Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, an 900-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992, when he had a year sober. He's in his 30th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he often disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Sober vs Using Relationships

 I very seldom write about former clients. First of all, I don't stay in touch with many of them. And then there's the thing about confidentiality. But I do have a few former clients I am still friends with.

And tonight, I was talking with one of them that I had just recently gotten in touch with after several years.

And for some reason, even though I come up with a topic every three days for a new blog, tonight I was sort of uninspired. So I asked him to come up with a creative idea for me. And he suggested I write about the difference between relationships when we're sober versus relationships when we were using drugs or alcohol. At first I didn't like the idea but then this is a guy who has been in literally hundreds of relationships.

When he was with us over 20 years ago everyone in the halfway house was amazed at his ability to attract women. It seemed like every morning and every night he had a different date. One woman would pick him up and take him to work, then another one would bring him home. After that another one would pick him up and take him to dinner. Women used to bring him so many gifts that the house manager banned  him from accepting gifts from women.  

Aside from being attractive, he also had a natural sense of humor, plus he was a high-level martial artist who was at that time a skilled kickboxer. He had the verbal skills to become a manager at a local telemarketing company, which are ordinarily staffed with plenty of twentysomethings – the perfect environment for someone like him.

So now to the part of being in relationships when we're sober versus relationships when were using. And the key part of this last sentence is using. Because all of us addicts know that we use everyone in the world for our own gratification, regardless of how they feel about us. He did it. I did it. And I'm sure you all did it too when you had the opportunity.

We addicts are a very self-centered species, a species that must feel good all the time. And if we need to misuse those around us – including our women friends – we do it because our addiction comes first.

I remember a woman who took care of my heroin habit for some 13 years, until she went broke and lost her house and everything else. After I got clean and sober I began to make amends to her. She was about seven years older than I was and she became sick and had little means of support. But after I got sober and became a sort of decent human being I began to support her and pay her bills anonymously. I never did tell her the money came from me but she figured out eventually that I was her benefactor and was surprised and grateful. Because the only side of me she had ever seen was the side that misused everyone around me.

So to answer my friend's question about the difference between sober and using relationships it's really quite simple: sober relationships are about giving to your partner. Giving to your partner does not necessarily mean material things. We give her our compassion. We rub her neck when she is stressed out. We take the time to listen to her. We do whatever we can to make her life better.

Using relationships are about taking everything you can get your hands on.  We don't care about how they feel. We don't care what they want – as long as we get what we want. Every thing about a using relationship is me, me, me. If I'm drunk or high enough I may give her a few minutes of my time though she can't count on it.

And that's the difference between using relationships and sober relationships.

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