned in S-Anon that I cannot make him go to meetings or take responsibility for his sexaholic behavior. I do not have the power to alter his path. The gift S-Anon has given me is to know that I have choices. I chose to listen with love and compassion – a skill I am learning in S-Anon.

Detaching with love has given me the freedom to take better care of myself. I was able to end the phone call knowing that, in ending the relationship, I had made the right choice for me, while allowing him to experience his pain and do what he needs to take care of himself. Working the Steps has opened my life to accept others for who they are, good and bad. I can also accept myself for who I am – a very grateful recovering S-Anon.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 59.

Admitting My Unmanageability and Returning to Living

 July 13, 2020

My first husband left me for a younger woman, leaving me with a sense of personal failure. I decided that my mistake had been marrying a man with “poor values” — alcoholism, materialism, and bizarre sexual preferences. So I decided to find someone who shared my moral values: my second husband was a minister who seemed to be smart, fun, honest, thoughtful, and kind.

Four years into our marriage I became painfully aware of a passionate affair he was having. I asked myself, “How could this be? He is so different from my first husband.” I was sure somehow I was wrong, so I rationalized and made it a practice to trust — and not to look for things I didn’t want to see. I tried to make things better, to focus on the kids, to stick with it and try to work things out. I channeled my discomfort about my marriage into resentment, anger and criticism of issues at work, in my community and in politics. That approach worked fairly well for the next four years or so. One day, it stopped working.

There were too many suspicious lunches, notes, telephone calls, night meetings and an eerie absence even when we seemed to be most intimate. Finally my jealousy and a sense that I was competing for affection against an elusive other lover burst through my facade. I was tired of always having to keep my guard up, of competing and always losing. It was eating away at my sense of who I was, depleting what little I had left. I finally gave up. I knew that to save myself, he had to go. So I confronted him, and when I saw panic cloud his face, I knew I had been right all along. I raged and told him to get out. I couldn’t live this way any more. I was screaming and throwing rocks in the middle of the night in our front yard. The unmanageability of my life lay in our rock-strewn lawn.

In the morning he asked that we make an appointment with a marriage counselor, just to help us through the separation process and to protect our son from unnecessary pain. I agreed, looking forward to the end of the madness. At that appointment the counselor confronted my husband with his sexaholism. She also confirmed my powerlessness, saying that he had to choose to get better; there was nothing I could do to change him. She suggested that he attend SA and I attend S-Anon, and I am forever grateful for that suggestion. My husband clung to his new program and I immediately grabbed hold of mine. It was a confirmation of all I had experienced — I wasn’t crazy. The lasting gift of this program for me, though, has been my renewed sense of purpose and joy in myself, the knowledge that I can not only survive, but joyfully live with or without my husband. Today I use the program to live, not just live with sexaholism, and for that I am grateful.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, page 3-4.

Powerless But Not Helpless

 June 29, 2020

When I first came to S-Anon, I could readily admit my unmanageability. I was working two jobs because most of my husband’s income went to support his sexual acting out or to one new business scheme after another. Even though my husband had lost interest in me sexually, and I knew he was sexually active with other women, I was still desperately trying to get pregnant. I frequently had “rage attacks” where I would follow him around the house or even outside screaming — and I couldn’t stop. Often my anger leaked out at co-workers through sarcasm or a very cold, angry tone of voice. When I was confronted with this, I was totally surprised and hurt. How could anyone perceive me this way? I felt I was a very sensitive and caring person. The most blatant sign of my unmanageability was that I was suicidal. I vacillated between praying for my husband to die and praying that I would die. Eventually, I stayed with praying for me to die. I would go to bed each night praying not to wake up. At times I would get into the car in a hysterical rage at two or three o’clock in the morning, trying to get the nerve to drive into a wall.

In spite of the awareness of my unmanageability, it took at least six months in the S-Anon program before I accepted that I was powerless over sexaholism. I don’t think I ever felt responsible for my husband’s acting out, but I did feel that I was capable of curing and fixing it. When I worked evenings, I would take the telephones with me. I thought I was helping — that this would prevent him from engaging in telephone sex. I searched through his wallet, his pockets and his desk drawers, hoping to find clues to his acting out. I participated in degrading and humiliating sexual activities in an attempt to gain his sexual interest and to keep him from acting out with other women. I was obsessed with him and totally out of touch with my own needs and feelings.

The unmanageability of being married to a sexaholic brought me to S-Anon. In meetings, though, I came to recognize that it was actually my mother’s sexaholism that had affected me initially. My mother had many affairs before I was born and shortly after. She was also incestuous with my brother. My brother sexually abused me, and I was sexually abused by an older man when I was 18 years old. Although these facts about my family background and my childhood were very painful to face, I am grateful for the knowledge. In S-Anon I came to realize that it wasn’t just bad luck that I married a sexaholic — I was being groomed for it all my life.

