My relationship with s-anon

e0b2342ce3507d278f83d8a0446b5d3a--broken-quotes-wise-words

What is my relationship with S-Anon? Well, basically, I don’t have one. In a perfect world my husband would have worked with his therapist, told the therapist the truth about his secret sex life, all of it, and then worked with the therapist on a way to more safely inform me of Blue Eyes’ sexual compulsivity. I would not have had to endure the traumatizing phone call from the vindictive other woman. I wouldn’t have had to sit and wonder for days (weeks, perhaps, months even?) whether my husband was merely a cheater who had been caught and was now pretending to be remorseful. I never believed he was hateful and mean. I was totally devastated. An expert could have explained, to both of us, how Blue Eyes fit the pattern of a sex addict, and about recovery. Instead, there was a horrifying phone call, immediate trauma, and many lonely days.

Within hours of finding out about Blue Eye’s secret life, I scoured the internet for answers. But, because I was traumatized I wasn’t looking for support groups or therapists for me, I was voraciously reading about why people cheat, while tears streamed down my face and puddled on my desktop, day after day, night after night. I had no real knowledge of sex addiction (and at the time had no idea Blue Eyes was a sex addict) other than tabloid headlines. All I knew was that my husband was messed up. He wasn’t who I thought he was. Period. The articles and blogs written by other women, mistresses if you will, that I stumbled on were so destructive to my already fragile psyche. My spirit was broken. My self esteem, obliterated.

Once Blue Eyes was officially diagnosed and he embraced that diagnosis, because without him acknowledging he had a serious problem that only he could address, our relationship was doomed, I set forth researching sex addiction, and whoa. Even as recently as January 2014 sex addiction deniers were rampant on the internet (still are, of course). So much of what I read simply made the whole thing out to be a joke, an excuse for bad behavior. Or, it was demonized. At that point I realized I could only focus on me, my marriage, and the experts who were helping us define our new reality. At first, my desire to save my marriage, and to believe my husband (that he hated himself, felt shame every day, and regretted every minute of his secret life) were based on fear. The fear of losing my best friend, and the fear of my life changing drastically from what I had known for thirty years. But that fear eventually did morph into belief. Belief that my husband is a good guy who was damaged as a child and who chose addiction to cope when he wasn’t even old enough to understand how damaged he already was, and as the addiction grew, it became unmanageable for him. I know he didn’t want to be hurting people, but hurting people was part and parcel to his survival. It just was. Hurt people, hurt people. Not always, but often.

My first introduction to the term S-Anon was while reading a book very early on in this process that had been recommended to Blue Eyes by his therapist. The book was Patrick Carnes’ ‘Don’t Call it Love: Recovery from Sexual Addiction.’ Patrick Carnes basically coined the term ‘sex addiction.’ In other words, Carnes was the first to attribute specific sexual acting out behaviors as addiction. This next bit is straight out of Wikipedia…

Carnes attributes the source of the addictions to the addict’s belief system. He believes that a fundamental momentum for the addiction is provided by “certain core beliefs” that are wrong or incorrect. “Generally, addicts do not perceive themselves as worthwhile persons. Nor do they believe that other people would care for them or meet their needs if everything was known about them, including the addiction. Finally, they believe that sex is their most important need. Sex is what makes isolation bearable. If you do not trust people, one thing that is true about sex – and alcohol, food, gambling, and risk – is that it always does what it promises–for the moment. Thus, as in our definition of addiction, the relationship is with sex – and not people.”

