Let’s talk about intimacy in recovery! While this term is often used to mean romantic or sexual connection, that is not necessarily what I mean.
Intimacy and Vulnerability
Intimacy is an important part of bonding with other people in any kind of relationship. Healthline defines intimacy as “closeness between people in personal relationships. It’s what builds over time as you connect with someone, grow to care about each other, and feel more and more comfortable during your time together.”
In order to get to an intimate place in any relationship, you need to get comfortable being vulnerable. This can be difficult, especially in early recovery. Researcher, professor, and person in recovery Brené Brown—who has been studying shame and vulnerability for decades—says that addiction often helps us avoid having to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is sometimes viewed as weakness, but it’s in fact the opposite. Brown sees the ability to be vulnerable as the ultimate sign of courage, especially when you have been running away from it with drugs and alcohol.
Learning the Pace of Relationships
Not only does drinking and using inhibit you from being vulnerable; many people used substances during the years they might have learned to build healthy adult relationships.
Intimacy is not just the ability to be vulnerable and share yourself, but also discernment about when and what to share. While you might feel an immediate connection to someone, intimacy typically doesn’t happen overnight. It’s about, as the Healthline definition explains, building the relationship over time.
When it comes to dating relationships during active addiction, many of us jumped into things impulsively. We may not have had the tools to recognize red flags, we might have been too intoxicated to notice them, or we may have ignored them. Recovery gives us the gift of discernment and clarity. Doing the work in recovery can help us gain emotional awareness.
Connection is Worth the Work
If you want to work on communication, vulnerability, and intimacy, therapy is your friend. It’s a space to process emotions, build self-awareness, and practice healthy communication. It can give you tools to cope with any anxiety or nervousness you have around being vulnerable.
At some point or another, intimacy will require hard conversations. You might have to set boundaries or discuss challenging topics. Ultimately, though, making it through these roadblocks is worth it to experience real connection and joy.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. Amatus Recovery Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you learn communication skills and repair relationships. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.