Dear Therapy Thursday:
I’ve been in a situation for a while now I would love some advice with. I’m in a relationship with a girl I have known for many years. I’m almost 10 years older than her. We started dating when she was 23. During her teens she was doing a lot of drugs (pills). When we started dating she had been out of prison 2 years. She was clean and was doing good. We were great for almost a year and she started again with drugs. We broke up but I could never really let go. I’d help her with food and rent now and then. This past May she ended up back in jail. This time getting the help she needed. She is in a sober living program and has been 4 months clean. We are back living together. She seems to be happy again with me and I’m happy too, to a point.
My real question is how we have any real trust and intimacy whatsoever again. After all the prostitution she has done for drugs she feels disgusted by men. I love her and feel it works both ways. We have done horrible things to each other back when she was on drugs. What do I do from here? I want her to be sober and happy no matter what with or without me.
Dear J –
This is some tough stuff. All relationships take a lot of work to build and maintain trust. In this case, you both will need to do a lot of extra work to rebuild trust in order to increase your intimacy both physically and in all ways. Have you seen a relationship professional together before? Have you talked to anyone about your experiences and feelings? Often what happens in relationships where one person is the addict/recovering addict/former addict, most of the “help” and focus will have been on them. It’s cliche but oh so very true that it always takes two to tango. You may need to look at yourself and your life and what intimacy issues you bring to the table, because it’s very easy to see her as the one bringing the challenges to the relationship. You can do this with the help of a professional of course. You may also think about attending a few Al-Anon meetings (www.al-anon.org). What kind of feedback have you gotten from friends and family about how you are in this relationship? If more than one person is worried about you, then it’s time to get yourself some help. Trust me on that.
Another question. Are you equally committed to making your relationship work? Another thing to be careful of, is carrying the load for the relationships success. You may already know this, as I sure hope your girlfriend does, that she is an addict for the rest of her life. She will battle this her whole life in all liklihood. Sobriety is awesome and a great accomplishment but requires vigilance every day forever. It’s a tough road and you both need to be honest about how you do this individually and together. A rollercoaster ride is exciting for a while but becomes exhausting when you can’t get off.
I hope this helps a little. I’m not going to tell you what to do of course, but I do hope you can start asking yourself some big scary questions and be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t live with and especially about what you need to do to take care of yourself before you can rescue or take care of anyone else.