Addictionland - Addiction Recovery Blog

Addictionland - Addiction Recover Blog

Finding Love in Recovery - The 4 A's of a Healthy Relationship

Posted by doctormarty
doctormarty
Licensed psychologist and an active participant within the recovering community,
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on Monday, 14 February 2011
in None 5 Comments

Someone once told me to expect that any and all relationships I had prior to entering recovery would change dramtically should I continue working a recovery program. In fact, recovery and working the steps can set the foundation for being able to find something that had evaded not just me, but most of us, namely a healthy, loving, and lasting relationship. Here's what I learned along the way - The 4 A's of what most of us are looking for.

As said, for most of us, the challenge of recovery from an eating disorder, or any addiction for that matter, is also one of learning to “navigate” through our relationships with family, friends, and co-workers. One certainty that exists for people regarding their ongoing relationships prior to entering recovery is that no relationship will really be the same once they begin and maintain their recovery. It’s not unusual for people who care about us to want our addiction to end but are not necessarily prepared for the other changes that usual follow. These can include becoming more independent, and therefore less dependent on those who took on responsibilities for us, gaining a “voice” in decision making when we may have been inclined to let others make decisions for us, and setting new boundaries and limits on how people are treating us. These may be a few of the more obvious changes but there are many subtle “shifts” in our personalities as we emerge from the ashes of self-hate and isolation. Sometimes in a family system or social network we can find that “any act of independence (e.g. independent thinking) can be looked upon as an act of betrayal” and experience resistance to some of these changes as we begin to become our real selves. In effect, it’s important to anticipate that many of our relationships will go through “growing pains” with the result being either a permanent parting of the ways or a temporary parting with a coming back together with a newly defined relationship(s). Either way, our relationships will be stressed and tested in the short run but, in the long run, more healthy and satisfying.

Still, for some of us, we begin to “dip our toes” into the arena of finding or cultivating a new “love interest.” In a similar fashion, we find ourselves with a new set of emotions, confusion, and revised thinking about what we’re looking for. Maybe we can say with greater certainly what we’re not looking for than knowing what to look for in another person. Perhaps we’ve come to a place where attraction is not enough.

Although no one is really the ultimate authority or expert on relationships, I would offer some suggested guidelines as to what elements need to exist for a relationship to be reasonably “healthy”… I like to refer to these as “the 4 A’s” The 4 A’s are the following criteria to be tested: 1. Attraction, 2. Affluence, 3. Availability, and 4. Appropriateness. Attraction refers to either the physical and/or personality aspects of a person. What is it that makes us attracted to this person, their character, their personality, their appearance, etc. Affluence not only refers to their “wealth” but, more importantly, their ability to be self supporting or self sufficient. Being affluent has to do with wanting to be with someone rather than “needing” to be with someone. Availability is about being both physically present as well as emotionally present. Someone who is physically there but emotionally distant is not an example of someone who is available. People who are “active” with an addiction or eating disorder tend to be “unavailable” compared to people who are in recovery. Appropriateness is about exhibiting acceptable behaviors in the context of any situation. What may be appropriate behavior or language in the locker room may not be appropriate for the dinner table, etc. Being appropriate is about exercising sound social judgment. In asking yourself if someone is appropriate you might consider whether you are proud to be with this person in all circumstances (e.g. with family, friends, co-workers).

When examining our existing relationships, we might consider whether the person or persons who are important to us exhibit these 4 A’s. If not, which are missing? Whether we would like to admit it or not, most relationships that fall short of any one of these elements are likely to not work well for us. Sometimes we find that the problem exists with someone in our family, perhaps a parent. In such instances we are bound to experience the stress involved with “re-formulating” and redefining the relationship from our end. Key to this remains our accepting that we are not likely to change others as much as we have the power to change ourselves. This brings us to the concluding point, namely that it is no so much about finding a person who has the 4 A’s but rather becoming the 4 A’s ourselves. Recovering from an eating disorder is the beginning.

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Licensed psychologist and an active participant within the recovering community, living in South Florida with my wife, Michele, two daughters,Janelle and Danielle, and our dog [Golden-Doodle] Reggie for the past 25 years. Founder and executive director at Milestones In Recovery, a residential and outpatient program treating eating disorders.

Comments

littmas
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littmas Tuesday, 15 February 2011

So this is what has seriously been the real thing that I use everyday in recovery!!!

lovesaves
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lovesaves Thursday, 24 February 2011

All of this is True, and 100% Real in our recovery, but we're mostly talking about how previous/on-going relationships Change after we start our path in recovery. How about relationships that we start in recovery?? How do they struggle and face challenges when our recovery gets weakened, when our own personal struggle becomes harder?? I would like to know how to face this challenges while trying to re-build recovery. I've seen how difficult it is for every "new" (after recofery) relationship to go through my times of struggle. They didn't know me when I was really sick... So what expectations should I have, is there any way I can help my relationships while I'm trying to help myself in finding my strong recovery again??

Cate
Cate
Cate Stevens. Founder of Addictionland.com, has over fifteen years of recovery f
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Cate Thursday, 24 February 2011

Good questions! For me, the answer of how to build healthy relationships while I am building a healthy me is to keep the focus on myself. As I grow and change and develop, so will the way I relate to other people. Practice is essential. The rooms of recovery have been the place where I practice having healthy relationships. My relationship with my sponsor (who had 25 years of Big Book recovery, was the first significant relationship I formed in recovery that taught me about self-honesty, unconditional love, honest appraisal of my faults and strengths, etc. I do feel it is best to refrain from romantic relationships when working on one's self because they are all consuming and totally distracting to someone unaccustomed to looking at one self. I, however, did not take that advice but resolved I would stay sober no matter what happened and when he ended things, that is what I did. I used the "failed relationship" to learn more about myself. Why did I let other people make my decisions? Why did I change who I am to please a man? Where was I dishonest and manipulative? No relationship, no matter how difficult it is, is a negative if we are resolved to walk through the discomfort and learn from the experience what needs to be changed in ourselves. Many times we simply need to learn to be more loving and tolerant of other people's shortcomings just as we hope they will be tolerant of ours. I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions!

doctormarty
doctormarty
Licensed psychologist and an active participant within the recovering community,
User is currently offline
doctormarty Thursday, 24 February 2011

Love in Recovery - "The Four A's for Healthy Relationships"

Progress not perfection, as the saying goes. These principles of attraction, affluence, availability, and appropriateness apply for both pre and post recovery relationships. All of that said, I personally find it helpful to focus on a daily working of my own 4 A's and do my best to stay away from deciding which of those A's my wife needs to work on. That gives my a better chance to stay happy in the relationship instead of insisting on being right and miserable.

doctormarty
doctormarty
Licensed psychologist and an active participant within the recovering community,
User is currently offline
doctormarty Thursday, 24 February 2011

Love in Recovery - "The Four A's for Healthy Relationships"

Oh, just a follow-up comment....There are no experts on the subject of relationships but lot's of people with experiences. Best advice I've gotten comes down to: 1. "stay in your own lane" and 2. develop the discipline of restraint of "tongue and pen" ... good luck to all of us :)

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