Relationships in Recovery

While there are hundreds of different types, when folks in recovery discuss “relationships”, we’re exclusively referencing the romantic kind. We tend to approach them the way someone who has just crawled across the desert approaches water. No subtlety, no grace, just an incredible, insatiable thirst for something we long for. Something that most of us have never had.

We’re the biggest buyers of the lies rom coms sell: The perfect romance fixes everything.

While recovery can flourish when born of desperation, partnerships cannot. It’s human instinct to grab hold of someone when we’re drowning, but too often, we simply drag them down with us.

The most intense partnerships I’ve seen started in homeless shelters, psych hospitals, rehabs, and in the halls of 12 step meetings. They’re beyond passionate. Infatuation is a powerful drug. In two weeks or less we’re showing devotion to a stranger that we’d never give ourselves.

And that’s the problem.

We’re up to our ass in alligators and somehow, not only have we magically found our soulmate, we’ve conveniently located them among our peers at rock bottom. What could possibly go wrong?

Three dates, three group therapy sessions, or three meetings – it’s all the same. We’re ready to make a lifelong commitment to one another. We’d move in together but we’re currently homeless, awaiting trial, or blue papered. As crazy as this sounds, it’s common.

Later, through the grace of God and recovery, we attain a solid stretch of clean/sober time, and go on to make the same mistakes, except that maybe we’ve attained housing or a deferred deposition and so we’re much better suited to maintaining a relationship.

The idea that we not begin new partnerships in the first year of recovery is based in the unavoidable truth that we are people who avoid ourselves. We seek shiny distractions and use them to overlook the wreckage of our lives.

Tough but fair question often posed to those who object to waiting: What do you bring to a partnership at this time? How about holding off until we have far more to offer?