At 24, I had never been in a sober romantic relationship in my life. I had started drinking at 13, a year and a half before I started dating. By my first date, I was smoking weed, too. We met at the local skating rink, joined our friends behind the building, and got high before we even went inside.
Alcohol was my first love, though. It was also cheaper and easier to get. I had a large group of friends, and we all ended up dating each other at some point. I had created quite a comfort zone for myself, one that I never really thought about ending until my freshman year in college. My core group was now scattered all over the country.
So, I started over the only way I knew how, by drinking. I was spiking my coffee all day long just to get up the nerve to put myself out there so I could get to know people so that I could have a social life!
Eventually, I ended up at my first AA meeting. I was so dedicated to following the program and getting my life together. Dating was the last thing on my mind.
Then, he showed up. And everything changed.
I had never seen him at any of my meetings before, and I was instantly attracted to him. Once the meeting ended, however, I found myself frozen in my seat. This was the first time I was attracted to anyone since I got sober, and I simply had no idea what to do.
As I thought about it afterward, a part of me said to go ahead, give it a shot, since I had my first year of sobriety in. But the fearful part of me kept giving me reasons to stay single.
For example, what if this guy does come back to our meeting, becomes part of our home group, and we start dating? What happens if it doesn’t work out? I am not going to be comfortable sharing the stress I would be feeling over a break up with him sitting right there. I am going to want to run away and hide. Missing meetings could very well be the outcome, which would jeopardize my sobriety.
I didn’t see him again for a month, and then another. He mentioned that he was here once a month to visit his mother who was admitted to a nursing home in my area. His home group was actually two hours away.
We started chatting a little after those monthly meetings and then started keeping in touch on Facebook. He had been sober for three years, had a steady job, and had just adopted a puppy. Before long, we were talking on the phone every day and going out once a month for coffee after the meeting.
As our relationship developed, we agreed to keeping our home groups separate, and we did so for the next two years until we got married. We settled midway between his hometown and mine and began attending the same home group, but we don’t always go together. While we are a couple, we also recognize and support each other’s individual journeys.
I believe the reasons we have been successful are that we took the time to really get to know each other and became friends before dating and that we continue to respect our individual recovery needs.
Also remember that in AA they refer to focusing on dating too much or pursuing newcomers as the “13th step”, because it is not part of the 12 step program.
So, yes, AA and romance can go together. But you have to be very careful to put your recovery first. Just give yourself the time you need to live sober, make sure you’re really compatible before you hop in the sack, and respect your individual boundaries.
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