Throughout my using, I had difficulty connecting with myself and others. Even into my sobriety, I didn’t know how to build healthy relationships. My sponsor often says that addiction manifests as a problem with the three relationships we have in our lives: our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with a Higher Power, and our relationships with others. These three relationships are beyond important today in my life; they are the focus of my spiritual practice.
Relationships with Ourselves
When I was using, my relationship with myself suffered greatly. The nature of addiction is that we let go of our values and stop listening to our hearts. Although I thought I used to deal with outside circumstances, the truth was that I used to run away from myself. After years of avidly running away from myself and pushing things down, it was inevitable that I became completely detached from who I was. I pushed my true self down and was driven completely by my cravings.
Essentially, my relationship with myself had become one of aversion and avoidance. Not only was I out of touch with my emotions, thoughts, and even my actions, I was actively trying to distance myself even further from them. It is safe to say that my relationship with myself was very poor and left much room for improvement.
In recovery, I have worked very hard on my relationship with myself. Step One offers us a chance to begin rebuilding this relationship. In the first step, we are encouraged to take a look at ourselves honestly. The Big Book recommends we “full concede to our innermost selves” that we are addicts or alcoholics. For me, this was quite a radical statement. Having spent many years denying my true nature, honestly admitting something to myself was powerful.
The main part of rebuilding my relationship with myself was through meditation. My first meditations were but a few minutes. Taking the time to sit with myself for even a few breaths proved very useful. When something unpleasant was arising within, I took a moment to pause and simply feel how it felt. Through this process, I slowly was able to face the things I had been running from. The anxiety, anger, and fear were overwhelming at times. My mentor helped me to sit with them and feel them. I learned to not act on every thought and emotion I had.
As time went on, I began sitting in meditation for longer periods of time. I found that there was a whole lot going on that I wasn’t aware of. Even today, I often learn things about myself through meditation of which I was totally oblivious before. In this way, I have strengthened my relationship with myself. I know myself today better than I ever have, and I continue to learn. In building a relationship with myself, I no longer am shocked by my own behavior and thoughts, I am gaining insight into the nature of my addiction, and I am dealing with my pain.
Relationships with a Higher Power
The problem here is fairly simple: I made myself my Higher Power. When I think about a Higher Power, I think of turning my will and my life over and I think of letting something have power over me. In my using, I definitely made drugs and alcohol my Higher Power. I let them control me, and completely turned my entire life over. I also turned my life and will over to my own thoughts. Rather than sitting with my thoughts and emotions, I blindly followed them.
The solution for me has been to reassess to what I should turn my will and my life over. In my sobriety, the concept of a Higher Power has changed. Today, I take it to mean the seed of goodness within us all. When I turn my will and my life over today, I turn it over to the loving, compassionate, wise piece of myself within. In Buddhism, they would call this the Buddha-seed or Buddhahood that we all carry within.
I work on this relationship by performing esteemable acts and meditating. When I act in a loving way, I am watering seeds of love within me. If I act with anger, I am watering seeds of anger within. Through esteemable action, I am able to water the healthy seeds. I try to work with others, take commitments, be on time, and act with integrity even when nobody is looking. Even if nobody knows that I dropped a piece of trash, I have to sleep with it at night.
Relationships with Others
My relationships with other people were selfish and self-seeking, as the Big Book so accurately points out. My relationships centered on my own needs. My friends were all my friends because of unhealthy reasons. I chose lower companions that made me feel okay about my using. If a friend did not have anything to offer me as far as drugs, alcohol, or security in my using, I generally let the relationship fall to the side.
My relationship with my family and other loved ones suffered as well. I spoke to my family only when I needed something (usually when I wanted money). I lied, stole, and hurt them greatly. Again, my relationships centered around me having my needs met. I didn’t care much about who I hurt in the process, and it showed. Eventually, my family stopped talking to me.
Finally, my intimate relationships were quite painful. I was in a few unhealthy relationships. There were fights, cheating, and a whole lot of lying. I rarely thought about my partner’s feelings. The only time I made an effort was when I thought it would serve me well. Because I was so scared of myself, I didn’t want to let anybody else in.
Working on my relationship with others has been an integral part of my sobriety. Steps four through nine really help us work on these relationships. In these steps, I learned to see my part in my relationships. Where I previously had blamed everyone else for my problems, I began to take some personal responsibility. In the Ninth Step, I cleaned up the wreckage of my past (or at least tried to). I was given a fresh start and an opportunity to build new relationships with people.
Step Ten allows me to continually check my relationships. I no longer sabotage relationships blindly, then wonder what happened. I take a look at the pain and the feelings, and figure out ways to address it. Step Twelve has greatly helped me as well. When I take somebody else through the steps, I am able to fully connect. Rather than taking, I am giving. It is a complete turn-around.
I also like to work on my relationships with others in daily life. I try my best to be friendly to everyone I meet. I practice metta meditation to try to connect my own desires to be happy with those of others. Although I am not perfect, I do my best to understand, accept, and have compassion. When I got sober, I wanted to work immediately on my relationships with others. However, I found I had to work on the other two first before I could honestly offer myself to anyone else.