What I Have Learned from Attending 12-Step Groups #hopelds

12-Step Groups

Hi. My name is Daisy.

 

In 2003, I started attending S-anon 12-step groups because my husband was a sexaholic and my life had become unmanageable. S-anon is a 12-step recovery group “for those who have been affected by someone else’s sexual behavior”.

 

It was nerve-racking to show up for my first meeting which was located in the basement of a hospital. I wondered if I would fit in and be accepted. I was afraid to share my story with anyone; what would the others think? I was relieved when there were only three other ladies there and that I felt no judgement for their stories were very similar to mine. We read aloud from a blue book, passed around a donation box, and each shared what we were doing to find peace and serenity.

 

I went for a few months and then quit when I realized that none of the steps were about how to fix the addict.

 

Ten years later, when my life (and husband) had become much more unmanageable, I gave up on fixing my husband and I started attending 12-step groups again, to fix myself. I believe that when people hang around sick people for very long, they have a good chance of getting sick themselves and I had become very sick. My fears, resentments and control issues had become my own addictions that I needed to heal from. In the last three years, I’ve attended LDS Family Support Groups, a Healing Through Christ group and SAL Women’s Twelve Step Betrayal Meetings and have found peace and healing from each of them.

 

As a veteran groupie, I’d like to share a few of the things that I have learned:

 

  1. I’ve learned that addicts are ill people, not bad people. This has helped me have more compassion and patience towards them.
  2. I’ve learned that I can better solve my own problems when I stop hiding and holding secrets, but instead join with others who are working to solve their own similar problems.
  3. I’ve learned that I cannot control another’s behavior and, also, that I am not responsible for anyone else’s behaviors.
  4. I’ve learned that turning my troubles over to God helps me find more peace and joy.
  5. I’ve learned that when I am obsessing about my husband and all the issues that come with loving an addict, then I feel chaotic. 12-step programs help me focus on God and help me keep Him in my center, and more than that, I picture placing myself in God’s center which helps me feel peace, love, and protection.
  6. I’ve learned that “the power of God can restore me to complete spiritual health” regardless of anyone else’s actions. These words soothe my soul like an emotional spa.

 

The ironic thing about my story is that when I gave up on fixing my husband and just worked on my own issues, he started fixing himself. He credits his 12-Step program as his number one tool for recovery. It’s been an amazing miracle to experience the metamorphosis in our lives and marriage as we have been changing from the inside out.  Now that we are both becoming healthier, we can lighten up more about the serious issues that we’ve had to face. My husband even teases me that his groups are more fun than mine. Their topic discussions and shares include some laughter and they even sing the Happy Birthday song to addicts who have hit milestones! I’m glad that he is willing to go. My husband says that attending group each week helps him to “keep his weeds mowed.” He has also made the comment several times about how his 12-step circle includes men who have been vile sinners. Some have spent time in prison, some are registered sex offenders, and most of them have caused their wives or mothers to suffer immense pain, but all of them are attending group and working the steps so that they can overcome their weaknesses and become the men they desire to be. He says that sometimes, as he walks outside after group, he sees the clouds part and feels God’s love for him and also for each of the other members of the group.

 

Today at the close of my group, as we all stood for our group prayer hug, someone suggested that we take off our shoes and go outside in the warm sunshine to have our prayer circle barefoot in the grass. Then we each covered our hearts with our right hand and placed our left hand on the back of our neighbor to cover the back of her heart. This way we were all holding each other’s hearts as we closed with prayer.

 

These ladies are special to me. We know each other at a deeper level than I know many of my long-time friends because at 12-step group we are vulnerable and real; our hearts are knit together in unity and love one towards another.

 

For all those reasons and more…I keep going back to group every week. In Joshua 3:5 it says, “…sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”  I’ve seen these wonders happen in my own life and everyone else’s life who is working the program.

 

“It works when you work it and I am worth it.”

 

– Daisy

 

For those of you who are not familiar with the steps, here they are, including a few of my favorite quotes from the S-Anon blue book.

 

Step 1

We admitted we were powerless over sexaholism—that our lives had become unmanageable.

“As we begin to devote ourselves to Twelve Step recovery, an amazing thing takes place.  We let our hardships and problems become our teacher, and we become grateful for the lessons they teach us.  We learn we are not alone in facing the problem of sexaholism. We accept the help of the group and the help of a Higher Power.  We allow that Power, far greater than ourselves, to come to our aid, and we find hope.”

 

Step 2

Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

“It is startling and humbling to realize that we are often as addicted as the sexaholic.  We may not be addicted to sex or substances, but sometimes we are addicted to people and situations in our lives.  Ours is no less serious an addiction; in some cases, we’ve suffered as devastatingly from our addiction as the sexaholic has.  We need the help of a Power greater than ourselves to bring us back to sanity.

 

Step 3

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

“We are like drowning swimmers: by struggling to save our lives, we sink even deeper; by relaxing, we float to the surface.  When we are willing to give up our lives, we can truly gain them.  In other words, by depending on God to do what we cannot do, we gain independence of spirit.”

 

Step 4

Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

“We discovered that we were the source of much of the pain for which we were blaming others.”

“Believing in the steps gave me hope but working them gave me the promised results.”

