"No Intimate Relationships During the First Year of Sobriety!"

Recovering addicts hear this all the time in 12-step programs. However, this sound bit of wisdom is rarely heeded. Many have a hard time accepting that a hiatus from intimate relationships is necessary. In their minds, dating and new relationships seem benign. As long as I'm not using and we're not using and are in a program, I'm safe. Not so fast. Getting into an intimate relationship prematurely is, as my mother would say, "Ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-consummated."

Odds are more than fifty percent of marriages will end in divorce for the general population. Want to venture a guess as to the odds for those in early recovery who test this cardinal rule

Despite one's best laid plans or intentions to not re-enact the same dysfunction and failures of previous relationships, the odds are overwhelmingly against the relationship -- doomed to be dysfunctional or have a shortened life expectancy.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but assuming that we would not want our emotional and mental well-being to hinge on a miracle, is it worth the risk? But this is not what the recovering addict is thinking about. When it comes to delaying gratification, when it comes to "choosing" between "one step at a time" versus "all at once," thinking in terms of gradual and taking time to develop and being objective and realistic are not how addicts are wired. There is no point of reference. Most recovering addicts don't realize that admitting to being out of control and surrendering to their powerlessness, as having done so in Steps I and II, also apply to their emotions when dating and in early stage relationships.

The problem is not the relationship or the intimacy. It's the sex. Sex tends to increase one's level of emotional involvement and intensity of feelings, especially for women. Men tend to cope by splitting off from their feelings; that is, are more likely to engage in sexual relationships while remaining emotionally divorced or superficial. Sex is a trigger for emotional over-involvement or under-involvement relative to the stage of relationship. Either way, each one's inability to manage his/her own emotional needs and provide self-nourishment will eventually jeopardize the developing relationship.

What often happens is that sex, exciting enough as it is, often leads to an infusion of romantic feelings, which can further heighten the excitement, which then awakens the "sleeping giant" -- the backlog of unmet emotional needs from previous relationships. The "giant" awakens (emotionally) ravenous and is not aware of the extent his/her hunger drives the relationship. Our unmet emotional needs reside in our unconscious and are sealed off from our awareness.

It's during the first year of recovery that the addict is to learn how to break the cycle of addiction. A year of sobriety and "relationship abstinence" is meant to allow a sufficient amount of time to deal with one's own emotions without having to resort to his/her addiction, to build self-awareness and to become responsible for one's own emotional care. Rather than relying on an external source for relief or emotional gain, which is what s/he is accustomed to do, s/he begins to look internally, to rely on oneself as a source of emotional nourishment.

"The most important relationship is with oneself" poses a complete paradigm shift to the recovering addict. If the necessary amount of time to grow the relationship with oneself hasn't lapsed, chances are the recovering addict will do what they've been accustomed to do all of their lives; that is to look outside of oneself for relief or to make up for what is missing emotionally.

When unmet emotional needs begin to get played out in the relationship, the relationship can become an addictive or dysfunctional one, which further perpetuates the cycle of addiction. There may be excitement and hope at the beginning, but it's only be a matter of time before increasing strife, stress and dysfunction lead to the relationship's demise. An additional factor of concern is that dysfunctional and failed relationships dramatically increase the risk of relapse.

At the 5 month point of a sustained period of "relationship abstinence", Linda, a recovering alcoholic, proceeded to date a man, Jack, whom she met at a 12-Step meeting. Jack had been sober 10 years.

After approximately 5 dates during 3 weeks of dating him, the "writing was on the wall." Linda had sex with him on the third date, which felt like quite an accomplishment that she was able to wait "so long." When I asked her to assess the level of her emotional involvement, she thought about it awhile before saying in a tone of wonderment, "Not too much I hope. Noticed myself checking my phone messages more frequently than usual. That's all." She was referring his anticipated return from being out of town for several days. She didn't want to fret about whether he would call her upon his return, but she did. She didn't want to end up calling him before he called her, but she just couldn't wait.

There were other indications of emotional over-involvement. When Linda talked about how she reacted when a couple of overtures she had made to him, i.e. expressing a desire to celebrate his birthday together and a dinner invitation, he suggested they "play it by ear," she noticed herself getting angry and responding sarcastically to him.

It was apparent that Linda was looking for assurances that he is still interested. When his assurances weren't forthcoming, she reacted as if he wasn't being truthful, that he really wasn't interested in her or the relationship, which wasn't the case. He might have been taken aback by the edge in her voice. Linda couldn't see that she was reacting from wounds of past relationships, from a place of insecurity, and the extent her mental and emotional well being hinged on how he responded to her.

The challenge for Linda remains the same as for any other recovering addict; taking the time -- how ever long the process of self-reclamation takes, before entering into a sexually, intimate relationship.

"No intimate relationships during the first year of sobriety" is merely a reminder that it takes a year or so of rigorous participation in a program that is sobriety and self-based before one is emotionally ready to get sexually involved. If entering into such a relationship prematurely, the recovering person, and anyone else for that matter, runs the risk of unresolved dependency issues tainting the newly developing relationship. This is also the time to gain experience in a (platonic) intimate relationship.

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  • Tim


    15th Mar 2011

    I am 47 years old and a sex addict, including compulsive gambling. I am have been in the program for about 4 yrs with GA and 1.5 yrs in SAA. My marriage of 22 yrs is destroyed because of these addictions. But still have much loneliness and want to be with a great woman but don't want to ruin it either. I have a ways to go.

  • Lanny


    3rd Apr 2011


    Please tell us where in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous this "cardinal" rule is laid out? You didn't cite it because there it doesn't exist, at least not in the 12 steps nor anywhere in the entire book. In fact, on page 99, as to whether a couple should re-unite, the Book specifically recognizes that, "Obviously, no rule can be laid down."

    Anectdotes aren't what we alcoholics have to come to rely on, Danield, nor should we, and there are pleny of anectdotes that contradict yours. Love is a gift from God. And each one of us has our own path to recovery through the steps and reliance on our Higher Power. The Big Book clearly says that, which is why it is full of information about how to live with and love other people. Portions of chapters are devoted toward building and rebuilding relationships, including horribly damaged marriages. Every relationship is different because every couple is different.

    Read the Big Book before you dispense with information about the 12 step program, Daniel. You might learn something!

  • Susan


    18th Dec 2011

    Wow! I read the article thoroughly and the author never said that this piece of advice is part of the 12-Step program. He merely said that recovering addicts in the 12-Step programs hear this advice all of the time.

    Furthermore, the author never refers to re-establishing or fortifying pre-exsitent relationships. He is simply relaying why it is important to spend some quality time working on your issues before engaging in *new* intimate relationships.

    Personally, I have noticed that the people who refuse this wisdom tend to be dry drunks, those who are not willing to accept that they still have much work to do before they are emotionally healthy. I have to wonder if those who forgo this advice simply want *someone* to help fill the void instead of learning to fill that void in themselves. If a person truly wanted a healthy relationship, he or she would wait until they are healthy themselves. And if you truly cared about someone who is a recovering addict, you would *want* to give that person the space and time to do the work.

  • Lynn


    26th Jan 2012

    I have been involved with a re-recovering alcoholic for six years. He just recently left me for a recovering alcoholic he met at an AA meeting. She has six months of sobriety, he doesn't have a week. I'm anxiously waiting to see what happens. I'm probably going to have to pick up the pieces left like I always do.

  • Daniel Linder, MFT

    Daniel Linder, MFT

    28th Jan 2012

    Sounds like you're on your own recovery journey from codependency. Given that your boyfriend has gotten involved with someone who is in early recovery herself and is not adhering to the prevailing "rule of thumb" principle, "No (sexually) intimate relationships during the first year of recovery." I consider their relationship to be nothing short of a "house of cards."

