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No, it is not (drug)- Replacement, not even Relapse, though perhaps they both fit, also. The ‘R’ word I speak of; or words rather, are Romantic Relationship. Double R-whammy! You know; that thing you are told from your very first (recovery) meeting to stay out of.

Let us be clear on my position: No-where, to the best of my knowledge, in the primary book, in its many incarnations, of my preferred 12-Step Program,  does it say to “stay out of relationships.” That little tid-bit of life-advice seeped in from various unaffiliated treatment programs over the years, and was adopted, by many, as program dogma. It says somewhere in that same book, that relationships are often a difficult area of recovery. That is all.

I heard for many years, from various program (power) couples, how I needed to focus on myself and stay out of these silly, silly relationships. For too many of these years, I did not actually have the voice to stand up for myself. To let them know it did not seem right for folks who had used with someone, got clean with someone, and went on to (re) build a life with that same someone, to pontificate on the topic, to folks like me. To lecture me about staying out of a relationship, to roll their eyeballs at me whenever I shared in a meeting (or privately), about how difficult it often was to function in a pathologically-partnered world. To bring me to tears of frustrated invalidation with self-righteous tirades on how to love and accept self, to be a proud single parent, and other similarly stupid bla bla. To patronize me to this day, almost 16 years and much personal work later, about how I need to focus on self. And all of that, while, they tell me about how they could not have made it through this that or the other major life event without the support of the other half of their twosome. Addiction left me utterly alone. Bereft. Abandoned by self, community, society and family, my child removed from my care. A woman in her mid-thirties, forsaken, just before Christmas, in 1997. Sick, sad, hungry, tired, beaten, broken, deeply wounded and ashamed, on the streets of a city, literally looking from the outside in, through the windows of Starbucks, thinking: I do not belong to this world any more; or to anyone in it. I am completely alone, disposable.

Again, let us be clear: I have waded through more shit in life than most people have flushed and come out smelling like a rose. So if you wish to get loaded again because your other human did, or because they turned out to be an asshole, or because your mother died, or your dog ate your shoe, please, by all means. Using drugs, or food, or gambling, or consumerism, or sex, or or or, are always options. So is going outside my back door at night when I hear Mr. Bear out there, but I won’t be stepping out, to make his acquaintance any time soon, either.

So here’s my deal: I made a commitment to myself and to my child when I got clean, that I would not use, no matter what. No matter what is all-encompassing for me, and since April 25, 1998 I have honoured that commitment. I have also honoured my need and want as a mature, wise, intelligent, well-educated, funny, energetic, passionate, loving, accomplished, human-woman, to pursue love, and my very own, personal, version of the romance fairy tale. Interestingly enough, I have actually spent more time being single in recovery than ‘coupled,’ though I have enjoyed, as well as suffered a number of shorter and longer term relationships and/or dating scenarios. Every single man I have dated, slept with, been in a serious relationship with, had the same choices I had, in regard to the relationship as well as recovery, if he were a member of this not-so-exclusive club; many were not. It is not a pre-requisite.

How does this all relate to my recovery and continuing personal growth, my argument that it is not the place of well-intentioned program members, to tell me what to do in my personal life? In a nutshell: I have continued to do my work, within the parameters of this program and well beyond them. I am not stagnant or stuck in never-ending cycles of abuse and/or patterns that I could give you a hundred ridiculous victim-blaming-physcho-babble names for. I am human, and I long for another human in my life. One that is capable of the same kind of fun, commitment, craziness, passion, Madd-love, that I am. Had I been stuck or distracted from my recovery and personal work, I could not possibly have a) stayed clean, and b) come to the following stunning insight, one of many, in the days following an entirely unexpected, heart-wrenching and cruel ending to what I believed, with everything I had, was my final romantic relationship: I have a deep and compassionate understanding that we all come to our shit honestly. Along with a life well lived, and multitudes of horrific life events and barriers triumphed over, used as opportunity, this makes me really good at my job. I get it, but can usually stay detached enough from the person/family/issues/circumstances/systems to see it all clearly, the good, the bad, the ugly, the indifferent. I have realized recently, that the same compassion and understanding about how humans get how they get, makes me really bad at navigating the bad, the ugly and the indifferent in various personal relationships. I am learning that just because I get why people behave like ass-holes, does not mean I can continue to provide them with permission and forgiveness when they dump their neglect, shit and abuse on me, treat me like human waste, without consequences. Primarily, the consequence that they miss out on a really cool, really smart, really loyal and loving friend, lover/mate, sibling… Period.

This insight translates as well to many false-loyalties I have continued to hold in terms of friendships. I should never be working harder in any relationship than the other party, to maintain the quality of said friendship. So; the point? The program has taught me much over the years, including, how to get better at relationships, all relationships. Not by watching others have them, not by reading about them in self-help or Social-Worky and Psych text books, not by listening to my counsellor expound on how-to, or not, but by having them. By being real, 100% unadulterated, unfiltered, pure Marcela. Because that, is what the program, has given me the most of. Unfortunately for the 12-Step dogma-sheeple and related literature, pure Marcela comes equipped with critical thinking skills and the capacity to take what I need, and to dissect and disseminate the rest, as I wish.

Gratefully yours, always,


November 10, 2013