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Click the heart to sponsor my service work at Valiant Hearts throughout the month of October. In their weekly support group, I will offer practical steps to overcoming the effects of childhood sexual abuse. For more information about this organization, visit www.valianthearts.org
I'm a single mother of three, dating a recovering alcoholic. He's had five DWI's and has been sober for six months. He is committed to his sobriety and God. He has to be at this point, quite frankly, it's mandated by the state. When do I know things are okay to move forward in our relationship?
That's a tough question. And tough questions rarely have easy answers. If I were sitting across a table from you at Starbucks, I'd ask how you met him, how long you've been a single mother, and whether or not your ex-husband battles addiction.
Since I don't have answers to these questions, I encourage you to consider three very important aspects:
1. the effects a relapse would have on you and your children
2. the reality of the long road to recovery
3. the potential financial hardship
I'm not a licensed counselor. I'm a woman who's been there and done that. Based on my personal experience, I suggest that he have at least two years of sobriety, coupled with consistent responsibilities and accountability before you move forward in your relationship. There should be measurable milestones of emotional and spiritual maturity.
Recovery is not an event. It's a lifelong committment. Relapses are a reality. It's not enough to concede that it's going to be challenging. You should be fully aware of what makes it challenging.
Not all alcoholics drink and drive. Five times that you know of, your love interest disregarded the safety of others and got behind the wheel. A pattern that should not be minimized by a woman with three children.
It takes time to heal from addiction. The most loving thing you can do is allow him to focus on getting better and staying better. With less than a year sober, you could easily become his new addiction. And when the thrill of you wears off, there is always potential for relapse. Sponsors in Alcoholics Anonymous discourage romantic relationships for the first year of sobriety.
I realize this is probably not what you want to hear. He probably has some really wonderful attributes. None of us have so much baggage that we are undeserving of love. You're not wrong if you love him. But because your first responsibility is to maintain a stable and healthy environment for you and your children, the timing in loving him from anything but afar may be wrong.
Based on what you've told me, he's not been stable for any real length of time. Regarding his financial hardship: DWI's in the state of Texas are costly. Should your relationship become permanent, you will shoulder an enormous amount of debt derived from his previous addiction. These are things he should resolve before pursuing a relationship with a woman who has three children to provide for.
Pray for your friend. Celebrate his recovery. But hold off on anything romantic if you can. Time will reveal whether or not he will remain sober. So wait, and literally see if he's going to become all that God created him to be.
In my book, The Jonah Chronicles, I share what my husband and I went through as he recovered from drug addiction; the effects it had on our children--it's all in there. It's something to consider. And should you decide to move forward, move forward with your eyes wide open.
God bless you, your children, and your friend, as he braves his way into a new way of life.
Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 @ 2:44 PM CDT
Last Tuesday, I posted an excerpt from Saddled by Susan Richards. Sitting in an A.A. meeting, she notices that most of the attendees are capable of doing something all human beings are created to do, but evaded her all her life--feel. She comments, "The men and women didn't sound numb anymore. They were angry and scared and depressed. They were also hopeful and funny and grateful . . . The word that came to mind was whole. After years of shutting down all parts of themselves with alcohol, they were finally whole human beings."
Today, I address the other side of the "drinking coin." Drinking to feel. This was big for me. I remember well, the struggle to experience grief as I attended therapy for survivors of sexual abuse. I couldn't cry; couldn't grieve. Even as I abstained from alcohol, I was numb.
And one evening after group therapy, after all the reality I could stand, I drove to the liquor store. I drank, and for the first time in a long time, I felt. I felt overwhelming sadness. Ancient tears streamed down my cheeks and with those tears came relief. It felt good to cry. The only problem was, I couldn't cry without alcohol. I was incapable of letting my guard down without a few drinks.
I did what I always encourage you to do. I told God everything. Over and over, until one day I realized that I didn't need alcohol to cry anymore. It was safe to feel sad in the presence of a God who never once judged me or told me to go away and come back when I didn't smell of vodka.
He loved me then, just as I was. He loves me now, just as I am. I focused on Him and sought after Him with all my fears and all my flaws. He made me whole. He awakened me to how wonderful it is to feel angry or sad or embarrassed and it not be attached to the memories of abuse. He freed me to feel. He transformed me into a whole human being.
The man-made ways to feel or not feelinclude everything from shoes to Chardonnay. So if alcohol abuse/addiction doesn't apply to you, what does? Do you shop to feel? Eat? Starve yourself? Exercise compulsively? Spend hours on Facebook?
How do you attempt to numb or feel? Focus on the One who does not condemn you. Focus on the One who loves you now, just as you are, whose love will bring liberty from the ways you cope. Whose love will make you whole.
Published on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 @ 11:01 AM CDT