Even before I began to use drugs and alcohol, I’m not sure I ever really understood what a healthy relationship was. Of course I had developed dependencies on other people before I developed a dependency on drugs, so I was often caught up in dramatic and emotionally abusive relationships. I've since learned that I share this experience with many other addicts. During active addiction, we either close ourselves off so nobody can get close enough to care for us, or we allow ourselves to get involved with people who truly don’t care for our best interests.
Of course, the rule of thumb in any sober recovery program is to avoid relationships until after your first year of sobriety. Once you have cleared the one year mark, taking a step into the dating world can be scarier than you remember. But, knowing how to have a healthy relationship in sober recovery can keep you happy and keep you sober.
Here are 3 tips to help you find and nurture a healthy relationship:
1. Understand and Avoid Dependency
Co-dependency was once strictly defined as a person in a relationship with someone who is dependent on drugs or alcohol. As we move away from our dependency on drugs and alcohol during recovery, it is easy to get caught up and become dependent on something else. The first time I got sober, I found myself in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship with someone who clearly did not have my best interests in mind. Month after month, I subjected myself to mistreatment because I was unfamiliar with what a healthy relationship was like. Once in a while my partner would say or do things to make me feel good, and I would use that as an excuse to stay with him. In a way, I felt that if I lost the relationship I would have nothing left because it was the only positive thing in my life. This was flawed thinking and, sure enough, I wound up back on the streets using drugs again and my partner left.
If your significant other is present in your life and cares for you, it’s important not to solely depend on them for your happiness. Dependency on another person can drive a partner away because it can be overwhelming for them to be overly concerned with you.
2. Learn to Self-Nurture
Self-nurturing is a crucial tool to learn before choosing to enter into a healthy relationship in which you do not become overly-dependent your partner. Taking care of yourself is the number one priority in your life because, as we know, nobody can love you if you can’t love yourself. Teaching yourself ways to deal with your emotions, and doing activities that give you time for yourself are great ways to ensure you will enter a relationship where both parties are giving and receiving equally. When you finally develop a healthy relationship with a person who is a positive influence for you, self nurturing is a tool that can help you and your partner maintain a healthy life. It’s okay to care for other people, but caring for yourself should be number one on your list. Caring for yourself can involve a number of activities you do just for you, including:
- Watching your favorite television show or movie
- Working out, riding a bicycle or going for a run
- Visiting your favorite location – the park or the zoo
- Shopping--"retail therapy" can be fun, if the money is available
- Hanging out with close friends to vent or share stories--in safe and healthy environments
Any activity that makes you feel good about yourself is self nurturing and can help you work through problems or issues without relying on your partner to make you feel better.
3. Develop and Use Clear Communication
Clear communication is important in all relationships, whether they are romantic or platonic. If you are clear in the things you want and the choices you make, this can save you from future fights, disagreements and problems. Fights often occur between partners because of miscommunication or a minor misunderstanding. The way you say and do things is communication in itself; you cannot expect the results you want if you are not clear in your instructions. While in relationships we encounter financial and everyday problems, but when you clarify your needs and wants with your spouse or partner, it can save you from a disagreement over these issues.
The road to staying sober has many bumps along the way, but a relationship shouldn’t be one of them. Maintaining a healthy bond with someone can be positive for your sobriety as well as for your self esteem.