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I Now Pronounce You Addict(s) and Wife

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There's no "one size fits all" when it comes to recovery and romance.

Most recovering addicts are told to avoid romantic relationships for at least the first year in recovery. For someone emotionally bankrupt from addiction, that can sound like a death sentence. Shoot me now. I want to feel love, dream again, leave the past behind.

Recovery, however, is about getting real. Getting honest. Facing demons. Self-discovery. Accountability. Healing. Forgiveness. Change.

These aren't things you can get from a drive-thru menu; they are slow-cooked, gut-wrenching, not-for-the-faint-of-heart lifetime commitments. Conversion takes work. Relationships take work. And no relationship succeeds if those in it don't know themselves and what they have to offer (both the good and the bad) another person.

Recovery takes time and energy. Relationships take time and energy. A recovering addict’s first job is to break the chains of physical addiction, and healing past relationships and addictive behaviors. Starting a relationship too early will likely add to the pile of shit that already needs to be excavated.

An article on the 12 Keys Rehab site does an excellent job of laying out the precautions and need-to-know pointers for recovering addicts and relationships -- from the obvious to the tough-to-swallow.

A relationship is about everyone in it -- not just you, the addict. That may sound like a no-brainer, but until recovery, your life was about your relationship with your addiction. That trumped everything and everyone.

By starting a romantic relationship, you now have a commitment to someone else who, likely also has behaviors and tendencies that fuel the addictive dynamic. Co-dependence is a shoe that fits perfectly on the barefoot addict who desperately wants to feel worth loving...and the caregiver who has tons of fix-it love to give.

Imagine, now, what happens to that relationship when the addict comes as a package deal with a second addict: his child.

Shit!

I’d challenge you to find a shrink, counselor, or clergyman who wouldn’t shake their head at the future prospects of that budding romance

But that's the package I presented to the woman I am now proud to call my wife

The beginning of our relationship, as you might imagine, was drenched in unhealthy motivators from both sides. There was my addiction, her challenges with co-dependence and caretaking, and my daughter’s addiction. Any smart gambler would wager against that trifecta. 

A fragile and risky start-up, to be sure; but somehow we committed ourselves not only to our individual recoveries, but to the reframing of these risk factors into our greatest gifts. 

Addictions aside, my now wife viewed it as an opportunity to deliver her gifts of compassion, patience, and love -- spiritual gifts that are essential for living with someone who has to continually work on his recovery. Fortunately she had plenty in her tank, because it took all of her resources. 

Don't get me wrong -- we have had some major hurdles to clear; but when you have to jump high to keep from crashing, you get used to rising above, and the fear of the leap gradually morphs into serenity and confidence. We knew what  we wanted and why, and left it to God to deliver the how. 

In hindsight, my wife says her clarity on her love for me allowed her to focus only on what she could give to the relationship. As a caretaker in the beginning, this fulfilled her need. As a healthy woman today, she sees that God had other plans, and the gifts reciprocated are exponentially greater than anything she gave. 

The relationship that we have, however, would never survive if we weren't both committed to the demands of recovery and self-care. That means constantly working to know ourselves better so that we can know and love each other more fully and compassionately. 

It also means having resources in place to help us when we come up against our addictive triggers and are tempted to abandon our personal and collective recovery. 

I mentioned in a previous blog that the greatest help I can give my daughter as she navigates her own addiction is to stay committed to my own health. I now have two powerful reasons to honor that commitment. 

Despite the precautionary advice about dating an addict and addicts dating, there are incredible, powerful gifts that can come from such a relationship. Because addicts in recovery have to commit to so much introspective work, they are more inclined to bring greater insight and clearer communication to a relationship. 

Braving the reality that love does not conquer all can make it easier to remember that love isn't just what you feel, it's what you do. 

Rock on!

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