While I was drinking I was incapable of having anything that resembled a mature,fulfilling relationship… I simply didn’t have the faith in myself to get involved with anyone for anything more than a few weeks, and nothing that could be considered a relationship. Let’s be honest here in that our choices in active addiction are hardly what would be considered reasonable and well thought out. I’m sure that I am not the only one who’s made some pretty dubious decisions late at night… But that being said, I am not the kind of person who likes to air their (long-past) dirty laundry in public. Actually I have been thinking about writing a book about my journey for many years and as much as I know a little “dirty laundry” could possibly be good for sales and readership, that is not the kind of message I want to put out into the world. Yes, I have my share of scandalous little tales, but besides taking ownership of my past indiscretions, it’s not something I believe needs to be rehashed for public consumption.
What I do want to talk about today is relationships in long-term sobriety. So often in early recovery we hear that it’s not a good idea to get into (or leave) a relationship in the first year. As for me, it took more than six years before I was ready to take that step. The main reason was that I wanted to become someone that I would want to be with…and clearly that took some time!! I didn’t want to go into an intimate relationship hauling the cargo that I had accumulated over the years, and have to deal with that while I was finding myself as part of a couple. When we’re vulnerable and scared, often the natural thing seems to be to find someone to share our unease and pain. And when we are not alone, perhaps it doesn’t seem quite as frightening. But I decided for myself that bringing my insecurities and pain into a relationship, wasn’t going to bode well for anything lasting.
Now let me be completely honest, I am not saying that I am some sort of emotionally superior being, who has no insecurities, vulnerabilities or moments of personal discontent. That’d be incredibly inauthentic and arrogant of me! I am not close to being an Eckhart Tolle who has mastered the spiritual art of living in the now, free of the pain of the past or the anxiety of the future. What I am trying to say is that I worked incredibly hard for a long time to be honest about where I am in my life and learn to accept myself. I looked around at the people I know and paid careful attention to those who were in happy, healthy relationships and those that were toxic and destructive. I made conscious choices about the type of partner I wanted to be and decided on the things I wanted to take into a partnership. It might sound clinical and unromantic, but I was not prepared to be an emotionally-driven, reactionary player in this game of hearts.
Of course we have little or no control over who we choose to love, but I knew who I wanted to be when Cupid took the shot!! And all those years of personal development, self-evaluation and hard emotional work finally paid off. After spending long, lonely nights putting my demons to rest, I met an incredible man. The truth is that there were lots of emotions, insecurities and anxieties in the early stages of being together, but I didn’t bring my recovery into our relationship. I wasn’t trying to learn about who I am at the same time as getting to know him. Of course it’s challenging to find your true place in a couple, but it wasn’t about finding myself as well. It was just the normal stuff that most of us go through in the beginning of being with someone!
Yes, I checked my phone a dozen times an hour (our first year was spent in a long-distance relationship) and went through the roller coaster of feelings that my friends explained are completely normal. I wasn’t finding it hard because I was in recovery, I was just going through the spectrum of emotions that get thrown in our paths when we are in the initial stages of being together. I did attend a lecture a couple of weeks ago about relationships and the stages thereof. It was based on the Imago Theory, which was a little too Freudian for my tastes, but the psychologist talked about how in the early stages of romance we feel like we have always known this person we find ourselves with (based on our familial experiences). Following this romantic period, we’re bound to enter into a power struggle and if couples do the necessary work, perhaps 5% will be lucky enough to be part of a conscious relationship.
But listening to the lecture I began to understand that if we know ourselves well enough before we find someone to be with, we are far more likely to be successful in our choice. Communication is key from the very very beginning, and although I do not have a man who showers me with romance and we don’t feel like we’ve always known each other, I consider myself beyond blessed to be in a partnership that is authentic and honest. Instead of sweet nothings, we talk about real situations and for me that is far more important than platitudes. We both know what we want from each other, we are not living in some fantasy land believing that everything is perfect, but we are incredibly happy. Sometimes the conversations can be a little scary, but we’ve discussed a range of topics that are very real possibilities in any couple’s life.
But the point of the entire post is that instead of rushing in (or out) of a relationship in early recovery, I can recommend doing yourself a big favour and learning who you are and what you truly want. Then based on this you can start to make decisions that involve the heart and emotions of another person. I cannot comment too much on the getting out, since this is my first serious relationship since forever, but I can say that there is nothing more empowering than knowing yourself really well before trying to look for someone else to complete you. Being complete before you look outwards for something means that that other person only makes life more exciting, fulfilling and fun. Don’t look outside for love and happiness, find it first in yourself and then look for someone to share it with. If there is a void that needs filling, find ways to fill it by yourself, because expecting someone else to vanquish the emptiness is not necessarily going to lead to long-term emotional stability.
The man I am with doesn’t make me happy, because I am already happy in myself. He is an incredibly wonderful addition to my world and most definitely brings joy to my life, but he is not the fountain of my personal fulfillment. Of course I speak only for myself, when I say that by getting over my past and not rushing into any sort of intimate relationship until I was someone I wanted to be with, has been well worth the wait. Because after all I really do believe that life is better with a clear head and an honest heart.
Til next time