5 months, 7 days

No update yesterday due to me being out until very late – I didn’t get home from a night out until 2 in the morning, the latest I have been out since entering recovery. I’d decided on the spur of the moment that I needed a night out, and met up with a friend in my local area to go to one of the clubs I used to really like, where they were having a special Christmas party night. It sounded like it was going to be fabulous. We got there reasonably early and the music was a blast from the beginning. Some of my favourite Christmas classics were mixed with modern pop tunes on the dancefloor, and I knew I’d made a good decision in coming out.

We ended up dancing until 1.30, in the midst of camp Christmas decorations and a very pretty crowd. The music was so good, I could hardly bring myself to stop dancing. When we left, I realised that I’d probably just had the best night out ever. Not a drop of alcohol passed my lips last night; the thought barely even crossed my mind. As I came home, I was visibly excited, because I could literally feel the changes that sobriety had brought to my life. I was out with a very close friend last night, someone who I could trust not to go off without me. Some friends do that, sometimes, but he doesn’t. It’s nice to be with such a good friend – in my drinking days I had many bad nights out because I was with completely the wrong crowd. I didn’t pick my friends very well at the time.

Another fantastic thing about last night is that I wasn’t anxious or expecting to have the best night out ever. I just went along hoping to have a reasonable time. To be rewarded with such an extravaganza was incredible. In the past I was always so full of expectations. I could never fully enjoy myself when I was drinking, because I always had to get to a certain point of drunkenness. If I couldn’t get drunk then I had to end up with the man of my dreams; if I couldn’t have that then I’d have to dance to the best music ever made. 9 times out of 10 neither of those things would happen, so I’d have to get extra drunk to make up for it, which ended up making me even more miserable.

Last night I was reminded that I’m free of those expectations, because I have a choice now. I can choose to enjoy myself as much as I like, without the fear of hangovers and regrets in the morning. The change in my life and my beliefs was so tangible last night. I hadn’t felt it so powerfully before.

Earlier in the day yesterday, I’m afraid to admit that I went on another date, this time with someone not in AA. We’d begun chatting earlier in the week online; I’ve recently signed up again to some of the social networking sites that used to take up a lot of my time. I’ve decided to go back to those websites because I think, though I’m not 100% sure, that I can handle them responsibly now. Anyway, yesterday afternoon I met up with this guy who I’d managed to have lots of intelligent conversation with and who I also thought was quite cute. We went for coffee in town followed by a nice dinner, chatting comfortably about our past love lives and our hopes for the future.

Towards the end of the date, things got a tad steamy, as we held hands and cuddled up close whilst watching fab pop videos on the wall in one of the bars. At 9pm I had to end things as I was due to go and meet my good friend on the other side of London for our planned night out. My date clearly didn’t want me to go, and I struggled with my conscience as I debated about whether to cancel my plans for him.

Eventually I stuck to the plan as I knew that staying with this guy would have inevitably resulted in me going home with him – and that isn’t something I want to be doing at the moment. It’s funny because in AA they advise you not to enter serious relationships in your first year of sobriety, but casual meaningless sex is fine. Unfortunately for me, casual sex has never been my cup of tea. I just can’t do it. So when I meet up with guys like that, it’s because I actually like them as people, aside from fancying them physically. Sex on the first date has never been on my mind, though in the past alcohol always led to me jumping straight into bed with them anyway.

These days, with alcohol out of the equation I have complete control of my behaviour, and I have vowed never again to sleep with anyone before I’ve got to know them. To sleep with someone I hardly know at the moment would be embarrassing and distressing; it would be an old behaviour repeating itself. So, my plan for this first year of sobriety was to remain celibate. I didn’t expect to start going on dates with guys, to start meeting people who make my pulse race. It’s a huge dilemma because from what I can tell, I really like this guy who took me out for dinner yesterday. If we were to keep seeing each other, take things slowly and wait before spending the night together, I would be going against AA’s advice in favour of my own personal wishes. If I were to sleep with him now and not see him again, I’d be acting sensibly in AA’s eyes, whilst letting my principles down terribly. What am I supposed to do?

My sponsor may say that I should never have gone on the date in the first place; that way the dilemma would have been avoided. The reason I’ve agreed to go on dates at this early stage in my sobriety, regardless of what my sponsor may think, is that I know it would be the same if I waited a year before returning to the dating game. I don’t think it would matter how long I waited. It would still be difficult and painful; it could still pose a threat to my sobriety whether I’m five months or five years sober. I’m solid enough in my sobriety to know that I have every intention of not drinking for the rest of my life; dating disasters might break those intentions, but so might any number of difficult life events.

Still, I have this dilemma because, unfortunately, I have a physical need that isn’t being met whilst I starve myself of sex. Yesterday’s date wants me to come over to his place later on; he says we don’t have to do anything except watch TV together, if that’s what I want to do. I’ve explained to him a little bit about what I’m going through at the moment, why it’s caused such a dilemma when it comes to our relationship, and he’s been very kind and understanding. He probably has ulterior motives for inviting me to his flat – I’m not dumb. I’m only entertaining the idea because I know that any form of physical contact, regardless of how long I’ve known him for, would be lovely. He may get me into bed tonight then decide he never wants to see me again. In AA’s eyes, that would be good news for me. In my eyes, that would be a disappoinment, not just because we got on so well last night, but because it would be so pointless. How can AA advise one to avoid caring, adult relationships in early recovery but encourage meaningless, pointless, anonymous sex? I find it very strange.