    The question to ask yourself is what course of action is in your best interests in the face of your boyfriend's apparent lack of judgment or faulty decision-making. Your self-examination could lead you to the realization that you may have made more of your relationship than it was. Depending on how far along you are on your own recovery path, it's quite possible that his behavior, leaving you for this woman he met at an AA meeting, could prove to be a fatal blow to your relationship.

    Being resigned "to picking up the pieces like you always do" leaves you in your codependency addiction. Are you on a path of recovery or not? If so, what does that mean to you?


  • Lynn


    31st Jan 2012

    I'm trying so hard to let go but it's not working. He tells me he loves me, but I guess if he loved me he wouldn't be with this other woman. He tells me I'm his best friend and soulmate, but I'm afaid I'm being used. I'm sure you're correct and that I made more of this relationship than it was. I keep trying to hold on, but he's going to throw me off the cliff because I refuse to jump.

    He told me he needs time to figure her out. I figure its time to see if their relationship works and if not than I'm here. I don't know if I'm on a path to recovering or not. I want to let go and I can't.

    I've been through three detoxes and one rehab in the last six years with him. He's only drinking on the weekends now because he has to take alcohol tests through the week. His probation is up in May and I'm sure he will start drinking more than. I don't know what to do. I know he doesn't want me anymore.

  • Daniel LInder, MFT

    Daniel LInder, MFT

    1st Feb 2012

    This is a paradigm shift from the way you relate and conduct yourself in relationships. You're coming from having your self-worth be externally based to becoming more internally based, that is taking care of yourself, operating in your own best interests and depending on yourself primarily for your well-being. When you're depending on the other person or relationship to be okay, you stay attached to an illusion about the other person on relationship, don't see that relationship as not working for you and therefore be unable to get out of an unhealthy relationship, or at least, take space and separate. The question to explore further is what would it take or what has to happen in order for you to dictate the terms of the relationship according to what's best for you. If you don't foresee his commitment to recovery and sobriety and continue in the relationship anyway, you have to be in denial. Any relationship with an addict who is in the throes of an addiction and not in recovery is doomed. You'll be going down with the ship.

    To view my video blog trainings on this subject, visit:
    Then ask your question below the video as to what came up for you.

  • Lynn


    7th Feb 2012

    Thanks for all of your help Daniel. I did view your video blog trainings on this subject and it is so true and really helped me. I keep telling myself that I don't want an alcoholic and all of his baggage that is too much to list. I do love him so and he knows I will do anything for him. I'm trying to be strong. I don't drink or smoke but have gained some weight and I really believe it's not what I'm eating, it's what's eating me. Maybe he doesn't need me anymore since he has her and she will help him the next time. I'm trying real hard every day and it helps so much to read different blogs on the subject from people who have been through this. Thank you.

  • Ray


    9th Apr 2012

    For alcoholics, the "cardinal rule" of no relationships in the first year is NOT in the big book. If you want information from the big book, go to pages 69 and 70. "We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone's sex conduct" - page 69, paragraph 1. There's more...just keep reading. That "cardinal rule" is a product of the treatment centers, not A.A. A.A. does not have "cardinal rules".

  • John


    30th Jun 2012

    Thanks Ray. Just like any society, guilt and shame has its place in AA too. Not to say it isnt a valid idea but men and women have enough trouble in early sobriety regardless of whether or not they have sex with someone else that is new or has some real sobriety.It is all up to the person. If you meet someone that can see it for what it is and nothing more then why not? But I know it can easily turn into a mixed up emotionally charged situation and thats what Ive had trouble with in recovery. Ive recently had encounters with women my age, older than, and younger than me and they all came about as a result of it being well known that i was divorced finally. Some amazing energy is generated in meetings and functions involving recovering people and I have seen some people really take advantage of new people and as a result it delays both parties growth in their recovery. But if its consensual from both ADULTS its nobodies business. I always overhear people bashing and judging people around meeting places for getting involved sexually with someone in the program and just by their appearance alone see clearly that they may not be getting any themselves and thus can onlystand by in envy and commit murder by character assassination. Mind your own fuckin' business and if you find yourself in a on-again off-again relationship with someone who is "sober" or "recovering", then just admit to God to yourself and another human being that you unwittingly became the new drug for this person and knowingly and willingly repeated the cycle over and again, and then show that at least in your recovery circle that you want God to take you to better things and BELIEVE that if your behavior continues you are sure todrink or use or,once again be used as just another drug by someone else.

  • Suzy


    28th Jul 2012

    I have been clean and sober for 2 years 6 months. When I first entered the program 4 years ago, I had trouble being alone because my self esteem was so low. I got into a relationship with another addict/alcoholic at 6 months sober. We proceeded to relapse together and that took me into another year of hell, both of us almost dying from this disease, both of us ending up in jail. I know this is not the case for everyone. But at this point in my sobriety I feel that I am not the same person I was when I was using, or in early sobriety. I have self esteem and I have standards with who I choose to spend my time with. Today I work full-time and it is important to me to contribute to society. I also have hobbies and a close relationship with my family. The men I would be attracted to, when in early sobriety do not interest me today. I was sick, so I was attracted to other sick people.
    Also when I was in this dysfunctional relationship, we used to double date with another couple from the program. My friend broke up with the guy "Dave" and he got upset, used, overdosed and died. This disease kills. Old timers give suggestions for a reason. Just because it is not in the big book does not mean it should be ignored.

  • Ruth


    19th Oct 2012

    My son is in a relationship with someone he met in recovery ... they used together. He went back into recovery, and is in a program but doesn't understand why I am not supportive of this relationship. Even "sober" people need to learn how to be with themselves. I say: recovery and your relationship with yourself is the most important piece. Relationship/romance/sex is a distraction no matter how good and how real it may feel; no one wants to hear this from a Mother ... But I can't support them being together in my house.

  • Lisa


    24th Nov 2012

    This article was very well written. I couldn't find fault in one notion stated and I suggest that naysayers consider these suggestions with an open mind. No, many of the tried and true methods of remaining as emotional stable as we can, especially in the first year of recovery, won't be laid out, in plain text in any of literature. Instead, as we do in open meetings, where people share their experience, strength and hope, especially those of who have a substantial amount of "clean time" or sobriety, it might be a good idea to seriously consider the experiences shared by others. I, myself, understand and accept that at this stage in my recovery I am, indeed, not emotionally grounded enough to parcticipate in a healthy liaison. I'm looking forward to spending time with and getting to know me, before I can hope to adequately contribute to a burgeoning connection with another.

  • Jim


    15th Feb 2013

    Whenever I have a strong reaction to something, I always return to the 12-Step wisdom that anytime I am disturbed there is something wrong with me (p. 90 of the 12&12). I believe that emotional sobriety is a necessity for a healthy relationship and most of us don't enjoy this fruit of our Step work until we have at least a year of sobriety from our primary addiction. So while I agree that 12-Step groups have no rules but merely suggestions, the year-of-relationship-abstinence suggestion seems very wise to this recovering addict.

  • Nick


    2nd Apr 2013

    I've heard the old chestnut, "no sex or whatever for the first year" and personally I think its a load of crap.

    From my experiences in recovery, alkies and addicts often haven't got the first idea about how to go about dating or relating to the opposite sex. This is because active alcoholism or addiction pretty much precludes a worthwhile potential partner taking interest in somebody who is currently using or drinking. This sadly may have been the case for years.

    For these reasons and from personal experience the last person I would be taking advice from is somebody who doesn't have a clue in the first place.

    I for one have had a long term relationship with somebody else in recovery and we got together well before the one year mark and survived and prospered.

