When it comes to living in sobriety—living every day with a mindset for lifelong health and healing—we have to consider where we have struggled in managing love, sex, and relationships, and what it will look like for us to walk out our healing.
For some of us, this may require that we take one year off from dating so we can focus on our personal recovery. For others, we might need to put healthy boundaries in place with people in our lives who are not healthy: family, friends, and coworkers. We might have to set hard boundaries around our social media use and overall online behaviors. We may need to invest in marriage counseling so we can pursue a healthy marriage with our spouse. We might want personal counseling. Perhaps we need to change jobs, join a book club, take a vacation, enroll in a cooking class, buy a treadmill—whatever it is that will help us establish sobriety and keep us moving toward lifelong health is worth it.
Living out our sobriety is unique to us: there is no “one size fits all” plan. Over the past months, we have learned how our past trauma held us captive in our addictive behaviors—how fear, isolation, and shame created our cage, locked with a key of deception. Now, as we have processed our trauma in a healthy way and developed new tools and strategies to change our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we are ready to face life head-on, empowered by our new-found freedom!
Easier said than done. In fact, many of us may be feeling anxious and fearful about living in sobriety. In the past, we had our coping behaviors to get us through life; albeit unhealthy, they met our need in the moment. Now, we may feel as though we are facing life with a bag full of tools, but not enough experience in how to best use all our new tools.
Don’t be afraid. If we have learned only one thing in this process, it is that God is with us. He knew that we would be right here, right now, feeling exactly what we’re feeling. This is no surprise to God. He has brought us this far and He will continue to lead the way.
I am doing great! With the help of my support group, I have been sober from my love addiction for six months. My previous pattern of feeling lonely, going out with friends for drinks, and hooking up with random strangers is behind me. Although I had experienced several STD and pregnancy scares over the past 13 years, I am feeling empowered by my new-found freedom. I have put safeguards in place to help me stay sober: attend group each week; complete daily recovery work; create accountability partners; invest in healthy self-care; do not go to bars; only drink alcohol at home; avoid toxic relationships from the past; and practice assertive communication.
On my way home from work, I stopped by a local restaurant to pick up food for dinner. I was surprised to see Bonnie there, an old friend from college who had recently moved back to the area. We talked easily as if no time had passed. Before long, we made plans to go out to dinner on Friday night. I wanted to meet Bonnie at the restaurant on Friday, but Bonnie insisted that we drive together.
Bonnie picked me up as planned. She also invited a few other girlfriends from college to meet us at the restaurant. In an attempt to pick a central location, we were now going to a different restaurant. As Bonnie continued to tell me the new agenda for the evening, I sat quietly. I could feel myself becoming anxious and wasn’t sure what to do. I was feeling out of control.
Before we got to the restaurant, I began implementing my exit strategy. I texted a friend from group and told her what was happening. The friend was encouraging and ready to help: she could come and pick me up within 20 minutes if needed. Bonnie suggested we all sit in the bar, so we could be seated more quickly. I spoke up and said I would prefer to wait for a table in the restaurant area. The others agreed, but ordered drinks while they waited. When I ordered a non-alcoholic ice tea, I received a few questioning looks from my girlfriends. I simply responded, “I don’t drink alcohol when I’m out. It has contributed to many poor decisions in the past and I’m trying to be more intentional with the choices I make.”
Not only was that an acceptable explanation, but two other women told me how their alcohol use had contributed to unhealthy behaviors and they commended me on my courage to make a healthy choice. Periodically throughout the evening, I texted my friend from group to let her know how I was doing. Although the evening went well, I made some additions to my exit strategy: drive my own car when meeting friends and ask ahead of time if any plans have changed.
Developing healthy relationships is vital to our recovery process. Many of us who struggle with managing love, sex, and relationships have been hurt in relationship. We continue to believe the lie that isolation will keep us safe. We need to continually remind ourselves that lifelong healing happens in relationship—it happens in community.
This is an area where we need to have balance and where we need to be intentional. We need to assess the relationships we have in our lives: determine the role of each relationship, as well as recognize where we might be missing a key relationship.
When we think about the relationships we have in our lives, what comes to mind? We should have a few close relationships—people who are safe and know everything about us. We also have relationships with people (whether we like it or not) who are not safe, who we would not trust with personal information.171 Then, we have relationships that fall somewhere in between—people we would trust with some personal information but not everything.
We all have individual stories with unique experiences, but we need to find healing together. When building our support team, we need to consider this truth: who is better equipped to walk through the healing process of love, sex, and relationship addictions than someone who has experienced healing from love, sex, and relationship addictions? Who is better equipped to help a woman walk through the divorce process than a woman who has navigated divorce successfully? Who is better equipped to mentor a woman with a blended family than a woman with a blended family? We are better together.
We can’t do this alone. We need to walk out our health with others. We need support. We need community.
Complete the FASTER Scale, Group Check-in, Self-Care lesson, Thoughts/Feelings
Awareness Log, and Change & Growth Analysis in your Unraveled: Weekly Tools before
the next group meeting.