Addiction and Relationships

Recovery is all about relationships. Think about it. What would recovery be like on a deserted island? You wouldn’t even need a recovery program or anything else to help you get through your day.

The only relationship that would need cultivating would be the one you have with yourself, and there would be plenty of time for that because there wouldn’t be any other people around! This little thought experiment gives us a key insight into recovery: it’s all about relationships and finding peace and balance within them. 

Those of us in 12 step programs have undoubtedly heard the saying: “resentment is the number one offender when it comes to relapse.” But what is a resentment? It is a problem that we have with a relationship. 

So relationships in recovery can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Of course they are necessary and they can provide us with joy and fulfilment in many different ways, but at the same time, relationships can be somewhat dangerous, especially for the newly recovering drug addict or alcoholic

Let’s dig in and examine relationships and see if we can find some universal truths and any practical conclusions here:

Your relationship with yourself

They say that in early recovery, you have to develop three relationships in order to be successful: a relationship with yourself, a relationship with a higher power, and a relationship with a sponsor. For the bewildered newcomer in recovery who is just coming off of drugs and alcohol, figuring out how to have a “relationship with yourself” can be a bit perplexing. I mean really … what the heck does that mean? 

For me it meant a couple of things, much of which I did not figure out for the first several years of my sobriety. The first thing it meant was that I had to forgive myself. People in recovery would say “give yourself a break” and I never understood what they meant. What they meant was that you have to allow yourself to start over with a clean slate and forgive yourself for all the chaos you just went through if you ever want to hold your head up again. So forgiving yourself is critical in early recovery. It’s a big part of building a strong relationship with yourself. The biggest amends you make is to yourself. 

Another part of your relationship with yourself really takes a long time to uncover – this is the process of truly getting to know yourself all over again. In active addiction, I had covered up those parts of myself for so long with the drugs and alcohol that I had no idea what my life was about anymore. Strip away all of the drugs and alcohol and you are left with a shell of a person – one that needs to learn how to live again and start putting themselves out there and trying new things. 

Your relationship with a higher power

This can be a touchy subject for some but it doesn’t have to be. Consider the different ranges of beliefs that various people will have upon entering recovery: some will believe in God, some will be hard line atheists, others might believe only in the force of the “universe” or in nature as their higher power. All of these belief stances allow for some cultivation of a spiritual relationship, be it through prayer and meditation, studying of religious texts, reconnecting with nature, or simply expressing gratitude to the universe for existence itself. 

In other words, regardless of your specific belief system, you can work on your relationship with a higher power in some fashion. Doing so is part of the foundation of the creative theory of recovery, as spirituality is the “glue” that holds the whole program together. Focus on the spiritual principles that come from your spiritual relationship, such as forgiveness and gratitude and compassion for others. These principles are the guiding forces in your recovery and a key reason to continue cultivating your relationship with a higher power. 

Romantic relationships in early recovery

Romantic relationships are only one small part of recovery, but they can be of critical importance, and can literally make or break your sobriety. Particularly in early recovery, romantic pursuits can and usually are extremely dangerous. The primary reason for this is because of this fact right here: 

When we first pursue a romantic relationship, the other relationships in our lives get moved to the back-burner. 

This is especially true when it comes to our relationship with a higher power. The reason for this is simple: a new romantic interest “fills us up” and “makes us whole” again, completely filling the spiritual void that otherwise would have been filled by our spiritual practices. This phenomenon cannot be denied and has been played out over and over again by other recovering addicts and alcoholics, almost all of whom eventually relapsed due to their romantic endeavours. 

Now does this mean that you cannot pursue a relationship in recovery? Of course not. But any sane addict will want to have a foundation of recovery before they venture out into this dangerous territory. Some people suggest waiting a full year in recovery before getting into any sort of a relationship. This is probably good advice, although the specific length of time really depends on how solid a foundation you have built and what kind of relationship you have built with a higher power. 

This can be misleading sometimes because there are some very religious people who do not necessarily have a strong relationship with a higher power. There is a difference. If you are seeking a romantic relationship so that it will “fill the void” or “make you whole” then you probably have some more work to do on your spiritual foundation before you can safely get back into the dating scene. 

Hope Trust helps you rebuild relationships

The recovery program at Hope Trust helps you rebuild relationships: you begin to get comfortable with yourself, you develop faith and your renewed life promotes general trust and well being with others around you.

Addiction and Relationships