All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.
For the alcoholic/addict woman, the dos and don’ts of dating are convoluted and complex. Dating for anyone today is like a minefield, but for recovering women who already have a history of disastrous relationships, the dangers are even more significant. My friend Diane told me, “I’ve dated every dysfunctional man in Arizona, so I had to move to California.”
You may feel like your Prize Picker is broken after so many failed attempts, or maybe you had no relationships and just slept around, looking for love in all the wrong places. You may be the woman who never dated and had given up on ever finding love. It was suggested I refrain from dating for the first year of sobriety, which I thought was absurd. I put down the drink and picked up the men (plural). The first one was thirty days sober, and I was ninety days sober. It was love at first sight: my dysfunction was attracted to his dysfunction— a perfect fit. My next victim, like me, had three young kids. What a recipe for disaster! We were both under a year sober and had six kids under the age of ten; someone should have had me committed. I once heard a saying, “I should have been committed for some of the things I was committed to.” Thank god we never got as far as moving in together: After we broke up he started dating a woman I knew, and much later when she and became friends, she revealed that he was a porn addict.
I merely went on to the next unmanageable relationship, violating my standards faster than I could lower them. As a Southern friend of mine said, “When you see red flags, it doesn’t mean a parade is coming to town.” I finally realized that this desperate search for love through multiple dysfunctional relationships was a pattern that signaled I had developed another addiction besides alcoholism – love addiction.
I was so miserable, and I was afraid I was going to drink if I didn’t get help. In the depths of my despair, I decided to get help for my love addiction. I realized I was that sick. I vowed to never disappoint myself again in my choice of men.
I decided to take two years off to work on myself. After I took the two years off, my counselor suggested I make a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner. So I started with a list for my dream man. My list included:
Of course, I didn’t believe at the time that any of this was possible. Because my self- esteem was so low, I didn’t think a man with these qualities would be interested in me. I showed the list to my counselor, hoping she would give me her blessing. Instead, she told me to become the person with all the qualities on my list, and then I’d attract the man I wanted.
After fifteen years of intense work on myself— Learning to enjoy my own company, going to recovery groups, praying like hell as I searched for my Higher Power, getting a lot of therapy, showing up for work every day, and learning to laugh at myself— I have become the person I wanted to be, at least most of the time. Today I know that I deserve a partner with these qualities, and I’m no longer willing to settle for anything less.
Tools for Healthy Dating
1. Make a list of the qualities you want in a partner. Now work on becoming the person on your list!
2. Dating prayer: “Higher Self, help me feel your love, and help me love myself as well. I know you made me lovable exactly the way I am, and I don’t have to be anyone other than who you made me be. Help me heal the wounds of the past when I believed that I didn’t deserve love. Surround me with safe, loving people, and if it is your will for me to find a life partner, lead me to the person you have chosen for me.”
3. Hire a relationship coach or enlist a friend you trust to be your dating coach, and be honest with them. When there are red flags in a relationship, ask your coach to remind you that the parade isn’t coming to town— it’s time to step back and take a hard look at what you’re doing. She might also need to remind you to keep your pants on!
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