Hey Friends! I know that loving someone who has walls up is not a careless decision. It takes real commitment to give yourself as the one who takes the first strike at the concrete surrounding someone’s heart.
Many of us in recovery are people who have painted over the fragile skin of our hearts with this instant-ready cement, to block out the feeling of those fingerprints and echoes of all the empty, false and broken promises of our past. We tell ourselves that all the little nuances that make us lovable and romantic have to stay hidden. But despite our walls and the do not enter sign that hang around our necks, people may just fall for us in recovery—someone fell for me, and someone is either falling or has fallen for you too.
However, loving me with only Stage I recovery skills (broken the cycle of addiction) was like walking into a construction zone: messy and just a little bit dangerous. But I came to my relationships with the promise of tearing down my old walls to make room for something open and stable.
Free of active addiction, it was as if I believed I could hit some magic switch and all of a sudden, I was going to think and act differently than I had in all my other relationships. To say so would be a lie, and both my partners … and I knew it. It was going to take a long, long time because I had no idea how to be in relationships—clean and sober.
I have come to know that my walls are a stubborn kind of architecture, and they don’t come down without a fight. Unfortunately, I didn’t get acquainted with the prickliness, stubbornness and the volatility of my walls until I got into an intimate relationship. Prior to that, I just believed that everything was everyone elses fault, and f&^k them! That’s when I became aware of how victimized and defensive I was inside, which trapped me in a dance of anger and resentments for a long time—in recovery because I was unwilling to take up the challenge that a sober life was offering me which was to heal and truly grow up.
You see relationships in recovery can be a special kind of “combat zone” for those who love us because we tend to be egotistical, selfish and self-centered–and blind to it. And when we encounter these behaviors in our relational dynamics, we need to know how to repair the ruptures and hurts that they cause. So in order to repair our relationships from inevitable struggle and ruptures two “life-giving” ingredients are essential—giving and receiving. These are fundamental building blocks of love relationships in recovery.
What do I mean by giving and receiving love? Let me talk about “receiving” first because this is one of the skills that tends to be the hardest for many us. Well I’ll speak for myself, it was hard for me. Let me start with a quote.
“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi
This quote is profound to me because it’s asking us to look within ourselves and identify those places where we are still hiding behind our walls—those places where we’ve been hurt or believe we are still struggling alone. To identify those old beliefs that quietly whisper to us that no one is looking out for us. I remember thinking and feeling this way. I thought that no one was looking out for me because I was too damaged for anyone to really love me. But that’s not really true. I was too busy—hiding behind my ego, pride, cynicism, fear, distrust, shame, and my “time” in recovery. I was also too busy hiding behind trying to be “emotionally strong.” I did that so that I didn’t have to face the possible hurts that loving brought to me in the past or might bring to me in recovery. And I really didn’t want to face those parts about myself that I didn’t like.
Love was always coming to me, in one form or another, but the truth is I blocked for many reasons. If you are a recovering person chances are, you are much more comfortable with giving love, than receiving it. But if you’re someone like me afraid to let love in, you are going to feel alone and miserable like I did. However, if you have the willingness to add another piece of the puzzle and start doing something different you can start with this.
Stop Listening to the Negative Voices in Your Head and Folks who are Skeptical About Love and Relationships! Our social conditioning and the voices in our heads have a habit of making us feel distrustful of being open or receiving compliments, generosity, caring, and other kind acts. Our heads tells us this makes look greedy, needy, prideful, or selfish—That’s bullshit!
I remember the first time I saw someone actually receive a compliment and it was profound and beautiful because I’d never seen that before; it was my friend and mentor—Reggie. When someone complimented Reggie or said something loving or appreciative about him, he always said, “Thanks, I’ll take that in.” He did not push aside the caring, the love and wonderful things people said to him, he embraced it with gratitude and appreciation. After that, I found myself doing the same thing, and it feels fabulous!
So, try to embrace all forms of love given to you, otherwise you block receiving love. Receiving love creates a balanced life in recovery. Too many of us have received enough shit in our lives, so why not start receiving love openly? Love is innate, and restoring what was once innate can restore a lot of happiness and trust in our lives.
Loving One Day at a Time in Recovery,
Paula M. Smith, M.Div., M.A., MFT
Certified Imago Therapist | Marriage Scholar | Seminar Leader | Published Author