Relationships in Early Recovery

I remarried in Alcoholics Anonymous, to a man who believes in A.A. the way I do.  (I knew we were off to a good start when he didn’t get angry that I stood him up to go on a Twelfth Step call.) We agreed to never be higher than third on each others list, with God always first and Alcoholics Anonymous second. He is my partner and best friend. We both sponsor several people, and our house is filled with love and laughter. Our telephone never stops ringing. We share the joy of a common solution.
(Alcoholics Anonymous 4th Edition pg 521)

I regularly get questions and encounter people in recovery who are struggling with dating or marriage relationships. There are many in the recovery field that feel that a person should be a year, three years, five years, or more in recovery before starting a relationship. The problem is that many of us going into recovery are married or have children with the person we have been with and so on and this may not be practical. Truthfully many of us also will simply ignore some parts of the recovery program we are in to do what we want anyway, so what do those of us who have relationships do to make them work?

I cannot tell you how to magically make these relationships work, but the “Big Book” does mention some of the key issues that will help.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 62)

The same root problem that is described in the Big Book as the root of our
addictions is also poison to our relationships. Some people take from the
other person and don’t give back. Some people give to the other person as a way to force that person to respond in some way you wish him or her to (such as appreciation, compliments, etc.). That is also a sort of selfishness it is just disguised as giving. It is manipulating another person to get your own needs met. Some people want someone to make the tough decisions, and help direct them in some way. In other words some of us like to be told what to do. The selfish behavior here is in finding a person you can use by allowing them to be in charge so you yourself feel comfortable.

First God, then your own work on recovery and sanity, then the relationship
(each other and yourself), that is the order outlined above. Steps 10, 11, and
12 must be practiced in all our affairs including these relationships. Such
concepts as forgiveness as in Steps 4 and 5 or making amends as in Steps 8 and 9 are key. Being completely willing to have God fix all of your own shortcomings and then asking Him is a must. Focus on the word “your” and no mention of the other person’s shortcomings in the previous statement and in the steps. Of course you cannot ignore Steps 1,2, and 3 in your relationship. You are powerless over your own foolishness in a relationship, but God can and will work in your relationship if He is sought.


The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in a collision with something or somebody, even if our motives are good. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 60)

One more thing is to get help in the area of relationships in the same way you
get help in your using. Get the guidance and example of someone who is far more advanced in relationship issues just like you have to get a sponsor and have a strong group around you in recovery.