I am over 17 years sober and have been with my husband for 11 years. I cannot emphasize how astounding it is for me to write those words. Because whilst drinking, my relationship history was a spectacular disaster. I really wasn’t capable of a healthy relationship until I got sober, and even then it took a bit of work.
Relationships don’t come easily to a lot of people, but it’s even harder for people who drink. Add some alcohol abuse to a relationship and stand back and wait for the explosion.
Dating and drinking
For me, relationships and alcohol were inextricably linked. I drank so I could meet ‘someone.’ I drank to get over being dumped; I drank because I was scared of being alone. I always drank the first time I slept with someone. I drank on all of my dates. I drank because I had no idea how to have a relationship sober.
My relationships whilst drinking were complete and utter disasters. In hindsight, all of my relationships were based on my misguided belief that the right person would ‘fix me’. If I had the right relationship, the right man, then everything would be perfect.
I was still focusing on external fixes at this point and it really didn’t cross my mind that I was an insecure, manipulative, dishonest, frightened, needy, shallow, unmanageable, screwed-up mess, and that no right minded, decent, emotionally intelligent man would come within a hundred paces of me.
Instead of attracting the right man, I attracted a lot of wrong men. Because you see, emotionally healthy people are just not attracted to the kind of person I was. Unhealthy men, however, found me very attractive and I had endless pointless, insincere relationships, because frankly it was better than being on my own.
Relationships as a ‘fix’
However, a relationship is never going to work when two love-starved and needy individuals demand the other person ‘fix them’. I just had nothing to give.
As I wasn’t capable of having a healthy functioning relationship, I took ‘hostages’. I grabbed on to someone and didn’t let go, no matter what I thought or felt. I was just desperate not to be alone. I ‘engineered’ all of my relationships. I was controlling and manipulative. Some of the men I had relationships with I cared for, but the truth was that they were never based on love. They were based on fear.
• not being loved
• being ‘left on the shelf’.
And once in the relationship, the fear was of:
• not being good enough,
• being rejected,
• having them discover who I really was.
I used sex to get love and attracted men who used love to get sex.
Relationships in recovery can be equally hazardous because without the security blanket of alcohol we are laid bare. We are exposed and we are most definitely frightened as hell. Romantic relationships key into our deepest fears of not being worthy of love. We are frightened of the other person getting too close, seeing who we really are and rejecting us, thus confirming what we believed in the first place – a faulty belief, by the way. So from the start we are unconsciously pushing the other person away and acting on this faulty belief and, in this way, we create this as our experience again and again. And thus the faulty belief is reinforced.
It’s the constant illusion that love from another person will make all the bad stuff go away. But the truth is that when you don’t love yourself, or even like yourself, it’s impossible to receive love from another person. We either destroy that love under the weight of our insecurities and fear, or we settle for second best because we are so scared of rejection or being alone, or worse, because we believe we don’t deserve better. If we indulge in those feelings for too long then we will eventually drink again, because we use alcohol as an anesthetic.
A new love
But there is a way out of this pattern. And God knows if I can do it you can too. The first step is to have a close look at your patterns. Look at where you make decisions based on fear instead of love. Then acknowledge your fears. Your fears limit you. Pick them apart, bit by bit. It’s a process and it’s hard work but I’ve seen lots of people break these chains. If you can practice self-honesty. Then you are on the road.
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