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The topic of relationships in sobriety and recovery inevitably comes up. At what point are we ready to get involved in a relationship which is by its nature extremely complicated and emotionally weighted? After all, one of the primary goals of recovery is to avoid complications and emotional weight. And are we able to fully trust our own judgment as we come out of a long period of time in which our judgment has been impaired? There are a few things we can all keep in mind as we attempt to negotiate this issue.
The first thing to ask is have you taken enough time to fully develop yourself as a sober person. We need to make certain that our own lives are stable enough and fulfilling enough to take on a relationship with another person. The danger in romantic attachments is that we can rely too heavily on another for things that are beyond the real emotional support associated with a healthy relationship. It is important that we know ourselves. We are on firm emotional ground as a single person before we commit to another person. If not, we run the risk of developing codependent relationships which are ultimately dangerous to ourselves and to others.
Another thing to think about is how well we know our instincts. Using drugs and alcohol for long periods of time tends to dull our ways of intuitively understanding the world and other people. We basically forget how to read people and their possible intentions. It is important to re-connect with what we might call internal alarms regarding other people and their motives and intentions. How well are we able pick up on another person’s language and thoughts? It is not that we need to be mind-readers. It is more a matter of making sure we understand people properly.
Have we established our own personal strength in life? This is crucial because romantic relationships in sobriety can be potentially dangerous. We need to get a good sense of how well we can withstand the complications and the emotional peaks and valleys of romance.
Finally, we should ask ourselves what our own motivations are with respect to another person. Are we genuinely interested in sharing with another, or are we using a relationship as means of escape form boredom, depression, fear of the future, etc.? It is easy to get caught up in the excitement of dating and meeting people as we come back to life from what may have been years of substance abuse. Negative thoughts we may harbor toward ourselves can blind us to our real feelings for others. We should be careful to thoroughly evaluate our own motivations as we begin the process of dating.
All of these points are equally important. I had to carefully consider each of these before opening up to people in ways which can be potentially intimate. I also had to be really honest about my life as a recovering person. My recovery was the only reason I was in a position to be available in the world. Therefore maintaining this was essential to all concerned. Talking these things over with a trusted counselor or in a sober support group is probably the best way to begin.
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