When we are inside an addiction, we have an intimate relationship with our substance of choice whether it is alcohol, drugs or food. Or we may have a relationship with an addictive behavior like gambling or shopping. This relationship with an addiction often prevents us from having healthy relationships with the people around us. The addiction isolates us. We can’t seem to connect to people in a healthy way. Too often we might feel that we don’t fit in or we feel lonely and misunderstood. In recovery it is important to replace our intimate relationship with the addiction with healthy relationships.
When I speak of intimacy I am referring to an emotional connection with another person. Even if we can connect with one person, it creates something we can build on. For example, in the television series Grey’s Anatomy the character Cristina is always saying to Meredith, “You are my person.” Cristina has found one person who she can confide in that offers her little or no threat, one person who she can be open and vulnerable with. In turn Meredith has Cristina as “her person”. They share love, mutuality and compassion built on a foundation of respect. They teach each other, learn from each other and trust each other. However, having only one go-to person is not ideal. You can’t get all things from one person, nor should you expect to.
Most people think intimacy is a sexual activity. Sex may be an aspect of intimacy but there are many different forms of intimacy. The relationship between Meredith and Cristina is an intimate relationship, but it doesn’t involve any physical activity. If you think about it, you may have more intimate relationships in your life than you realize.
In their book “The Intimate Marriage”, H.J. Clinebell and C. H. Clinebell describe many types of intimacy. Besides sexual intimacy there is emotional intimacy whereby you share your thoughts and feelings with one another. There is intellectual intimacy when you can share ideas, and learn from each other.
If you enjoy sports you may share an intimate relationship with someone who shares your fitness goals, or enjoys watching competitive events for fun. You may have also have relationships at work that bind you as you share responsibilities and work on common tasks. During times of crisis or conflict you might share closeness with someone who helps you cope. You may have someone close to you who shares a love of beauty, music, or the arts. You may have projects that you co-create with someone and through that process you develop a bond. You may have a spiritual intimacy with someone whom you can share philosophies or religious experiences.
An addiction often takes away our intimate relationships. An alcohol or drug addiction affects our relationships with nearly everyone around us including our family, friends and co-workers. We stop doing many of the activities that we used to do and lose the connections with those people who we shared things with. We even stop doing the things that we are passionate about. One by one our healthy relationships fall to the wayside. Our goal once in recovery is to start getting those relationships back. Some we can repair and some we can’t, but finding a connection to someone who is “on your side” and who you can say, “You are MY person” is a healthy start.