Fan favorites Stas Botsaris and Mark Bonanni, BlueCrest Regional VPs of Business Development, are back to tackle one of the most common questions facing people in early recovery: what is dating like when you’re newly sober?
Hey guys, welcome to another podcast, “The Other Side with Richie H.” You’ll notice a pretty big absence today.
Richie H. is not here today because he’s not feeling well. Just remember if you’d like to subscribe to our podcast, it’s available on the major streaming platforms iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube. Today we’re doing Relationships in early recovery.
In early recovery.
And, I guess, dating in recovery in general when it’s not early, when it’s a little bit later.
It’s always a fun topic. Look, I don’t know, I had to…still mostly not just about learning about dating and early recovery, it was more of unlearning, what I had to go through. I don’t know my-
The basic tenets of recovery is I know nothing.
I know, absolutely.
I don’t know how to live.
I don’t know, at least for me, my experience might not be different than some but at least, so I came into the program in a relationship that was completely broken already and trying to work on that when I first got clean.
It was somebody I was dating…someone not in recovery, so they didn’t understand. I think she might have wanted to but she didn’t. “You are never around anymore, now. So nothing’s really changed. Yeah, you might be nicer and cleaner and I can get a hold of you-
But you’re never here.
“But you’re not here.” Then if I wasn’t in a meeting, I was at work. I lived at work, and so nothing really changed, because when I got clean, all I focused on was money, property, and prestige. Look, I’ve seen disasters happen in early recovery. Listen, but I’ve also seen some true love stories, believe it or not, that actually were super sweet and endearing, but my experience is dating early in recovery when you have 30, 60, 90, and all the way up until a year. So, in Philly, there’s like, we shouldn’t date for a year. I don’t know what it is. But that’s-
Well, that’s what I think I wanted to say, like you come into recovery, and you get all kinds of crazy suggestions, or some crazy, some not so crazy. You come in and your head’s already spinning, and reeling in life, you have no idea where your place is going to be or what you’re supposed to do, and it’s like, “Tell me what to do,” and you go into a 12-step meeting.
I was taught early on, it’s not a hotbed of mental health. You really don’t know what the advice is coming from, where it’s coming from. People are saying don’t date for a year, I’ve heard the, don’t date, first get a plant, if you can take care of the plant.
Then get a dog and if you can take care-
get a goldfish or something right. Yeah, yeah.
If you take care of the dog then you might be ready to date. There’s all kinds of crazy suggestions and stuff like that. I think one good rule thumb is don’t date anyone that you met in detox, rule number one. Let’s get sober, right? Usually, if you meet someone in detox, it’s probably not going to end well. They almost never do. I don’t know if you’ve seen any love stories coming out of detox.
No, not at a detox. No.
I haven’t, usually that ends in-
It’s a beautiful disaster.
We’re going to get sober together. We are going to… Let’s leave early because we got this and let’s go get sober together.
Again, so that relationship ended terribly. God, this is almost like 13 years ago at this point, but I remember… Listen, one of the biggest character defects I have is not being able to identify feelings, right? Like I don’t know what I’m feeling. I mean, I know the common stuff like I’m hungry, I’m mad, I’m sad, I’m happy, those things but when all these new rushes of emotions came over me and so when I was able to connect with a girl in a program, I wasn’t able to identify it, so it was like, wait, I was in love-
I love you. I forgot I love you.
True love. Deep. Yeah just hurts my soul when I’m not around you in group therapy.
Right. You get me? Let’s spend every waking minute texting.
What do you mean we’re doing gender groups today? Where am I going to see my girlfriend? I was supposed to see her this morning at nine at group.
I remember meeting, when I met someone in the rooms, and I was new, whatever. She had time, and dude, she could spit some game. I was wrapped up. She had a few years clean. I think I might have had like 30 seconds clean.
You’re about to tell us on the podcast that you were 13 stepped.
Oh, for sure.
Oh my God.
aren’t you lucky?
Again, I had been told not to get into a relationship, and there’s this newcomer rule that we don’t mess with newcomers, let the individual get a year, and then, whatever-
Standard practice if you’re around good people with recovery, they should tell you that stuff.
The real rule is two years, but they give you a year. I remember, she was a little older than me, too. She was well seasoned like, looks like she had some shit together, like her job, whatever. Again, music to a broken boy’s ears is like, “You’re different.” And I was wrapped. And sure enough-
That was some of that selfish and self-centeredness plays in like, “Oh, I think she’s going to take care of me, I’ve found-“
That, and I was like-
A sugar mama.
I was also like, “You’re right. I am different. Of course, I’m different.” About a week later I reached out to her like, whatever, and it was like radio silence and I was like, “Wait a second, everyone calm down.” I saw her at a meeting and I confronted her I was like, “Yo, what’s up? You didn’t hit me back? Everything all right?” She’s like, “Yeah dude, everything’s fine.” And that was it, and I was jammed up for a long time. I didn’t feel like using or not or anything like that or discarding my program or whatnot saying, “Oh, F this place or whatnot.”
I was genuinely hurt, but it was this life, and it wasn’t the only time that it happened. But the danger with that is that I remember I had a little time clean. I had a little bit over a year, and I met a girl. She had about 10 months. 10 months and some change. And I had just got on with a new sponsor, like now starting to commit to my program. Like really. The first year was like, yeah, whatever.
Yeah. I’m showing up, doing my thing.
Doing everything wrong and somehow not picking up.
Right. Exactly. Just showing up late, leaving early or-
Yeah, whatever. All the goods, all the news-
Playing good to all this.
Yeah. I remember talking to my sponsor, and he was like, “Hey, let me ask you a question, how much does so and so have, like time?” I was like, “I don’t know. I think she’s got like, 10, 11, I don’t know.” He’s like, “Yeah,” so my sponsor was very loving and caring, and he was just like, “Hey, look man, here’s the deal. I know you’re not going to end this today, because I just know you. But here’s my suggestion, and here’s what my scenario is. This is my experience. This is going to end very, very, very badly.”
It’s true because he’s like, it’s not about you. He told me the truth. He’s like, “Look, Stas, you sleep with her, you’re a hero. She sleeps with you, she’s going to be considered a whore, in the rooms,” and he’s like is that-
Right or wrong.
