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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Being in an intimate relationship in sobriety is difficult to say the least.  Relationships are like steroids for my character defects; they cause them to grow more powerful than I imagined possible.  From jealousy to control issues, my need to be right to my need to know everything, my character defects really come to light in relationships.  However, being in a relationship has taught me a lot, and my growth has been great.

Keys to My Healthy Relationship

With my character defects glaring me in the face in this relationship, I have found several important keys to keeping the relationship strong and healthy.  As with the rest of my recovery, I must remain vigilante with myself in order to sustain this healthy relationship.

Communication

The first, and most important, tool in my healthy relationship is communication.  Communication is an absolutely indispensable tool in my relationship.  Obviously, this applies in the sense of not lying, straightforward nor by omission.  However, communicating goes much further than telling the truth.

In order to maintain a healthy relationship, communication must go both ways.  I must walk through my (often irrational) fears, and be able to communicate how I feel.  Remaining considerate of her feelings, I tell her how I feel, whether I am upset (with her or not), happy, anxious, or dealing with something.  She is not my sponsor, nor is she my Higher Power.  However, she is an integral part of my support network.  Furthermore, when I hold things in too much, it closes off my heart to her.  As my heart fills with fear and resentment, my capacity to love is diminished.  As I become able to tell her how I feel and what is going on with me, it frees my heart up to be filled with love.  It is not always easy, as fears of being judged, not being enough, and driving her away do arise.  However, I consistently walk through these fears, and each time the fears are easier to overcome.

Also, I must be open to communication from her end.  As important as talking is to communication, so is listening.  When she speaks to me, whether it is a casual conversation or something more serious, I make a diligent effort to listen mindfully.  My reactions are not always compassionate and loving, and it is something I am consciously working on.  I find that as I listen with more mindfulness, I am able to respond with more compassion rather than reacting with fear.  When I react with fear, I am not encouraging a safe, open environment.  Just as I go through fears sharing my feelings, so does she.  It is not within my control whether or not she will be open and honest with me, but it is within my control to encourage a safe space to nurture the love rather than the fear.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Willingness is one of the keys to my sobriety.  In early recovery as much as today, I must maintain an open mind and a willingness to learn something new.  Whether it is accepting a Higher Power into my life, letting character defects go, getting a sponsor, or listening to the experience of others, willingness is an essential quality of my spiritual growth.

Willingness in Early Recovery

When I was newly sober, willingness was one of the qualities that saved my life.  Although I did not immediately want quality sobriety at first, I was willing to go to treatment.  I did not see it as willingness at the time, but I had enough of an openness to consider an alternative to the way I was living.  Unfortunately, the only reason I had this amount of willingness was because of where I was emotionally; I had become emotionally exhausted, confused, and completely afraid of life.

Attending twelve-step meetings, I had the slightest amount of willingness, and was able to listen to speakers and fellows share their experiences.  With the little amount of willingness I did have, I heard enough to help me grow.  I did not have the most open mind, nor the most willingness in the room, but I was reminded that I only needed a little to begin.

I heard repeatedly to get a sponsor, even if it was a temporary sponsor.  I heard I needed to work the steps, help others, get commitments, and go to a meeting every day.  All the cliche pieces of advice for newcomers, I took in.  I had enough willingness to get a sponsor on my fourth day of sobriety.  He told me he would be my sponsor one day at a time until I found a new one, and that I should call him the next day so we could start working together.  With over 30 years of sobriety, I had enough willingness to believe in what this man was telling me.  He is still my sponsor today, and we have grown extremely close over the past several years.

Being a newcomer, willingness is not an easy quality to come in contact with always.  My ego was in the way, telling me that I could do it differently.  Spending my whole life "knowing everything, always," it was a dramatic shift to have it brought to my attention that I needed help.  However, my sponsor asked me in my first 30 days one simple question, "Are you willing to just entertain the idea that maybe there is a different way for you to interact with life?"  My answer was that I was, and this was and still is a great reminder to remain open-minded and willing.

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