Many things have been written and said about romantic relationships in early recovery. Considering most of us have a poor track record with romantic partnerships throughout our drinking and using, it makes sense that some people in early recovery feel overwhelmed by any level of intimacy. Others are eager to jump back into the game after the years of isolation and loneliness that alcoholism inflicts. Many of us may have survived trauma at the hands of our partners and once sober, become adverse to the issue entirely. Some might abuse physical intimacy as “another form of alcohol” to the point where we must seek outside help or a specific fellowship for it. Being 12-Step based, we do not wish to be the “arbiters of anyone’s sexual conduct” as it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.
In the case of romance, we alcoholics are simply suggested to do a thorough inventory, to look at our conduct in regards to intimate relationships. We are aiming to find our patterns and identify the kind of partner we have been in the past. If done correctly, it is not usually a pleasant thing to review. Yet, thoroughness and honesty will pay off in a big way once you have a fair appraisal of how things are. We are given the opportunity to make amends to those old romantic partners, as long as our doing so will not injure them further. Empowered with these experiences, we then get to create an ideal for our future romantic life.
I’ve had sponsors instruct me to write down all the traits of who I imagine to be the “perfect” partner. Then I get to live up to it, with God’s help of course. After I first got sober, I caused wreckage in my romantic relationships for years before I learned how to be in a true partnership. Now I’m able to use those experiences to help other AAs struggling in romance. Continuing to take spiritual action throughout my recovery has allowed me to shape myself into my ideal. Now, I can look back and see my capacity for love and intimacy is wildly different than it was 7 years ago. I can’t imagine what the next decade or so will bring.
I once heard an old-timer tell a newcomer “the man of your dreams doesn’t want you yet”. While this may sound harsh, the truth is that most of us are not ideal people when we walk into the rooms. I wasn’t. When we are given the blessing of someone else’s love, we are often too scared to fully repay it without strings or expectations. Even years into sobriety, this is often our most vexing issue. Yet as is true for all of life’s dilemmas, the best answers and gifts come after taking spiritual action.