Right. Yeah. He’s like, “Is that something that you want to take responsibility for?” Here’s a newcomer girl, and I was like, “I never thought of it.” Sure enough, it didn’t end that day, of course. Right? But it did end, like following week or whatnot. It was on the DL, of course, right? Because nothing ever, and about a couple weeks later, it came out, right? Sure enough, I was praised and she was humiliated. I remember speaking to her on the phone, she was like, and this is where it really, really hit me. She was like, “Dude, I never feel like coming back to the rooms,” and I was like, “Oh-“
The ultimate worst case scenario.
Now that didn’t actually happen. She stayed, she got through it. And I still know her today and she’s a great girl. But that one, like I could hear it on the phone, that because of my self-centeredness or whatnot, or I chose not to pay attention to that one little rule or whatnot, that that girl could have been, she could have been dead over just a selfish act because I still wanted gratification in some way, shape or form. Whether it was the sexual act or just being praised about it or whatnot. But it’s serious, and we see it all the time, man.
Yeah. It’s real serious stuff, real and it can be deadly, just like any other bad behavior. I believe, for people like us, I don’t care if you’re one day sober, or 10 years sober. I just can’t live dirty and stay clean. I think about some of the early guiding principles, and I’m pretty grateful that I fell in with a good group of people that were able to give me some good guiding principles in all areas of my life. Because I came into recovery, I didn’t know how to be a worker. I didn’t know how to be a good employee. I didn’t know how to be a good son. I didn’t know how to be a good father. I didn’t know how to be a good anything.
Of course, natural instinct, I want to have a girlfriend right away or if I came in with one, I’ve been treating her badly I don’t know how to live. I don’t know how to live at all. I need to learn how to live in every aspect, in every area of my life. They would say things like, don’t date for a year, but I was never told that. I was never told that because in our fellowship, it doesn’t really say anything like that in the literature, but there’s guiding principles. We’re men, and there’s needs and we want to… I was given guiding principles.
Maybe don’t get into a relationship, but if you’re going to fool around with someone of the opposite sex, make sure that the cards are on the table. This is where I’m at. This is where things are. I’m not talking about within the rooms, I’m not talking about dating another newbie…in general. But then I was even told further that, if you do and you get the sense that the person says yes, yes, yes, but they’re looking for something more, then it’s on you to make sure that you don’t follow through with it because we have to think more of others less of ourselves in recovery that-
I mean, listen, two people right now one’s getting up in a relationship, right? I was told that when I first got into the rooms, but again like you I came in with not losing everything, I didn’t lose everything. I came in with whatever broken knowledge I had that I clung to, because I wasn’t able to, one, see it, there was no, not even inventory, there was no search of the inventory. There was no search of that, especially any moral thing. It was, don’t do drugs, your life will get better. That worked for a while.
Its true to a great extent.
Yeah, and it works for a while, but over and over just taking that and dude, I was an, I guess, habitual dater or whatnot and monogamy.
Yeah. Yeah, totally. Just-
Have you been able to escape that?
12 years later?
Just making sure.
No. Because of one thing and one thing only and that’s the program. That’s literally doing step work, because eventually-
Guiding principles of our lives.
Basically that pain catches up and like at first when you’re just out here doing your thing, and I was in my 20’s, man, and I’m not making that as an excuse, but I really didn’t have a group of men surrounding me, correcting me, all the time. When especially when I was out there using, my dad died when I was 17. You know what that mean? After 17 I wasn’t a boy, but I wasn’t a man. So whatever knowledge I had-
Yeah, the guiding people in your life were, like mine, were not people you want any kind of guidance from.
Oh, absolutely. The only guidance I really had was, not even to sound cool or tough. It was street code.
Yeah, but like, what does that even mean? It means nothing. To add to more humiliation, when I would speak to my sponsor about cheating on the girl that I’m dating. I remember, just being able to be like, finesse the vocabulary and really smoothed it over and he would just start laughing at one point. Like, “Bro, are you hitting on me? You don’t have to lie to me, dude. I just want the truth so I can help you.”
Because he’s like, “It sounds to me like you’re trying to convince me that you’re being a gentleman.”
Yeah, by cheating.
Yeah, he’s like, “I’m going to absolutely tell you. There’s nothing gentleman-like about cheating,” and I’m like, “But you don’t understand.”
Yeah, but there is no explanation.
And he’s like, “No, the bottom line is this.” He’s like, “And I’m telling you to correct it, and it’s not going to happen overnight with you, Stas. It’s not. But this is what’s going to happen eventually, that pain is going to get so great and it’s going to creep up on you out of nowhere. Because as we engage in the step process, and you start learning about spiritual principles and putting your principles before your personalities and before your own needs, and you’re going to be starting to be able to identify with the actual self-centeredness, that’s literally commanding your life. Eventually, one day, you’re going to wake up in so much pain that you’re not going to know what to do. And the first thing you’re going to say is, I’m not going to a meeting today.”
Because the harm that you’ve caused is in the meeting.
Yeah. Or I’m going to pick up.
Right. I’ll never forget, a couple years into the program, I walk into a meeting, and like, there are all the girls that I’ve been with. Now, all of a sudden, they’re all best friends. They’re all best friends, all, whatever, how many of them were there. I walk in, and I’m just like, “Yeah, I’ll never come back to this meeting ever again,” all of a sudden, now I’m playing-
Just a thing that you can’t even think of in the moment that’s further down the line.
Playing the dating game within a 12-step.
Exactly. All of a sudden, now they’re all talking about me. I’m uncomfortable. All my character defects. They all know about it. They’re all talking about my shortcomings, everything. And it’s like, “Yeah, I’ll never make this meeting again, ever. I’ll leave. I’ll move. I’ll move to Jersey, start a whole new life.” Again that type of humiliation I don’t ever want to go through that. Nor do I ever want to cause harm because the same game I spit to her, I spit to her.
I’m not only a player, I’m a liar. I’m a cheat, I’m a thief of people’s sanity, the same thing I was doing in active addiction, nothing changed. The only thing that stopped was me not using drugs, and which is obviously the biggest one but like, I didn’t get clean to be a scumbag. I got clean to clean up the whole wreckage of my past.
Isn’t it kind of funny realization when you look back, and it was for me because my sponsor used to always say to me, “You’re a scumbag.” I’d be like, “Why would you call me a scumbag?” Then I did some inventory I realized, with or without using or drinking, I was a scumbag. My natural desire, with the things I think I know how to conduct my life are not.
