Relationships in Recovery

I’ve been in recovery for 5 years since my substance abuse treatment. I think back to the beginning of this journey; I think of now. When I compare them, the difference is stunning. In the summary of my recovery story, there is a common theme: relationships. I have had several. When I first got clean after my substance abuse treatment, my sponsor suggested I stay out of relationships for a year. I needed structure. I needed a foundation. I needed time on my own to make myself whole before I could be another half of a whole again. Some days, I still don’t feel whole. And some days, I wish I’d listened to the ‘relationships in recovery’ lecture. But, if I did listen, I wouldn’t have this story to share.

Now, post substance abuse treatment, I know that relationships early in recovery are a perfect way of testing the strength of your program. Your character flaws, as well as those of the other person, will be revealed rather quickly. The real person that you are, the real person that he is, won’t show up until about 90 days into the relationship. Before that, it’s all still the “honeymoon phase.” Watch out when the real people come out!

I was the type of person that spent all my waking moments thinking about the other person in the relationship. My meeting attendance declined; I slacked off considerably because I was spending so much time with him. I didn’t touch my step work for months at a time; I called my sponsor intermittently — maybe once every 2 weeks. Weeks and months later, without the program, the old me, the pre-substance abuse treatment me, came out. Thankfully, I wasn’t using. But I was not yet whole enough to commit myself to be half of a whole. The relationship ended.

One particular time, I called my sponsor when a relationship ended, and she lovingly, but firmly pointed out to me that I had not called her in three weeks, and now I was calling to dump on her. Reality hit: I was a selfish little brat. It was that epiphany that spurred my recommitment to recovery. I had to change this noncommittal recovery behavior. How could I commit to a relationship without first committing to myself?

Now I know. In times of crisis, CALL MY SPONSOR and GO TO A MEETING. But also, now I call my sponsor on a regular basis — even if nothing is going on. I have changed the way I live my life, always attempting to find the balance. I will not dub it an easy task. But I will go to meetings. I will communicate. I will put one foot in front of the other. Right. Left. Right. Left. Forward, forward, forward. No more steps backward. Post-substance abuse treatment me: that is the “me” that I want to be.

Ann S.