Relationships in recovery can be pretty complicated.
First, early recovery is fraught with its own treacherous terrain. Add to that a highly emotionally charged relationship and one or two emotionally unprepared people and we have a recipe for trouble. It’s common practice for recovery groups to suggest a one-year moratorium on intimate relationships until the recovery has stabilized. That sure makes sense to me – get the boat to stop rocking before we enter the regatta.
There’s plenty of work to do in the first year of sobriety, and establishing new patterns of relating is one of them. To expect to stay sober and to do the same things, to think the same way, would be unlikely.
Randy was sober for 18 months and had a relapse. He drank periodically again for six months, and then with encouragement from his girlfriend re-entered AA and was working diligently on his sobriety. In the past, his girlfriend, who used to attend AA but “didn’t need it anymore,” was Randy’s primary source of support. In fact, he would say she became his higher power. Randy’s girlfriend would accuse him of drinking or using drugs and at the same time encourage him to take prescription medication. She alleged she didn’t need alcohol or drugs but would occasionally sneak a drink or two and had started stealing drugs from work. Randy felt consistently guilty about his previous relapse history, and his girlfriend kept her activities secret partly by keeping Randy on his heels through questioning, blaming him and implying he was weak.
Randy was confused and hurt. He knew he was trying his best to recover but didn’t yet trust himself because of previous relapses. His feet weren’t firmly planted, and his girlfriend was talking serenity and practicing chaos. Randy wasn’t ready for an intimate relationship. He hadn’t established his own recovery parameters. He didn’t know who he was and what his own life needed to look like, and he was allowing himself to be shaped by a person who was not well herself. This wasn’t the first time Randy had made these kinds of choices.
As hard as it was for him, he separated from his girlfriend and found a small place of his own. He found this very scary at first but stayed close to his sponsor and to his AA meetings. He would tell you today that this decision probably kept him sober and may have saved his life.