Well, that’s the other thing.
I am not a good dude. By nature, I am not a good dude.
That was the thing, it was basically really, unlearning the masculinity and the barbarianism that I carried with me and what the ideology-
Everything. I’m learning everything.
Yeah, everything but actually trying to unlearn, relearn and have the patience to do it. Was I successful at all times? Absolutely not. But then I learned. I learned very quickly after that one conversation with the young lady of the risk of her losing her clean time because still that’s the most valuable thing I have, is my clean time. Anything else is all replaceable. My clean time’s not. I don’t have another run in me, I’m not that guy-
Yeah, I don’t, I’m not. I’m a home run guy dude. It’s really, really bad-
Especially with what’s going on… You know what I mean? But I learned to respect recovery very seriously and the people in it, and I became one of those pioneers like, “Yo, let’s stay away from newcomers. Let’s give the girl a shot.” Because I have experienced the pain in that, so when I share with sponsors and when I share with just people that are new or coming into the area, or whatnot.
But yeah, scooping up newcomers and start dating in early recovery. It seems like it’s almost organic, almost, but it’s not. You know what I mean? Because like you said, dude, like, “I love you. This is going to work.”
I’m just wildly emotional.
I fall in love real easy.
Sure enough, we see it over and over again. All of a sudden, this guy’s dating this girl and then he’s with this girl, and she’s dating him and vice versa.
Listen, I went to my last rehab in South Florida. It was babies central, there was babies all over the place. Halfway houses full of kids. You know what I mean? They’re meeting down there, they’re living in halfway houses and they’re all getting pregnant. I was like, “What is going on, this is crazy.”
Yeah, I think that again like you said, it’s wild emotions and the need, I mean one of my-
My sex drive was dead throughout my using.
Yeah it was non-existent.
My libido shoots up in detox to this place that, was embarrassing almost.
Everything’s attractive when you first get clean, everything, doesn’t matter. Everything-
Because I’m not, because I feel like shit my self-esteem is tanking and I don’t feel good about myself. I’m looking for something, anything, I don’t want to use drugs but I need something to make me feel better.
Yeah, I’ll talk to anyone that will do it. I’ll talk to anyone, and spit game to anyone willing to listen to my bullshit, anything. If you pay a little attention… I can remember dude, when I look back I look at my old step work like, “Oh my God. This is so bad.”
It’s a funny thing like-
I always heard cliché, it sound like a rehab-y thing like, you’re an egomaniac with inferiority complex.
Yeah, we hear. Yeah, yeah.
I feel so bad about myself, but I get bit of attention. I start thinking I’m the man now and I got a little bit of a game and I’m going to date this one, date that one, it’s crazy. If you had any experience dating, because I know a lot of people watching the podcast, they might… because you were in a relationship?
Let’s say you’re in a relationship and your loved one is now trying to get sober and you drink. Right? The spouse drinks. What do they do? They start to think like, “What do I do? How do I…” and they don’t pass the litmus test of having a problem with booze.
Sure. I’ve been fortunate. Again any woman that I’ve ever dated, they’ve all been rock stars. They have. They’ve all been spectacular women. It was me that was the problem. Who brought all the issues every single one of them, smart, beautiful, artistic, everything, across the board and they never really had any sort of substance problems even with alcohol.
Any girl that I’ve ever dated, who… and I dated a few that weren’t in recovery, the non-drinking thing to them was effortless. It was the comprehension of me, and why I need the support of recovery and why can’t I just stay home? Because once I got into recovery it was a wrap. I was all in, this is what I do. This is how I’m doing it, even though I was terrible at it in the beginning, but can you be terrible if you stay clean? Kind of, but not really your goal is to stay clean.
A lot less terrible.
Right, exactly. So but the comprehension, and again, my patience and my empathy and those type of principles and those type of emotions that I needed to give to those women when I was dating them, I didn’t have. Because I was still so self-centered like, “What don’t you get? This is what I need. If you love me just leave me alone,” type situation and it’s like backwards, obviously behavior. If I had the principles or the patience or the empathy or even the actual organic love of explaining that to them. But as far as the alcohol or drugs, again my experience is I never had an issue with that.
Any girl that I’ve ever met that was drinking. I would be like…and probably could not work out or whatnot. But any girl that I actually dated, they never had an issue, but it is a big thing. It’s like here’s your partner got clean and sober, and you drink wine. Or he can have a few beers. That’s what he does on Sundays watching the game and it’s no big deal. And it’s all good. And now you come home and there can’t be any talk of it almost or there can’t be any of that which is unrealistic, and it’s kind of-
Well, it’s also a bad plan for recovery. We talked about that stuff. I mean, if the spouse’s plan for the person in treatment trying to get sober is to shield them from alcohol and or drugs for the rest of their lives. To keep them from ever drink or doing drugs again, we know that that’s a bad plan because it’s virtually impossible. You’re going to come in contact with it but I think we touched on it in the one podcast.
We did last time.
Richie said it like I mean, you use tact and common sense, right? Do you want to come home and throw a party for the guy with a bunch of booze? Like, welcome home but just you can’t have this? Well, no, obviously not. But it’s like tact and common sense. As that person progresses in recovery, you better get to a point I believe, where it’s no longer attractive to you. It doesn’t matter whether that person drinks or smokes pot, whatever they might do-
No, I’ve been to dinner with-
You know your truth is not for me.
I have been to dinner where the young lady that I’ve been with said, like, “Do you mind?” Which is totally flattering.
All the time.
Right? Totally flattering.
Yeah, where they’re like, “Do you mind if I have a drink?” And my answer is always like, “No, you can go.” Now that-
You know what my answer is? “Please, this is our first date.
Someone’s got to be loosened up here. If it’s you, that’s fine, go for it.”
But that might not be for everyone though.
No it’s not.
Right. I lost the obsession. At the end of my road. I was so beaten. I couldn’t, I don’t know what happened. Like, my internal organs were failing. I couldn’t stand up straight. I had like a busted eardrum, like I was an absolute disaster. When I was ready to go into treatment I was-
Was removed. You were done, you were done with it.