Patrick Carnes has basically nailed Blue Eyes to a tee in his description above regarding core beliefs. Blue Eyes truly believed he was worthless (he was trained to believe this by his parents, and he was neglected from infancy) and he flat out said to me on discovery day, “if you knew the truth about me, I knew you couldn’t love me anymore.” That was the belief (he totally believed it) that he told himself each and every day in order to keep his addiction going. And, even though it took me many months to understand this… and some days I still wonder, he had no real relationship with the people with whom he was having sex. He needed his drug, his drug escalated to sex with women outside our marriage, and he was willing to do and say anything to get that drug. I do believe he also liked the ego stroking, it temporarily filled a big gaping hole in him, but he never truly believed it. His secret sex life was built on lies and deception. How could any of it truly fill his deepest needs? (rhetorical question)

Now, I don’t agree with all of Carnes’ old school ideologies regarding partners of sex addicts, but I’m absolutely not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I believe Carnes is spot on in his assessment of the addict. In my opinion, Carnes’ attitudes towards partners of sex addicts harkens back to Alcoholics, AA, and Al-Anon. Partners, families, and friends of alcoholics often witness extremely destructive behaviors from their addicts each and every day. They live in fear and isolation and many times severe abuse. I do acknowledge that this sometimes happens in SA families as well. Al-Anon is a place of refuge.

Al-Anon/Alateen literature focuses on problems common to family members and friends of alcoholics such as excessive care-taking, an inability to differentiate between love and pity and loyalty to abusers, rather than the problems of the alcoholic.[5] The organization acknowledges that members may join with low self-esteem, largely a side-effect of unrealistically overestimating their agency and control: attempting to control another person’s drinking behavior and, when they fail, blaming themselves for the other person’s behavior. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Anon/Alateen)

Carnes discusses in his books and in interviews this concept that partners of sex addicts are co-dependent, that they are aware of the sexual acting out behaviors of their partners (I like to call this hindsight is always 20/20) and that often times they are out of control, and/or try to control the behavior of their addict (I call this trauma). In the wives of sex addicts group I attended early on, two of the wives had been married for over 30 years. They both knew early on in the marriage that their husband was cheating on them. They looked the other way. They believed somehow it was their fault that their husband sought other women. Once their husbands were diagnosed, decades into their marriages, they found solace and healing in S-Anon. There were also wives who sought out S-Anon because it was the only place they could find women who understood what they were going through. I get that too. Unfortunately, the level of my trauma at the time, coupled with my particular personality, would not allow me to embrace an organization in which I was expected to work the 12 steps myself.

Here are the 12 steps adapted for S-anon (source: sanon.org):

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon

The Twelve Steps of S-Anon are the foundation of our personal growth and recovery. The principles of the Twelve Steps are universal, applicable to all of us, regardless of our various beliefs. When practiced as a way of life, these spiritual principles help us to meet and rise above all difficulties in our lives – not just those associated with living with or having lived with sexaholism. Here are the Twelve Steps we follow which are suggested for our recovery:

  1.  We admitted we were powerless over sexaholism – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to others and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

I had a commenter come on this blog a couple years ago and in a few different comments she not so subtly suggested I should start taking responsibility for condoning my husband’s behavior over the years. She is a big proponent of S-Anon and was convinced that I had subconsciously (or even consciously) known all along that my husband was cheating on me and I was in denial and that the 12 steps would help me with that. This was a huge turnoff to me. Her blog was littered with self hate, self blame, and co-dependent rhetoric. Needless to say, this did not help with my opinions of S-Anon. I do, however, realize this is one woman, and one woman’s behavior, and one woman’s opinions. I did not know my husband was cheating on me, I have never truly (outside of my sexual addiction induced trauma) blamed myself for my husband’s behavior, nor do I believe my trauma responses were indicative of me being a weak-minded person trying to control my husband’s “bad” ways. And in fact, at this point, I think what was going on subconsciously was that I always knew Blue Eyes was co-dependent. He believed that without the approval of his parents, he was nothing. Period. Blue Eyes’ parents don’t give approval. Period. I had no idea the implications of his kind of childhood wounds and that kind of co-dependency.

