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When You’re in recovery but they’re not – By Patty Powers

The following post is based on a series of conversations that keep popping up lately. I use a masculine pronoun but this story is not gender specific. Perhaps this blog will hit home for some people new to recovery. To be clear, the situation I’m describing involves having a partner who’s a casual consumer of substances – not someone heavily dependent or in the grips of their own addiction.

You did it. You’re finally clean and sober. What an achievement! Maybe you’ve even been exercising, hitting some yoga classes, and spending as much time as you can with your new sober friends. In fact, the only thing that feels shitty is going home to your partner.

Driving home you find yourself praying his car won’t be in the driveway. Sometimes just the thought of him unleashes a flood of negative feelings you swallow down. You walk into the house and feel the hate rising when you see him. Oblivious, he smiles and asks how the meeting went. Then he gets up to give you a kiss and inwardly you collapse into confusion, wondering if you’re going to have to divorce him. You see, he isn’t tormented over his substance use and has no desire to stop. Because he suffered through your suffering, he was 100% behind your decision to get clean. Compared to what you’ve heard from other people in recovery, you have it easy. No complaints when you head out to a 12-step meeting after dinner, always willing to watch the kids, to leave parties early, and not force you to go anywhere you feel jeopardizes your recovery. Yet, you resent him so much for not offering to quit using for you that you’ve convinced yourself the clock’s ticking on this relationship. When you aren’t angry, you feel guilty or jealous. Sometimes you start wondering if being sober is worth it.

Do you remember what motivated you to enter into recovery? It was the solution to your pain and suffering. Try not to lose sight of this simple truth. After you’ve been sober for a short time and the pain diminishes, you may get amnesia and forget why you are sober. What’s really happening is that with the pain of using gone, you’re starting to experience an avalanche of feelings. This is the “roller-coaster” you hear people in recovery talking about. Usually it’s like being hit by waves of anxiety and depression. Your mind will try to search for something to blame it on. Fear of feelings always underlies our attempts at control. If we can figure out who or what is at the source of our emotional discomfort, we can get rid of it. Or in this case, get rid of him. The disease-mind will start laser focusing on the problem and convince you that you have two choices – leave him or drink. Black and white thinking. Divorce or drink.

While it’s normal to feel disappointed that you can’t always get what you want, you do have a choice about whether to see the glass half full or half empty. Loving support is valuable. Stay in conscious gratitude for anything that is making it easier for you to attend to your sober needs. At this time keep the focus on yourself and stay close to your support system. Continue to exercise, meditate, go to meetings and talk about your feelings with your sober friends and therapist (if you have one). Remember, no one responds well to the pressure of recruitment. Try to accept that for now he may not have the same relationship to drugs and alcohol that you have. If he isn’t suffering, he isn’t suffering – and without a private pain connected to his using, there’s nothing to motivate him into recovery. Very few people surrender in any kind of real way if it is forced upon them. No one knows what the future holds but one thing is true – the disease-mind uses words like “never” and “forever” in connection to all unpleasant feelings and difficult life situations. This is untrue. Our lives (and our inner-lives) are ever-changing. Keep the focus on yourself. Practice patience and tolerance, and apply the golden rule by treating him with the love compassion and respect that you want for yourself. Stay close to your support and allow time to pass. More will be revealed.

The emotional roller-coaster has very little to do with anything other than your brain chemistry responding to being cut off from drugs and alcohol. It will eventually come to an end and your emotions will stabilize. You’ll experience moments of equanimity and be able to assess your situation, your needs, and your relationship more clearly. This may be a time to consider couples’ therapy to work through any distress that may linger.

Applying “live and let live” isn’t always easy, especially when it involves your intimate romantic relationship or life partner. As a newcomer it’s better to trust in the process of recovery and allow some time to pass rather than take impulsive actions in response to chaotic feelings. Avoid causing irreparable damage you may regret.

 

Originally Posted on Patty Powers NYC

About Patty Powers

Originally from Toronto, Patty began drinking and using drugs recreationally as an adolescent. At eighteen she moved to New York City where chance meetings with other addicts opened doors to careers, romantic relationships, the art world and the music scene. By 1987, she was living alone in an abandoned building in Los Angeles, having cut all ties to her former life. It was at this low point she was first introduced to recovery. On December 10th 1988, Patty was admitted into a treatment facility located outside of New Orleans for heroin addiction, cocaine, and methamphetamine use. She was discharged with 42 days clean on the first day of Mardi Gras and has remained drug and alcohol free. Patty did not set out to become a recovery coach. Initially she was asked by friends in the entertainment industry to help provide guidance and companionship to their clients struggling with balancing work commitments with their newfound sobriety.Through word-of-mouth her practice grew to include referrals from therapists, treatment providers, and other coaches. Leaders in the wellness community, including integrative physicians and psychiatrists, now refer Patty clients struggling not only with substance abuse issues but also those with impulsive destructive behaviors. Her recovery writing and personal essays appear regularly on numerous websites. Patty speaks at wellness events and sober college campuses and brings Recovery Strategies Workshops to community and recovery events. She hosts a live video open discussion on Sex in Recovery the first Sunday of each month at http://www.intherooms.com/
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One Comment

  1. Hello, Patty Powers, I read your blog and felt good, reading it thoroughly. You have very well described the process of recovery through an example. It is very helpful to know that what symptoms a person may face in their recovery stage. Your blog is very useful to people who are actually in their recovery stage or the people who are surrounded with such kind of persons, as you described in your example. Thank you Patty for sharing this information. Keep up the good work.

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