Yeah. I was done. Had the best night’s sleep. You know what I mean? I can remember during the intake and them asking me they’re like, “Do you see things? Do you hear voices?” I’m like “Yeah. Haven’t slept in eight years.” You know what I mean? Like legitimately I was banged up beyond imagination. And so when I got out, I was so willing, we talked about it before, when it was like my family asked if I was going to drink. That was the big question when I got out of rehab or during rehab.
My family, like we’re a big obnoxious Greek family, like we had Greeks flying in, they’re just flying in from Greece checking on me. And the answer was no and they were shocked and even now today, I guess because it’s so far removed and I don’t think it comes from a mean place, of course or they’re like you can…
Oh, yeah, Richie was talking about it.
You can have a drink, right?
Plenty of people…
It’s just like, “You know?” Me and my sponsor talk about this all the time. It’s like, “Yeah, maybe, but what if we’re wrong?” Like, “Just what if we’re wrong, the pay off?”
Yes, it’s not worth it.
Like that loan that I would take out all my life I would default immediately because I know that type of behavior. I mean, look at us during work. We’re all or nothing.
Yeah, it’s like not.
Even on vacation. We’re working.
Simply put, and I’ve had this conversation with sponsees, simply put, if I knew for a fact that I could… because my drug of choice was opiates right? and so-
Yeah more. But I discovered I’m an alcoholic, an addict, but even if I knew for a fact God came here right now and said, “You can drink.” I still wouldn’t because I would have to give up so much of how my lifestyle is today in regards to 12 step recovery, my friends and all that stuff that… it’s no longer an option for me. Thank God at this point in time.
When people ask me where I’m from, because it’s a funny subject because I’ve moved around my whole life. I literally say, I’m from…my fellowship, I’m a little bit further down the alphabet than you. But I’m like, “This is where I’m from. This is the longest place I’ve ever lived.”
Yeah me too.
By far. I’d be damned, and I protect with no matter what I, anything I have but my clean date, mostly. With everything I have, man. It’s like, this is the only place, like my sponsor used to do it again. It’s the only place you could talk about how bad you fucked up your life and they clap and hug for you. Do you know what I’m saying?
Not only that, laugh.
You know what I mean?
Our jokes from the podium are not funny.
People are like, “Oh, you did.” “Yeah, I crashed my car six times and everyone’s ha ha ha.” Normal people are like, “huh?”
I have a few normal friends, not many. But when they hear stories, they’re like, “What?”
“You did what, man?”
They’re like, “You’re such a nice guy.” And I’m like, “Yeah, yeah.”
Now, now. What about… because I think this is one of the things with dating, like, early recovery but probably more later stages, when you really are ready for, you’ve done some work on yourself and you’ve now learned because I don’t know about you, but I think I do know. I learned how to treat a woman, I learned how to conduct myself in a relationship through doing inventory and through people that had experience to guide me into, “That’s a crazy idea. You’re being selfish and self-centered. That’s really not how you’re supposed to treat your significant other,” and stuff like that.
But the question is, like dating within, because a lot of people like to date other people that are also in recovery because it’s a demanding lifestyle, right? There’s a lot of positives to it. Also, if you’re practicing principles, you’re each looking at yourself and how you can be better on a daily basis versus dealing with someone who’s not—who’s a normal person that doesn’t have a problem with substances. So they’re not in a program. Any experience with that? My preference was always kind of-
Keep it out of the rooms?
Keep it out of the rooms, not even because I’m afraid it’s going be wierd
I was so much like you in the beginning, like where I was not dating in the rooms, like I’m messing around, but like, I’m not dating anyone. And then again, so I have a little bit of both. But when it comes time for you to be ready for a relationship, right? And let’s just talk about the four step because we’re sitting here talking about inventory. What I realized that my four step that I literally harnessed and carry resentments on into other relationships, and I blame that individual for fear, pretty much with a bunch of underlining undertones, of confronting that person, of the person that did harm me or that I did harm that I didn’t make amends to yet so I take that resentment and I bring it into the new relationship.
Once we get through that, and we get the fourth step under our belt and we learn that or and we do a six step, we’re tired of seeing the hurt in the other people’s eyes. It says in our literature, like we’re tired of seeing the devastation or the look, because we’re just causing harm or I’m telling a joke in front of people so I can get a quick laugh to hurt you. And same thing-
At your expense.
Yeah, at the other person’s expense. I’m mad living right now. But when I was ready to actually get into relationships, and I had a few successful relationships, if that makes sense. But when they’re not in recovery. Again, my difficulty was, they wanted to know and again, it’s all beautiful stories. She just wanted to know more about me. She wanted to know more… Why am I this way? Why do I have these random mood swings, even though for the majority of the time I’m a pretty decent dude, I’m loving and caring and I’m super funny or whatever?
But then there’s a portion of the day, not every day, that I’m a menace, I’m an absolute terrorist and there’s no talking to me and I become irate, and this individual comes out of me to the point where, not that I’m violent or anything like that, but just my energy is just, “Dude, what happened? Who are you right now?”
Yeah, “leave me alone” kind of energy.
Yeah exactly. I can blame work for it. I can blame that, I used to own restaurants man. I worked 100 hours a week, food trucks, catering, it was… that was my life, but it was uncomprehensive and I knew obviously, I was like, “Dude, I need to make a meeting. I’m the guy that needs to still make three, four meetings a week, almost 13 years, I need to do that.” Just the way I’m designed. If I don’t I started becoming a little off. If I’m not engaged in recovery I literally I can feel my spirit-
What you’re saying is forget about even just relationships. It’s everything?
Male, female. And to add to that, and this is I think it’s very important. I wasn’t really able to have a successful relationship with a woman until I was able to have a successful relationship with a man. Because I was… if you were a powerful man, my instinct go to it was like, “You remind me of my dad, you remind me of my dad.” So all of a sudden, now you’re on this pedestal when it’s not supposed to be like that, but because I didn’t have the filters in order to channel that intelligence correctly, that the minute that you did something wrong, I cut you off. I was able to build trust with other men in the fellowship, my sponsor being one and just really a core group of guys that I had the ability to just spew out stuff to.
