Untainted Love

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Untainted Love

By J.J. Anne 02/22/15

Sometimes, you have take a risk. Sometimes, you have to break the rules.

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J.J. Anne

Addicts shouldn’t date in their first year of sobriety. This is an unwritten rule—a concept that every recovering addict has hardwired into their brains in treatment and in the rooms of AA. But there is a reason it’s not written: to me, an alcoholic, following this rule in the early, terrifying stages of sobriety is not in any way realistic—at least, not in my world. During my time in treatment I fell in like, I fell in love and I just plain ol' fell for lies and “player” games. And I wouldn’t take any of it back.

I don’t speak for the masses, but I speak for many when I say that addicts, people typically starved for love and attention, cannot imagine going it alone in a time when their world feels more cold and empty than ever before. 

I’ve always had terribly low self-esteem and a false sense of self-worth. I’ve jumped from one relationship to the next, searching in each for validation and human connection, and losing the essence of myself in the process. In treatment, I would learn that as long as I continued drinking and remained stuck in that dark, all too comfortable, self-loathing corner of my mind, I would never find myself or experience a real connection with someone else. 

How can I figure out who I am if all I've ever felt is hatred for myself? How can I realize my self-worth if I’ve only allowed someone else to measure it? How can I connect with someone if all I have to offer them is the shadow of the woman I once was—or had hoped to be? Just as I always felt one more drink would make me feel better, I felt another romance would fix me or make me whole—as if I was broken or incomplete to begin with. People who do not love themselves first will find that real, healthy love is far out of reach.  

I certainly did not love myself when I came into treatment. It has taken me almost a year to get to the place where I can even say I like myself. But I do know that the only way to love myself is to know myself—my true, unadulterated self. For so long, we addicts have been strangers to ourselves. We have been masquerading as exaggerated (and way more screwed up) versions of ourselves. In my recovery, in order to find myself, I needed to find love. I needed to experience a one-on-one, sober as can be, connection with someone in order to get to know myself. That may sound backwards, but in retrospect, I see that it is exactly what I needed. I’m not talking about sex. I’m talking about intimacy…the emotional kind. For years, I had felt that nobody could love the real me—the sober me—because all they knew and loved was the drunk me. I thought that along with the alcohol would go any trace of the “fun” me. I would forever be boring and so would life. 

Here was my chance to prove to myself that it wasn’t the booze that made me—or life—interesting, however much I truly believed that it was. In treatment, I experienced connection, in the truest sense of the word. I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I presented myself with no mask, no crutch, and no motive; much to my surprise, I was embraced. 

Love is a risk. Human connection was something I shrunk from for most of my life; what I most wanted and most feared. But, sometimes you have to take a risk. Sometimes, you have to break the rules. 

J.J. Anne is a freelancer from Los Angeles, CA.

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