5 Ways Love is Different in Sobriety
Love can be an abstract concept for so many people. For some it’s how they live their lives. With love. For others, it only pertains to romantic relationships. For others still, love is a feeling, an emotion, a motivating factor in all of the relationships in their life. Whatever way you describe it, love is a part of our lives. For many of us who had issues with drugs and alcohol, we saw love slip from our fingertips. When we use, love becomes something foreign to us or something we became numb to. In sobriety, every single part of our lives change, including how we feel and express love. Here are 5 ways love is different in sobriety.
1 - Love is a concept I can entertain now
For many years during my drinking I was repelled by love. I didn’t like the idea of romantic love. I had been scorned many times and although I loved the idea of male attention, I hated the idea of being in love. I also was not capable of truly loving – giving or receiving it during my drinking and using. I used alcohol to numb my feelings, including the desire or ability to love. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t in relationships, but I wasn’t giving my best. I wasn’t present. Today as a person in recovery, I am finally able to give and receive love, stay present and show up for my partner and friends.
2 - Love is a strength not a weakness
I used to think of love as a weakness, as something that just caused pain, made me soft, or showed the sensitivity in me. I never thought of it as a strength, as something that’s hard to do in a lot of situations, or something that all people deserve. When I got sober I realized giving and receiving love is a good thing! It’s honorable to put your heart out there and show people what kindness and love feels like. Even when it’s hard and even during times when I feel hurt, giving out love in my sobriety has always felt like a strength, not a weakness.
3 - Love is also something for self
Another concept I didn’t understand during active addiction was self-love. I had no idea that self-love is a necessary act, for anyone, but especially for those of us in recovery. Lack of self-love, and a self-hate approach in my life fueled my drinking and destructive behavior. After getting sober I learned self-love is essential to living a healthy and balanced life. Today my love for self helps motivate me and helps me make better decisions for myself and my life. Love isn’t something that just needs to be practiced in relationships with others, but it’s crucial to have in a relationship with yourself.
4 - Communication is key in relationships
Communicating love can be difficult. Think about it – if everyone with a substance use disorder goes around numb all the time, unable to give or receive love at their best, the communication in their relationships will suffer. This was the case for me and not just in romantic relationships, but in friendships as well. I never cared about communicating when I was drinking. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it and my feelings trumped all others’. If someone didn’t understand me, well that was their problem. In sobriety I’ve learned communication is key in every relationship if you want to have a fulfilling, reciprocal connection. I’ve also learned that just because we’re sober and we want to have open lines of communication, doesn’t mean other people will be able to give us that. Being able to let go of expectations and meet people where they are, are two other key components to healthy relationships.
5 - Love is different for everyone
During my drinking life I believed there was one concept of love and one concept only. I was flabbergasted at certain types of relationships I didn’t understand. I was shocked at certain levels of behavior and abuse people accepted in their lives. I couldn’t believe there are topics some partners never talk about or morals they don’t require of their significant others. There were certain pairings of people who I didn’t believe should be together, because one or both of them could do better or find someone more like them. It was only in sobriety that a great dose of humility and learning taught me that love looks different to everyone. People have different love languages, different concepts of what they do and do not require of their partners, what they look for in what they consider to be a compatible human being, and what they consider to be a healthy marriage or partnership. It’s never for me to decide what love is to someone else or for someone else. I only know what I require in my relationships and from my partner. I know what friendships fill me up and make me a better person and those that do not.
What I’ve come to realize is that everything is a learning process in sobriety, including learning how to love and interact with our fellow human beings. I’m grateful that today, my relationship to love and with love has changed and evolved, thanks to sobriety.
About the Author
Kelly Fitzgerald is a sober writer based in Southwest Florida who is best known for her personal blog The Adventures of a Sober Señorita. Her work has been published across the web including sites like The Huffington Post, Thought Catalog, Ravishly, SheKnows, Elite Daily, The Fix, Brit + Co, Addiction Unscripted and AfterPartyMagazine. She is currently writing a memoir.