Most of my friends, believe it or not, I’m pretty fortunate, have more clean time than me. Do you know what I mean? They have a little bit more experience and stuff like that. And we’ll talk, like, how bad you screw up your life this week. We’ll just go back and forth and they’re like, “Yeah, ain’t that bad, but this is what you need to do,” and vice versa. Once I was able to do that I was able to be actually honest in a relationship, which was probably the most difficult. “What’s going on? How am I feeling? Hey, you hurt my feelings today, sweetheart. Love, you hurt my feelings.”
Still probably hard to do.
No, I got-
It’s like instinct in here doesn’t want say that stuff. It doesn’t want to go away.
Yes. And, you know again-
You’ve got to be a man.
Yeah, right. Exactly. The relationships that I’ve been able to have, and especially the one I’m still in, and we’ve talked about it on the podcast with Emma, is, I realized that I’m a better investor in the relationship and she’s a better CEO. Do you know what I mean? Like let her run the relationship. Because my answer to everything is, no. “Babe we got to go to dinner tonight.” “Nope.”
Oh, wow. You too?
Nope, absolutely not. Don’t want to do anything.
I talk about it with friends of mine too
She comes to me with-
I’m actually going to take that home with me, tonight because here I am in a relationship for almost seven years. And it’s the same stuff. She’ll be like, we don’t do anything because I got tired of planning everything all the time, “Well, that’s because I don’t really want to do anything at all.” I just want to do nothing. That’s awesome, actually. I love that.
You be the CEO. I’m just the investor.
I am the investor when you need something, you come to me, I got you. Run it. Run that but that took a little bit because I wanted to always fix, manage, and control. And the truth is I suck at it. Oh, God. Terrible at it. Fix, manage, and controlling. If it doesn’t work, burn it down.
Done with it.
You know what I mean? I’ll just do it again. I’ll buy a whole new life. But when I was able to surrender that and believe in my partner that she had the best intentions for me, believe it or not, and as opposed to what are you up to? You know what I mean? Like all of a sudden now you’re… as opposed to you being a suspect, you’re my loved one. I’m talking about like minor stuff. When the electric bill comes, I’m like, “Damn, I’ll pay it later.” She’s like “You’ll pay it now, because that’s when it’s due, I’m like nice bro who cares.” I’ll wait till that thing has three months, and I’m 38 years old.
About to shut off your electric.
I’m in refusal because it’s not on my time. I need help, too. Do you know what I mean? Again, just with that but I’ve always… and this is only through step work is being able to enjoy a relationship. For a while it felt like a duty to be in. Like I was almost obligated to be in a relationship and most people end up in relationships they necessarily didn’t want to. Whether it’s out of convenience, compassion, loneliness, whatever the case may be, and my sponsor brought me into-
What are my motives?
Right. Yeah, my sponsor brought me to this realization and brought me to this cliff, so to speak, right? And he was like, “Look, dude, it’s okay just to be desired. Just because someone likes you doesn’t mean you have to oblige.” That was the way I created 90% of my chaos. I needed to appease you and just people pleasing things. You know what I mean? 35, 34 years.
No. I’m saying like I needed to appease you. I needed to go out on a date with you. Because that’s what I thought I was supposed to do when I didn’t want to.
I believe you’re a people pleaser. I am, too, but I’m like the bullshit meters going off because I need to go on this date with you. I need us to fool around just to make you happy.
No. Not necessarily.
Can I have your sponsor’s number? We have to chat.
No, I’m giving you his…All right, hold on.
I’m just busting your chops.
So listen, hold on. But I didn’t need to appease everyone because I would end up in these relationships that I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t like her. She’s a great girl, just not for me. But I couldn’t say no. I had the inability to say no because I won’t let you down, and I still want you to like me. I need you to like me though. I can’t have the attention go away. Because I’m sick. You know what I mean? And I’m still…
Something just struck me that switches gears, I’m not switching gears totally, but a little bit and I want to ask you, and then I’ll give my experience too. How good was your relationship with Emma?
It was, it still is, so-
Yeah, it is? Right…wrong, wrong word.
No, no. So I mean, Emma. Listen, I believe.
I’m going somewhere with this.
Yeah. As cliche as it sounds, I believe behind every strong man, there’s a stronger woman, and Emma was the one, if not the only, girl I’ve ever met, that never was upset at herself, because she loved me.
In comparison to the ones in the past?
I’m going somewhere with this. My girlfriend will be the first one to say that I’m still selfish and self-centered, which I freely admit to though she doesn’t know me when I’m really selfish and self-centered.
We have our struggles, like any relationship does because it’s work. But what I’m struck by and I’m thinking about it is, when you came into recovery, why’d you come into recovery?
I wanted to stop using drugs.
Exactly. I wanted to stop using drugs. I wanted to stop drinking.
Isn’t it crazy?
I got a whole new life.
Did you ever think even in your wildest imagination that by becoming a part of the 12-step fellowship that you would learn how to be a better boyfriend?
Learn how to have a successful relationship? Learn how to be a good employee? And a good son?
No one in my life ever said, “You should go see your mom and bring her flowers sometimes.” I don’t do it that often. But like no, there-
I text my mom randomly and I’ll call her. You know what mean? Like stuff like that, like you said all I wanted to do was for me to stop hurting and then I was told if you stop hurting stop using drugs, the people around you will feel better. That’s like all was really told to me.
And that was good in its own right.
I had wants, like, and again, like any good addict, I wanted the reward with no work. I want to be-
I want to be a dad, right? I want kids right? I want kids but I need to learn how to be a husband. But I first need to know how to be a boyfriend, before I could be… you know what I am saying? But again, my head goes to, “Forget all that, where are my kids?” You know what I mean? I don’t want to be that, I want to be a great boyfriend, I want to be a great… And then I fell in love with Emma, with being a good boyfriend, I fell in love with that role.
I fell in love and that was just doing hardcore step work like I fell in love with being successful. I treat it like a relationship. I treat work like a relationship, I treat my house like I’m in a relationship. I treat my money like I’m in a relationship, but I treat myself as if I’m in a relationship, and I want to be the best at it. And out of that, I mean, when a woman tells me she trusts me in a relationship-
Like, I’m doing it. I’m doing it and it’s so rewarding where… so Emma’s a super popular girl, too. She was big in her area, and I trusted her. She’s like, “Hey Stas, I’m going to the diner with 20 dudes in our fellowship,” but it’s like, “Yeah, cool, I’m home, do your thing…”
Isn’t it pretty awesome?
To have those fears removed.