    I'd love to know how some of the recovery guru's above would go anout asking somebody out and how they would prepare the occasion. As in dress, personal presentation, suggesting and negotiating an appropriate outing or activity etc.

    Finally if your in early recovery and your broke, you smell funny, all your belongings are in a garbage bag and your eyes are still rolling around your head you won't have to be worry about avoiding sex and relationships. They won't be happening away.

  • Drew


    14th Jun 2013

    It's simple. Don't. It's called 13 stepping. As far as the poster who has relationship before 1 year? You are a newconer then and probably one now. Your post certainly reads like one.

  • Saylor


    26th Jun 2013

    Well said Jim!!

  • Diane


    1st Jul 2013

    I have 5 months sober. I was not looking for a relationship.
    I did start dating someone in the program who is 3 years
    sober. I feel it is a good relationship. I trust him.
    But I keep hearing gossip about how he is taking
    Advantage of me because I am new. That he is a 13
    stepper. But he has never been in a relationship
    since he has been sober. I really like him but
    am so confused because of gossip.

  • Tina


    30th Jul 2013

    This article is resonating soundly with personal experience that I am facing now. When I decided to quit drinking, a friend who was also interested in me quit as well. We began to hang out quite a bit and it has slowly progressed into a romantic relationship. He is very considerate of my time and space, but it is too easy to choose to spend time with him over focus on myself. I am starting to find myself depressed and believe that it is because I am neglecting my recovery. I feel as though quitting drinking has made me aware of all of the parts of my life that have been in disarray over the past several years from drinking. Sobriety has left me feeling like a child emotionally. I don't know how to cope with negative feelings on my own. I am not happy with myself and although this other person loves and cares about me and makes me feel worthy, that love needs to come from an internal place that is permanent. With him to rely on for that love, I have not had the opportunity to create that in my own heart. I have also neglected focusing on all of the parts of my life that are in shambles and this has contributed to my low self esteem. I completely agree with the advice to not have a relationship for a year out of recovery. I am going to heed this advice from this point forward.

  • Alexander


    13th Nov 2013

    I would like to thank you for writing that article. Your extensive knowledge on the subject is astonishing. You referred to one couple. One. I understand it's just an article but you could have thrown in some more statistics maybe even a pie chart on exactly how many couples in that situation you have helped or dealt with. I find myself in that situation and my girlfriend found your article for me. Thank you so much for your expertise on this subject.

  • Bonnie


    6th Jan 2014

    This subject and the responses to it should prove that this is a highly controversial subject. Because there are so many dynamics involved (like a persons baseline maturity level or quality of sobriety, etc.)each potential relationship should be individually considered, preferably by your sponsor and others in your homegroup These would be the people who observe your recovery behavior most often and help you to decide whether or not the relationship is impeding your recovery. I would strongly suggest one to confer with them and heed their advice. If they notice a change in your recovery behavior for the worse it would probably be best to terminate the relationship. Us alkies need small steps, so if you are considering a new relationship take it ONE DAY AT A TIME just like your program and I think you will see if your higher power had a hand in it the outcome will be just what He intended. God Bless all the recovering alcoholics/addicts. May true sobriety be your greatest gift!

  • Liz


    15th Apr 2014

    I understand the whole "don't date in the first year" advice that they give to people but I don't feel like it's true for anyone. If you have a good grip on recovery and are still working the program and keep recovery #1 there is no way that you couldn't have a relationship. I'm 4 years sober and I'm dating someone in the program who is just 5 months sober. We both have our own meetings and our own sponsers and our own journey but at the end of the day we also have each other. We keep recovery #1 and we understand that each of us has their own life in recovery and different expiriences. We are so happy and when we're together it's just amazing. We converse about our recovery to each other and it works out. As long as you stay true to the program anything in your life is possible!

  • Rue


    8th May 2014

    To the extent anyone has feedback......I have a related but not identical situation regarding relationships and recovery. Married 13 years and I'm 5 months sober after starting an outpatient program in December. Like most couples we've had underlying problems (both sides of the street) for years but never tried to address with help. Actually we tried 5 years ago shortly after my wife had an emotional affair but it didn't work out with the therapist. At any rate - my question relates to the 1st year of recovery - any thoughts or guidelines on when it is right time after recovery to consider couples counseling to work on the marriage. Hopefully this makes sense. Appreciate any and all thoughts. Regards, Rue

  • Jo


    13th May 2014

    From someone that was dating someone in early recovery I have seen both sides of the coin here and I feel yes it is important that recovery comes first but I do suggest that you be honest with the person from day one not just up and leave and cut that person off as it does create more problems for the recovering addict as well which has been in my case. The other person has feelings too and being they have supported their recovery in every way they may also feel used and abused so if you are going to try out a new relationship be honest with yourself and your respective partner of the real issues and how it may play out if it you can't move forward with it. I'm hoping that once my partner finds himself and loves himself that he will one day love me like I do him unconditionally and if you truly love the person as I do you will wait.

  • Deborah


    11th Jun 2014

    I was introduced to AA when we were first dating by a man who had 22 years. I committed myself to getting sober.We were together for 6 years but he travelled at least 2 weeks every month for work, and while I was fine while he was home, the loneliness while he was away, as well as my revved-up work schedule in his absence would frequently lead me back out.
    He asked me to move in with him at year 3, and to marry him at year 4, but when he ended it, he claimed that my not maintaining perfect sobriety in his absence was the reason. And, of course, that he would not wait another year for me to get sober.
    I feel that love is unconditional, and some honesty from each of us could have healed my difficulty in remaining totally abstemious.

  • Ester


    24th Jun 2014

    I have a question in regards to someone who has been sober for 12 years & recently relapsed for a week, then admited themself into a 30 day program. Should they too wait a year? Does it make a difference if the two people have known each othe platonicly for decades?

  • Heather


    13th Jul 2014

    I need some advice, please. I have a friend who I am in a sexual relationship with and in the last few months my feelings for him have gotten stronger. We get along well, but the problem is that he is an alcoholic and he is going through AA and has told me that he is at the point where he feels he should have stronger feelings for me but he doesn't and this happened in his previous relationship. He wants to have a relationship with me but he doesn't know how to or what to do. I understand alcoholism is difficult to get over and he has been drinking since the age of 13 and he now is 30. I care deeply for him and want to be there for him and help him. I just don't know what to do..Please help me...

  • Daniel Linder, MFT

    Daniel Linder, MFT

    22nd Jul 2014

    Hi Heather,

    Sounds like you might be slipping into some co-dependent behavior - your desperation or emotional dependency on him may be causing some perceptual distortion. Although you didn't indicate how much recovery he's had, I'm assuming that it's less than a yr. He's indicated that his feelings and level of desired involvement with you doesn't match your desired level of involvement with him, some of which could be attributed to the fact that he might not be ready for an intimate relelationship with you given that he is presumably early in recovery. As is the case with codependency in general, your primary challenge in your recovery is your self-care, which means in this case. It sounds to me like you need to slow down, pull back emotionally, and pay more attention to his ability and desire to be in a relationship with you.


  • Jessica


    5th May 2015

    So I've found myself doing some research about relationships and how they work for people involved in the AA/NA programs. I've been seeing this guy for about a month now. He's involved in the program and I occasionally go with him to some of his meetings as support. We like each other and we are sexually involved. He has been worrying about if what we are doing is going to be okay or not. He's almost 10 months sober. I am nothing but supportive and positive for him. I care deeply about him already. I'm worried his sponser is going to tell him exactly what the lines above say. I want to be with him, but I don't want to get in the way of his recovery. Any advice?

