Early Recovery Focus: Changing You, Not Changing Your Relationship Status

MarilynDavisatTIERSStarred Page By MarilynDavisatTIERS, 11th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1_wvyr6y/
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Recovery & Coping

Love, it's the only drug that feels like the first time, every time." ~ Marilyn Davis

If They Love You Now, What is the Point of Changing?

Early recovery is a vulnerable time; learning to live without drugs and alcohol can be stressful, overwhelming and confusing.

It is a time when you are attempting to change aspects of yourself that have caused you problems, learn additional coping strategies, and become the person you really want to be.

If you think about this logically, anyone that “falls in love” with you early in your recovery is getting involved with a person that you are trying to change.

Therefore, you would have to stay the same to sustain the relationship and that would be the exact opposite of what you are trying to accomplish in your recovery.

Blame Some of It on the Dopamine

Dopamine is the chemical that makes us feel good. We get this sensation from food, several drugs, sex and love. Some drugs of choice do not ever measure up to the first use. Although dopamine has several other functions, for this article I’m concentrating on how “Love always feels like the first time.”

Every time you talk to a person who you are in a new relationship with, you get a rise in chemical levels. It is easy to turn to this for a dopamine fix just like hitting the chocolate or sugary treats.

If people have recently given up drugs and are not experiencing as much dopamine, guess what will make a release of dopamine – you got it – a relationship, love, sex, and as one of my clients said, “When I feel good, I don’t have to think about anything being wrong with me.”

We Attract Those like Us in Life, Business and Recovery

People tend to choose partners who are at their same emotional maturity level, often with the same or similar amount of time in recovery, rather like the expression water seeks its own level.

It is also logical that who and what characteristics you find interesting, important or valuable early in your recovery, may not be the healthiest attributes in a partner. In early recovery, people often choose a partner similar to those they chose in their use; codependent, abusive, or someone who has not had enough time to work on themselves and may be interested only in a sexual partner, someone to “fix them”, or someone who needs to be needed to find worth in themselves.

Carrying Childhood Hurts, Neglect, Abandonment and Other Issues into Relationships

Second, only to relapse, the biggest mistake people in early recovery make is getting into relationships, or even marrying, before exploring past relationships.

Many people get into hasty relationships due to fear of abandonment or fear of being alone; issues that are often carryovers from childhood brought into adult relationships.

Drugs and alcohol masked the fearful feelings of abandonment and past hurts; they were a temporary painkiller. Getting into a relationship too early in your recovery can be just another painkiller.

Recovery deals with the pain, not covering it up. Using this opportunity of recovery to heal, mature, and become a healthier individual, can in turn, attract a mature, healthier partner and give you opportunities to have better outcomes in other aspects of your life.

Delay Dating To Determine What Is Good For You

Many people, men and women alike, equate someone wanting them, or saying “I love you”, with the illusion that they must be okay, after all, look how many people want them or say nice things to them.

The reality is that many people say things to facilitate their own agendas. It does not mean that you are not desirable, attractive, or sought-after. It simply means that there may be other agendas in place, often without your awareness in early recovery.

People also create the illusion that this time it will be different without examining the underlying patterns of their previous relationships.

But He Is Tall Dark and Handsome

Simply because this time he is tall, dark and handsome, as opposed to short, pale, and moderately attractive does not mean that the individuals are fundamentally different at their core.

People in early recovery will tend to gravitate to what is comfortable, therefore, they will repeat the patterns established, until they evaluate those patterns and determine if they are healthy for them in their recovery.

A Relationship Established Too Soon Can Be Just As Harmful To the Other Person

Just as you are discovering things about yourself that you would like to change, potential partners in early recovery are going through their own changes. They may be just as overwhelmed or saddened by their previous behaviors, or depressed and distant as they struggle to make sense of their addictions and their recovery.

It can be a time that codependency factors for one or both of you. What you perceive as distant may simply be someone struggling to make sense of feelings that they are having without the benefit of drugs and alcohol to numb them, or someone who grew up in a family where feelings were not discussed and they have not been in recovery long enough to know it is okay to discuss feelings.

Abuse, Neglect, and Abandonment Issues Can Reappear Without Notice

Loved ones violated many individuals. Without coming to terms with these abuses, current partners have no idea of the potential reactions that have nothing to do with them.

