One of the trickiest things to do in recovery is practicing mindfulness and awareness after putting the dope down and learning how to stay sober. Emotional sobriety is paramount when it comes to remaining sober. I believe that if I can grow in the areas of low self-esteem, codependency, anger management, and intimate relationships, then the act of not self-medicating becomes extremely easy.Those four areas are very important to address and work on while getting sober.I use because I am obsessed with the desired effect. When I put the drug in me I feel better. So when I’m not feeling good about my image or who I am as a person, I want to medicate. When I’m acting out in a codependent way, I want to medicate. When I’m struggling with anger, I want to medicate. I don’t feel good; I want to feel good. Drugs help me feel great.If it weren’t for all the consequences that come along with using, I’d be high right now.Love Is the DrugLet’s talk about the fourth area: relationships.A wise man once told me that relationships would be the hardest thing I’ll ever do in recovery. Those words never rang truer in my life than the day I finally got into one. It takes work, it takes patience, it takes a whole lot of faith and trust. It takes looking inward and being mindful of many things: who I am as a person, my morals, my ability to listen and show empathy, and making sure I’m living honestly with integrity. It takes courage and many other things that only come by living a holistic recovery lifestyle. When I do these things, my relationship is very rewarding for myself and for my partner. Even through conflict, we come out stronger.So factoring in all that, imagine being someone with low self-esteem; somebody that struggles with codependency and is quick to anger. Now imagine getting into a relationship when you haven’t grown in those three areas. On top of all that you’re still figuring out how to simply stay sober. What a beautiful recipe for disaster. It would be a miracle if you didn’t use in the end.If I haven’t grown in those three areas, it’s safe to say that I still don’t feel good about myself. And if I don’t feel good about myself, my knee-jerk reaction is to find something to make me feel better. And if the lifestyle of a person in active addiction is codependent in nature, imagine how potentially deadly it would be to engage in an intimate relationship.I mean, let’s be honest. Relationships make us feel good. We feel wanted, we feel important, depending on the situation we feel attractive, the endorphins are flowing, the dopamine is at an all-time high, not to mention the sex is probably amazing! Relationships make us feel good. And if we haven’t done the work to grow in the areas of emotional sobriety, we will quickly find that being in a relationship has become our new fix.It’s intoxicating and obsessive. The desired effect is immediate. Almost sounds like using drugs. Now the term “drunk in love” isn’t such a stretch, is it?And that’s why it’s recommended to stay out of a relationship your first year in sobriety. It’s not because sex is bad or being in love is wrong. It’s because relationships make you feel good too soon, too often. I need to give myself an opportunity to recover in all areas of my life before I can think about anyone else.Essentially, I have replaced the drug with a person, most likely another person in recovery because those bonds are deep. And now there are two lives at stake. It’s dangerous.I’m not trying to scare anyone away from pursuing a relationship, I’m simply saying to be mindful and aware. Assess where you’re at in your personal recovery before you start messing with someone else. Especially if they are in recovery as well.That reminds me of a story.Falling in Love at a 12-Step MeetingI remember one of my first 12-step meetings. I was at an all-time low. I had just gotten out of jail, I looked like shit, my car had gotten repossessed, I was jobless, on probation, and coming off of painkillers, my real true love. When I got to the meeting there was a woman standing by the door greeting everyone. She made eye contact with me, smiled, gave me a hug and told me her name. She opened the door and pointed towards the coffee. I’d finally found her! The one I had been waiting for my whole life! I was in love!I sat through that whole meeting obsessing over her. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. When it was her turn to share, I thought I heard the voice of an angel. I imagined what it would be like to date her. I imagined the highs and the lows of being in a relationship with her. I thought about our wedding and how many kids we would have. I thought about the breakup and the make-up sex. I thought about her cheating on me and imagined what it would be like to win her heart back. I saw us growing old and dying together. The perfect couple, in love until the very end. I pictured all that in 60 minutes. The entire time I was at that meeting, that’s all I thought about.I didn’t hear about recovery that evening. I didn’t hear a solution to my drug problem. I just sat there and crazily obsessed over this woman. She was the one. Perfect for me.I never saw her again after that. I couldn’t even tell you her name.My first few months in early sobriety, that’s kinda how it went. I would show up at a meeting, meet a woman, live an entire life with her in my head for 60 minutes, and go home. I did that dozens of times with dozens of women. I know none of their names and they have no idea who the hell I am.It was a miracle I never engaged or acted on the thoughts going through my sick unrecovered head. I can’t imagine the damage I would’ve caused in those meetings.I’m blessed to have had sponsors who told me to leave the women alone; to give them a chance to recover too.They told me two dead batteries can’t start a car.I’m grateful for the men in my life who instilled good values in me during early sobriety. I haven’t lived a perfect life in recovery but I have been super mindful and aware of the fact that I don’t want to hurt anyone.If I’m still creating chaos and causing as much damage in recovery that I used to cause while in active addiction, what’s the fucking point in staying sober? I might as well use if I’m going to be a sober scumbag.How I Got Healthy Enough for an Intimate RelationshipToday I focus on myself, who I am as a person. I work on my self-esteem every day. Some days are better than others. I combat codependency whenever it rears its ugly head. I address the areas in my life where I may struggle with anger and find ways to work through them. I’m a better man for it.And because of that, I have the ability to practice being in a healthy relationship. Because I’ve gained so many tools while on this recovery journey and I’ve found all are indispensable, interchangeable, and useful within my intimate relationship.It’s been a long time since I’ve walked into a meeting and asked a woman to marry me in my head.My hope for you if you’ve read up to this point, is that you find a place in your life where you have fallen in love with yourself; knowing all the good and all the bad that makes up who you are. I think when we can become our own best friend without all the false pride is when we finally become an awesome partner for someone else. I hope that happens for you (if that’s what you’re looking for).If nobody told you today that they love you, fuck it, there’s always tomorrow.