  • Jessica,

    Understand that in the very beginning stages of a relationship, i.e. 1 month, a foundation is being built. "Relationships continue from where they begin." "A healthy relationship consists of two separate, autonomous Selves..." If it is codependent at the beginning, chances are the relationship will evolve into a codependent one. If it is based on to separate Selves or are relying more on themselves than each other, it will be a healthy, intimate, emotionally nourishing one.

    It sounds like he could be in Stage II of Recovery, which is period of intensive self-work, developing the relationship with his Self. I'm not sure how far along he is in Stage II and whether he and you are ready, separate enough, more fully formed, whole Selves.

    I don't get how well you are taking care of yourself, and how aware you are of the level of your emotional involvement. You sound like you could be overly or prematurely involved for only a 1 month rel. While you have been " nothing but supportive and positive," his involvement with you could still be a distraction from his recovery that neither of you are aware of.

    His sponsor would only say that to him to make him more wary. The relationship may well be heading into an 'addict/codependent' dynamic if he becomes more involved, dependent or attached to you when he is hasn't developed enough of a relationship with his Self so that he could be healthy enough to create a healthy relationship.

    I'm not saying for you to "break-up" right now, but rather of you to be learning more about your own vulnerability, codependent tendencies and are learning how to sift your priorities so that you consider your feelings and needs ahead of and above his.

  • tracie


    5th Jul 2015

    I started a relationship 1 month into sobriety this one of the best things that could have happened I felt whole happy life was easy until 3 months in
    I suddenly saw this person as a complete stranger and I felt very depressed and emotional it's very true what all these people have encountered you need to find out who you are before you can possibly enter into a relationship it's such a difficult and emotional time it wouldn't be fair to put someone else through that either

  • Garry


    9th Aug 2015

    Hi all,It is a difficult time for all of us .Getting involved in a relationship should be our choices.
    I now have 7 months of sobriety today,the lady that I lost due to my drinking ,finally coming back.Just wish she would have walked with me into those doors of recovery.
    We are still apart,our relationship is long distant, we still love each other very much, but her job ,career really has her overwhelmed,anxiety and all. I get the worse from this.Then the Friday or Saturday show its face ,she's back into her wine.
    That's when the liquor she's induced, her emotions of the bottle comes out.From questioning me about who I'm seeing, jealousy,to finally, I miss you,I want you. Love you so much Angel.
    I'm a Cancerian you all know, what a person like me is like ,giving, emotional,always there to help out, but leaving myself out.I love this lady so much, but all these emotional times.
    Not once has it taken my out or relapse.We had a 3 year relationship with her. She does want me back,but all to do with time.
    One being her daughter resents me for hurting her Mom.
    Our for us .Not for her daughter to control.
    This is where I stand now a scared lady that won't put her foot forward and set boundaries with her daughter.I'm always finding ways to help out to hang-on to our relationship.
    She does know the Alcohol took us out.I've been trying so hard to get her to walk with me.Its amazing how alcohol can be so strong, then hanging on to a relationship.Taking it together towards a Healthy path.
    All I can do is keep loving her,hoping one day she will see the lite.She knows that she is dealing with health issues,and the Alcohol will make all three of her conditions worst.Another thing her two daughters won't seem to help.
    What to do ? Will be seeing bet soon.
    Take Care all. I love this sober life.

  • Kathleen


    9th Nov 2015

    HI everyone, I'm looking for some insight.

    I am not, nor have I ever been involved in AA. I rarely drink and my days of doing anything else were limited to high school. Recently, I met a man who let me know about his past and how he was 8 years sober from drugs and alcohol. We hit it off and things were going great. He was very upfront with me about everything, including his feelings. He let me know about his last relationship and how toxic it was. It had ended about 5 months prior. We had 2 situations of somewhat intimacy (no sex). Then, on a Saturday, he ran into his ex at a social gathering. The interest in me changed tone drastically. He started telling me that he needed time to slow down and figure things out. He needed to think about himself and his needs and figure out his emotional issues and self-worth. He said he couldn't jump into a relationship right now and needed to slow way down. Some things he was saying made me ask him if he started a 12 step again. He said yes. A couple weeks passed and it came out that he'd been speaking with his ex the whole time. He let me know that he felt God put her back in his life to give him the chance to say sorry for some things that happened at the end of their relationship. He said they were having talks about what they each needed in a relationship. I stood up for myself and called him out on everything. I told him I knew what was going on and that if he wasn't interested in me he should just walk away. He keeps telling me that he strongly believes God put us together for a reason and that I am the type of woman he wants to be with...eventually. He drew the line with his ex after I had a long talk with him about how she really didn't have his best interests in mind and pointed out a lot that he needed to see. He tells me they are over and done. What I am wondering I being totally stupid? He keeps telling me he still has feelings for me. I kissed him one night and he didn't kiss me back. After he left I texted him and told him that he owes me honesty and that if the feelings have left the building that is fine, he just needs to let me know. He said they haven't and he is really into me, he just really needs to just be friends and go slow. I'm at a complete loss and hate this. It sounds like when in a 12 step you back-burner relationships, but then I wonder why does he continue to talk with his ex about what they need for a good relationship?

    Any thoughts are great. Thank you!

  • Hi Kathleen,

    I'm wondering if you know where you are... If you are self-aware, in touch, centered and your radar is operating, and when there are warning signals, they register?

    There were at least 11 warning signal missed.

    If you are not in touch and you can't register warning signals, you're toast. You're going to end up wondering what hit you.

    All of the following situations warrant a proactive and self-protective response. Any time you're are relating to anyone, you need to be present, ready to relate, stand on your own two feet and act in your own best interests based on your true experience. The moment you pick up on them, you must act -- pull back, shut down, go real slow, take space, dis-engage, divest.

    Most people who are grounded and present in themselves know that no one is or can ever be upfront about everything, especially when you first meet someone or in early stages of a relationship. There is no substitute for putting in real spent with someone; that "friends" is a term often used to avoid the honesty of explicit disinterest and that "friend" doesn't mean friend. If a toxic relationship ended 5 years prior, I'd be a bit wary, take more time, get to know each other - the "jury remains out" longer until a verdict is reached.

    It's also necessary to be able to let go at any time, especially when when you are hearing another person tell you that he's not ready, has unresolved emotional issues. Lies and inconsistencies spell dishonesty and mistrust - that's a non-negotiable deal-breaker right there. ...unresolved issues with X spells unavailability. If you have to coach him on what to tell X, that sounds like codependency in its highest form, boundary issues and violation of a basic relationship tenet, that being real consists of 2 people, not 3 - triangulation spells doom. ..,kissed him one time and he didn't kiss back.. Why would you want to kiss someone who doesn't kiss back? If the attraction or response is not reciprocated, only desperation can blind you to the possibility that you two are not a fit, except if there is a genuine friendship in the making.

    ...upfront we me about everything

    ...toxic relationship ended 5 most prior

    ...interest in you drastically changed after running into X at social gathering

    ...needing time to slow down and figure things out, emotional and self-worth issues

    ...needing to slow way down, not ready for a relationship

    ...had been speaking with his X the whole time

    ...unresolved issues with X

    ...he should tell me he wasn't interested and just walk away

    ...drew the line with X after a long talk with him

    ..,kissed him one time and he didn't kiss back

    ...needs to be friends

  • Hi everyone,

    I am looking for 25 people to participate in a study group regarding "No Intimate Relationships during the First Year of Sobriety." Your participation will include being on a tele-class with me asking your questions and confronting your challenges regarding this issue.

    If you would like to participate, I am requesting a $10 fee so that I know you are serious about your commitment to confront the challenges you are facing in your intimate relationships. As soon as you send your payment to RelationshipVision via PayPal at:, I willl contact you with the details of the call.