Even reading the 12 steps now, today, approaching four years of enlightenment and healing, I cannot rationalize working those steps for myself. They just don’t jive with who I am and my belief system and what I have been through. And at first, in full on trauma, I couldn’t imagine being in a room full of people acknowledging that I somehow needed to make amends to someone for the sheer torment I was going through. I understand Anon groups are more than just working the steps with a sponsor. I understand that when people find the right meeting for them, it can be quite healing and lasting friendships are made. I do get this. I just instinctively knew it was not the place for me. We all have choices. I merely wish partners of sex addicts had more choices. I know women who embrace S-Anon, I know women who have betrayed partner and wives of sex addicts groups that work well. I know women who have embraced religious-based healing programs. As I have said many times here, trauma therapy, this blog, a healing seminar for betrayed wives, making friends who have this in common, and building on those relationships with activities that have absolutely nothing to do with infidelity and trauma (like trips to New Zealand, and Paris) have helped me heal.

The Sexaholism version of these 12 steps that my husband worked for two years and which he continues to fine tune, embellish on if you will, work for life, have been a lifesaver. “Working the steps” provides immeasurable healing for Blue Eyes. Even though he does not associate with a God (the meetings he attends are non-religious), and he has been able to define a higher power for himself that has absolutely nothing to do with religion, finding his spiritual center is something he now realizes he desperately needed. Recognizing he was hurting people and hurting himself and acknowledging at his core that he is part of a bigger universe to which he needs to give more, and take less, has been critical to his owning his past. He’s still working on living life without shame, and addressing his childhood wounds, but that is what therapy is for. I think he might say the friendships he has made in 12 step bring him the most contentment and joy in the aftermath of his awakening, but that is purely my observation.

CJjpDt5UcAU0OmA

In the end, reaching out is good. Having a place to go where people understand and embrace us for who we are is good. Being part of a loving community is good. No matter how we all find that place, finding it is part of the journey.

20 thoughts on “My relationship with s-anon

  1. Thanks for a well-written, insightful post, Kat. I agree with Cynthia in that I appreciate your perspective that S-Anon is not for you, but may be right for others.My S-Anon group does not require working the steps and I would say only about half of the regulars work the steps.After a year, I chose a woman for my sponsor who had been in the program for 16 years.She is one of the most serene, centered, loving, positive persons I have ever met.Not in a phony, fake-cheerful way (I hate that) but in a very genuine, calm way. She is always able to see the silver lining in any rain cloud.Her energy is so uplifting, and yet, she is very realistic about sex addiction.I basically want what she has.She suggested I work the steps for my own personal growth.I have gone very slowly with this process.If something doesn’t feel right for me,I don’t do it. As we say in S-Anon, take what you want and leave the rest.

    As for the co-dependent, co-addict model, I don’t believe that fits me, and probably doesn’t fit very many partners.Like you, and like most partners I’ve known, I did not know about the sexual acting out until d-day.There were times when my husband seemed distant or preoccupied, but as you say, hindsight is 20-20. I agree that this co-dependent model came about from the alcoholism model in which partners were likely picking up the slack of alcoholic spouses, making excuses for them, trying to control their drinking, etc. etc. Not the same as finding out your long-term partner has been cheating and all hell breaks loose, followed by trauma, followed by more disclosures and more trauma, followed by doing anything you can to prevent more trauma..

    BTW, if anyone has had the calm, therapeutic disclosure, I would love to hear about it.I have yet to meet or hear of a partner who has had that experience.Everyone I know or know of has had the trauma.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for continuing to share your story, Maggie. And yes, calm and therapeutic disclosures don’t really exist as far as I know (likewise to that perfect world I talk about), thus the trauma we all suffer from. It is real. Trauma comes in lots of forms and how we heal seems completely relative to who we are as people, individually what we have been through at the time of disclosure and how the disclosure happened, and also how we go about getting help for ourselves. Couple that with those of us who are also trying to heal along side of our betrayers, and add in the whole living with an addict is hell thing, and well, we can all use all the help we can get. What I have learned… if it feels right, go with it. If it doesn’t, take a different path. Sometimes it takes us a while to get to a place where we acknowledge we have the power to take only what we want, but your s-anon saying, “take what you want and leave the rest” seems to cover it. xo

      Liked by 2 people

    • Maggie said, “After a year, I chose a woman for my sponsor who had been in the program for 16 years.She is one of the most serene, centered, loving, positive persons I have ever met.Not in a phony, fake-cheerful way (I hate that) but in a very genuine, calm way. She is always able to see the silver lining in any rain cloud.Her energy is so uplifting, and yet, she is very realistic about sex addiction.I basically want what she has.”

