Relationships and Early Recovery by Fred Hundt
When I came into recovery, carried into the Psych Ward for my threats against myself and others, I felt as alone as I’d ever been in my life. My girlfriend was done with me, I’d alienated most of my friends and my main relationship problem was that I didn’t have any. I had to face the fact that, for the first time in my life, no one was going to “rescue” me. I had to face my addiction and my demons and I needed to accept help honestly rather than manipulating people and situations.
In early sobriety I heard the AA maxim of not getting into a new relationship for at least a year. I didn’t understand it then, but listened to my sponsor’s advice to take things slowly, earning my way back into my girlfriend’s life with my behaviors, not promises. He also warned me against turning meeting camaraderie with women in the program into anything more.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the AA approach and my sponsor’s “Easy Does It” advice. In early sobriety I needed to build a relationship with me. I’d been avoiding myself through alcohol for years. I had to learn to face myself, spend time with myself and, eventually, even begin to like myself. I also needed to build a close working relationship with my Higher Power. I learned to talk to my HP through daily prayer, to connect through meditation and to listen to the quiet voice of Spirit within. Building those two relationships was a full time job…I couldn’t have given them the attention they needed if I had been involved in a romantic relationship.
I watch newcomers in the rooms get involved in relationships and I see the roller coaster rides they take. I remember that in my early sobriety I needed less drama, not more. I’d had plenty of it in my last few drinking years. I needed the calm and quiet of those months to learn about serenity and how to achieve and maintain it in my life.
Part of what I realized about myself in early recovery is that I was a “taker,” not a “giver.” As much as I tried to wrap my behavior in noble motives, I had always looked at relationships entirely from the point of view of what I could get from them. I always expected that the “next” woman would save me, would make things all right. When that didn’t happen, I pulled away. I usually didn’t even have the courage to break up. I would just make myself emotionally unavailable until she broke up with me. That allowed me to play the victim or the martyr. I didn’t know how to have an honest relationship! If I had pursued a new relationship in early recovery, I’m certain that I would have defaulted back to my old behavior. Falling back in the part of my life would have risked relapse, too.
Over months (and years) of sobriety, parts of the program began to sink in. I began to learn humility and thought of myself less. I began to focus on how I could serve others without expecting anything in return. I learned that I could be honest with my Higher Power and with the people in my life. Today I have a wonderful relationship with the woman who had “written me off” that night I went to the Psych Ward. I’m grateful each day for the opportunity to serve her and for the simple joy it brings me. I can’t give anyone else relationship advice, but can share that the AA program has worked for me in this and all areas of my life.