“I don’t understand why I’m still single.”
“Men in my city suck.”
“Girls don’t pay attention to me.”
“There’s something wrong with me.”
We’ve all heard these statements. Maybe from a friend, a relative or we’ve even said or thought it ourselves. It’s that feeling we get that pit in our stomach when our Grandmother asks us why we’re still single on Christmas.
Looking Great On Paper
“Single people come to me when they’re like, I don’t understand why I don’t have a partner. However, in my expertise, through working together, we pinpoint the belief they have about that.”
From Bartender to Relationship Coach, Stephanie Churma is the love guru of those learning to date – especially in recovery. Stephanie is a person in recovery from addiction and since retiring from the bar scene years ago, has honed her mistakes and successes into the thriving “Good Love Company.”
Stephanie’s goal is to teach people that it’s okay to be vulnerable and gain connection to find the perfect match, but notes that the most important thing about dating in recovery is doing your own work, and learning to feel emotions again, including positive feelings of love and intimacy, can be one of the most challenging parts of recovery – but also one of the most rewarding.
Why You’re Still Single
If you’re still in the early stages of recovery, maybe you’ve heard it suggested to stay single for a year. While for some it may be true, the reasoning is that it’s essential to be honest with yourself about your emotional and mental preparedness. Along with asking if your recovery has a solid enough foundation, it’s wise to recognize if you have the essential tools to cope with uncomfortable feelings that a relationship may bring up to the surface – like jealous, fear, and anger.
“For a long time, I conditioned myself to think that self-esteem comes from flirting for validation, drinking with the guys I worked with, and sub-sequentially ended up sleeping with all of those people and drinking on the job,” Stephanie said. “I thought I was so glamorous, but it was a really heavy and dense energy, and I always thought – what’s wrong with me? Why am I single?”
A lot of the times, we need to remember that we didn’t become alcoholics overnight. There’s untying of beliefs and healing that needs to be done. For many, it’s easy to take our our primary addiction and substitute a person.
“All we’re trying to do is change how we feel, that’s it,” she noted.
Assess Your “Wounded Bird Energy”
“When I got sober and got out of treatment, all I wanted was for someone to see me and love me, but my behavior was essentially a ‘fuck off’ vibe,” Stephanie noted, “and I wasn’t attracting the people I thought I should.”
Along those lines, Stephanie started to investigate the dynamics of behavior and identify why we do what we do and the benefit to staying in our so called, “misery loop,” and even when you’re on the healthier path of recovery, destructive relationship habits can re-emerge – unless we’re willing to do the work.
Our relationships can be scattered with little traumas, which don’t sound too traumatic, but to the hold brain, it’s as if our survival is threatened when the person we love and loves us back is critical towards us (trauma), looks at us the wrong way (trauma), teases us (trauma), ignores us (trauma). While these things don’t sound very traumatic, the old part of our brain still wants to be love and accepted, and when this doesn’t happen we feel scared. At this point, we begin to make a fearful pattern in our brain associated with that person. So each time we see this person, we are a bit afraid of what might happen, and we may act out in some defensive ways that protect us.
The good news is the brain is amazingly resilient and capable of growing new neuro-pathways with different thoughts and experiences. It takes practice, just like recovery.
Untying The Beliefs
It’s true. Recovery is work. And so is dating – and dating in recovery? Twice the work. A lot of us have been battered by guilt and shame in our addictions that even in recovery we still sometimes live in that place. However, when we no longer have our drugs or alcohol, we have to learn, “what is my emotion? Why do I feel what I feel?”
Dealing with old hurts, losses and needs is the underlying layer of deeper work that addicts and alcoholics face. In a relationship, these old wounds can likely be poked and prodded, and if the recovering person hasn’t healed, handling the personal pain while remaining conscious of the needs of a partner can often be more than expected of them.
“I believe that you attract who you are, not necessarily what you want,” Stephanie said. “There are wonderful men and women and there are not so great men and women but if we’ve been used to being treated like garbage it’s going to take a lot more to undo that belief before you start seeing changes in your physical reality. We’ve got to figure out where we’re operating from, take those beliefs, and implement new ones.”
Building Your Romantic Blueprint
Ask yourself, “what do you believe to be true about love? What is your actual blueprint?”
Are you someone who rolls their eyes when they see someone kissing in public? Are you secretly jealous when your best friend gets engaged? These are all indicators of what you believe to be true – and build from there.
“If we stop making things external and start thinking of having gratitude and joy in the moment we’re living, we can fall into a place of peace – and that’s when we welcome new energy into our life,” Stephanie said. “The goal is to start to train yourself to start seeking out things that represent what you want to see in your life. The more you expose yourself to that, the more it becomes a reality for you.”
Once we get sober and put down our drug of choice, we can begin to live in a space where we live fully. Our relationships with family and friends are stronger because we’re living with integrity, clarify, and honesty. Additionally, by working a program, we can begin to discover who we are and what we can bring to our relationships, rather than what we can receive from them. By doing the work, we re-learn healthy intimacy, overcoming feelings of anger and fear, and on the journey of beginning to trust ourselves we can learn to become vulnerable and build our romantic blueprint while welcoming the right partner into our lives.