Addicts confuse intensity with intimacy. You hear comments like we were closer in one night than in the ten years of my previous relationship. And things like, I know we've only been dating 2 weeks but everything feels so right so I'm moving in. These comments illustrate intensity not intimacy. One key ingredient in intimacy is time. Addicts want a magic bullet to feel better not intentional intimacy.
I got drunk for the first time when I was thirteen. I got drunk for the last time just after I turned twenty-eight. In between I quit a million times. But just because I quit getting drunk doesn't mean I quit being an addict. Addiction goes far deeper than using the substance.
One of my favorite books on addiction is by an alcoholic ex-priest, William Crisman called The Opposite of Everything is True. Many addicts feel their story is beyond all others in drama, pain and sometimes recovery. Crisman says, "The more extraordinary the story the more ordinary the drunk." There are common themes for all addicts.
Crisman on the impact of his addiction, "What I came to know with dreaded familiarity, though, is the inner stuff of chemical dependency—the feelings of isolation and emptiness, the cynicism of drained and empty dreams, the slowly increasing paranoia, the quietly corrosive resentments, the compulsive need to be right, the unspoken but oh-so-real realization of being trapped and enslaved, and most of all the growing fear that I was going insane."
Isolation, emptiness, shattered dreams, paranoia, resentments, the demand to be right, feeling trapped and fear of being insane are not the foundational elements of intimacy. You can add denial, justification, minimization, rationalization and lying to the traits of addicts too. These don't help with trust and intimacy either.
Crisman says about alcoholics, "When we (drug and alcohol) abusers drank and used, in order to drink and use, we (usually and commonly) stole from, lied to, and cheated the people we loved the most. Love, justice, honesty, caring—those are not hallmarks of (addiction)."
All of this was underneath my drinking. I lived it all out in pathetic, self-destrctive ways. I didn't know how to be close to Ann. So when I quit getting drunk, I was sober, but I still didn't know how to really be intimate emotionally. Without the facade of the buzz I was exposed in my shame of not really believing I was worth being loved.
So by all means, get sober! But know that is just the beginning. It's the beginning of the deeper soul work of owning all the dreadful ways you've treated others, entering the shame that fueled the addiction and discovering grace that alone has the capacity to melt shame. Grace allows us to be honest with our feelings about our self. Grace allows us to open up to the spouse who somewhere inside longs to be close. Grace creates space for honesty and honsesty is essential because without it the relationship is a mirage and intimacy a dream on the other side of the dune.