    Be well,


  • PJ


    22nd Nov 2015

    Hello Daniel,

    Is your study group for addicts only, or will it include addicts' partners as well?


  • PJ


    23rd Nov 2015


    I'm in a new relationship, one month old, and it has been wonderful, supportive, healthy. We've not had sex yet. I'm just entering Stage I, he is too. Can we continue our relationship so long as we abstain from sex for the first year? If we focus our relationship on sharing, support and friendship and wait a year before we get physical?

  • Paige


    17th Jan 2016

    I am 33 my husband is 35, we have been married for 17 years...16 year old and 13 year old boys. Found out 3 years ago he started using meth got real bad into it. Finally I said to go to rehab or leave so he went to out patient rehab and goes to other recovery groups and counselor weekly. This was in October 2015. Well a couple weeks ago I was served divorce papers and he said he had a 21 year old girlfriend that he met in rehab who is bipolar. They have been doing "seeing" each other for 3 months. Totally crushed :(

  • Maria


    19th Jan 2016

    We had five months of fun and laughter, like-minded discussions and adventures. I wanted him to find recovery through AA. But, when he did, he pulled away and insisted on platonic friendship / no relationships with anyone. I'm so, so sad. I'm going to Alanon meetings often and I am committed to 90 days apart and working on me. But it just hurts inside so much. How will we know if / when it's time to consider our relationship again? I desperately want him in my life again someday ... soon I hope.
    Is this AA thing about relationships outdated? It is so painful...

  • Bridget


    11th Mar 2016

    I've recently met and became smitten with a guy who says he is 7 months sober. I like him and see the potential and believe he is sober, but he has exemplified certain behaviors which have made me concern.
    They are... Driving my car and not telling me, but he did right after that he didn't have a license and was just getting back soon. Wanting to move in right away after the relationship started, not wanting to stop searching for others to date after we slept together. Asking me for a pain pill every night for three nights, which I had from recent surgery. He is kind, and telling me if I cared about him I would really go with him instead of study for a test for my work which was really important. I find he needs a lot of printing. I got angry at him for driving my car and he not telling me he didn't have a license. I was miffed and disappointed when he wanted to continue to sleep with me and look for others and I threatened to terminate the relationship, he sorta moved in and took over and I demanded he pay me the fee to be out on the lease and to pay rent. He paid the leading fee after living with me one week but I decided to return it to him and asked him to move out, on the third night of asking me for one of my pain pills because he said his shoulder hurt I said NO, and I asked for the board to reconsider my extension for my test.
    As I will mention now but should have earlier. We both share many of the same likes and are very attracted to each other and share many commonalities. We genuinely enjoy being together. He has wanted all the time got this relationship to work and I keep getting scared and pushing him away. Is this my own insicurities and I just need to stand up to him?
    What is your take on this situation?

  • Trust your gut. Heed the warning signals going off. You have developed enough of a relationship with your Self to notice, pay attention to and ask for a reality check. The signals you noticed: 1- 7 months sober; 2- driving my car and not telling me; 3- and not having a valid driver's license he was getting back soon; 4- wanting to move in right away, after sleeping together; 5- if I cared about him I would really go with him instead of study for a test for my work; 6- asking me for one of my pain pills. Yes, there were at least six warning signals are telling you to be wary, stay back, pull back, and not to pursue or get more involved; and each one was enough in its own right to send you running.

    You've come a long way. YOU ASKED HIM TO MOVE OUT. Yes, you assessed the situation, his behavior, your feelings and perceptions and decided to pull back or break it off, despite feeling scared and insecure. This is healthy self-care, healthy self-interest! Being attracted, great sex, common interests are not where the rubber meets the road in an healthy intimate relationship. In terms of standing up to him, you may need to actually tell him, "Thanks, but no thanks" or, "good-bye," that you intend to discontinue the real and no longer want to continue seeing him, not one more time.

  • Robert Smith

    Robert Smith

    15th May 2016

    It does say on pages 68-69 the last paragraph on 68 says. Now about sex. Many of us needed an overhauling there. But above all, we tried to be sensible on this question. It,sso easy to get way off the track.(The treatment centers have gotten way off track the more you read of this)Here we find human opinion running to extremes-absurd extremes, perhaps(the first year theory is just an opinion and not science fact with studies you can read)One set of voices cry that sex is a lust of our lower nature, a base necessity of procreation. Then we have the voices who cry for sex and more sex; who bewail the institution of marriage; who think that most of the troubles of the race are traceable to sex causes. They think we don't have enough of it, or that it isn't the right kind. they see its significance everywhere. One school would allow man no flavor for his fare and the other would have us all on a straight pepper diet.(The no relationship rule is just a school of thought, nothing to back it up except lemmings in the fray.)We want to stay out of this controversy(i.e. the first year no relationship rule)We DO NOT want to be the ARBITER of anyone's sex conduct.(That means hands off let the person live as they please)We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we didn't.(Forcing somebody to abstain from relationships is not a human thing to do anyways.)

  • Jenn


    5th Jul 2016

    I am a woman in recovery and I am finding it is THE MEN who become very attached after having sex.

  • Daniel A. Linder

    Daniel A. Linder

    24th Jul 2016

    Hi Robert, (response to your message from May 15th 2016)

    Thanks for your response.

    Please reference "pas 68-69."

    "No Intimate Relationships During the First Year of Recovery" is not intended as a hard and fast rule at all, or the "ARBITER of anyone's sex conduct." It's more intended to merely suggest a line of self-inquiry, and for you to look more closely at the underlying rationale.

    I understand recovery as a transitional journey our of unhealthy, dependency based relationships with means of relief to healthy, Self-based relationships. At some point in the process of "breaking-up" you or everyone will have contend with some varying degrees of emotional withdrawal, when alone and before you discover and tap into you rich, abundant resources lying within. You're wobbly during this time and highly susceptible to relieving the angst, fear, dread, emotional overwhelm, doubts about being along by latching onto another means of relief, which is often a relationship. Sexual involvement tends to be much more emotionally charged than a platonically developing friendship, which can be a huger temptation to rely on an external sources to feel better, when you're in the process of developing internally based resources - the relationship with Self. It's more to point attention to where we are vulnerable, reconcile with our humanity, become compassionate and trust the process of our own Self-growth and relationship building. Having sex is not the concern as much as strengthening the emotional attachment to a means of relief when you're in the process of "breaking-up."

    Feel feel to respond and continue our exchange.


  • Katie


    30th Jul 2016

    I just got out of treatment and was approached by a man with 26 years of sobriety. We went on a couple of dates and ended up in an intimate relationship. I feel a little confused. I feel our groups disapproval and have had a warning about this man. But we talk all the time and get along great. I knew when he approached me what was happening but I wanted to be with someone. I am working on myself and my sobriety and yet I have been basically living at his house for two weeks. I am torn. My sponsor also a male doesn't seem to have any objections to me being involved with this man and my therapist feels like as long as I continue to work on my own life that giving this relationship a chance might be OK. I still feel vulnerable and am having a lot of distraction thinking about where this is headed. There is an age difference as well. This man assured me he wants a relationship but I dont know what that means. I have been reading the Big Book looking for answers but it's mostly articles like this one that I have gotten information from. Is this absolutely doomed for failure or could it possibly work out? He has so many good things to say in AA and we go to meetings together often. Thanks

  • Frank


    10th Aug 2016

    My name's Frank and I am an alcoholic and an addict.

    I have read the big book several times, I go to aa meetings 3 times a week (which is less than I used too)I have 3 sponsees and almost 4 years of sobriety. I have worked my 12 steps and 12 traditions, experienced the 12 promises in their fullest.

