Posts Tagged ‘relationships in early sobriety’


sponsor1When I became a Sponsor, I was so excited and ready to work with another alcoholic or addict, I was going to make a difference – sprinkling my experience, strength and hope around like fairy dust. Taking all the newcomers under my big Fairy Godmother wings and protecting them from relapse and early recovery jitters.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before I fell off my pink cloud and plummeted down to earth for a dose of reality. Being a Sponsor is hard! Actually, I’ve come to realize that it’s accepting that I can’t make people do what I want that’s the hard part. I’ve spent many a day wondering why my Sponsee doesn’t do what I have suggested, surely my story of what it was like for me was convincing enough! After all, I was a hopeless drunk, I always relapsed, NOTHING worked for me until I finally lit a fire under my ass, got a Sponsor and worked on the 12 Steps.  Wasn’t my story of redemption enough to light a fire under someone else’s ass too? Apparently not.

After talking it through with my own Sponsor, I have to remember back to when I was the one who was indifferent and not quite sure if I was ready for sobriety.  I went through about four different Sponsors before I got desperate enough to start listening and taking suggestions. Before that I’d sit there telling people what I thought they wanted to hear, all the while thinking to myself, what a croc! My gnat-like attention span would only get it together long enough if the conversation was about me and how bad my life was, I didn’t want to hear about their story – b-o-r-i-n-g!

I continued this way until I was completely ruined, physically, mentally and spiritually, that’s when I finally admitted defeat, surrendered to the process and made a choice to complete the 12 Steps. Until I was ready to do that, nothing anyone said or suggested was going to make a blind bit of difference to me and that’s what I have to remember when a Sponsee hasn’t called in three weeks, is balking at the 4th Step or is too busy dating the hottie from the 8pm meeting. That’s when I realize I was like that too and just because I want someone to want this – doesn’t mean they’ll want it! All I can do is move on, hope they come back and continue trying to be of service to the people who do.



 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.