Posts Tagged ‘Dating in Early Recovery’

The book is available on Amazon – check it out here: Don't Let the Bastards Grind You Down: 50 Things Every Alcoholic & Addict in Early Recovery Should Know - By Georgia W.

georgias-book2Drawing on my own experience and that of others in recovery, this book highlights fifty things that all of us should know once we've decided to treat our addiction. Some of the topics included are:

The First 30 Days - What to expect and how to get through it.
Things to Avoid - Protecting your recovery and coping with stress.
Dry Drunk - How not to be one.
Relapse –Developing a prevention plan and what to do if it happens.
Spouses & Partners - How to include them and rebuild relationships.
Children - It's never too late to be a good parent or role model.
Dating in Early Recovery - The not so good, the bad and the ugly.
Twelve Step Programs - How they work and what you should know.
Isolating - Why we do it and why we shouldn't.
Substituting and Fixing - Things we substitute for our addiction.

Believe it or not, it doesn't matter how you got to this point in your life - the most important part is that you did. Too many alcoholics and addicts die from this disease before they get a chance to recover. Just remember that you don't have to do it alone. There are people who want to help, those who have been to the bottom and back and are now living a life without drugs and alcohol. All you need to have is the willingness to follow some simple suggestions that have worked for many others and can work for you too.

 

itchyscratchy2Unfortunately for this drunk, 90 days of sobriety usually signified both an achievement and the beginning of the end. I got quite a few 90 day chips in AA, it was what came after 90 days that was the problem. I’d start to feel better, mentally and physically and I’d start to get things back that I’d lost in the latest episode of screwing my life up. My job would be going good, my son would be spending more time with me or I’d decide to date again. In fact, when I think about it now, I realize that when I started thinking that I knew what was best for me, it was a sure sign that things were about to go to shit.  

When I’d first get sober, I’d eagerly go to meetings, get a Sponsor and start on the 12 Steps. I called my Sponsor every day, took time to read the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and developed a network of friends who were in the same boat as me.  But, as the weeks went by and things got better, my life improved and I found that I got busy, I went to less meetings and I lost momentum in my recovery program. I was working on the 4th Step and it was just too much fucking hard work to write all my resentments down, after all I had a job to go too, a son to look after and a boyfriend to keep, all this other stuff could wait. Besides, no one was making me do the 12 Steps, it was up to me and I’d decided I was well enough to make it on my own. I didn’t need all this tedious recovery crap anymore.

It’s amazing, how when I adopted this viewpoint my life came undone very quickly. You’d think I would learn from making this mistake one or two times but I went through getting 90 days sober four or five times before the penny finally dropped. Finally, I learned that my way wasn’t working and the last time this happened I decided that NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED, no matter how great I was feeling at 90 days, I was going to continue working my recovery program.  

So, as the dreaded 90 day itch started to rear its ugly head, rather than succumb to what my disease was telling me, which was the usual, ‘recovery is boring, your all better now, there’s so much more to life than this, you don’t need this shit’,  – I  worked harder on my program, finished that ‘dreaded’ 4th Step and before I knew it I was way past another 90 days and still sober.

These days, if I continue to do what I’m doing and work on a program of recovery, I’m hopeful that I won’t have to do another 90 stretch again. In fact the only time I really think about those days is when I’m explaining to my Sponsee how I continually fucked up because I thought I could ‘handle it from here’. My Sponsee is at the ‘I’ll take it from here’ point and all I can do is point her in the right direction, tell her what worked and didn’t work for me and the rest is up to her. 

 

 devil-angel2Alcoholism and drug addiction are called cunning, baffling and powerful diseases mainly because they often trick our minds and get us to turn on  ourselves and sabotage our sobriety. The worst part is, it’s often very subtle and  we don’t notice these changes in our behavior or our thinking until it’s too late.  And by too late, I mean we’re already off to the races, we are no longer in  control and our disease is in the driver’s seat.                                 

