Those who are fresh out of a halfway house or who have just moved from a sober living home and who are on their way to long-term sobriety may want the joy and comforts of being in a relationship – that’s clean. Perhaps they’re ready to start life over with someone special, someone who doesn’t have a history of addiction themselves.
But what do you do with the possible judgment of others who may not understand addiction? What do you do with those who immediately think that there is something wrong with someone who can’t say no to a drink? One woman put it this way:
Am I doomed to ever find the right person and to be loved as a recovering addict? Ever since I got clean my first time and especially now after my relapse I have always wondered if a can base a long life relationship with the addiction hanging over my head.
In a way, we are all looking for love. And perhaps that’s the only thing we are ever looking for. Put aside the basic needs for food, water, and shelter, once those are filled, we want love. Sure, we might seek for it in all sorts of places, even in places where you wouldn’t think love exists, like the dark corner of a bar, or among the neon lights in a dance club. We want love in order to feel that we have full, rich, and meaningful lives.
Certainly, there will be judgment from those who don’t understand addiction. Yet at the same time, there are others who have been through another form of addiction, whether that was overworking, overeating, or overindulging in sexual activities. Although they may have never had the experience of residing at a sober living home, they might know the pain of a self-harming cycle. Addiction has touched many lives in one form or another, and finding relationships in which both partners are compassionate about it is possible.
However, one danger of recovering addicts in relationships is the tendency to play out the old addiction like patterns that feed addiction in the first place. For instance, in relationships, the powerlessness and having an external locus of control often get played out. The belief in being powerless in life leads to a dysfunctional relying on the other person for things that one can and should do on their own, such as being financially stable. This underlying belief in being powerless seems to attract an enabler who in turn believes that no one else can perform a task as well as they can. Enablers tend to take control of a situation thinking that they are being helpful without seeing that it would be more healthy to allow the other person to do that task on his or her own.
Even though both parties are out of a sober living treatment program, the old dysfunctional relationship patterns can reveal themselves if each partner is not careful. For instance, relationships will usually have a pull between separateness and togetherness. Each person in the relationship with try to find a balance, albeit unconsciously, between wanting to separate and be an individual and wanting to relate more deeply with their partner. However, in co-dependent relationships there is frequently a need to merge to feel a sense of completeness and power through the other person.
The search for love is ongoing. However, slowly, in the process of recovery, there is a great turn of attention toward a love that exists inside. Instead of seeking for love in others, in drinking or in using, the only place where love can be found is reclaimed. That one place within that needed and continues to need love, although forgotten up until now, eventually becomes an abundant source of love, laughter, and joy.