Over time, through the help of my S-Anon friends and my Higher Power, I was able to accept my powerlessness over sexaholism. I was able to see the difference between being powerless and being helpless. I recognized my powerlessness over sexual addiction and my own crazy thinking and behavior. I saw I was not helpless to take positive action to face my pain. With this admission, I really started to work the First Step and my own program.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 9-10.


Striving for Authenticity

 June 1, 2020

Tradition Two has helped me to trust that I can express my thoughts and opinions without fear. As a newcomer, I observed how my S-Anon group members made decisions and worked through problems in a way that was fair to everyone, without yelling or giving each other the silent treatment. This was something new to me. They spoke up and gave their opinions and were still loved and accepted. I learned that I, too, could speak up and still feel safe.

This kind of trust has been more difficult to build in my relationship with the sexaholic. When we disagree, I fear the sexaholic will no longer love me or will turn against me. When I was a child, I learned that disagreement led to criticism and rejection. I was afraid to speak up, and it took a while for me to try it in my S-Anon group. I was relieved to find that I was not criticized or rejected. In fact, some people in the group actually thanked me for saying what I said. In my relationships, I often find myself trying to either please or control. I am learning this is far more harmful to me and to our relationship than I had ever imagined!

In S-Anon, I am discovering how to respect myself. I want to be an equal and sane participant in all of my relationships more than I want to be “right.” My opinions and feelings are valid. I am learning to keep the focus on myself and to let go of my obsession with what other people might be thinking of me. I try to examine my motives before I speak. I can ask my Higher Power to guide me and give me courage as I strive to be authentic in all my relationships.

Reprinted from S-Anon Traditions One, Two, and Three, page 20.

Detaching from and Attaching to

 May 18, 2020

Sexaholism existed in my family as far back as my great-grandfather. He sexually abused my mother and many of her siblings and cousins. His wife, my great-grandmother, overdosed on pain pills shortly after he was caught molesting a neighbor’s child. These topics were taboo and rarely discussed.

Not surprisingly, I chose many sexaholic partners before I found the help of S-Anon. When I look at my history, I see that I was groomed for these relationships; sexaholism is a family disease. I had been surrounded by the effects of sexaholism as well as other forms of addiction and unhealthy behavior, such as alcoholism, self-mutilation, anorexia, food addiction, attempted suicide, and a lot of resentment and isolation.

That environment had seemed “normal,” and to recover I must now work to let go of the disease and the problems it has caused for my relatives and me. I am learning that it is not my job to carry the shame and pain of other family members. In recovery, I can detach from the role of taking care of others, and attach to the safety of my meetings and my Higher Power. I am choosing a “recovery family.” These new relationships are a healing gift of the program – a bigger gift than I possibly could have imagined when I started the process of recovery.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 290.

I’m Worth It

 May 4, 2020

When I first came to S-Anon, I needed to be scraped off the unmanageability floor. I was bottomed-out in pain, cynicism, and anger. I couldn’t sleep, had panic attacks, and felt like my life was on the outer rim of an F-5 tornado. I believed that in order to calm down I needed to make sure that the sexaholic never “duped” me again. As angry as I was at him, I was angrier at myself. I felt like something must have been very wrong with me for me to not know what was really going on around me. I promised myself I would never, EVER, miss the signs of active addiction in my home again. I was going to “work it” all right! I was going to “work” a detective/prosecuting attorney angle and I was going to sleep with one eye open at night. My “knowing” became my Higher Power.

I was lucky enough to find an out-of-town sponsor that told me there was another way to serenity other than morphing into “Super-Sleuth.” She told me that the way out of my chaos was through using the program tools and not just reading them. She asked me how my own white-knuckle plan was working for me. It wasn’t. She asked me if we said the (dreaded) slogan “It works when you work it and you’re worth it” at the end of the meetings. I told her we did and that I preferred not to be touched or lectured to. She was gentle and patient with me. As she held me in our conversations, I realized that I was not alone in the dark. She said focusing on me and “working it” wasn’t about letting my spouse off the hook; it was about letting me off the hook. Being “worth it” is simply a God-given truth: that I am designed and loved by a Higher Power, even if I can’t love myself today. She told me that I’m worth doing the work for, not necessarily for my marriage or my husband. He wasn’t the focus of my program, I was. Gulp. What? Who me?

Growing up in a home with untreated sexaholism and S-Anon parents, I had lost “me” a long, long time ago. My heart needed to be sprinkled with Miracle Grow. I didn’t love myself— not even a little. This small bit of nurture from my sponsor touched the part of me that longed for healthy connection. Tears quietly tracked down my cheeks as a layer of gratitude mixed with grief unfolded within me. I looked in the mirror at an exhausted, frazzled woman. I saw something I no longer wanted to be. I wanted to be more like my sponsor (relaxed, spiritually-centered, sleeping through the night, in good humor, and able to let herself be human). I was desperate enough to listen to those who weren’t spinning anymore. Isolation from others and from their ideas had to end. So, still angry at my life circumstances, but sick and tired of being sick and tired, I “worked it” — for me. And it worked. And I’m worth it.

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

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