And you know how that is and again, this was so off-topic of dating. But why does that happen? I think and I believe and I was taught the reason it happens because you stop conducting yourself like a scumbag and cheating and when we stop doing that stuff, we no longer think everybody else is doing it to us.
Jesus, so right, so we’ll get a little sappier than that it’s… when you find something greater than yourself right? You can call it God, higher power, whatever you want.
When I was inviting that in, and I had the ability to do all that right and find the God of my understanding and literally put him in all my scenarios. And I fail at it a lot, but I know when I’m not right, do you know what I mean? My spirit tells me as corny as that sounds, and I’m not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. But when I was able to do that I was able to understand, like what real true feelings were.
So when I stopped living incorrectly, my mood changed, my posture, my energy changed. And that feeds off of people, I believe in that type of energy. Like, Emma knows when I’m lying to her, even if it’s about the dumb stuff. She’s like, “Did you pay the electric bill? I’m like, “Yep.” She’s like, “You didn’t.” She’s like-
Bro, you’re lying.
I’m like, “I’m not lying. I just don’t care.” Do you know what I mean? She’s like, “Well, you need…” and just like those little minor things. But I think the most rewarding thing about stuff is when stuff did hit the fan in the relationship. And I’m not even talking about the federal government stuff. I’m talking about actual personal stuff and me being able to being like, “Yeah, I don’t care about that. I forgive you. I don’t care. I don’t care what happened or this person said, I don’t care. Are we good? Because if me and you are good, I’m good.”
Being able to put her first and put, my principles before my personality, and don’t get me wrong. Like we bicker and argue like everyone, but even now, while she’s in federal prison, our relationship has taken a turn, believe it or not as bizarre as it’s going to sound, for the best. Dude, we speak about every single thing, scenario, outcome possible, of what our lives are going to look like. You know what I mean, I think she’s sponsoring women right now in federal prison.
Pretty big stuff.
Do you know what I mean? She brought a meeting. Like-
Power of God, really.
You know what I mean? And she’s changed, the woman is being discharged from federal prison. Emma told me this last night I was on the phone with you. I was like, “I got to go. It’s Emma.” She was like, “Stas, you want to hear something crazy? I’m like, “Please.” She’s like, “So the woman’s leaving on Monday,” and she asked me to sponsor her. I could cry…to sponsor her when she leaves.
Do you know what I mean? Like what?
Yeah, it’s nuts. Crazy stuff happens here.
I can’t even get my life together to go to a meeting now. Do you know what I am saying?
She’s going to sponsor someone from…
And it’s just… and again this is where recovery has taken us. This is where it’s been able for me to go and just have faith and with her and I see it in other people’s relationships. If I want to know how to have a successful marriage, I got to hang out with dudes that are married. I can’t hang out with the single guys.
I can’t hang out with the single guys. I want to because it looks fun. And it’s cool. Whatever the kids say now.
Grass is always greener.
Right? Do you know what I mean? But I see my friends hanging out with their wives and their kids. I’m like, “What are you doing?” He’s like, “Chilling, chilling with my kids, dude.”
Something else pops into my head too, because this is early recovery, late recovery. And if you’re in very early recovery, but you came in, in a committed relationship, whether that’s a marriage, a long-term relationship with a girlfriend, boyfriend, whatever the case is, you got to know that just not drinking and doing drugs anymore is not enough to repair that relationship. It’s going to get old for your loved one. And like it’s something that I think a lot of people aren’t telling some of the people that are maybe coming out of rehab like a place like BlueCrest.
It’s definitely an invitation that you have to extend to that partner. The introduction because they deserve an introduction into the recovery, as well.
But of recovery, what I’m saying is like when you go home, don’t expect everything to just be hunky dory because you just got out of rehab.
No. If anything, because now they want to talk. Now they want to discuss everything.
You did a lot of damage, a lot of fucking damage and if you ended up in rehab, you did some damage when you come out. And I was just talking about it with somebody yesterday like, if you think that just getting sober is enough to repair that thing and that we’re not getting divorced now because, you got to think it’s more to it than that.
Like you said-
This is about a changed man.
A lot of stuff for you is organic.
All you did was stop drinking. You might not get arrested anymore.
Right. When you stop-
…why you’re getting divorced.
When you stopped using. A lot of stuff is going to… the chaos is going to die down.
Yeah, of course.
But when the chaos dies down, there’s debris that’s left over. There’s a lot of wreckage. That stuff is going to have to be addressed. And I hear from grown men that come in like, “Yo, bro, I stopped using… the wife’s still bitching. She won’t talk to me.” It’s like, “Bro, you did a lot of damage.” And I understand-
Never even said I’m sorry.
Yeah. So does she know-
We changed at all?
Just you know this is ZZ, it’s like, bro.
Yeah, like for about 20 minutes. You get about a 20 minute window with that. And listen some people in the rooms, of course, they’ll cosign that, right? Like, “Dude just let her be, work out. Who cares? If it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be.” Like, “Dude, bro, that’s poor information you’re giving that man,” because now you’re giving him, he had an excuse already? How do you give him another one?
No, dude. Let’s-
You mentioned it earlier like you’re in a committed relationship and now your spouses want your gala time? Well, I mean, if you’re in a committed relationship, you need to make meetings. Yeah, you need to meet with your sponsor, you need to, you need to go to the diner for three hours afterwards when you have a child at home. And you can’t come home and say well, I was at the meeting. I was in fellowship and that’s what they told me to do. No, man, like you getting clean and sober is about showing up for responsibilities in life.
I had one spot, see, right. Kids straight South Philly, right. And it’s like, hard to be in South Philly, ties. And it was one of the pioneers that broke the stigma, believe it or not, it’s going back almost 10 years now. And shows up in a meeting, you know what I mean? I recognize that everyone kind of knew who he was. He’s like, “Yo, I like ninja sponsor me.” What is this? What are we doing? You know what I mean?
It was so funny, but it was so real. It’s like, “Look, dude, I can’t destroy my life again, I don’t have it in me.” And he was straight off the street. Whatever he was. And he was like, I’m like, “Listen.” He asked me to sponsor him to go through this, start building a relationship. He calls me every day. He’s like, “So you’re telling me? I just go to these things and like, poof, shit gets better.” And I’m like, “It’s a little bit more than that.”
A lot more.