Here are some of the signs that you might want to watch out for:                                                                                                                                                                           

  • You stop going to recovery meetings.  In early sobriety (at least the first year) it’s a good idea to do 90meetings in 90 days for the first three months and after that, at least 3-4 meetings a week. If you begin to think that you don’t need as many meetings – it’s your disease talking.
  • You start hanging out in bars with your old drinking buddies. If your friends want to meet you in a bar, tell them you’d rather meet in a coffee shop. If they are truly friends, then they will meet you there. If you decide it’s a good idea to meet them in a bar on a Friday night and drink soda while they pound drink after drink, then it’s your disease talking. (For more on this see People, Places and Things).
  • You start thinking that surely non-alcoholic beer or wine can’t hurt? Just think about this for a minute! I’ve often heard of alcoholics going this route before and what usually happens is once the alcohol hits their system, the body immediately craves more and they can’t stop. In fact, they’ll generally consume a 12 pack of near beer in a very short period of time before eventually moving onto the real stuff. There’s trace amounts of alcohol in these beverages, if you think that putting any amount of alcohol in your system is a good idea then it’s your disease talking.
  • You stop working the Twelve-Steps. Maybe you were working a Twelve-Step program of recovery but somehow decided that you don’t have to finish the Steps because it’s too much hard work. In my experience, when I thought I could do it alone and I stopped working on my Fourth Step, I started off feeling relieved that I didn’t have to do that shit anymore. The relief didn’t last long though because I increasingly became restless, irritable and discontent and then somehow I found myself at the liquor store. Do yourself a favor; see it through to the end, some things are worth the hard work and finishing the Steps was key to my long term sobriety and to many people I know.
  • You look for the differences in other alcoholics and addicts, not the similarities. When we think we are different from the addict who was on the streets, the alcoholic housewife who only drank at home or the teenager who hit bottom early in life, then our disease is talking. The circumstances of our decline into alcoholism and addiction may be different from others but the disease isn’t. Our disease will tell us we are different because it wants to keep us away from our peers.
  • You decide you can handle a new relationship as well as getting sober. Your disease wants to get laid so when the new relationship goes south (as they very often do in early sobriety) you’ll get drunk or high. More on dating in early recovery here

Obviously these are just some of the ways we can get off track, if you want to add any, please feel free to make a comment.

snowOne of the most important pieces of advice I was given in early recovery was not to start dating or become  involved in a new intimate relationship during the first year of sobriety.  Did I listen to that advice? Nope,  did I relapse? Yes. Did it stop me from doing it again? I’m afraid not.  So why did I keep putting my sobriety in jeopardy so that I could be in a relationship?

I realize now that it was because I was not serious about my sobriety,  sure I thought I was, but my actions spoke otherwise because I was choosing romance over recovery. I got a rush from feeling attractive to someone after years of feeling like shit. I enjoyed being the center of someone’s universe, even if that person was as sick as I was. I didn’t know this at the time, I thought I knew what I was doing and that I was in control of the situation. I wasn’t going to relapse if the relationship went wrong, I was stronger than that.

The first time my disease proved me wrong was when I had  two months sober and I got into a relationship with another person who was also in recovery. Things were okay for a while, he seemed a little possessive but I told myself that was because he liked me so much.  As soon as the going got rough and he became more demanding, I drank and it turned out that the new center of my universe drank too. He also beat me unconscious, choked me until I blacked out, held me down with a knife, leaving me black and blue with a deep gash in my neck.

I had thought he was a decent person, he had three years sobriety for God’s sake – that’s amount to being a Saint to someone like me who only had two months!  I was blinded by the fact that he had some time in recovery, but what I didn’t see was what he wasn’t doing. He wasn’t working the steps, he wasn’t working with a Sponsor and he wasn’t going to meetings but the biggest sign that things weren’t quite right was that he was willing to date a newcomer. Anyone who has some time in recovery and works a serious program knows that dating a newcomer is a something you just don’t do. I didn’t know any of this though because I was the newcomer and I didn’t know the things to look out for, sure people told me not to date but I thought I knew better and I could handle it. Obviously that wasn’t the case.

I wasn’t putting my sobriety as my number one priority, I wanted to get my needs met. I sat in those meetings and I didn’t really listen, I was checking out the cute guys and if they paid attention to me it fed my ego and made me feel better about myself. I wanted that quick fix, just like booze gave me and I was looking to another person to fix me, instead of looking for a spiritual solution, I was going for a sexual one. Yet, I did it time and time again. The next time I tried romance instead of recovery, I dated another newcomer who was just as dazed and confused as I was and didn’t know any better. The relationship fizzled and I was devastated. I thought he was different, but he was sick, just like me and was also looking to another person to fix him and it just didn’t work.

The next time I decided I knew best was with a person who had five years in recovery and by all outward appearances, looked like a posterchild for working a perfect program.  Eight months later I found out that he might have had an addiction to alcohol but he also had one to prostitutes and he’d been paying for sex for years and all through our eight month relationship. I was shocked and terrified, got an Aids test and I drank until I got the results.

