The truth about addiction and relationships
As addicts, we often develop dependent personalities and learn to look to the world around us for fulfillment, unable to feel satisfied from within. Certainly this is just as true for many who are not addicted. Addiction and relationships often prove to be as ominous as the drug of choice. This search for happiness continues outside ourselves through relationships, jobs, regions, material possessions, geographical locations, and political causes. 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 with regards to addiction and relationships. 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 moods from within takes time – clean time. 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. Addiction and relationships are worked on, both from your personal point of view. They are both your responsibility. And if you’re trying to feel good while using, you are creating a handicap which you will not beat. It is called cross addiction. It is far from uncommon.
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. 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. Addiction and relationships both just tend to sway that way in early recovery. Many people return to chemicals. 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. Addiction and relationships have recently been dubbed the disease of intimacy. People actually use drugs and obsessions to avoid intimate love. To avoid being put in the spotlight, for fear of what it may shine on within one self. More often than not our counselors work on addiction and relationships with the same gusto. Both are as revealing in terms of healing.
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?
Early recovery through addiction and relationships
Most people consider “early recovery” as the first year 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 present moment.
When we attempt to enjoy intimacy with someone else before developing an intimate relationship with ourselves, we put the cart before the horse. 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 when considering addiction and relationships. 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 behavior is nothing but an old, sick game, and the game ends when you stop playing.
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