Being in an intimate relationship in sobriety is difficult to say the least. Relationships are like steroids for my character defects; they cause them to grow more powerful than I imagined possible. From jealousy to control issues, my need to be right to my need to know everything, my character defects really come to light in relationships. However, being in a relationship has taught me a lot, and my growth has been great.
Keys to My Healthy Relationship
With my character defects glaring me in the face in this relationship, I have found several important keys to keeping the relationship strong and healthy. As with the rest of my recovery, I must remain vigilante with myself in order to sustain this healthy relationship.
The first, and most important, tool in my healthy relationship is communication. Communication is an absolutely indispensable tool in my relationship. Obviously, this applies in the sense of not lying, straightforward nor by omission. However, communicating goes much further than telling the truth.
In order to maintain a healthy relationship, communication must go both ways. I must walk through my (often irrational) fears, and be able to communicate how I feel. Remaining considerate of her feelings, I tell her how I feel, whether I am upset (with her or not), happy, anxious, or dealing with something. She is not my sponsor, nor is she my Higher Power. However, she is an integral part of my support network. Furthermore, when I hold things in too much, it closes off my heart to her. As my heart fills with fear and resentment, my capacity to love is diminished. As I become able to tell her how I feel and what is going on with me, it frees my heart up to be filled with love. It is not always easy, as fears of being judged, not being enough, and driving her away do arise. However, I consistently walk through these fears, and each time the fears are easier to overcome.
Also, I must be open to communication from her end. As important as talking is to communication, so is listening. When she speaks to me, whether it is a casual conversation or something more serious, I make a diligent effort to listen mindfully. My reactions are not always compassionate and loving, and it is something I am consciously working on. I find that as I listen with more mindfulness, I am able to respond with more compassion rather than reacting with fear. When I react with fear, I am not encouraging a safe, open environment. Just as I go through fears sharing my feelings, so does she. It is not within my control whether or not she will be open and honest with me, but it is within my control to encourage a safe space to nurture the love rather than the fear.
Step Ten of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us to promptly admit when we are wrong. This is a huge part of a healthy relationship for me. I make mistakes, I hurt myself, and I hurt her. Never once have I done so on purpose, but it simply happens. When it does happen, regardless of my intentions, I absolutely must promptly make amends. If I am not able to admit when I am wrong, the behavior is not likely to change, and I will continue to hurt her. Selfishness is at the root of our disease, and I must be vigilante with my character defects.
This is something that we hear a lot in regards to relationships in sobriety. My loved one and I must keep our sobriety number one in our own lives, independently of each other. I cannot make her my Higher Power, my sponsor, nor put her above my sobriety and my program. This being said, I don't have to ignore her in order to work my program. I find time to meet with my sponsor, sponsees, friends, and go to meetings on my own. I have a different perception of a Higher Power than her, I have a sponsor that works differently than hers, and I don't enjoy all the same meetings as she.
Keeping our programs separate, we are able to grow together. Something different works for everyone, and I must constantly remind myself that. We go to meetings together, we meditate together constantly, and we have many talks about our spiritual work. However, there are certain things that are different, and we recognize these things. It is one of the most beautiful things about both Twelve Step programs and Buddhism: to be able to have our own experiences and find our own truths. As we work on ourselves, we are becoming more and more human each day. Capable of loving, compassionate, insightful, and accepting, we are able to grow closer together.
These are just three big things that come to mind when I think of my first healthy relationship I have ever had in my life. With all the defects popping up of mine, it can be overwhelming at times. However, we always have a support network to get us through things, give us advice, and share experiences with us.