But I’m like, I hear you. And I’m going to hold your hand, bro. I’m going to walk you through this dude. It’s going to be all right. He’s like, look. After the music. “Look, they’re asking me to go to the diner…I don’t like all these fucking people.” Then he’s like, “I got kids at home.” And he said, “My wife doesn’t believe me. I’m like, “Listen, I’m going to follow you home. And I’ll meet your wife.” Do you know what I mean?
Sometimes we got to get involved.
Yeah. We got to get involved. And I remember, I walk in, she’s an Italian woman. She’s like, “The house is a mess. Forgive me. There’s nothing cooked. Gary.” Meanwhile, there’s plates of food everywhere for us to eat. You know what I mean? And the kids. And I was like, “Listen…” She’s asking real questions. She was like, “So what, does he just go to the meeting with you? That’s it? Is there girls there?” I’m like, “Yeah, but why don’t you come? So you can see and understand a little bit?”
She’s like, “Am I allowed to?” I’m like, “I’m inviting you to meet. You can come. But I mean, I was, I want to introduce you…We walk through some steps and a lot of stuff, again, he didn’t understand…. It’s not about that, and I get that but I met his wife and kids, you get involved in people’s life and you become more than just a sponsor or you become more than just friends, like, you become family.
Like this is a place where, you know, you can really go and share the humility over and over again, you know, and again with the hopes of you changing. People, listen, when the pain gets great enough, we change or we die because we end up freaking getting suffocated by the pain or we’re in refusal to do it, you know what I mean? And I think a lot is… so I grew up in the era when you have kind of like the shut up, sit down. You what I mean? Like pay attention, kid, we’ll talk to you-
When we have nothing to add to the conversation or to recover, get to that for a minute.
As I transformed, again, and I like things softer. Right? And-
I debate it.
Stas Botsaris: Looks like you know, I love this not about putting them down and It’s with love, right? again. With love.
I’m on the air of like tough love but a little like, but pat on the ass already there. Yeah, like but a pat on the butt afterwards But I think with relationships in recovery when the individual man or female is in recovery and the other person’s not, just to wrap that part up, I think the invitation that partner should be extended immediately, just so the comprehension…so they can get a feel for it and see where you go, you know what I mean, and understand that there’s more than the meeting that just the meeting. Recovering happens in the meeting. But there’s also three parts of that before, during and after. And it’s necessary to have face time in whatever fellowship you are, whether it is a little diner or coffee beforehand, but a lot of work is done on the phone.
Yeah, my point to all is that if you have responsibilities at home like Caroline and I need to go to the meeting and then spend another three hours, whoever’s at home, husband or wife, is lacking.
Accountability because nothing changes at home. It only changed for you. Yeah. And then not much change. And the other part of it is that…
I just lost it. No one of the situations where this lost…
What about? Yeah, listen, so, and again, release-
Oh, that’s what…you go to rehab for a month and you come home and you expect your wife or husband is that just trust you? You got to earn that.
Yeah, no totally.
Long period of time, right.
And again, anything, we make it softer and easier for people to get into treatment, of course, obviously, and speak with a loved one, whether it’s husband or wife and a lot of them are obviously motivated for it. But that individual needs… and again, not everyone goes to treatment. So that’s why I think that invitation should be extended to that loved one like, “Yo, he’s got a meeting tonight. Why don’t you come with her?” I’ll meet you there or whomever you’re connected there or wherever your person that you’ve met there, but I think that’s definitely necessary.
I mean, I needed girls and they wanted to come to me and I’m like, and I’ve said, I’m like, “Nah, this is for me”. And they’re like, “What do you do?” They’re, like they, who knows, they thought I was going to like some hotel room partying or something. Who knows? Because the distance that I kept from them about it. But that also had to do with like, I want this to be mine. And I don’t want to share it with you all. No wonder why the relationship wasn’t successful. Do you know what I mean? I can look it back in and now, of course, I kept you at arm’s length at all time. You can come-
With a monstrous part of my life by the way.
The biggest thing in my life, I wanted you to have nothing to do with it.
I don’t want you to know about it. “Oh, you’re speaking tonight, Stas? Can I come?” “No. No.”
Doesn’t make any sense. It’s like-
It’s a thing. I got to say.
That’s something again, that you’d have to look at with your sponsor. Why am I even being that…
Right. Of course, you know what I mean? I think the biggest thing is when a newcomer, again, they get clean. And you see the light turn on. We see this all the time, you see the shift, right? But all of a sudden, now, the job got him back, you know I mean? Here’s a guy who went from making almost 90 meetings in 90 days…
And you see him get his first check, now all of a sudden it’s about money, property and prestige.
Yeah, the biggest-
You know what I mean?
For guys coming in-
Yeah, your new shoes come, the new gear comes, the new this comes and I do, I can’t tell you how long I lived in that place. And there is zero success in that. Now, don’t get me wrong, listen.
I like nice things-
So do I, man, I love them, right, but it can’t be the priority, man, because I can’t tell you how many… how long I stayed in that position. You know what I mean? For money, property, and prestige, just to get the attention.
Draw from experience. How many people that you know that made their primary purpose money, poverty, prestige, getting the girl from back, getting in shape and the gyms, getting the money. They don’t make it, yeah. Exactly.
Because step work’s not a priority, right?
Meeting’s not a priority, again, it involves a priority.
Listen, and I’m not… I know people that can only make their home group, they have full-blown lives. But I know for a fact that they’re on the phone every single day. You know what I mean? Again, that’s not for me, though. I can’t get away with one… like if I make one meeting a week. Do I feel it? I feel it. I’m just agitated. I’m just not as sympathetic. I don’t know what it is. I heard this old timer said one time and this really stuck with me here like, he had 32 years.
And he said, “You know, I was driving in my car today.” He’s like, “With all these new pharmaceuticals, things coming out, if they made a pill.” He’s like, “If they made a pill to cure the disease of addiction,” I was like, “I don’t think I’ll take it,” and my life is in recovery-
He’s like this and I was sitting there listening, I think I might have had like eight at the time, eight years, and I was like, “Where would I go?
I can walk into any country almost in the world. Any city and have friends?
Walk into any meeting, doesn’t matter what part of the alphabet they’re from. I walk into any meeting, be like, “Hey my name is Stas, I’m new to the area.”
