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Before I came to the fellowship, Love was physical and material. I didn’t like commitment, however, my attitude to anything was “What’s in it for me?” I was either totally selfish or completely groveling; there was seldom an in between balance.

Relationships and My Self-worth

If I wasn’t in a relationship, or what I took as a relationship, then I was a failure. If I was in a relationship, I was either; scared of her seeing the real me, or more often than not, seeking comfort from the female of the species. I’d try to impress or get them to feel sorry for me, just for the sympathy sex. Basically, when with my partner, I was happy and contented, but if I was working away I acted like a single man on the hunt.

After coming to the fellowship, having lost almost everything,  I treated the meetings as a possible place for “encounters.” What I thought I had to offer anybody, I don’t know, but I hadn’t learned who I was yet, or what friendship or love was.

When I first got sober my sponsor told me I had to get to know myself, past and present. I listened intently, during meetings where people spoke about the program and slowly, but surely, lumbered my way up the first three steps.

Step four landed.

I already knew I was selfish and self-seeking, but, after applying step 4 to my last relationship, I learned how I’d truly treated the opposite sex. I’d placed unreasonable pressure on the relationship by my behaviour and expectations and totally disregarded what was being said to me.

I had displayed jealousy and acted out on it by trying to enforce ownership on my partner. I’d betrayed everything meaningful in a relationship and I’d been, and done, everything I detested in others. My intentions had been sick, my behavior as ill as my intentions, and my attitude completely unacceptable. I thought I was an okay partner. Wrong!

Begining to Understand.

Now, in my first year of recovery, my emotions returned a little, and I did okay keeping them in check. At the meetings, there were women who, as they recovered, started looking good. I was awkward around girls and talking with them was difficult, unless it was on a one-to-one basis. I never knew how to start a conversation, unsure that I could “please” them. I wanted them to like me and being in early recovery still, would not talk about recovery, apart from very generally.

Then a girl started coming to the meetings that piqued my interest. I admired her from afar for a few weeks and then started talking with her. She was struggling and we both identified with what we shared with each other, so we got on okay on that level.

I’d had in my mind that I’d ask her out for a coffee or something and continue our recovery chat. Yes, I fancied her but I was still very unsure of myself and still going through the guilt of how I’d treated people. I didn’t ask her. I just said that if she ever needed any help, to ask.

A few weeks later, I got a call from Helen. She was a bit drunk and had called someone but they had just said to call them back when she was sober and hung up. I’d had that done to me in the very early days and knew what it felt like. I wasn’t too far away from where she lived, so I packed my Big Book and got on a bus to her town.

When I arrived, she was slurring but wanted to talk, so over coffee, we sat down and started talking about recovery and life. Over time, Helen started feeling a little better about herself and seemed to sober up a little. We’d been talking about Recovery, the Big Book, our Kids (she had a ten-year-old boy who was at his father’s that night), and past relationships.

Still making mistakes.

Helen popped up to the bathroom and I finished my coffee. She came back into the lounge and with an impish grin on her face, lifted her sweater up to flashed me. Going bright red, I asked her not to do that again, which was like waving a red rag at a bull as she did it again. I’d never had a girl try it on with me like that! And I honestly had gone there to help, and just have some company.

Words were spoken and I just let go of my good intentions and we ended up in bed. Over the next week people found out and I felt terrible. Helen had been saying a lot of things that were not true, placing the blame squarely on my shoulders. There was a confrontation with another member of the fellowship through which I said nothing, but walked away afterwards shaking and almost in tears.

It turns out that Helen was on tablets as well as alcohol that night and what happened was pretty inevitable. I know why my sponsor had always said to me, “always take another person with you on a 12 Step call.” I should have, but wanted to help and didn’t think. It hadn’t dawned on me that we had both been lonely, one with barely any recovery experience and one with none whatsoever.

I’ve sat down with Helen since and we have made direct amends with each other. However, that’s one episode of my recovery that I have no wish to repeat. These days, I respect ALL people as human beings.

Finding the one.

After I was two years sober, plus a couple of months, I met my life partner. My sponsor had told me “throw away your old way of doing things, and pray about it.” Scratching my head, I grudgingly did. My idea of love these days is a lot healthier than it once was. I had to get rid of the old me and open myself to my Higher Power’s Love and the example of other members who had trodden this path before me.

Lesley was truly the one who taught me what Love was. The physical side of things was minuscule compared to the emotional and mental well-being of our relationship. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ideal. Love changed into true compassion, communication, acceptance of who Lesley was and wanting her emotional growth to expand, without taking hostages.

She must have done a really good job because, after nearly four years of being together, God called her home. Lesley died in March 2010, unexpectedly and suddenly. It took all I had to keep a grip of my sanity. I had to keep reminding myself that she was part of my Higher Power now and that I should be grateful for the time we spent together.

It also put me on edge for a good long time. I found myself, quite often, back-pedaling on a conversation with a member of the opposite sex. I’m still not quite sure of myself around women in particular, and sometimes feel quite bereft about it all. Still, death is part of the circle of life and when I joined the fellowship, I was told that it was “Life on Life’s terms, not your own.”

Today, I try to treat everyone the same. I try not to be scared about being vulnerable. I try to remember that life, relationships and love are not the street cars to be dragged only one way up the street of discovery, but are human, not controlled or owned by me, and that they are all a two-way street.


  1. What a vulnerable and courageous story.. one day at a time.. you are a success

  2. Thanks for your courage adn honesty in sharing this story. Sorry to hear you lost your loved one.

    Navigating romance early in sobriety is certainly an adventure. My first sponsor put me on the celibacy diet my first year sober. He encouraged me to focus on the steps and recovery so I’d have something to bring to a relationship in the future. That turned out to be a magical year for me. I got a job on a crew at a ski resort that was staffed mostly by beautiful and fit young women. Taking sex off the table allowed me to get to know them as people and friends. Some of those women remain friends 30 years later. I had my first romantic relationship with one of them at a bit over 2 years sober. When she left me and broke my heart, I was so thankful to have some sobriety, tools and support to get through the loss. Still, that was the first time in my life I fell in love and it prepared me for future relationships and eventually 20 years of marriage and counting.
    Regarding relationships and romance, I once heard a recovering person say, “Can you think of anything more fun to work on?” I like to adopt that attitude regarding all the adventures of sobriety.

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