      Wow. You are so fortunate, Maggie, to have this woman in your life.

      Your comparison of AA /Al-Anon and to SAA /S-Anon is spot on the other “anon” groups were based on the original “care-taker” / codependent model in an alcoholic relationship.

      We don’t have one S-Anon group in our area, period. There’s only the Biblical group I mentioned. I actually chose to go to that group a couple of nights ago. The women are lovely, and maybe I can take what I want and leave the rest. It’s a bit awkward for me, though, b/c they know I am not Christian and I don’t use their language / communicate in the same way “Jesus is doing this for me” “Satan has hold of my husband and Satan is powerful” — and such. I don’t criticize it. I can see it as metaphorical. I am spiritual and I have beliefs about God/Higher Power.

      Having common language and beliefs can bind a group together and these women are fortunate to have each other.

      The leader of the group is also very grounded. I made a connection with her.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What I appreciate about your post is that even though the 12 step program didn’t interest you, you aren’t bashing it and are recognizing it as a legitimate resource for some women. When my husband and I first became involved in recovery, and I began doing my research, I came across so many blogs and comments of partners completely dismissing and even bad mouthing 12 step programs for themselves. It confused me. The partners support group I am involved in is not S-Anon or a church group. It offers support with a 12 step program adapted for partners of sexual betrayal by Dr. Doug Weiss, but working the steps is not mandatory. For me, having a program and exercises and steps I could work on allowed me to feel like I was in control of my recovery. I was doing something tangible for my healing. However, very few women I have met through my group chose to follow the steps. Some have found healing without it, others not, but it wouldn’t be the only factor in either case. But for me, it was instrumental and empowering. And I am not co-dependent. Nor was I before I started recovery. As for the amends, in my program at least, they weren’t tied to the sexual betrayal trauma or my husband, but recognizing that much of my pain and issues existed before I was even married. Being responsible and owning my own problems and finding a healing deeper than just from the sexual betrayal trauma, but from life and previous abuse as well.
    Anyway, I just wanted to tell you I appreciate how you share your journey, experience and wisdom without invalidating the path that others have chosen for their healing. We all need to gather as much information as we can, and then make the best decision for ourselves. Our stories and lives are all similar yet different.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks, Cynthia, for your kind words, and for sharing your experience. I feel the same way about s-anon as I do about religion, and really most things in my life. We all have choices and it is our responsibility to make healthy ones for ourselves that match our personal needs and that just plain feel right. I am not a religious person, but all four of my parents are. I respect that. Their religious organizations allow them to belong to a community that helps them feel whole. I get it. I also appreciate the fact that they don’t push their religion on me. Same with political choices, etc… Recovering from trauma is a hard fought battle. Our paths to healing may be different, but it is important that we continue to seek that healing, for us, and for everyone around us. ❤

      Like

    • I hope it’s OK w/ Kat if I ask this question on her blog.

      Cynthia said, “The partners support group I am involved in is not S-Anon or a church group. It offers support with a 12 step program adapted for partners of sexual betrayal by Dr. Doug Weiss, but working the steps is not mandatory.”

      I’d like to hear more about that. I am considering starting a group in my area b/c one doesn’t exist. Maybe D. Weiss has a curriculum for women to start groups? Or?