I’d finally had enough. I came back after that relapse and I decided that this time I was going to choose my sobriety over sex and put all of my efforts into my recovery. I was lucky, I got to come back after my relapses, some people don’t get that luxury, the next time any of us drinks could be the last. I wish I had listened when people told me not to date as a newcomer, but maybe I had to go through what I went through to realize that my priority had to be recovery not romance. I’m just thankful that I got to live long enough to find that out.

winner3If you are new to sobriety and in particular the rooms of recovery (Twelve-Step Meetings), you might hear people suggesting that as a newcomer, you should try to ‘stick with the winners’ and watch ‘what winners do.’ When I was in early recovery, I didn’t know what they were talking about, after all I felt like a total loser and I wondered who these ‘winners’ were and if they were so great, why were they in recovery? (I had a lot to learn.)

It wasn’t after too long, that I started to notice people who were always at the AA Club and at certain meetings I went to. I’d see them before the meeting, making coffee or greeting people as they came in the door. I’d see them sitting at a table with the big book open across from another person and reading together. I’d see them after the meeting, going up to people and introducing themselves and handing out their phone number. I’d see them raising their hands when the chairperson asked who was available to sponsor. I’d see them offering rides to people and laughing and chatting away on the porch before and after meetings.

One of these people was a man named Mark. I had 30 days in recovery when I met him and he had 3 years. That night, he gave me my 30 day sobriety chip. I went up to him after the meeting and asked if I could tag along to another meeting I’d heard him talk about. Without hesitation he said yes and we went to the meeting where he introduced me to a lot of people (mostly women). He told me that I should get a sponsor and that he knew a woman who could work with me. He told me to stick with the women and watch out for the men who asked me for my phone number or to meet for coffee as they might want something other than friendship.

Over the next few months Mark gave me a 60 day chip and a 90 day chip and I did all the things he suggested and unfortunately some that he didn’t. When I started dating in early recovery he warned me to be careful and suggested that I wait until I’d at least completed the steps. He told me that he’d been through the steps a few times and if I just did the work, he was certain that I’d experience the miracle too. I halfheartedly worked the steps but wholeheartedly continued my romance as Mark gave me a hug and my one year chip.

Six days after I celebrated that one year sobriety anniversary, the romantic relationship ended and my sobriety ended with it. Mark gave me a hug and a 24 hour chip. He called and sent texts to wish me good morning and asked me how I was. He invited me to cook outs, pot lucks, and dinner with the group after the AA meetings. He took me along to do service work with him. At six months clean and sober, he asked me to chair a meeting. A few months later at Christmas, I took my son to visit Santa (who also happened to be Mark) at our local AA club. Santa waved me over and asked me if I’d tell the kid’s that he had to run outside for a minute to feed the reindeer (while he went to the restroom) after which he resumed his usual spot handing out gifts and being cheery.

He talked about his sponsees and his own sponsor and how much it meant to him to be able to work with other people. After I reached another one year of sobriety, he told me about a woman he knew who needed a sponsor and he thought we’d be a good fit. We started working together and I was lucky enough to give her her 30 day chip. Six months ago Mark presented me with my two year chip and of course, his customary hug. The moment was not lost on me as I remembered ALL the chips he had given me in the past and all he had done for me. I was so grateful to know this person and have him in my life.

Monday, November 17th, 2008 is Mark’s SEVEN year sobriety anniversary and I have had the honor of knowing him for four of those years. To me, Mark epitomizes ‘What Winners Do’. Congratulations dear friend, you are truly an inspiration.

Someone asked me the other day, if I could give just three suggestions to the newcomer, what would they be? I immediately responded that I could come up with more than three and started to name them until I was thankfully reigned in by my friend. My friend was kind enough to point out that I obviously hadn’t completely listened to the question and therefore my ego was answering for me (OK Yoda, I get it).
Yoda
So just THREE things…

1. Go to one Twelve-Step meeting per day for the first 90 days of your sobriety.
2. Get a Sponsor to work with you.
3. Don’t become involved in a new intimate relationship in early sobriety -dating, sex, friends with privileges – whatever you want to call it – don’t do it! (at least for the first year)

Of course, I’m dying to say more than that, but there’s my three, if you’d like to read more suggestions for the first 30 days you can click here, otherwise I’d be interested to hear from other people with your three suggestions for the newcomer. (Yoda says “Do or do not… there is no try.”- which I took to mean that he’d like to hear from you too.)