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One thought on “5 months, 7 days

  1. If I were to sleep with him now and not see him again, I’d be acting sensibly in AA’s eyes, whilst letting my principles down terribly. What am I supposed to do?

    Wait a minute. Do you mean because AA suggests not starting any new relationships or other major changes in the first year or recovery?

    I’m not in AA, but am in a slew of other 12-step programs, and to me they all are all “program” no matter what the window dressing of a particular addiction is. And as far as I know they all have this suggestion. It seems to me that sleeping with him now and not seeing him again wouldn’t be acting sensibly according to program principles at all. I’d say you have more choices than just “sleep with him and never see him again or date him in order to sleep with him later,” for sure. Like… not sleeping with him now and not starting a relationship yet! If nothing else, AA certainly isn’t suggesting that you spend your first year sleeping with people you just met in lieu of having relationships 🙂

    Also, I don’t know anything about your sponsor or what they would actually say or have said at this point about it, but imho “you shouldn’t have gone out on the date in the first place” is not helpful. Hopefully they wouldn’t say that. I could see myself saying that not as a “should” but as an option for the future, for avoiding this dilemma. But since the dilemma isn’t really there….

    Also, you say that a relationship could be a threat to your sobriety at any point so you might as well do one now as later. I don’t know what your experience will be; it may be that that’s true. It wasn’t my experience though; what I found was that earlier in my recovery I wasn’t ready to have a healthy relationship. I never had had one before; I’d had a lot of abusive relationships, some very short relationships, some off and on ones, but nothing where we were both working on our issues and able to actually show up for each other and the relationship and enjoy life together deeply.

    My experience has been that as I continued to work the program, I became more and more aware of what wasn’t working for me and more and more able to change it. Early on, I was still choosing a lot of abusive/dysfunctional relationships and situations, not just in romance but at work, with friendships, et cetera. I spent a lot of time either justifying and rationalizing other people’s messed-up behavior toward me, or just being oblivious to it. It got better and better as the steps taught me where my boundaries were and where I needed to set boundaries with people and was giving my power away (specifically steps 4 and 5, for me, when I looked at my resentments and my part in them) but it took me about three years to fully shed all the abusive relationships in my life. At that point I didn’t feel like I ever wanted to be in a dating relationship again. I wanted to want to be in one, I thought it would be nice someday, but not yet. And now I have five years and I’ve been in the best relationship of my life for a little over a year.

    Your mileage will probably vary in one way or another. I just think that a lot of people find that, where their sobriety is threatened at first by relationships because they are distracted or find that issues or drama come up along the way that shake up their serenity, as they continue to work their program that becomes less and less and less of a problem. It was hard for me to imagine at first – and it’s hard if not impossible for me to imagine how my life and relationships will continue to change over the next five years.

    I think that there is also the question of dueling addictions. I don’t know anyone who just has one addiction. That might be partly the way I am defining it. For example, I think that every addict is also codependent, both because codependency is about trying to control things that are outside of our control and what is more about that than alcoholism or drug addiction or food addiction or whatever? and also because in my experience addictions stem from abusive/dysfunctional childhood experiences, on some level, and codependency just about invariably is caused by that as well. And codependency is as much an addiction as crack smoking, so…. But anyway. It took me a while to identify all the different things I had compulsive, self-harming relationships with, and I think that’s a big part of why people suggest staying away from dating at first – not just because it might tempt us to act out but specifically because it’s so important to be focusing on ourselves right now, our feelings and experiences as they emerge from the fog of addiction, and what we are learning about ourselves in program.

    And it’s SO easy in a new relationship to focus so much on the other person, as we get interested in them and enjoy learning more and more about them… and it can take away from our attention on ourselves and just slow everything down. It can pull us away from ourselves, our feelings, and our experiences, as easily as alcohol can. It’s tricky, and a lot of people like to get a really solid grip on where and who they are in program first.

    Plus, there’s the possibility that you’ll find that you have an unhealthy relationship with dating or sex, and personally I prefer finding that out by looking at an inventory of my past experiences than by doing it all over again! Of course, the easy answer to that would be to check out the questions for something like Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and see if any of their literature resonates with you, or if you’re “safe” there 🙂

    But also, the suggestion not to date etc. for the first year is just a suggestion, like everything else in program. Like anything else, you get to test it and see if it works for you, or test not doing it and see if that works for you. It’s not like you’re going to be turfed out onto the pavement if you date.

    Anyway, I have sure written a lot for someone who has only read one of your old blog posts. I found you by tossing “resentments are a threat to my sobriety” into google (not as a phrase but as a string of search terms) because I’m writing about why that’s true for me and I wanted to see if anyone else online had something helpful to remind me 🙂 You probably already totally resolved this whole issue and are wondering why some stranger has wandered in now to say all this stuff that you probably already know about it. Thanks for writing about this stuff; I look forward to reading more of your blog!

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