    This rule is NOWEHERE in the big book at all. It is only a polite suggestion by SOME sponsors (not me). During the first year of my sobriety I had relationships which I started and ended during that year. At no time did I stumble in my sobriety in that first year or even come close to it. There is no reason at all a person shouldn't or cant start a relationship in the first year of their sobriety. It is in my opinion, that suggestion serves only the sponsor so that they can keep their sponsees close to them instead of a partner to maintain their step work. In my personal opinion (and I say personal) it is a stupid suggestion

  • Irene


    16th Aug 2016

    I have been in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic for three years. We were both widowed when we met. I encouraged him to stay with the AA program. He met a recovering alcoholic who was also an AA counselor, and got into a relationship. She knew he was in a relationship, and kept pursuing him. I thought AA frowned on this type of behavior. I was also told that AA has become more of a matchmaking program, with the 12 step program thrown in for good measure. While I can't change what happened in my relationship,I believe AA needs to take a hard line to discouraging these types of behaviors in the future. Especially when the relationships in AA commence with lies and deception, which will only make continued and lasting recovery for an addictive person more difficult.

  • KJ


    28th Oct 2016


    Hi. I have been seeing a woman for about three months now and basically today she said she needs to talk to her sponsor and that we need to not see each other as I have started my own journey of recovery, I'm three weeks sober and she's 5 years. I initially felt my emotions creep up of feeling abandoned and then realize that she's being proactive and wants me to focus on my recovery. I made the decision to become sober for myself and thought that it would benefit my life in a positive way and instead I'm losing a budding relationship because of some AA code to not date within the first year? Any insight would be great. Thank you

  • Andy S

    Andy S

    21st Nov 2016

    I know someone who got into a relationship in AA at 3 months sober and is still with that person and is now 13 years sober ? How come he hasn't relapsed?

  • mike


    11th Dec 2016

    Dan's article contains much wisdom and common sense both of which are hard to possess this day and age, much less by those in recovery. Something that is overlooked in my opinion is the surrender the third step requires. If you are a traditional Christian than sex is only permissible within the confines of marriage. When the Big Book was written there was much more of a moral consensus and the divorce rate was much less than what it is today. Get emotionally stable first (self control, discipline) than if free to date with the intention of finding the one God has in His plan for you. Stability, peace, joy and serenity will be the fruit.

  • "No Intimate Relationships During the First Year of Sobriety!" is a guideline, not an absolute. When it is possible for healthy, lasting relationship to develop at that early stage of recovery, it's highly unlikely. Far more often, the emotions, conflicts and issues that will invariably arise trigger a relapse and jeopardizes the newly developing relationship because the recovering person hasn't fully broken up w/the relationship with the means of relief.

  • Mr. J

    Mr. J

    2nd Feb 2017

    Hi Daniel,

    I am in a pretty rough situation currently and found this post from you that I can relate to.

    I've been in the program since April 2015 on the advice of my now ex-wife, who was having an affair while I was attending my first 6 months of meetings. We have one child and married each other for him, to try to make our best efforts last. They lasted about 5 years before it all fell apart.

    Fast forward to May 2016, I've been in the program for just over a year. My divorce was still pending, but she had moved out and we were basically "negotiating" the terms of our divorce. (which was finalized in Dec. 2016) However, in May, I met someone who had 10 years sobriety in the program and we started dating. (she had also just been through a divorce from an abusive relation, also has one child, 2 years old) I took the "getting to know you part" of it very slow, because I've had major trust issues since my last relationship ended in an affair. Our relationship was sexual from the very beginning though and for me it started out as a way to validate my ability to be attractive to someone.

    We've continued to date to this day. She says that she loves me and my reply has been "I'm really fond of you too." Because that is the absolute truth. I am trying to live my life differently than I have in the past and I'm honest even though it may be difficult for me or the other person.

    But here's the worst of it. I found out about 8 weeks ago that she is pregnant, with my child. I was under the impression she was using birth control, because at one time she was. She also knows that I have no interest in having more kids or getting married again. She has said that this baby is fighting to stay alive " no one has ever fought to be with me as much as this baby" and terminating the pregnancy is not an option. I have stood firm that this would be my choice if I were pregnant in this same scenario, but obviously this is not my choice. 51% is hers and 49% is mine.

    So, today we are taking a week off from talking and seeing each other. I needed a break because every possible outcome of this situation has been crowding my brain and I cannot seem to come to a solution. She's asked me if I like dating her and I've said "yes." She's also asked if I plan to "abandon" my baby at birth and I've said "no." So then she says, "then why can't you and I do this together?"

    I'm hurting, she's hurting. And it really seems like there is no positive solution. At least not yet. Any advice or suggestions on this would be a blessing. Thank you.

  • Several points of feedback...

    This situation is forcing you to take a hard look at yourself, since you began your recovery journey approx 2 yrs ago, that is, what has changed, is changing and what you want to see for yourself in your life and relationships.

    There is a running theme of taking responsibility for what you've done to contribute to the situation you find yourself in w/her at this juncture. Despite your best efforts and having achieved a sustained period of sobriety before you met her, you still ended up getting intimately and emotionally involved w/someone before you were ready, and that your behavior, how you conducted yourself and your perceptions of yourself, her and the relationship you have and developed w/her are distorted. In other words, you were unconsciously driven (by your need to "validate your ability to be attractive to someone," blinding your ability to assess whether this is someone you want to get more involved with and how involved you want to get, your judgment had to have been impaired. Your involvement sill be ill-fated if you can't act based on your ability to assess your experience and act accordingly.

    Despite your best efforts to "take the getting to know process very slow," you ended up getting sexually involved on the first night your were together, when getting sexually involved is tantamount to getting emotionally involved, especially for her, which you weren't dealing with being in denial about that.
    Also, it doesn't sound like you've worked through the residual feelings of mistrust related to your wife's affair and lies as it appears that you were and are still needing to protect yourself by maintaining emotional distance from her, which made you less available emotionally to her and stands in the way of connecting, keeping you apart and unable to grow and deepen the relationship.

    The issue of taking responsibility also applies to her getting pregnant when you had assumed she was on birth control, and "have no interest in having more children," which doesn't exonerate you from the responsibility of caring for the child financially and emotionally (assuming that a child you fathered is going to be born.)

    I don't think this is the time to take space apart. There's no running away. No way out. This is the time for the two of you to come together and figure out a plan as to how you're are going to proceed regarding your relationship as well as how the child will be raised by the both of you fully committed to that. You got yourselves into this together and can only achieve resolution together, which I thinking could be a bonding process, and give your life and relationship with her new meaning and purpose.
    To achieve these objectives, you're looking at doing some individual and couples therapy.

  • Kane


    7th Mar 2017

    I dated this guy for 8 months then he checked himself into alcohol rehab. What is the rule for someone who was already in a relationship prior to going into rehab? Are they supposed to break up with the person they were in a relationship with prior to going to rehab? I didn't contribute to the drinking as I'm not a big drinker and can take it or leave it. I'm very supportive.

  • Kane


    7th Mar 2017

    Correction: I dated the guy for 10 instead not 8 months when he checked himself into alcohol rehab.

  • Steph


    14th Mar 2017

    I've been with my boyfriend for almost a year. A crazy year it has been . We have known eachother for over a decade. My boyfriend who I knew going in was a recovering addict seemed to be slipping into his old ways. Our relationship as well started going down the tubes. From my perspective at least if you'd ask him he'd say we are fine. I am not fine though. He hasn't seemed to take any reaposabilty for any of our issues. None of which are a priority anyway considering he is now again in rehab he will be back in two days. I have my first ultrasound for our baby tomorrow which I will be doing alone. I'm scared to hope that he is going to come out and we are gonna just live this fairy tale against the odds relationship. I guess my question is is our relationship doomed to fail? Is it possible for us to even have this new start when there is so much pain and mistrust that was never addressed... I don't want him to think I'm bashing him or his recovery but at some point it's no longer about us... and there are problems and things that need to be addressed in my opinion before I can jump into this new life with him.

