I was a poor friend in high school and college. I admit it.
In my addictions work, I often work with young men who have a tough time finding balance in their lives. One thing is certain – there is a battle to claim the self from (first) the addiction of the substance (most often heroin or opiates) and (second) the addiction of the “other”. By other, I mean the girlfriend. I am using the term girlfriend and referring to male clientele because that most often describes my clients and their relationships.
I recall a time when I was an adolescent and young man in college. I drifted from girl to girl and woman to woman. Rarely dating more than one at a time – okay, I did this once, actually. Honestly, my high school friends were quite gracious. When the relationship was over, regardless of the reasons, they welcomed me back. Likewise, I did the same when theirs ended. College was a bit different, with a fraternity and friends in the band, but I found I did the same thing. However… whenever I was out with my fraternity brothers, which was rare, they made it a point to make sure my glass was full.
Back then, pairing off like we were married? Looking back on it, it was extremely regrettable on my part. To separate myself from the guys to whom I was close was to close myself from my own identity sometimes. In marriage, the mystery is that it is different. After 16 years, my beloved and I agree that my time with the guys is important. And she is is not jealous over it. Nor am I jealous over her time with the girls.
Back to addiction. So many of my clients come to my office with romantic entanglements – some with addicted partners and some with partners unfamiliar with addiction. My advice is the same. Being involved in a romantic relationship, particularly one in which the partner is not engaged in recovery herself, may well be detrimental to your own recovery.
Why? Because recovery is all about finding one’s new normal – finding oneself and rebuilding one’s identity which had been lost to the addiction. I have had several clients in individual sessions and groups ask me and each other who they are. Part of finding oneself again is about remembering. Remembering a time before the relationship or before the addiction.
I challenge people who are single again in the same way. What activities did you enjoy? What hobbies? What sports? With whom did you do these things? How often? I encourage creative pursuits, particularly. Why? Because creative pursuits are often solitary and allow time and opportunity for introspective as opposed to simply engaging in physical activity that often requires such concentration so as to manage or avoid injury.
Realistically, relationships take time. And compromise. When we are single again or in recovery for anything, it’s time to be selfish with our hearts and minds. It’s time to be honest and say, “I need to take care of me for a bit while I determine who I am.”
For folks who don’t know or remember their passions, that’s all right. We all need to start somewhere. Consider writing, music, drawing, or painting to start. The point is not to make perfect art. The point is to connect with yourself. So, connect – and find yourself in there. And keep going.
What does finding your identity look like for you?