One 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.