Building healthy relationships in sobriety

Editor’s note: The Sidney Daily News will be publishing a weekly series of articles about Samaritan Works and how the organization helps residents maintain their sobriety, whether it’s from drugs or alcohol.

SIDNEY — The non-profit, Christian based organization, Samaritan Works, operates Serenity House, Amelia House and Horizon House, male and female sober living homes dedicated to promoting the recovery of men and women who want their sobriety and need a way to hold on to it.

“It is no secret that many people come into sobriety with a skewed view on what it means to have a relationship,” said Sheila Lundy, Samaritan Works director. “This does not just pertain to intimate relationships, but friendship, and family relationships as well. They have spent years creating relationships that were based on lies, either because they had to hide their addictions, or simply because they were incapable of telling the truth and the result is usually a tangled mess of deceit and co-dependency.”

What this means is that for many people building healthy relationships in sobriety is a challenge. They have to re-learn how to interact with others in a meaningful and healthy way and this can sometimes involve quite a steep learning curve.

Samaritan Works does not allow residents, unless already married, to get into a relationship with anyone from the opposite sex. New love takes the focus off what must be the first, second and third priorities in the early stages of sobriety — staying sober. Those individuals who get sober and rush into a relationship tend to make terrible choices.

“In my experience here, the first few months of recovery are often described as an emotional rollercoaster because there is so much going on,” said Lundy. “The residents must attend mandatory NA, AA or Celebrate Recovery meetings, attend counseling sessions, take care of any outstanding legal issues such as probation check-ins or court fines, court hearings, or child custody and support matters and must find and attend a church on a regular basis.”

All house rules help residents learn to be responsible for themselves and their behavior. Residents must contribute to the home by doing chores and paying rent. For some, finding and holding a job is a huge obstacle because positive interactions with co-workers can be a challenge. Most residents who come into the Samaritan Works program are not used to living such a disciplined, structured life so it takes all their attention and energy.

“The worst thing a resident could do is add stress of a new relationship to the mix,” said Lundy. “Those individuals who get sober and choose to rush into a relationship tend to leave the program. Another reason why people are advised to avoid relationships in the first year is that they need to get to know themselves better before they choose a partner. Until the individual has managed to build a strong recovery, they will be vulnerable in a new relationship because they are figuring out who they are as a ‘sober’ person.”

A resident of Amelia House shared, “When my head cleared up in the first months of recovery and I became truly aware of how much I had hurt my parents and kids, I did not know if the ruins in my wake could be cleaned up. I did not know if those bridges could ever be repaired.”

“I soon realized, however, that rebuilding family relationships was not just about cleaning up the mess. No matter how much I wanted to do so, I could not repair those bridges on my own timeline. Rather, I needed to provide them with evidence that I had changed by learning to be a positive and productive member of my family. I needed to develop patience in order to respect the individual forgiveness process of each family member in relation to my recovery. In truth, back in the day, patience wasn’t really my thing. I did not like it, and I still don’t. I want what I want and I want it now, but such an attitude proved to be quite detrimental both in early sobriety and in practically every other facet of life.”