Five Relationships That Will Get You Drunk

By Bobbi Anderson 12/10/14

The odds are good—but the goods are odd.

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They never look like bad news, the ones that take you out. That’s because you don’t know what bad news looks like. They’re troubled but charming, with wet eyes and bad tattoos, and their words increase in earnestness as they stack up days of sobriety. You don’t want to save them as much as you want to save someone. Despite the constraints of common sense that sexy new stranger sitting across the room from you at the AA meeting seems like a good candidate. In the past year, I’ve watched six people with solid time relapse, and it all started in the same place—they fell in love.

The tattoo across his neck, the one that read 51-50, should have been a red flag.

I’ve come to anticipate the inevitable dissolution of the newcomer romance with the same knot in my stomach that used to accompany guessing what I’d done in a blackout. Eyes meet, fingers touch, seating is rearranged so they can hold hands during the closing prayer. Then they’re giggling and exchanging private jokes or fighting and leaving early. Then they leave the group to form a group of two, with its own form of surrender and cheesy slogans. Then someone relapses and their lover follows, like an idiot jumping overboard from a perfectly good ship into shark-infested waters when they could lower a rowboat instead. I give them shit, my friends who gave up their time for the mirage of true love, because it’s easier than having my own heart broken over the knowledge that they may never come back. And I give them shit because I’m smug where I have no right to be, because every type of affair I’ve seen take down someone else is one I’ve only side-stepped through a string of repeated miracles. Here are the five types of love that will wreck your program:

The Angry One. Oh, did I fall hard for this one in early sobriety. In retrospect, the tattoo across his neck, the one that read 51-50, should have been a red flag, but I was young and dumb and his fire matched my own feelings in a way that was reassuring. Only intermittent earnestness from me, at that point, the rest of the time I was a smarmy wise-ass who thought it was funny to stand at the gate of the church courtyard and tell the incoming drunks to “go away,” instead of “welcome.” I wasn’t happy about sobriety, and it felt good to hang out with someone who felt the same way. Ultimately, he relapsed, and I relapsed. I came back and stayed, but never saw my crush in the rooms again.

The Possessive One. Mine was a normie, the guy I married in early sobriety. A jealous boyfriend or girlfriend sucks anyway, but in the rooms they’re a nightmare. They monitor every hug and new friendship carefully to determine if it’s a threat, interrogate you, sit next to you glowering while you share. My ex was the only thing that kept me sober for the first nine months of my recovery, because he wouldn’t allow me to go to meetings or (thankfully, I guess) go to parties. I’m not sure why I stayed sober, but I did, and once I’d escaped him I launched into a program, and hard.

The Rebounder. Freshly divorced and looking for love in all the wrong places: I both was a rebounder and dated a rebounder. Not that rebounders are a phenomenon exclusive to 12-step groups, but boy do they flourish here. Divorce (or breakups) are sometimes the best incentive we have for getting sober, so add all those raw edge emotions to the frayed nerves of early sobriety, and you have a recipe for heartbreak spiked with lots of touchy-feely pop-psych words like “boundaries,” “vulnerability,” etc. Dudes and ladies, leave the heartbroken alone. Let them work the steps without the distraction of a new romance. They will inevitably leave you for their ex or pine themselves away into relapse, taking you with them.

The Codependent. Dah dah dahhh! You knew this one was coming, right? Either you are this person or you’re attracted to this person. You complete them. They complete you. You become their sub-sponsor, propping up their wobbly sobriety with your own hard-won aphorisms, driving them to meetings and dangling the carrot of intimacy in front of them as they trudge down the road toward a happy destiny where you think they should be. Sure, they’re a fixer-upper and sure, you’ve been warned against 13th-stepping newcomers, but damn they’re cute and they really seem to get it. Then they call you drunk and weepy and you come over to comfort them and think, “Ah, what the hell.” Cue a brief euphoric period of drunken fucking like bunnies until the whiskey dick/dysfunction/theft/heroin makes its inevitable appearance and you teeter totter together in and out of meetings while tongues click and concerned friends try to pry you apart to no avail.

The Parent/Kid. See all of the above, and add a good decade of time past when you’re supposed to know better. No longer are you chasing the doe-eyed, wobbly-kneed newcomers around the church basement with carnal intentions, but you’re offering a conciliatory arm and ear, watching their own romances with rueful disapproval, and driving down back alleys hoping your headlights will wash over their desiccated form and they’ll flag you down and ask for a ride to a meeting. If they fall in love with you, that’s a nice side bonus, but that’s not really why you’re offering them long, warm hugs or buying them coffee. You’re doing it because you want to save someone, and this particular someone happens to be too cute to get drunk. Yes, this is me. Sometime in the past two years I transitioned from kid to parent, from hottie to mom. The slavering dads of the rooms turned their eyes to younger meat, and I rebranded my social status into that of a (still hot) mother figure, replete with calm, wisdom and a carefully constructed ignorance of the effects of my long, warm hugs on desperately horny newcomers. I am a terrible person. Don’t date me.

Bottom line: The best way to attract emotionally healthy people is to be emotionally healthy. Sober time does not equal emotional health. Work does. Whether you’re in a 12-step program or sober by some other means, don’t expect to attract anything good until you’ve gotten your shit together. Just be patient and put in the work, whether it’s step work or therapy or whatever. The magical thinking that accompanies a romance with someone who’s new in the program is all ego talking. There’s nothing special about this particular person or situation that won’t still be special when they’re healthy enough to be a good partner. Don’t be stupid. Stay alive.

Bobbi Anderson is a pseudonym for a regular contributor to The Fix. Bobbi's recent pieces have been about why you probably shouldn't become a drug counselor and sobriety in spanish. 

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