By Claire Rubio
Romantic relationships can be a great source of happiness in recovery, however, they can also be the cause of great pain. I had to learn that it is not smart to jump into a new relationship early in recovery. At the beginning of my recovery journey I was a single mom, with three beautiful children, going through a divorce. This was a difficult time in my life and the thought of going through it alone was unsettling.
It was strongly advised that I remain focused on myself until my recovery was secure and focus on learning who I truly was. I needed to love myself before I could learn to love another. Once I settled in to my new life, then I could then begin to consider sharing it with somebody else. Unfortunately, this advice was not initially heeded. I was told it was not a good idea to be in a relationship during the first year of my recovery, however, my addictive thinking ended up justifying the idea of “friends with benefits”.
I found myself using someone and switched addictions. I was less than six months clean and sober and found out I was pregnant with another child. With three children already, fresh into recovery, and going through a divorce, I could not fathom having another child to raise. I tried a relationship and soon found the father was in active addiction. The relationship ended before it ever began. I did not give myself time to heal or grow. I had no idea who I was and how to take care of myself and my new baby.
I came to realize where I was at that time was unhealthy. I was seeking someone at my same level and found an even unhealthier person. I read somewhere that relationships are like water. “Water seeks its own level”, simply means that quality people of integrity find other quality people of integrity and vice versa. Although it took me getting pregnant, I finally learned to give myself the time to grow.
I chose a different route for myself and realized it was my time to heal and grow; I was finally ready to be open and teachable in my recovery journey. This was my turning point. Suddenly, I was faced with so many questions about myself. It was more than just relationships with other people, this was about the relationship I had with myself. Until this point in my life, I felt like I was defined by the people I surrounded myself by. I had come to realize that I did not have a clue as to who I was as a person. What where my values? Did I value myself or even like myself? What was my purpose? What did I want to get out of my recovery? I finally learned that I had to recover for me. It wasn’t for my family, my friends and loves ones, or even my children. I realized it was for me. Everything else was just a gift of my recovery. I learned to get out of my own way and take suggestions. I had to stumble to learn that I was worth more than just a casual hook up. I was worth love, companionship, and respect; not necessarily from another person, but from myself.
I needed to get to know myself better before I could choose a partner fit for me. It was a drastic realization and change not to replace my addiction of drugs and alcohol to companionship. I needed to take time to focus on myself and figure out who I was before being able to have a healthy relationship with anyone else. Instead of giving myself a time limit to when I felt I could begin another relationship, I allowed my recovery to take charge. For this to happen, I began to make profound changes: I cut my hair, changed my daily routines, and I even started dressing differently. I started making new, healthy friends. Learning about boundaries were a big step and I eventually learned that having personal boundaries was important. I realized I did have values. My self-esteem was developing, and I finally knew I was worth giving love and, more importantly, being loved.
This process took time. After a year hit, I made an agreement with myself: I was going to build a better relationship with my children. I was ready to focus on being a mother. Almost as soon as I made this dismission, a good friend introduced me to someone. At this point, I was comfortable with being single and okay with just being a mom, sister, and friend. Romance was the furthest thing from my mind. I got to know this man as just a friend, and kept that boundary. We talked about everything together. We went everywhere together. We built a relationship based on who we are on the inside. Our relationship was not based on sex or lust, drugs or alcohol, or superficial things. This took years to find, years of being patient with myself and accepting who I was and what I valued in myself as well as in other people. I now knew what it was to love unconditionally and fully. I was finally in love with another person. It was unselfish and complete. It was love with respect and full understanding of one another.
After being “just friends” for two and a half years, he proposed. We never had a title for our relationship besides being friends. My husband and I married June 2014. We agreed to wait for marriage, which was a new concept for the both of us. We both had a past with addiction and unhealthy relationships. The experience of waiting to be with someone you love deeply is a new inexplicable experience. An experience we never knew was worth waiting for.
In order to be happy in a relationship, I needed to be happy with myself. I needed to learn how to love myself and care for myself first rather than look for the support of another. This was a very difficult and humbling lesson. My husband has now adopted my four children in the winter of 2017. We are a family filled with love and respect for each other as a whole and individuals. I now know that my substance addiction and relationships do not define my self worth. I know who I am and have finally learned how to love and value myself. Yes, I do have my down days, however, I take each trial one step at a time while enjoying each little moment.