For example, a woman’s father sexually abused her. He was a mechanic who cleaned his grimy hands with a strong cleaner followed by rinsing his hands in water that contained bleach.

This woman did not take the time to find any closure for her sexual abuse, become aware of triggers, or know how to discuss what had happened to her, but thought that by being in recovery, finding someone who loved her, she could “just get over it.”

Getting involved and marrying her husband, when they both had six months in recovery, was a huge risk for both of them.

Her husband would finish cleaning his hands with a bleach solution, as he was an artist. May sound extreme, but for him that worked; yet the lingering smell of bleach brought back memories of sexual exploitation by this woman's father.

Without discussion, education and understanding about this trigger, there would not have been a way to correlate this association and to help this couple. As we discussed this, we concluded that the immediate remedy was to find another method for cleaning.

However, talking about this issue brought up awareness of other associations and triggers and she was able to articulate them. Her husband understood them and was receptive to an approach called “permission-based intimacy.”

Unresolved Past Issues Harm Current Relationships

Yet when this couple initially sought counsel, they were on the verge of divorce. Both acknowledged that they did not take enough time to work on themselves, resolve issues and grow in their own recovery before marrying.

Their decision to live apart, each with their respective parents, go to couple’s counseling, as well as individual counseling, and have a date night twice a week was their collective solution.

Today they have been together for over 25 years, each without a relapse.

Their Cautionary Advice

Each cautions people in groups and recovery support meetings to work on themselves before they enter into a relationship and have firsthand knowledge of the pitfalls of getting together too soon.

They further caution people that even if the love is there, the issues need to be resolved first, not worked on while involved or living together.

Allow Enough Time to Heal

A thorough exploration of your past relationships, starting with your parents, any siblings, and other relatives can help you determine your early patterns.

Exploring your relationships in high school and college give you more insight, as well as looking at adult relationships.

Learning to Love You: Evaluate Your Choices

When you take the time to evaluate what you really want in a relationship, you are beginning to value yourself more. When you explore the traits that you do not want in a relationship, you are establishing criteria for a more healthy relationship.

Without taking this time to heal from past painful experiences in relationships, people will sometimes recreate the same types of patterns “hoping it’s different this time.”

Taking your first year to learn:

• What Is Important To You?
• What Do You Value?
• What Would Be Nice To Have In A Relationship?

Taking that first year to grow into the person that you want to be is going to be easier and less stressful if you do not try to create a relationship while working towards being the best you that you can be.

Identifying the aspects of a partner that you Need, Want and Would Like to Have, can help you categorize your priorities.

Just as these as going to be qualities that you want in a relationship, typically, they are going to be the very same qualities that you can aspire to now that you are in recovery

Updating your Table as Your Priorities Change

Making a simple table using three columns can help you clarify what you are looking for in a relationship.

Updating this every three months as you are changing and growing can show you how your own values and needs are maturing and your priorities shifting as you work on you, examining your underlying issues and childhood beliefs and messages, and become stronger in your recovery.


Changing You, Changing You In Recovery, Childhood Issues In Relationships, Early Recovery Focus, Not Your Relationship Status, Old Patterns In New Relationships, Relationships In Early Recovery

Meet the author

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
A Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist, with 25 years of abstinence-based recovery. I write about addictions, recovery, life lessons and general writing tips.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


author avatar Phyl Campbell
11th Oct 2013 (#)

Wow. A lot of good information again. Well deserved star.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
11th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Phyl. Thanks for the kind comment. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
11th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Mark. Thanks for moderating and the Star. I appreciate it. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar cnwriter..carolina
11th Oct 2013 (#)

well if they cannot love you as you are just walk away...deser-ved star...

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
12th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Carolina. Thanks for reading and commenting. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar Connie McKinney
12th Oct 2013 (#)

Marilyn, you explored some excellent points as usual. People do tend to make the same mistakes over and over again. They need to be able to break the pattern.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
12th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Connie. See we are both up late. Which is a pattern I need to break! Thanks for the comment. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar C.D. Moore
12th Oct 2013 (#)

So much wisdom, masterfully presented.

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
12th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Afternoon, C.D. Thank you for your kind words; I am smiling as I write this. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
14th Oct 2013 (#)

Interesting post!

Reply to this comment

author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
14th Oct 2013 (#)

Good Morning, Fern. I appreciate all the comments, on this article and the others. ~Marilyn

Reply to this comment

Add a comment
Can't login?