  • Seems that you are sensing, putting attention on and being mindful of looming questions and uncertainties..."There are problems (unresolved issues) "that need to be addressed before you can jump into this new life with him," and that this relationship is not going to be a fairy tale, against all odds relationship. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it is doomed to fail. The outcome here depends on how conscious and connected you are within yourselves, but also how aligned and committed your are to recovery and to building a more solid foundation and a new beginning, that doing whatever it takes, learning all you have to learn to co-create and co-sustain an intimate, emotionally nourishing relationship together. However, you must factor into your future planning that if and when either one of you are in any addiction, or just beginning recovery, you must both agree to put the relationship on hold until a period of sustained sobriety is achieved because it is just not possible to function in a relationship when one foot is in and the other is out. Before you can establish trust and address the pain points and mistrust that is jeopardizing the relationship's existence, you must always have an active, ongoing relationship with your Selves, and make that relationship primary all the time. Yes, it's quite a lot you're dealing with and having to sort out with a baby on the way.

  • In response to Kane, dated March 7th, 2017....
    I would say the first 8 mos. of your relationship, prior to his checking himself into rehab, is suspect, meaning that it requires you to go back and look at all that you missed and never discussed. He was in his addiction during the time the relationship was taking hold, which means that he was in effect, "carrying on a secret love affair" (with alc), under a veil of denial, delusion and deception, and which again is cause to pause and take a look to better understand how these dynamics were showing up. Additionally, now that he may be in early recovery and hasn't achieved a sustained period of stabilization, the presumption is that there is little to no basis of relationship. Right now, everything is up in the air.

  • Gabbie


    27th Mar 2017

    I am hoping you can help give me advice on supporting my best friend, an alcoholic. She has 40 days sobriety and at day 17 maybe she started a sexual relationship with someone she met in recovery the first time (in November). Her partner is at around 90 days sober. This weekend she told me they got engaged. She's living 14 hours away from friends and family in half way and is engaged to a man 12 years older than her, divorced twice with children and none of us have ever met him. They've been dating for not even a month. I don't know how to support her when I fundamentally don't believe she has taken the time to heal herself.

  • Margot


    4th Apr 2017

    What if there's a case where you've been dating someone for a year, and they come to you and tell you they've been abusing pain killers and have gotten themselves into NA. This came completely out of the blue, and you had absolutely no idea this was an issue. I am completely supportive and want nothing but for her to get the help she needs. Does the "no relationships for year" apply to her as well? Even though I am not an addict and am completely supportive in this journey? The reason i'm asking is because I want her to get better, and shes already doing so great! I just don't want to stand in the way of that.

  • Hi Margot,

    "No intimate relationships during the first year of sobriety/recovery" wouldn't necessarily apply in this situation. It is more a guideline for developing a new relationship. If your partner admitted to prescription drug abuse, you would want to support her to seek t'ment and, to break-up her relationship with that means of relief and achieve a sustained period of stabilization. I would consider her relationship w/prescription drugs as her 'primary' relationship and your relationship w/her as secondary until she further enough along in her recovery. You and her would want to get to the place where you are both comfortable discussing the status of her relationship those drugs and the progress and changes she's making in developing the relationship with her Self.


  • Renee


    5th May 2017

    I have a few questions cause I've never been down this road before. I am not an addict nor have an addictive personality. I live my life easy, honest and work hard for what I've got. I have been in a 9 yr relationship with same sex partner (female) that is not only a recovering addict but is back in recovery now for 4 weeks. I have lost alot with this woman, especially trust. She is 44 yrs old and just got thru telling me she wants an open relationship with a 21 yr old that she met and has been talking to from recovery. She does not want to lose me but my heart tells me she has emotionally, physically and mentally torn me down enough and I need to walk away. Is this normal behavior from an addict with ADD, ADHD, bi polar and insecurities not to mention drug issues ? I am so stressed out an upset I really need someone to give me some inside advice. You can also text me at 910-850-5958

  • Shefali


    3rd Jun 2017

    I'm in a bizarre situation. My husband is a recovering alcoholic. He has been going to AA for a couple of years but has only been sober without relapse for 9 months. Prior to that, he'd be sober for 3 months, then fall off the wagon, go back to meetings, etc. He has a stack of 1 and 3 month chips.

    So I was really proud of him when he got his 9 month chip. Now, be aware that I have been married to this man for 18 years and have supported him as we figured out he was an alcoholic (4 years ago) and then he started to go to AA and I've supported his working on the program. When he and I first got married, 18 years ago, he had his alcohol use under control and I did not suspect he was an alcoholic. However, it is a progressive disease. 13 years I was diagnosed with cancer and that is when the drinking got worse and worse - I think he used alcohol to deal with emotional pain. (I am now cancer free) He was very supportive of me, however, while I was going through the cancer treatment. He encouraged me, cleaned up vomit when I threw up after chemo, etc. So despite his drinking getting worse, he was also making sure I was OK.

    Well, about a year ago he asked me if it was OK for him to contact his ex-wife to apologize as part of his 12 steps. They were married for 4 years, she divorced him due to his addiction issues. I supported him doing this as part of his program. He sent her a few emails and that was that. 2 months ago his mother died and all of a sudden he was emailing and calling his ex on a daily basis. I didn't know about this until recently... he hid it from me.

    Then two days ago he announced he wants to divorce me to get back with his ex! I was blown away. First off, he has only been sober 9 months. Second, his mother died recently. He told me he wants a divorce, then immediately (the next day) moved to an apartment. He has told me he is planning to re-marry his ex who is his "soulmate" - but he hasn't physically seen her for 25 years! so far it has just been phone calls and emails.

    I have no idea what to make of any of this. I told him that if he changes his mind in the next couple of months, I will take him back (but only if he goes through counseling with me - and he can't move back in with me until we've had at least a few sessions). After that, he is planning to move to California to be with his ex, and once he moves out there, as far as I'm concerned our marriage will be over. His ex is coming to visit him in a couple of weeks... I have been dealing with some horrible pain, obviously, and thinking even if my husband and I get divorced, I still should do a few sessions with Al-anon just to help work on the emotional pain caused by living with an alcoholic for so many years.

  • DavidRaymond


    8th Jun 2017

    Thank you for this insightful article AND for this forum with great discussions. This forum has helped me come to terms with something that has bothered me for almost three years now regarding a lifelong friend who is a recovering alcoholic.

    This wonderful woman has been through a lot including a divorce from an addict, a string of failed relationships based on drinking ... which led to one relationship with deep alcohol abuse. A relationship where her partner ended up taking their life which led my friend to fall further into the depths of addiction. She went through multiple bouts of alcohol induced pancreatitis, 2 stints of in-patient rehab, IOP treatment with relapse. We as family and friends tried our best to intervene, help and support her struggle with addiction.

    Three years ago she relapsed and went into a 3rd 28 day in-patient rehab and we greeted her home with open arms and high hopes. AND as usual we said we'd be there to remind her we're there to help her in sobriety, to go to meetings with her, be a defacto sponsor. And we talked EXTENSIVELY about the "no intimate relationships in the first year", and she agreed. Then it happened, the "miracle of love" cured her (my words).

    Like a LIGHT SWITCH, in two weeks out of rehab, she started talking about seeing this "nice guy from church" (someone she wanted NOTHING to do with in the past). When asking / texting / calling about meetings, aftercare and life in general, calls were not returned etc. The warning bells were going off, as she was cutting out contact with the support system.