10 people come on up to-
…the other day. I’ve had to say with people I run with like it’s our unfair advantage in life.
Yeah, my recovery passport, I try to stamp it no matter where I go.
Yeah, to keep it on topic, if I’m away on vacation and I-
And I get into a blowout with my girlfriend.
That’s what I mean.
I had a meeting and find people that I know that can probably have some good, orderly direct-
Yeah, I can share with strangers way…
Yeah, actually yeah. A lot easier.
I think it’s… Again, it’s an unfair advantage. I mean, but when he said that he was like, “I’ve been here 32 years.” Okay. Grandchildren, he’s like, I married… I’ve been to people’s weddings and here I’ve gone to my friends, kids college graduation, like-
Best friends I ever made.
He’s like, “I’m not going anywhere. Wait, now you want to take this away from me? Over that, over a pill?”
Not too much, I would take two of them.
Yeah, well, yeah. But what he said was, and the way he said it was just like, he’s like, “Yeah, man, I’m me. I’m coming forever. This is where I live. This is the longest place I’ve ever been. This is where my home is. I can walk in here, and I know 90% of the people.”
But this stuff is unfathomable to the newcomer, right?
If you’re caught up…
If you soften all the stuff, and it goes to the relationship stuff. Don’t date for a year. Not that it’s written in stone or there’s no rules and this that where it says that anywhere but it’s still…it’s still probably pretty good advice. Get your life in order, but it seems like punishment. Just like shorter, 90 meetings in 90 days in church basements seems like you’re being, I’m being punished for…
And again…unfathomable. But again, I think like you said church basements, like, even the stigma with that tells-
It’s your sentence.
Yeah, like, yeah, listen, meetings are hype. Meetings are where they’re at. It’s crazy. When I walk into a downtown Philadelphia meeting, forget about it. It’s outrageous. Yeah, it’s outrageous.
Yeah, and it’s so damn attractive, every single walk of life, and they’re from every single-
Yeah, color of life.
…said the last night Penn State to the state pen.
You know what I mean? And it’s funny because I have friends that are of the upper echelon and who got… who’ve done time like I do the six-year run and now I’m like CEO.
Again, these kids don’t think that they have a shot, a lot of them like I’m just doomed to be a drug addict for the rest of my life, “Bro, I have… I’m not very talented. There’s certain things in life that I’m really good at. That’s about it. And look where we’re sitting bro.”
Yeah, life’s pretty good.
I mean, like if we told our stories here like Richie wants us to do it, of course, and like yeah, we’re not supposed to be here.
Yeah, like we were. A Monster Today says it all the time. Thank God, life’s not fair. Because if it were, we’d be dead or in jail.
Oh my god.
That’s where I’m supposed to be.
You know what I mean, like where I was headed. Like even when I first got clean, like, we have this drive in us. Like, the disease of addiction for me in recovery. I mean, I’m in recovery, bro. I have. This is like my university of knowledge. There’s not one person I can’t find it can’t help me with a situation. You know what I mean? I’ve started businesses in recovery. I failed businesses in recovery. I’ve lost wealth in recovery I’ve made…
I’ve ruined relationships? I’ve had good ones.
But that’s where, and when I see these younger guys or guys my age, I’m like, “Bro, it is…” And I say this like, I’m like, “If you know me, if I’m here, you’re all the way safe.”
Yeah, you can do-
Hey, you’re all the way safe. You have way more of a better shot.
Take direction, the best at all this stuff, I think advice for people in early recovery as regards to dating is, be doing all the things that is required to get sober, and you’ll have your answers. Always talk to your people. And the funny thing is, like, have a sponsor and a network to help when you should be allowing them to help guide you through life.
I got news for you, eight years, almost 12 years later, it
should still be guiding you through your life. When I’m struggling in my relationship today. I call my sponsor.
Every time, and you know what the answer usually is? What are you doing different?
Lately it’s been, “She hasn’t changed a bit. What’s going on with you?”
She’s been consistent.
Yeah. When I was growing up-
I hate you man. I hate you for that. Not you. I’m on a phone. I used to say all the time the problem is me.
My problem is me, it’s for sure. When I remember I always wanted a group of people that always have my back, when I was using with all my friends, like, “Dude, I’m going to have your back no matter what. If you get locked…” We lived in a rap song, you know what I mean? It’s true, it’s crazy that, I have a team. If something happened to me that I needed them, and I’m not talking about using. But if I use they would all just probably kill me.
Or they’d show up and save you, because I’ve been there, right.
They’d save my life. But if something happened to me, like with the… they rallied around me. Of course, they were at my house. They were, “What do you need?” Yeah, I come home, my best friend’s wife is doing my… I’m like, “What’s going on?” She’s like, “You had dirty clothes, what’d you want me to do?
So you have a good job. You got a team of people behind you. You have a good relationship with your girlfriend. You have a good-
Home group sponsor.
You have all this good stuff going on, and what’s the common thread and all?
Recovery? Same thing every time.
The recipe, you said it last time. There’s a recipe to this?
I used to it. Yeah. I’m a cake.
If you stick to… when I bought my first restaurant, when I bought Phoebe’s BBQ, the owner, the original owner, came to me and was like, “Listen, kid, you stick to the recipes. Don’t change a thing, and you’ll make money.” It’s it.
It’s a universal thing. Do what we tell you to do, not because we want to be in charge of you. But we can help you, we can see you coming before you can. So our navigation system is a little jammed up right now.
It’s broken. It’s lost, man. Let’s say we can’t fix what’s not broken. It’s good. It’s okay to be broken.
Yeah, now, I agree. Like you said the common thread here is recovery. If you’re going to screw up you should be in recovery. You need to be able to screw up on a solid foundation here.
Listener, if you’re going to be difficult early, mid, late, always.
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more with you.
A lot of help, a lot of guidance across the board with all the stuff, so-
I mean, we could talk on this subject for-
A million other words.
Yeah brings us-
One thing always brings up another we’ve noticed with Richie too.
What am I going to talk about? I’m going to talk about a million other things, but it’s been fun. Again, I think I have to read the thing, want to wrap it up?
If you want to subscribe just remember again, major streaming platforms iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud and YouTube. Stas, it was fun. It’s always fun.
Yeah, for sure.
We’ll be doing this the rest of the day about 16 more times on the phone with no audience.