Repairing Relationships In Recovery
Repairing Relationships In Recovery
The previous blog that I posted stressed the importance of relationships in the recovery of addictions. Looking back on it, I discovered that I overlooked a very important aspect of relationships in that blog in regard to addicted populations. Yes, relationships are paramount in the management of recovery and especially in the use of Choice Theory. However, I failed to define the types of relationships and differentiate between those that are essential to recovery as opposed to those that could be harmful.
The relationships I referred to in the previous blog are those relationships that currently exist and/or those that ended over the course of the addict’s periods of use. I do not want to infer that new relationships should be created UNLESS they are of the platonic nature with no sexual or romantic motives involved. Primarily, I was referring to resolving conflict with the important people in the alcoholic’s life who may have had their relationship harmed as a result of the alcoholic/addicts use. We see this in the 8th step of A. A. And in regard to these harmed relationships, there exists a caveat: See Step 9 in A.A. Don’t attempt to resolve or repair past or current relationships where doing so could result in intense unresolved emotions that could lead to harm for anyone involved. Some unresolved conflicts are best left alone until another time or perhaps even forever.
Past recent relationships with another drinker/user, where marriage and children are not involved, are best left to go separate ways with no attempts to continue them after completing or going through recovery. Recovery and maintaining abstinence are difficult enough for one person much less two people struggling to remain clean and sober. It is too easy to fall back into old ways in dealing with one another when the two of them were using/drinking together. An added danger to this is when two people get involved in a relationship while they had been drinking or using. The person each of them became attracted to was a drugged individual with drugged ways of thinking and behaving, even when they were not high or intoxicated. Once one or the other gets clean and sober and learns new social and life skills, they will not be the same person(s) that others once knew.
Recovery requires the support of family and friends and those who are essential to acquiring happiness . . . not pleasure. The addict/alcoholic has been leading a life of nothing but the pursuit of pleasure and confusing it for happiness all along. Another component of recovery is learning the difference between the two and how to acquire it without relying on addictive practices.
New relationships are encouraged if they involve someone with whom you can learn. This can be acquired in the form of someone who has several years of recovery as well as those who have never had an addiction problem who are happy and successful in their own life. A romantic relationship with someone with only a couple of years or less of recovery is not advisable.
WHY NOT NEW ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS? Loving and romantic relationships are not permanently discouraged. In fact, they are strongly encouraged if the client is currently married or if the addict/alcoholic has several years of abstinence and recovery under his/her belt. The reason new romantic relationships are discouraged is because a person in recovery needs to discover who s/he really is and acquire a healthy identity and healthy social skills. Acquiring new and effective coping and communication skills also need to be learned. Otherwise, many of the past behaviors that harmed past relationships will continue to exist and harm any new relationships. The script will remain the same only with a different cast.
A person who has been drinking/using for years has, for the most part, been avoiding all their emotions. Not only did they drink unwanted emotions away, they don’t even know how to identify an emotion as good, bad, or indifferent. It takes time to catch up with one’s chronological emotional quotient.
Another reason why new romantic relationships are discouraged is because the addict/alcoholic has developed ways of behaving that don’t stop merely because of cessation of drugs or alcohol. Continued maladaptive behaviors can and do exist even when and addict and alcoholic stop drinking or using.
There is also the “like attracts like” situation and not so much as others would tell you that opposites attract. A person who has not sufficiently overcome their addiction and maladaptive behaviors will be drawn to and/or attracted by others who have not got their life emotionally balanced for a healthy and meaningful relationship. Healthy and successful people are not attracted to unhealthy unsuccessful people and vice versa. . . or at least for very long.
Recovery is often, more than not, a long, on-going process. Many in the field of addictions will state that one year of sobriety is sufficient before starting new romantic relationships. I contend that one year of abstinence is far from sufficient and that several years are required to attain a modicum of healthy emotions and skills to maintain a long-lasting relationship. How long? Everyone is different and not everyone’s history of use is a textbook or cookie cutter case. Only the success or failure of your relationships can determine this. The need for emotional, spiritual, financial, and social stability will all take time to develop and internalize before relationships improve..
Right now, I can hear the addict/alcoholic saying, “yeah, but I don’t want a serious long-lasting relationship.” I rest my case. These would be the thoughts and words of someone seeking pleasure by using another person for personal reasons while thinking it will bring happiness; a relationship for all the wrong reasons.
Few addicts or alcoholics have the ability to be addicts or alcoholics on their own. They are dependent on others and require co-dependent individuals to provide their needs for them not only in the form of money, drugs or alcohol, but also for sex, shelter, clothing, transportation, and companionship to avoid loneliness. These needs can be very strong and if the addict/alcoholic is incapable of acquiring them him/herself, they quite easily find others who can and will do it for them. Result: Another failed relationship.
It is not unusual for a person who has completed alcohol and drug rehab and while maintaining abstinence will find their marriage or longterm relationship ending anyway. The addiction involves more than just the addict or the alcoholic. If someone has been in a close relationship with someone for two or more years, that person will have developed a long list of defensive behaviors to deal with the addict/alcoholic’s behavior before they went into rehab. They will still use these behaviors long after the need to do so no longer is necessary. . . continued External Control. Along with these defensive and survival behaviors, the significant other will have acquired a mental log book of all of the hurt and harm that was created while the person was drinking and using including a lot of pent up emotions and resentments. Recovery involves more than just the addict or the alcoholic.
The importance of relationships for effective methods in dealing with addicted populations is not a new or different concept found only in Choice Theory. The importance of relationships is the very core of Alcoholics Anonymous. That’s why they call A.A. a “Fellowship.” However, there is no 13th step (seeking sexual relationships with recovering people).