    About a MONTH after that she stated things were getting serious, and we kept trying to remind her to take time and concentrate on your treatment. Fewer replies back. She also stopped attending meetings or "prescribed after care". The next month the talk of marriage came up, they got engaged shortly thereafter, and moved in together in his house. ALL OF THIS within 12 weeks out of rehab.

    When I decided to do what I promised - to continue to try to help. I was called "mean and hurtful" particularly when I stated that I was concerned that she was substituting her addictions - getting off the booze (Dry Drunk) but picking up the addiction of "love" & she should talk to her therapist etc. That was the last straw for her I guess because she basically cut all ties, moved away, got married and just left.

    Look, I understand about situations of triggers from the past, enabling, co-dependency in addiction as I have been though a lot of this in my own family - and if she needed to make changes I get it and we'd have tearfully & happily supported things that HELPED her journey to sobriety, including distancing ourselves from her if need be.

    But the "instant gratification" of a relationship that she basically said "cured her" is PRECISELY why I think the advice of waiting a year is indeed important. She jumped out of the frying pan and into another frying pan.

    She never EVER got a chance to learn to live in her own skin, to stand on her own, to become her own best friend - and instead got "addicted to love" and cut out ANYONE that expressed concerns about her behavior that seemed to be short circuiting her path to sobriety. I always questioned if I went to far by trying to keep her on track ... but seeing this article and others like it, showed me that my heart was in the right place to try to help ... but unfortunately, her addiction morphed and we were unable to stop it. I wish her well always, and am still concerned about her future sobriety - it's just sad at how things worked out in the end.

    Thank you for this article, it has really put some of my thoughts to rest and I realized I tried to do the right thing - that I wasn't imagining things. I tried my best.

  • Annie


    12th Jun 2017

    I have been sober since January but I relapsed and today is day one again.
    I really enjoyed your article. I am taking the advise. I need to work on me and my emotions, once I know that over the next year, I'll be strong and healthy and be able to step into an intimate relationship with a man.
    I deserve to put myself first!



    14th Jun 2017

    all of a sudden my boyfriend who departed from me 3 years ago started calling me and wanted us to get back and it was because of the love spells from Dr Mack, my boyfriend has reconciled with me. When he came back he was all on me kissing and rubbing on me telling me how much he missed me and loves me, I highly recommend you to contact dr_mack@yahoo. com to whoever problems you are experiencing in your relationship. he is the real deal. his love spell is absolutely wonderful

  • George


    14th Jun 2017

    Very true. I know first hand of this destructive behavior causing me to relapse again and again. I needed good feelings when I put the drink down. I would focus on the good looking women with the same destructive behavior. We would both feel well again for a time and before you know it, back to square one. Why look at myself when I could look at her. Selfish self centered behavior, a trait many alcoholics possess.It may not be written about in the Big Book but all those character defects causing me to do this, is.

  • Jayne


    20th Jun 2017

    So I am just over a month sober in AA and met a guy with 1.5 years and we both really like each other. That got put out in the open last night and today we both discussed it with our sponsors and both came to the conclusion that we can't start anything. It would be detrimental to both of our recovery and all the evidence points to the fact that it just would not work out. If we really want it then it would be worth it to wait and not allow the self gratifying addict side of ourselves to destroy the potential before it's even really there. We talked about continuing to see each other but in group settings and talking over the phone in the evening but not getting all crazy with the all day texting and becoming obsessive over each other. We both want to put our recovery first but we are leaving this very open to blossom in the future. With everything we discussed it almost feels as tho we are in a committed relationship where we are just agreeing to pretend to be friends until I get more sobriety and I know that I will become attached on an emotional level and possibly even fall in love even without sex and intimacy. Is this advisable? Should we go forward giving ourselves time, me time to focus on my step work and get some more time sober, but always keeping this notion that we are just waiting until we can be together. The tension is going to be so hard. It was a hard yet empowering decision to have even made but I can't help but think that somewhere in there what we are doing might somehow be all wrong anyway? Should we cut it off and avoid each other? We have a lot in common - art, music, spirituality, kids the same age... I'm super confused.

  • Jayne


    20th Jun 2017

    Further to all that we share similar values, have very easy, open, honest and organic conversations, are both good humans, both young and attractive with careers, good families, nice homes, decent relationships with our exes, and we both put each other's spiritual growth and recovery up there with our own in making this decision to keep sex and romance out of the equation. That last one I think made us just want each other that much more. Like here is a guy who definitely sees all the good in me and respects me and wants to see me thrive and grow more than he wants me for himself. I know I am sick and quite possibly more addicted to love than the drugs and alcohol. I know I need the time sober from all 3 before I'll be in any kind of proper shape to enter into a functional relationship. Why does it have to be so hard? Before I knew I was an addict I would have just assumed my higher power aligned is to meet and he's my soul mate... I guess what I really want to know is if it's ok to carry on staying in contact but keeping it platonic with the end goal of being together or is that even any different from jumping into a relationship

  • Ed D

    Ed D

    22nd Jun 2017

    The Big Book's Member Stories illustrate that sponsorship is integral to the program, and the Questions About Sponsorship AA Leaflet covers the topic. With the appearance of the slim book "Loving Sober" in 1975, AA shows that the fellowship has more modern and specific guidance than the 80 year old text. In Item 24 "Steering Clear of Emotional Entanglements", we read (p 61) " .. almost no important decisions should be arrived at early in our sobriety, unless they cannot possibly be delayed." ; and " So using 'First Things First' we have found it helpful to concentrate first on sobriety alone, steering clear of ANY risky emotional entanglements." Please bring "Living Sober" off the shelf for a refreshing and inspiring read.

  • Mary


    24th Jun 2017

    So mostly every poster can relate to my subject. My (once) boyfriend of 3 months is the perfect mate for me- as if I was able to create all that I desire in a man- and I found him- Finally! He did not tell me he was an alcoholic up front and I fell in love with him pretty quickly. A few weeks ago, he relapsed and was honest about everything. I was with him for 3 days while he was weaning himself. He eventually stopped drinking by the end of that week. He hates drinking and wants to be sober as he was for 7 years previously, before I knew him. We have a wonderful relationship! We connect very well and there's no drama. After his relapse, he says he must dial it down. We still talk/text and see each other and are exclusive (sexually). BUT, he doesn't want the boyfriend "title" right now since he's working on himself. I have read everything about this subject and will start al anon. I want to wait for a commitment again but don't want to feel used. I don't want anyone else. I'm happy with him but now feel "pushed" away emotionally. He said he can't allow to be emotionally involved with a commitment and is not in love with me (he seems like he is though) and we still see each other. Anyway, yes, I may be co dependent but I'm so hurt and confused. Is he using me? Should I wait for him? I feel like AA is making decisions about "me" and "us". By the way- I'm extremely supportive and went to A A with him. He said he could have easily called it quits with me but didn't want me out of his life- so that is a plus. Any advice is welcomed. I can't wrap this around my head and all I feel is confusion and frustration. Avoiding him to work on me is not an option.

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About Daniel Linder, MFT

Daniel Linder

Relationships. I was born with a keen sense about relationships, was always assessing how close and intimate people are with each other. I had a knack for relationships. The importance of relationships cuts to the core of who I am. The combination of clinical training, 25 years of professional experience treating dysfunctional, non-intimate couples and families, as well as rigorous self analysis has given me a lot to work with. I put what seemed to come naturally to me under a microscope in an effort to break the process of building healthy relationships down to concrete essentials: Understanding of Basic Principles, Communication Skills, Self-realization and Intimacy.

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