Ooooo. That’s right. Building trust takes time. And patience. And awareness. And – yeah – not words. Don’t tell me to trust you or that I CAN Trust you because if I could have I WOULD HAVE ALREADY DONE IT. Trust isn’t a matter of just deciding to do it. It’s not as simple as choosing between sausage or pepperoni pizza.
Alcoholics are really great at destroying stuff. Especially relationships. Been there done that. But the one relationship no one ever bothers to point out – and that many of us don’t figure out by ourselves – is the relationships we have with ourselves. So sad.
Relationships take an enormous amount of attention and energy. Especially new relationships (which is what every relationship essentially is when someone gets sober because as sober people we’re not the same as we were when we were drinking). The thing is – many folks don’t seem to recognize the necessity of learning what it means to have a healthy relationship with themselves (and learn what that even looks like) before they can have a successful relationship with someone else.
I believe early sobriety begs this comment: if you want to be successful in any relationship – you need to first start working on the one you’re in with yourself. My drinking career spanned two decades. I’m 51 years old now. I gave up my 30s and my 40s for drinking. I am in no way the same person I was before I started abusing alcohol, nor am I the same person I was when I got drunk. Except I am. But I’m not. If someone asked me how well I know myself today, on a scale of 1-10, I’d give myself about a 5.5.
Not only do I not know myself very well, I’m learning new stuff all the time. I’m playing catch-up.
Learning how to live with ourselves and in life – sober – takes a lot of time and practice. It seems like it should be easy, but it isn’t – not for alcoholics who most likely got drunk in the first place – all the time – to AVOID feelings and things that life throws at us. We alcoholics feel everything with such intensity that many times it seems overwhelming. We are teachable, but we need support and patience from others.
When we’re so busy trying to convince someone else we’re sober and authentic, while ignoring ourselves in this process, when we’re not used to what healthy relationships look like or feel like – well, we’re in for an uncomfortable ride. And so is anyone who takes it with us. It’s best to keep our distance for a while as our brains adjust to not being saturated with alcohol and while we learn to walk again on steadier feet. Everyone new to sobriety isn’t just wobbly on their feet. They’re wobbly in their brains.
Some folks have a hard time swallowing the fact that they need to “break up” with some of their friends (who were never really true friends). Some folks benefit by taking it further and break up with unsupportive family members or partners. Essentially, folks new to sobriety are most likely to be successful when they surround themselves with folks who support them. The catch here is – the new person in sobriety gets to decide what support feels like – not the person offering it. This suggests that open communication, boundaries, and honesty are A BIG DEAL – Especially with ourselves.
I don’t believe that loving another person constitutes the necessity or obligation to be in a relationship with that person. I love other people and I am also new in sobriety – and they know this – and they support me. And sometimes the best support they’ve offered me has been to keep their distance. I know how to find them when I’m ready.
Alcoholism destroys our relationship with ourselves. In sobriety, we can learn to repair it. We can learn what healthy relationships look and feel like. It’s not easy, but it is interesting. And valuable. Not the sort of thing I can buy online or at a Target store.