Maintaining Emotional Sobriety: Relationships in Early Recovery


Relationships make us feel good. And if we haven’t done the work to grow in the areas of emotional sobriety, we will quickly find that being in a relationship has become our new fix.

One of the trickiest things to do in recovery is practicing mindfulness and awareness after putting the dope down and learning how to stay sober. Emotional sobriety is paramount when it comes to remaining sober. I believe that if I can grow in the areas of low self-esteem, codependency, anger management, and intimate relationships, then the act of not self-medicating becomes extremely easy.

Those four areas are very important to address and work on while getting sober.

I use because I am obsessed with the desired effect. When I put the drug in me I feel better. So when I’m not feeling good about my image or who I am as a person, I want to medicate. When I’m acting out in a codependent way, I want to medicate. When I’m struggling with anger, I want to medicate. I don’t feel good; I want to feel good. Drugs help me feel great.

If it weren’t for all the consequences that come along with using, I’d be high right now.

Love Is the Drug

Let’s talk about the fourth area: relationships.

A wise man once told me that relationships would be the hardest thing I’ll ever do in recovery. Those words never rang truer in my life than the day I finally got into one. It takes work, it takes patience, it takes a whole lot of faith and trust. It takes looking inward and being mindful of many things: who I am as a person, my morals, my ability to listen and show empathy, and making sure I’m living honestly with integrity. It takes courage and many other things that only come by living a holistic recovery lifestyle. When I do these things, my relationship is very rewarding for myself and for my partner. Even through conflict, we come out stronger.

So factoring in all that, imagine being someone with low self-esteem; somebody that struggles with codependency and is quick to anger. Now imagine getting into a relationship when you haven’t grown in those three areas. On top of all that you’re still figuring out how to simply stay sober. What a beautiful recipe for disaster. It would be a miracle if you didn’t use in the end.

If I haven’t grown in those three areas, it’s safe to say that I still don’t feel good about myself. And if I don’t feel good about myself, my knee-jerk reaction is to find something to make me feel better. And if the lifestyle of a person in active addiction is codependent in nature, imagine how potentially deadly it would be to engage in an intimate relationship.

I mean, let’s be honest. Relationships make us feel good. We feel wanted, we feel important, depending on the situation we feel attractive, the endorphins are flowing, the dopamine is at an all-time high, not to mention the sex is probably amazing! Relationships make us feel good. And if we haven’t done the work to grow in the areas of emotional sobriety, we will quickly find that being in a relationship has become our new fix.

It’s intoxicating and obsessive. The desired effect is immediate. Almost sounds like using drugs. Now the term “drunk in love” isn’t such a stretch, is it?

And that’s why it’s recommended to stay out of a relationship your first year in sobriety. It’s not because sex is bad or being in love is wrong. It’s because relationships make you feel good too soon, too often. I need to give myself an opportunity to recover in all areas of my life before I can think about anyone else.

Essentially, I have replaced the drug with a person, most likely another person in recovery because those bonds are deep. And now there are two lives at stake. It’s dangerous.

I’m not trying to scare anyone away from pursuing a relationship, I’m simply saying to be mindful and aware. Assess where you’re at in your personal recovery before you start messing with someone else. Especially if they are in recovery as well.

That reminds me of a story…

Find out how GHXSTORIES got healthy enough for intimate relationships — and how he dealt with all the times he “fell in love” in the meantime — in the original article Nice to Meet You, Will You Marry Me: Life as a Newcomer in Sobriety at The Fix.

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