The Life Challenge
Relationships & Recovery

Relationships & Recovery

 

After we get sober, some of us are thinking about our significant other, or finding one, and what that means in recovery. Why do people 13th step it at meetings? Is it ok to date with just a few months sober? When is the right time? Who is the right type for me? What do healthy relationships look like in recovery? I know a little, just from my perspective.

Before I got sober, I dated a lot, but none of my relationships were healthy. Why?

I started drinking & using before I ever dated anyone, so I already activated my addiction and character defects, and brought them into every relationship I had.

Chaos and dysfunction always followed the “pink cloud” that began with meeting someone new; you know that time when you start dating, and everything is fresh and exciting and shiny and warm and fuzzy before the s@#* hits the fan? Glorious. I got addicted to “finding the right one” and it was an endless cycle. The longest I ever dated anyone was six months. Tops.

The majority of people who were attracted to me, and that I was attracted to, lived a very similar lifestyle. So I was sick, they were sick, and we made things that are supposed to be awesome and amazing like falling in love, creating intimacy, and being vulnerable, terrifying and crazy. But it was all I knew, so I kept doing it. After all, I was a catch. They were nuts. They better realize how lucky they were to date me!

Although my self-esteem was really low, and I did not love myself, I tried not to let anyone see that. The ones who could see it and were attracted to that tragic sadness eventually tried to “fix me” and it never worked. Tragedy and loneliness became what I expected at the end of every relationship, so sometimes I broke it off before it got bad like I knew it was going to.

So along with my chemical addiction I became a sex & love addict. Even if I managed to find a really cool, somewhat healthy person to be with, I self-sabotaged with my behaviors. I had no solution. I could not stop. Somehow, in the height of all this craziness, I met someone who partied on my level. In fact, she drank more than me, which in itself was astounding. She had all the characteristics I had in my crazy mind of “the one” and we actually dated for more than six months. We moved in together, and I had never lived with anyone before. I did not cheat on her. We were inseparable. Somehow, on most days the best parts of us were stronger than our worst. But drinking and partying got worse and worse, and we started getting sicker and sicker. Dysfunction, depression, anger and fear started to dominate our relationship. I used more to cope with it. Then I hit my bottom and got sober.

We had our two year anniversary the day after I checked into treatment. I was in treatment, she was still drinking. Everyone told me to cut it off, end it, walk away before I relapsed and drank with her. Then I started working the steps with a sponsor who shared a similar story. I was getting better, but she wasn’t. I was terrified for her; you see, she was a blackout drinker, and I was her babysitter. I always made sure she got home safe, and now that I was gone, who would be there for her? I prayed and prayed, I don’t think I’ve ever prayed that hard for anyone or anything, even myself. I was told to let her go, create some boundaries, and work on me. Be selfish. Protect my sobriety. I knew my sponsor was right, but I could not walk away totally. I still called her every day and talked to her. I was honest with my sponsor about it, and he was able to help. It seemed hopeless. I kept praying and working with my sponsor.

Then a miracle happened. She called one morning and said she hit her bottom. She asked me what to do. She went to a meeting that day and got a sponsor. I held my breath, filled with fear that she would go back out. My sponsor told me that I was powerless, and I could only work on myself, and that if we were meant to be, it would work out, and if not, it would end. I believed that totally, and focused on making myself better. We talked about it and agreed that we would stay apart and work on ourselves until we each had a year, and then we would see if things were better or worse. I truly believe that without the guidance of my sponsor, I would have self-sabotaged. He gave me strict rules: stay away from females, go to men’s meetings, and hang with a sober crew of guys, and it worked. I still talked on the phone with her, but we did not see each other in person. After she got her 1st year in sobriety she moved to Atlanta and we got an apartment together. Getting to know her in sobriety was a trip. We took our time. We worked our own programs. We trusted our sponsors and did what they told us to do. We got better and better. Sobriety made us better people, healthier, sharper, and more aware of who we were as individuals and as a couple.

So I guess the question could be “How did a crazy drug & sex addict like you get someone healthy and amazing you love, that loves you back, and how do you stay together? The answer is recovery. I work a program…a strong one. It has to be with the wreckage of my past. I invested a lot of time and energy into my destructive relationships with drugs, sick behaviors, sick thoughts, and sick people. I believe I have to invest the same amount of time and energy in working my program, getting healthier and staying in recovery. Why do I believe this?

Miracles keep happening. We stayed together. We learned how to be in a relationship sober, and what that meant. We stayed together for four years. I asked her to marry me. She said yes. We are still married. I still love her. I have not messed it up. I did not do all this on my own. I have always had the help and guidance of others ever since I got sober. I do not deserve the life I have today. I definitely do not deserve the amazing woman I am married to. Gratitude and serenity permeate my life today. I do not deserve to be this happy, so I do everything I can to keep it, the way I have been taught. If I am asked for advice about relationships in recovery, my answer is to ask advice from people that have more recovery, serenity, experience and wisdom than you do, and do everything they tell you. And pray. It works. I am living proof.

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Ben Wilson

 

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