Relationships in recovery can be destructive

Pat Kempfer, Copy Editor

I have found a home in the recovery community of the Madison area. The reason I appreciate this particular community of people is because they were elemental in saving my life from the destructive patterns of drug use, and my own self-destructive tendencies in an overall sense. They have played a key role in helping me return to the world and have helped to teach me how to live in it. I have often said that it was going to jail and then rehab that saved my life, but it is the recovery community that keeps me alive and teaches me how to live life on life’s terms.

There are those who do not necessarily go looking for relationships, but when a charming smile greets them as they walk through the doors of a meeting, they unwittingly start the process of inevitable failure. So many people who are new to the recovery, and even some who are not, lose their senses by way of seeking out relationships.

What I mean is, a failing of a successful recovering life. I see it all too often! Some poor soul comes into the rooms of recovery, full of fear and desperate for comfort, and looking for someone to walk them through the basics of recovery. We are of course social animals, however, our instincts are not always so keen.

To take you through a quick tutorial of the natural progression of events that usually transpire in just such a situation. I’d like you to imagine yourself as someone who has lost all the seemingly important things in your life: your marriage, your house, the custody of your children, and the career you worked so hard to achieve. I’d like you to dig a little deeper now, to where you see your dignity and self-respect disappear before your eyes. You watch closely as your whole world crumbles at your feet, and there you stand, completely helpless, hopeless, and paralyzed by fear of the unknown.

Some recovering people may have lost count of all the failed attempts at love and commitment while in active addiction. What they may need to realize is that they not only used drugs, but also other people, perhaps as a way of ignoring the responsibility of becoming a whole person.

Some people will do anything to take their minds off of their pain. Well, when the drugs are no longer in the picture and your only remaining pain is staring you in the eyes every morning as you wash your face, maybe another face to look at isn’t exactly the worst thing a person could think of to remedy that pain.

But the many sick displays of destructive behavior that emerge after that person has stopped using drugs are astounding. Some will choose a new lover over their children. Others will pursue a relationship with a person who cannot, or will not, commit themselves to staying clean. Some will try to revisit their former toxic relationships. All of these are blatantly destructive behaviors, and often committed by people free from the biological encasement of actual drug use.

Nevertheless, I understand how loneliness feels; that sad feeling that no one cares whether you live or die, even you, but I have also learned that the first relationship I should invest in is one with myself. After all the years spent denying my every memory, the last thing on my mind when I entered the recovery community was a relationship with me! I had made a mess of my life, and I was the last person I was I interested in getting to know better, so it almost seemed natural, if not logical, to warm up to someone sicker than myself.  But recovery isn’t just about stopping usage; it also involves changing behavior to prevent damaging behavior patterns from resurfacing. Inserting another person into the situation, before the healing is complete, can have negative consequences for all involved.

Read Pat’s column, Recovery Happens, in the next issue to learn how to avoid repeating some old mistakes in new relationships in recovery.