While in active addiction, the love we experienced often lacked a large degree of healthiness.
In addiction we cling. We cling to our addictive substances. We cling to our addiction-driven habits. We cling to our coping mechanisms. We cling to the people that support us and we cling to those who enable us.
Clinging is a dangerous coping mechanism; it gives our power to someone or something else and leaves us more vulnerable and unsafe. This is especially true in romantic relationships – clinging opens us to abuse, betrayal, misdirection and misguidance.
Josie B. knows this first-hand. In her last destructive relationship she went wherever her boyfriend went, regardless of whether or not it was a healthy environment for her. Brandon was a musician. After every gig he, his band members and their entourage hit a bar, club or party where drugs were easily available and the booze flowed.
Josie – trying to get clean and keep her boyfriend at the same time – followed Brandon everywhere, despite the distress the post-gig parties caused her.
“I wanted to be Brandon’s girl. To do that meant hanging out with all these high people and not acting out myself. When I did try not to go Brandon got mad, so I went and sometimes I was strong enough to stay sober and other times I wasn’t. To be with him I gave up what was important to me,” Josie remembers.
When we “fall in love” as addicts we see things through the haze of addiction, and we accept all kinds of injustices and unfairness while we cling to our addiction—and, in many cases, the person with whom we become involved.
At one end of the addiction romance spectrum there may be some happily-ever-after stories of partners who stood by each other, challenged each other to become a better version of him or herself, and cleaned up together. More usually, however, addiction romances become another source that contributes to lack of self-respect, a feeling of “less than” and a disruptive connection that can actually fuel addiction rather than diffuse the need for it. All of these aspects become habitual — reactions and processes that happen without our even thinking about it.
Creating a Healthy Romance in Addiction Recovery
When we enter recovery (and then move into life afterward) we have an opportunity to break habitual relationship traps. Starting over with the desire to create meaningful and healthy romantic connections requires intention, self-awareness and conscious decision-making focused on what you want in a partner conjoined with what you want in your life.
This is when it becomes useful to understand the difference between being bonded versus enmeshed: When we “bond” with someone we retain our individuality even while we create a deep and meaningful connect