Last week, Feeling Adolescent wondered how many steps to take with a flirty fellow recoverer. BG and BR basically said, “Who-hoo!” But a reader named Christine stepped in to say, “Whoa!”
There most certainly is a “rule” about dating in the first year of recovery in 12-Step programs, and for a good reason. It leads to big emotional upheavals that dramatically increase the chances of “relapse,” or the return to the use of drugs and alcohol. The suggestion that a woman with only two months of clean time from drugs should get involved or pursue a romantic relationship is seriously in error.
I’ve been sober a modest eight years, but in that time I have known a number of people to drink or use drugs over “relationship” issues. The consequences of that happening are much greater than most people realize. A number of people close to me have died from heroin overdoses or having shot themselves while in a blackout. I will see that again, I’m sure. Recovery for an alcoholic/addict is really life or death, not a romantic puzzle. A relapse for an alcoholic or addict has greater consequences than is often portrayed on TV. It isn’t just “falling off of the horse and getting back in the saddle again,” a characterization I saw on that show “JAG” about military lawyers. Many never come back to recovery, or they try and never get more than a short period of sobriety again. I have seen this time and again.
I’ve known people who, after years in AA, froze to death on the streets of DC, across the street from the White House! Make no mistake, it could happen to your reader. And her sobriety is not the only one at risk. Many times, the person with longer sobriety who has a relationship with a newcomer also drinks.
There is a mechanism in 12 step programs called “sponsorship.” People can get help and emotional support from someone with more recovery experience and emotional stability. It has been my observation that newcomers (people with less than a year of continuous sobriety) are especially needy and vulnerable. The reaction/temptation is to attach to someone else as a distraction. Often it is a sadrepetition of previous poor relationship patterns. I seem to recall something you wrote about a new insight into oneself does not necessarily mean everything will be better with the next one. [See Duderino Rides Again.] You can double that for early recovery.
It never seems that way, though. I remember what it was like. Suddenly I didn’t have a hangover every day and I started to notice flowers and sunny days. Why not the sunny days of my heart? Can’t that awaken now, too? Yes. Just not yet. A little more time. It’s tough to see now, but severe damage has been done mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. We keep ourselves from really seeing how bad it got for a couple of years. So waiting a year is the least she can do. Thank you.
BG responds: Thank YOU, Christine. Our bad. So many people have trouble finding a natural buzz with someone in the first place, you see, we just get a little excited when someone actually does. So, FA, you may not be able to shut down your feelings entirely (nor he his). But yes, looks like you should discuss them with a sponsor to find out where to put them — if anywhere — ’til, oh, November 1999 at least. And let’s hope that the promise of “reawakening the sunny days of your hearts,” clean and sober, with him or whomever, helps all of you stay strong and well.
This comment originally appeared November 9, 1998.