In my few posts on love addiction, I’ve referenced my dating plan a couple of times. This post is to clarify what exactly I mean by a dating plan. In my love addiction recovery work, I work through the 12 steps, based on the ones founded by Alcoholics Anonymous. Once I got past step 5, my sponsor announced that I was ready to make a dating plan. In my alcohol recovery, I have at times been asked to make a list of my “ideals” for a future mate. This list was then presented back to me and I was told that these were the things I needed to build in myself.
Think of the dating plan as the same thing, but on steroids.
See, before the steps, before the dating plan, I had this idea of a perfect fantasy man. Of course, he would fall at my feet and serve me and give me all the love I could ever want. Every day would be like this:
Not that that’s bad. But expecting every DAY to be that way is a
little lot unrealistic. Nowadays, I can’t go around expecting a man to give me a fix anymore. Tell me I’m beautiful and get me all high on that affirmation. Or get high on all the dramatic ups and downs of the relationship – the intense romantic moments that reek of toxicity, as well as the heightened rage. Or even more so… stay with a man whom I don’t love, who doesn’t love me, who is stuck in active addiction… all because I am terrified to live life alone.
I spent steps 1 – 5 recognizing powerlessness, asking for help, surrendering, making inventories, and telling on myself. In short, learning how to build myself from the ground up. A lot of my work, too, was learning how to be alone. In my sobriety work, I not only have bottom lines (things I refrain from to sustain sobriety), I also have top lines: things that I do to actively promote a healthy, fulfilled life that I can love being in whether I am with someone or not. Almost all of my first year was spent on steps 1 – 5. I didn’t make a dating plan until after that. All the while I was also working on consistently doing my top line behaviors – journaling, time with friends, yoga, creativity, visiting the ocean, writing, blogging, music, calling my sponsor, going to meetings.
But even after all of that work, I’m not “cured.” Humans aren’t meant to leave relationship in the dust forever, though. So how in the world does a love addict navigate the world of dating? It would almost be like an alcoholic being a cupbearer in the old days – i.e. tasting the wine for someone. Which we all know is a horrible plan for an alcoholic. We’re likely to guzzle the whole damn cup, not even realizing it’s poisoned. So how does a love addict steer clear of guzzling poison?
Enter the dating plan.
I am not smart enough to see my addictive patterns on my own all the time. I could easily get lost (also why I go to meetings). Part of my dating plan was to go over all of my addictive patterns and cycles so I could see them. To look at red flags of when things are not going well in relationships. Having bottom lines in dating that I need to steer clear of. Maintaining a list of absolute deal-breakers (things like active addiction, for instance). These things tell me what to be careful of… they are the wine in the cup that has been poisoned and the cupbearer spits out.
But also within the dating plan, I do list ideals, which for the alcoholic would be like drinking sparkling water. Ideal characteristics in a mate (things like spirituality, physical and emotional sobriety). Ideal characteristics in a relationship (someone who is my best friend). Ideal goals for emotional and physical intimacy, including specific timelines. And, an especially important part – my ideal life. Basically, a bucket list. Why is this a part of the plan? Personally, I think it’s because then I can see if my life goals align with someone else’s. I also get the added benefit of seeing what I really want to do with my life! 🙂 What I am passionate about and what really makes me tick. It’s important to know this stuff before you find out how someone else ticks. And if you tick on the same beat.
At this point in the game, I am not settling.
Nor can I, for the sake of my sobriety. One of my bottom lines is not to go against the dating plan, so it’s pretty damn important. If I go against the dating plan, I’m in huge danger of losing myself and my sobriety.
But my dating plan, and my entire program, have done something else that was really important for me. They gave me a detailed how-to on facing real, healthy relationship. I’ve never been able to do real, healthy relationship and I felt like I was shooting wildly in the dark at first trying to find some kind of game plan for it. Now I have clear guidelines. Look for this, but not for that. I also know that relationship with myself FIRST is the most important thing. If I don’t have that, I don’t have anything really.
And I can be happy alone – which is a complete miracle!