 

Step 5

Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

“Looking at ourselves in the light dispels the dark clouds. Our fear of not being loved for who we really are dissolves, and we feel genuine acceptance from others.”

 

Step 6

Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

“This is not to imply that we must become perfectly ready, but we must be willing and open-minded…..Nothing can be done until we are “entirely ready.” We worked against ourselves in many detrimental ways in the past.  First, we tried to remove the character defects of the sexaholic.  Then, we tried to remove our own hurt and rage, but our attempts were futile.  We begin to realize that only a Higher Power can do the job.  God will certainly remove our defects and shortcomings if we ask Him.”

 

Step 7

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

“In S-Anon we learned that pride and fear were motives for much of our irrational behavior….In Step Seven we find a way to settle our emotional turmoil and make a move toward God. Only God could remove our obsession with the sexaholic, and only God can remove our defects of character…. Humility works better not only when we are asking God for help, but also when we are dealing with people in our lives…. We seldom wanted to accept suffering or accept the idea that suffering could help us develop character and humility.  Now we are beginning to fear pain less. We see that pain paves the road to many new realizations about ourselves, others and God.”

 

Step 8

Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

“We found that in order to go on with our spiritual journey we had to look back to the wreckage we had left behind and be accountable to the people affected by it……continuing to blame others just prolongs our misery….as we accepted responsibility for ourselves, we began to see that some of our most “noble” qualities just perpetuated our illness.  For example, we had to reconsider our overprotectiveness towards the sexaholic, our efforts to convince the sexaholic to think like we did and even our sympathy and tolerance for the sexaholic. In some cases, that sympathy allowed us to violate our own human dignity, and we transgressed against ourselves…some of us were so preoccupied with the sexaholic, we neglected our children…..did we make the sexaholic our Higher Power?”

 

Step 9

Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

“With this step, we have an opportunity to choose the kind of person we would like to become and the kinds of relationships in which we would like to be involved.  By making amends, we admit that we are human like everyone else and cease to set ourselves apart from others.”

 

Step 10

Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

“Even when we try hard and fail, we can be glad, knowing that the pain of failure is transformed into experience, strength, and hope with each attempt at growth. Pain is the touchstone of all spiritual progress.”

 

Step 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.

“We can be confronted by the fact that even hardships in life have a way of working toward the good for those who honor God.”

 

Step 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.

“We know that our experience, though painful, has been transformed and can benefit others.”

 

*12-step organizations not only have in-person groups but also phone-in and other types of groups for those who live in more rural locations.

 

This is the eleventh in a series of posts addressing education on and recovery from pornography addiction and betrayal trauma.  Please send questions that you have to hopeandhealinglds(at)gmail(dot)com.  

Keep following our series at hopeandhealinglds.com #HopeLDS  or LDSmag.com as we may address your questions in future posts.

Other posts in the series:

Intro: What wives of sex addicts want you to know

Second Post: Before you Marry My Good-Hearted Son

Third Post: What I Wish I Had Known the First Time I Caught My Husband Looking at Porn

Fourth Post: What We Wish We had Known When We Were Dating: Thoughts from Wives of Sex Addicts

Fifth Post: What We Wish We had Known Sooner: Thoughts From Those In Recovery From Pornography Addiction

Sixth Post: Five Myths about Pornography Addiction

Seventh Post: My Story of Pornography Addiction and Recovery

Eighth Post:  Why I Happily Agreed to Marry an Addict

Ninth Post:  From Porn Addict to Happy Husband

Tenth Post: What No One Tells You About Sex Addiction Recovery

4 Responses

  1. I want and need stories from LDS women with sex and pornography addictions – this is not just a male illness.

    • Hi Debra,

      Thank you for reaching out here.

      For LDS women who need help with addiction, I would recommend reaching out to Sidreis at bythelightofgrace@gmail. She is an addict in recovery and would be a great resource in connecting someone in need with support groups and communities and info. We recommend 12-step groups for recovery and Sidreis would have input on what groups to consider.

      I know there is a virtual conference in the works for January 2017 as well. I could connect you with the woman heading that up. Her name is Lacy.

      Lastly, there are two Christian women who have blogs about their journeys into recovery. They are very inspiring (their stories were featured in the documentary called “The Heart of the Matter.”
      I would highly recommend that film, by the way.
      The women’s blogs are by Jessica (Beggar’s daughter – http://beggarsdaughter.com/ and Amy (Walking in Freedom http://walkinginfreedom.net/)

      We also recommend seeking professional help from a therapist who specializes in or is very familiar with women’s sxual addictions and 12-step or other similar recovery processes. Lifestar therapists or CSATs (certified therapists) are good options.

      I hope some of this can be helpful. Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

      This info was gathered from Michelle, the head admin here.

    • Whitney

      Debra,
      Also check out https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/stories/a-burden-to-no-longer-carry?lang=eng
      https://addictionrecovery.lds.org/stories/made-in-his-image?lang=eng (Sidreis’ story)

      Please note that we never have stated that this is just a male problem. This website’s primary audience is women who have been affected by the sexual addiction of a loved one. Thus, the information you find here will always be from the perspective of a woman who loves someone with sexual addiction. Many have mistakenly taken this viewpoint to mean that we think only men have sexual addiction, which is untrue.

  2. Great article! Thank you!