Do Romance and recovery in addiction work?
As addicts, we often develop dependent personalities and learn to look to the world around us for fulfillment, unable to feel satisfied from within. Romance and recovery oftentimes go hand in hand. But this can have disastrous effects. I mean just think about it. If you weren’t managing your life, relationships, obsessions or addictions beforehand, do you really think adding the pressure of a new relationship will make things easier or more complicated? We are told to keep it simple in early recovery. But we want love, especially when we start to feel vulnerable. Certainly this is just as true for many who are not addicted.
This search for happiness continues outside ourselves through relationships, jobs, regions, material possessions, geographical locations, and political causes. Romance and recovery are far moire commonplace than one may think. Oftentimes there are a stream of bad relationships, cloaked in impulsivity, using behaviour and chaos for an addict. Many think, feel and believe a relationship will cure them. The end result is hollow. Our lack of success at feeling fulfilled and satisfied parades through our lives in a stream of clichés about disappointment. “I’ve been ripped off” “What a lousy bummer” “Man, I’m really bummed out” “I’ve been used” “I’ve been taken” and on and on it goes as we wallow in the defeat of seeking something satisfying outside ourselves. Happiness, to me, was fake. My laughs and smiles were an act to make people around me think nothing was wrong. Now it’s a real feeling I love, and I know now the right way to get it.
Often, we look for one safe place or person from which we can get all our love and good feelings. But this is nothing more than another unhealthy dependency. Romance and recovery don’t gel very often for this reason. Love begins at home, at square one, from within ourselves. Until we begin to love ourselves, to get good feelings from ourselves, we have nothing to share, nothing to give any relationship. There is no such thing as one safe place or person, and anyone who is deluded into thinking so is set up for more disappointment, more yearning.
Developing good feelings from within takes time – sober time without the combination of romance and recovery . You can’t feel good about anyone else when you don’t feel good about yourself. So you need to start at the right place, within yourself. And if you’re trying to feel good while using, you are creating a handicap which you will not beat. Okay, so getting straight and staying that way gives you some time to start feeling good about yourself. Really feeling good doesn’t happen any other way, and chemical distortion eventually makes us feel bad about ourselves. To complicate recovery further, many people of all ages become sexually active in early sobriety to reclaim the lost high. Another reason romance and recovery is a bad idea. Sure it’s tough to refrain from sex and seductive behaviour because it feels good! Regardless of sexual preference (heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual), it’s normal to pursue sex in an attempt to get some good feeling. Again, however, the end result of sexual involvement in early recovery is often pain and disaster. Many people return to chemicals. Romance and recovery become relapse. Unfortunately, this is particularly true of younger people. When we work with all the wrong motives, the act designed to make us feel good makes us feel lousy about ourselves. Why? Well for some sex is casual (the one-night stand) and for others, it follows an involved, time-consuming relationship. Either way, for those of us in early recovery, sexual involvement is just another way of looking for good feelings from someone else. And no matter what the form, it does not work. Sex before recovery was very self-centred and under self-defeating circumstances. Today I can express myself sexually without being drunk, and I can also deal with the feelings that such intimacy stirs up in me.
It’s also quite likely that we’ll make a poor choice of partners when getting involved while still in early recovery. Why? Because our judgement is still impaired, making it vital for us to rely on sober support systems to guide our decisions. Rather than having to deal with a lot of confusion, distortion, disappointment, pain, and possible relapse after a relationship develops, make a decision ahead of time to avoid getting involved. Not now. Okay, BUT WHEN? Romance and recovery needs to wait a year or two say most experts.
An intimate relationship should follow the following stages:
Most new people in recovery are not familiar with these stages. Most go from acquaintance to sex. There is a joke in recovery, “How do you know 2 people from 12-Step programs are going on a second date together? There is a U-Haul trailer being pulled behind the car since they are ready to move in with the other.”
So we know most people consider early recovery as the first two years of sobriety. Of course this will vary among individuals, but it is usually recommended to refrain from emotional involvements for the first year. While a year may seem a very long time, remember that it can be managed just one day at a time. Not only is that a lot easier, but it coincides with our sober approach to change and growth. A good guide for me was to stay away from any romantic relationship until I was positive I could give to that relationship and did not need to depend upon it. That meant I had to be able to feel good about myself on my own. I could have kidded myself at times, but I chose not to. This was in keeping with my choice to live – free and sober. And I knew when the time was right with someone else – when I could share, when I did not need to dominate, and would not be dominated. Sure, at times I thought this would never end, but I made myself get back into the NOW. I stayed sober and straight, and when I was ready, that time was right.
When we attempt to enjoy intimacy with someone else before developing an intimate relationship with ourselves, we put the cart before the horse. Romance and recovery, becomes enmeshed quickly. It won’t work. Nonsexual, intimate relationships with friends or a sponsor are natural as we come to know, respect, and love ourselves. These are the real beginnings of healthy relationships. You will find a lack of unhealthy dependency, so that your self-worth, self-esteem, and self-image are not riding on the success of the relationship. Now in sobriety, I am able to enjoy sex and feel the love that belongs with it. This was after a year and a half of sobriety, and only because of my hard work to improve the way I felt about myself.
Again, the ‘high’ of heavy romantic involvement can be dangerously attractive and addictive. Use the symptoms of dependency to measure and evaluate relationships in question. Am I preoccupied with this person? Do I need to limit this relationship? Is this interfering in any major life area, such as school, work, or family? Am I covering up, lying about, or hiding this relationship. That behaviour is nothing but an old, sick game, and the game ends when you stop playing.
For more help with understanding Romance and Recovery call 0824424779 or email us.