Friday, July 30, 2010

"Hope For A Healthy Relationship"

I had coffee yesterday with a friend from the program. It had been a while since we sat down together and it was good to see her. I had an amends to make to her, which happened very naturally in the course of the conversation. The two of us used to be much closer than we are now, but I had said some things to her in the past that were insensitive, hurtful. We'd once had a close friendship, and I'd taken that for granted. We are still friendly to each other, still care about each other, but because of my actions we are no longer as close as we once were.

This is okay. All relationships are constantly changing. And the important thing is that I admitted my wrongs and faced up to the harm I had done. Some might call this a minor amends, but I believe there is no such thing as a minor amends. I doubt she feels that way. Anyone to whom we have harmed in any way, when we admit our wrongdoing to them face to face, it's a big deal.

We talked a lot, too, about how our lives are going these days. I'm actually very excited for her because she's engaged now. I remember many conversations between the two of us, earlier in my recovery, discussing romantic relationships. She's probably the first person I heard say that relationships are the last frontier for people like us. Whether it's because of our inexperience dealing with emotions, our knee-jerk reaction to be self-serving, our knack for making really bad choices, or all of the above, relationships are just plain tough. They're tough for everyone, of course, but those of us with this disease have some added challenges that can make it feel impossible. Even with years of Recovery under our belts.

I've made my share of bad choices in the past, when it comes to relationship partners. I've been with some seriously mentally unhealthy, toxic women. I've stayed in bad relationships far longer than I should have, mostly out of fear. Fear of the unknown, fear that I'd always be alone. I've had to learn that I am worth having someone good for me in my life. I've had to learn, too, that I am responsible for my choices and that if I pick an unhealthy (or totally insane) woman to be with, that is a choice I have made.

There have been times where I felt so low, was so full of fear, and so wracked by insecurity that I was willing to accept affection from anyone. Loneliness and isolation feed on each other, and thinking no one could ever love you is a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've been with and stayed with women who treated me in a way that no one should ever be treated, and I stayed with them because I didn't think I deserved to be treated any better. Some people will have a hard time trying to imagine feeling like that, being in that place. Others will know all too well what I'm talking about.

In Recovery, we talk about 'peeling the onion' and getting to deeper layers of ourselves. We can address deep-rooted issues we might not have even known were there, and we can find the courage to work on issues we have never before been willing to admit to ourselves needed work. For myself, that has meant analyzing my past relationships and discovering what an enormous role my own low self-esteem played in the choices I made in the past.

Identifying that character defect, that negative egotism, and giving it up to God has been a huge change for me. I can see the difference in the way I handle myself now, too. I'm better able to recognize when things aren't working, and able to let go of it much more quickly. I don't have a need anymore to make something work. It either does or it doesn't. Seeing my friend engaged gives me hope that it is possible for me to have a healthy relationship. And I have faith, too, that if I keep on doing my part--be honest, be a man of integrity--the rest will take care of itself. You could even say that I've filed the entire relationship issue under 'things God does for us that we can't do for oursleves'.

I don't really write much here about my dating. It doesn't seem appropriate, somehow. But I will say this: if it weren't for my Recovery, if I wasn't sober and working a program, it wouldn't be possible.

We learn so much by working the program. We learn how to make better choices. We learn to ask for help, how to ask for advice, and we become capable of following it. We see others doing well in their lives and discover a hope that maybe--just maybe--things can go well for us, too.

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