What Is a Slip in S-Anon?

 December 12, 2022

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©.

Do I Really Know What Is Best?

 November 21, 2022

I have heard people say that working the program is like taking a shower—no one can do it for you. So when I feel the need to “help” or try to make things turn out the way I think they should, I may be standing in the way of both my partner’s and my recovery without realizing it. I have a hard time not giving my opinion because he used to ask me time and again “What do you think?” and “What should I do?” Now I am aware that if I feel a decision he’s trying to make might affect me in some way, it is rarely possible for me to be objective. It is actually a load off my mind when I accept that no matter how much I love my husband, I cannot be certain what is best for him. In fact, I must admit that I often do not know what is best for myself!

Reprinted from Working the S-Anon Program, 2nd Edition, page 46.

Putting Tradition One Into Practice

 November 7, 2022

Tradition One is teaching me how to make decisions. I grew up in a family where the adults made all the decisions. I did not feel like I had a voice or that I was important. Regarding my own children, I often have made unilateral decisions. Sometimes this is necessary for their safety. However, if I am honest, I could certainly allow them to participate in some decision-making and acknowl­edge their opinions.

I had an opportunity to put this into practice when we decided to plan a family vacation. In the past, I told the children where we would go and what we would do. Even though I made plans con­sidering what I thought they would enjoy, I realized that this did not give them the feeling that they had a voice. This time we dis­cussed what each of us would like in terms of a vacation. Of course, as the adult, it was my job to include our available time and budget in the planning. One of my daughters asked if we could include a visit to a park with a freshwater spring that she had studied in school. The other children had no particular desire to go there, but they were willing because it was so important to their sister.

By working together, we were able to take a vacation that we all enjoyed, and my daughter’s suggestion was one of the highlights! It has become a favorite memory for me. My daughter loved the park, but even more importantly, she said she was glad that we went with her suggestion and proud that she had made a real contribution to our family vacation. My other children learned a valuable lesson about being open and supportive, and I learned a tremen­dous lesson as well. When I give my children the message that they are important, valuable, and respected, the entire family benefits.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Traditions, page 8.

I Am Never Alone

 October 24, 2022

Occasionally I find myself in a great deal of pain because of the sexaholic’s acting out. That is when I try to remember that I am never alone, and I don’t have to handle it all by myself. Left to my own thinking, I would try to handle it myself. S-Anon has taught me that trying to rely solely on myself usually just ends up extending my suffering as I muddle my way through the painful feelings.

So I say a prayer and turn it all over to my Higher Power. I call my sponsor or another S-Anon member for some helpful reminders: I am powerless over what another person does and, no matter how bad it is right now, “This too Shall Pass.” I read the literature and remember to focus on myself. I go to a meeting.

When I reach out for help, my Higher Power and the strength of the S-Anon program carry me through whatever is troubling me. I don’t have to do it all alone. That is a gift of this program.

Reprinted from S-Anon’s Reflections of Hope, page 362.

Letting Go of Bitterness

 October 10, 2022

After I got over the shock and disbelief of learning about my spouse’s betrayal, all I could feel was hurt and anger. Reminders of his cheating were everywhere and they sparked feelings of humiliation and shame. I wanted revenge for my hurt pride, so I berated and belittled my husband. While my vengeful behavior brought fleeting satisfaction, it never brought joy or happiness. I thought Step Seven was about leaving, but I realized that wouldn‘t take away the pain. I still felt love for him. Despite these realizations, I felt entitled to my anger, but the price I had to pay for clinging to that anger was more pain.

As I worked the S-Anon program, it became clear to me that while I had a legitimate reason for feeling offended, I would not stop hurting until I made a decision to let it go. Why did I let resentment, hurt, and fear torment me for so long? Hadn’t I suffered enough? I could not forgive. I was afraid that forgiving would mean pretending the betrayal didn’t happen or denying my need to take some space and time to establish trust and intimacy again. But to forgive didn’t mean those things. It only meant that I had to choose to give up my preoccupation with revenge, berating and belittling. I had to make a decision to surrender my self-righteous desire to hang onto the offended feelings.

So I decided to let them go. I knew I couldn’t get rid of the bitterness and anger by myself. I had to have God’s help. I got that help using the Seventh Step prayer found on page 76 of Alcoholics Anonymous. I surrendered, humbly asking God to remove my bitterness and anger over what my husband had done and to return the loving feelings for my husband I had felt previously. The gift I got was freedom from the pain associated with the wrongs. I was given the gift of peace.

Just as I asked in my heart specifically that the defect of ongoing bitterness and anger be removed, today I adapt this prayer to every problem that “stands in the way of my usefulness to God and my fellows.” It has always worked if I really wanted to be free of a defect. Surrendering through Step Seven always brings me a sense of joy and release.

Reprinted from S-Anon Twelve Steps, pages 75-76.

The Price of Peace

 September 26, 2022

Ask and you will receive. Peace at any cost has cost me dearly.  In my family of origin all I saw was bickering. I felt I would not repeat what I had as a child. I guess I went totally the opposite direction. I stuffed my feelings in order to get the peace I thought I wanted in my family. I allowed myself to be dominated. I came to S-Anon in my 80’s; I wish I would have come decades ago but I am so grateful to be here now. I am recovering.

Thank God for S-Anon. I am now able to stand up for myself without fear of the outcome. I think of the many stories I have heard at our meetings and the step studies have brought me to the place I’m in today. I am so grateful for the change. I no longer fear what people might think since our group has given me so much understanding. Now I can experience real peace.

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

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