      I never thought finding my own path may mean creating a group. But maybe I am “called” to do that?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The group I am involved with is associated with my therapist’s office and facilitated by his wife. My therapist himself is a recovering sex addict and intimacy anorexic, and when his wife began her recovery she started a support group because she had the need and desire to participate in one herself and none existed. Now she has just continued on with it. Last year I branched off and offered a group on another night so it is totally possible for you to start your own group too! We have monthly in person groups, but also weekly teleconference groups which gather women from a larger geographical area. There are free service providers for that.
        I am not sure if Doug Weiss has a curriculum per se for starting partners groups but he does have lots of material. He is a Christian, but his resources are practical in nature which allows for varying degrees of spirituality within the group. Our group is based on a workbook called 100 Empowering Exercises for Partners of Sexual Betrayal and a workbook called Beyond Love: A 12 Step Guide for Partners. The materials are suggested and encouraged, but it is recognized that some women will choose to do this work, and others not. There is flexibility which makes every woman feel accepted for whichever path they have chosen for their healing journey. The supportive relationships and sharing our struggles and victories benefit us all.
        The stirring in your heart to create a group makes me smile. There is no telling where this crazy roller coaster ride will take each of us. Blessings to you on your continued journey of healing and wholeness.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh, dear Cynthia, my heart is so full hearing of your journey to start a group. There are some good resources out there. I love the flexibility aspect as well.

          I feel very passionate about growing the opportunity of resources available to betrayed women.

          I hope I can pick your brain sometime if I choose that path.

          I haven’t been blogging lately — I need to get back “at it” — my time has been used to heal my body and my spirit.

          Peace, blessings, and love to all of us.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I would love to help you in any way I can. I also am passionate about seeing betrayed women find healing and recovery for themselves. Too many women feel isolated and alone and they don’t have to!

            Liked by 2 people

  3. I hear you. Loud and clear. This post came precisely at a poignant time for me; I am seeking my “place” and trying to find “community” with other women who get it. I was just talking today with my husband about the lack of resources in our area.

    The S-Anon approach and the old-fashioned Carnes approach to partners of sex addicts does not speak to me at all. It *may* speak to some partners/wives and it’s wonderful they have that resource. Many partners *may* have known and may have looked away or believed their husband would change after every “slip.” That’s not our situation at all.

    Apparently, Carnes now utilizes a “betrayal trauma model” but I am skeptical of that and the many CSATs who instantly label the spouse as a co-addict or co-dependent. Some CSATs do “get it” as Betrayal Trauma. Some.

    The only S-Anon group which existed in our small city no longer meets, so that’s not even an option for me. There’s a “wives’ group” at a local evangelical church and I am sure it’s helpful for the women who attend. I talked with the group’s facilitator and she is knowledgable and a truly lovely woman. But it won’t fit my needs b/c I can’t go there and pretend that I believe Satan has taken over my husband and the Christian God is in control of all of this and I need to submit to His plan. It’s truly a Biblical group. That’s okay if a woman’s beliefs align with this, but mine don’t.

    I find S-Anon’s steps dis-empowering. Is dis-empowering even a word? 😉

    Part of me wants to start a group in my area. Another part of me is just too exhausted.

    I appreciate you, Kat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are so very vulnerable in those first few months, and feeling responsible for our partner’s behavior can send us backwards in our healing. Even more so when someone else is telling us we knew, or we should have known, or that our behavior is hurting our addict. Trauma can hold us back from thinking rationally about what we know to be the truth. But, I do know that not all s-anon meetings are created equal and that some spouses do find healing in s-anon and other support groups without being labeled as co-dependent or feeling responsible for any part of their husband’s illness.

      I do think support groups can be quite helpful. Maybe when you have more energy you can look into it?

      Thanks for your kind words. K

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Kat. I have looked extensively. There is nothing in person here except the church group. I do have an on-line group, but I wish there was more structure to that.

        We are 20 months out from my husband’s confession. We are currently looking into intensives for disclosure/polygraph to give me the info I need to stand on some type of firm ground/reality of the past. My husband is ready – he says he is telling the truth and he’s in recovery. We see this as a way to start anew.

