Valentine’s Day is one of our oldest Western holidays, dating back to the 5th Century. Valentine was executed for performing the wrong marriages, subsequently declared a saint, and ever since we have associated his feast day with love, marriage and general togetherness.

We’re told “No relationships in the first year” and here it is, the Relationship Day, so I thought I’d discuss relationships in recovery.

  • We don’t know how to have healthy relationships with ourselves, so we certainly aren’t capable of having one with someone else
  • Nothing could possibly distract us more from our program of recovery
  • Relationships trigger the “I want, I want, I want” reflex that all addicts have in abundance
  • For most of us, it was so long since we had a relationship sober (if ever), that we may come to feel that we have to have drugs or alcohol in order to perform.

Lust is a powerful force. It’s intended to make us bond with another human being for purposes of procreation (that’s science, not religion), and as such there are few emotions more consuming. It’s supposed to distract us from just about everything except eating, sleeping and running away from loud noises in the bushes. It acts on our brains and bodies in the same regions and in the same way that drugs do: massive doses of dopamine and lots of “feel good” when we get what we want.

There is a reason that relationships are one of the primary causes of relapse: we are so driven that we can easily convince ourselves that “It won’t happen to me. I can have a relationship and we will recover together.” And we’re so used to having our way, convincing ourselves that it’s worth the price, that we do dumb things almost as a matter of habit. Recovery requires focus. It doesn’t need any more changes in brain chemistry than we’ve got already.

When we’re pursuing that particular pleasure, common sense takes a back seat — just as it does when we’re seeking our drugs of choice. People in early recovery can’t afford to be distracted, and can’t afford to let common sense out of the driver’s seat. If we can stay clean and sober, get our act together, and learn how to live a healthy life, we have a really good shot at someday having a healthy relationship as well.  Later.

Think about it: who would want to have a relationship with someone who’s as messed up as a person in early recovery?  How messed up would they have to be?  Besides, people change when they get clean. They change again while they’re recovering — often several times. Established relationships fall apart, often as not. The chances of a rehab relationship or a recovery romance working are vanishingly small. The question we need to be asking ourselves is not “Will this work,” but rather “Is getting laid worth my sobriety?”

That’s the bottom line, folks. Valentine’s Day or not.

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