        I really need this step so I can spend more effort dealing with the other trauma (his attempt on his life & his psychosis). Of course he is not psychotic now, but I have major PTSD triggering events b/c of that.

        Indeed, I’ll need to continue to work on the Betrayal Trauma, but at least I will have a sense of truth / containment around the SA issue. My husband’s Major Depression is much better. I’m grateful for his healing.

        Yep – we all have to find our own journey.

        Love and light to you.

        Liked by 2 people

        • On all of this, beleeme, go with your gut. If it doesn’t feel right, back away. If it feels good, go for it. I do think formal disclosure/polygraph for a baseline on the truth is important. I wish I had had it. Our experiences are very hit and miss because, frankly, there is no one straight path through sex addiction and sex addiction induced trauma. We traveled for the intensive and for the trauma therapy. Timing was an issue all along. And, we went through a lot of really negative experiences with therapists. I know a lot depends on what is available in your area. I do think being able to be in the presence of other people who at least understand our trauma, to hug them, whatever, can be very important. Doing everything online is not for everyone. When the first group I was in didn’t work for me, I started calling all the CSAT’s in town and asking if they had a support group. Some did, some didn’t, but the ones that did were already established. I asked to be put on a wait list or on a list for future groups. Nothing ever came of it and our city is pretty progressive in this area. I had to find my own way. In the one support group I did attend, that was facilitated by a CSAT, I was the closest out from dday. Just a few weeks. A couple of the women were about 18 months out and the rest about a year. They had done some healing and were in a better place to talk. I was frankly just way too traumatized to listen to the stories and not be devastated. Also, as I have written about, none of the women were with their husbands. I think that particular group fit well with S-anon and with the old school therapists. I was, by far, the odd person out. It’s okay, not everything works for everyone, but I would have liked to have found a group. It didn’t work out for me, but I would encourage you to pursue what you desire. With some distance from discovery, it sounds like you have a lot more perspective than I did way back when. Much strength to you! xo

          Liked by 1 person

          • “…frankly, there is no one straight path through sex addiction and sex addiction induced trauma.”

            That is SO TRUE!

            “.,.And, we went through a lot of really negative experiences with therapists.”

            Also, true!!!!!!!

            “… I had to find my own way.”

            And you DID. You are an inspiration, Kat. It’s a life-long journey, I think.

            xo back atcha

            Liked by 2 people

            • Thank you so much for your kind words. I do feel like I have made significant progress and I no longer question my choices, and the trauma rarely penetrates my life anymore. That’s a good feeling. I am forever changed. BE and I talk about this quite often. I will never be the same, but that does not mean I cannot be good. Sometimes the way I am different now does not feel good to BE, but that is how life works. Things that happen to us, good and bad, change us. We are ever evolving. I know better who I am and what I want, now. Much love to you. ❤

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your honest and knowledgeable article. I am a sex addict who had a similar upbringing to your husband. My father emotionally and physically abused me all throughout my childhood. I was to afraid to ask for help and felt I was not worthy for help to stop the abuse as a child. My Mother did not protect or show affection to my sister and I when we were growing up. I had no idea what a healthy intimate relationship was until going into recovery in SA. As you have mentioned in your article my acting out was a way of dealing with my pain and to pull me out of isolation and to raise my ego. I thought acting out would tackle the issues without having to raise them with my wife! Never realised that my actions would cause further emotional damage to me and pain to my wife. I am lucky I am in SA and have a good Counsellor. My wife is aware of my addiction and my recovery program. I am so lucky she is supporting me and still wants to be with me. I never told my wife about my childhood until after I confessed to her I was an addict due to shame and misguided loyalty to my parents. Thank you once again. Along with my wife, my Counsellor, my Sponsor and my group members at SA you give me hope, peace and strength. God bless.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m am very grateful for this venue to share something that people know so little about. I am so happy for you that you are being open now, with yourself and your wife, and that you have a recovery path that works for you. Those childhood wounds can run very deep and often times we have buried them even deeper. Much strength to you, Mark.

      Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s