Kira Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, “Episode 24: Relationships in Long-Term Recovery.”
Casey Arrillaga: How has addiction affected your family?
Female Speaker: It robbed me of my father.
Female Speaker: Addiction's affected my family in absolutely every way.
Male Speaker: It has caused a lot of turmoil.
Female Speaker: It goes back to what I understand is at least three generations.
Female Speaker: It robbed my daughter of her mother. It robbed my mother of her daughter.
Female Speaker: Addiction has made our family quite challenging.
Male Speaker: Addiction has affected my family tremendously.
Male Speaker: It's affected my relationship with my sister where I wouldn't – I'd go for months without talking to her. It's a very difficult thing for everybody involved. It doesn't just affect the one individual. It's a disease that affects the whole family.
Male Speaker: Addiction is spread not only genetically through some of my relatives and I assume ancestors.
Female Speaker: It's generational.
Female Speaker: I think of him every day.
Casey Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, a podcast by and for family members of anyone with an addiction. My name is Casey Arrillaga, and I'm a clinical social worker and addiction counselor at both Windmill Wellness Ranch and InMindOut Emotional Wellness Centers. I’m the author of Realistic Hope: The Family Survival Guide for Facing Alcoholism and Other Addictions.
Kira: I’m Kira Arrillaga, addiction counselor intern and recovery coach at Windmill. Casey and I were in our addictions together for over 10 years and now have been in recovery together for almost twice that long.
Casey Arrillaga: I’ve led hundreds of family workshops, but just as important is that Kira and I have lived the experience of being family to addiction as both children and adults.
Kira Arrillaga: Join us as we offer experience, strength, and realistic hope about how you and your family can find recovery together. In this episode, Casey and I compare notes with Brian and Tamara about long-term relationships in recovery. You may remember Brian and Tamara from their previous interview in episode 14 of this podcast.
Casey Arrillaga: That was a really cool episode, but man, I really like this one. Tell you what. We’re going to launch that in just a minute after a couple of words from one of our sponsors.
Welcome back. Like I said, we’ve got a great – I’m not even going to call it an interview. Really it’s a conversation between two couples about recovery in recovery. Here we go. You’re the first people to ever come back on the podcast. This is so cool.
Brian: I’m happy about that.
Casey Arrillaga: We get to check in. It’s been about a year, and last time we were trying to find anniversaries and milestones. This time we’re looking at a conversation about growth in relationships, especially when multiple family members are in recovery, seeing first of all just update over the last year. What’s new with both of you? Then we want to talk a little bit about what life was like before you were recovering together, before we were recovering together, and we really liked the idea of doing it this way because the two of you have really only known each other in recovery, so you get that perspective, and then we have the perspective of two people who were 10 years in active addiction together and then got into recovery and have now been together for 33 years, so we have tripled the life expectancy of our relationship because at 10 years in it was about to go off a cliff.
Casey Arrillaga: In there we want to maybe touch on how each person works on their recovery individually and together now, balancing time apart and together, the role of spirituality in recovery and relationship, dealing with expectations, and in there some of the expectations we talked about in the episode a year ago when you all were on. What challenges we all had last year, how we dealt with them, what we thought 2021 was going to be like, and here we are at the end retrospective and just generally sharing our experience, strength, and hope through exchanging some of our stories as individuals and couples. With that –
Kira Arrillaga: It’s been 11 months since our last interview. I wondered what’s new with you.
Brian: Oh, my goodness. Since we last talked and met, it’s been an up and down year, of course. There’s been quite a few deaths this year. By the grace of God, we’re still here kicking. I can’t say that it’s any particular thing that we did something special besides work a program, but I think we just got graced and blessed with the gift of not dying this year. How many funerals, babe?
Tamara: Three. We both lost one of our close friends in recovery. That was something we each had to deal with this year, and so it was really nice to have the support, but it was really difficult to go through, of course.
Brian: It’s just rough, man. It just reminds you that we’re dealing with deadly disease, and it was made worse by the pandemic. The pandemic definitely exacerbated people’s symptoms, man. It caused a lot of injury and harm. Now, the good things, man, we were able to do pretty good in the crypto market, man. Baby got a new little Jeep, a little RAV4 that she loves.
Kira Arrillaga: Nice.
Brian: I got a little Toyota Tacoma. There were some good things that came out of this year, man.
Tamara: I got a new job.
Casey Arrillaga: Fantastic.
Tamara: Thank goodness. Coming over to a new company, a company that appreciates the work that I do, just shows appreciation for the employees.
Brian: She likes to get up and go to work now.
Tamara: Yeah, everything is different. It’s so different today, and honestly, even – I’ve had a lot of health problems over the years, and when Brian and I were dating, he was really supportive of me even with all the health problems, and oddly enough, coming over to a new home and a new job, a lot of my health problems have just gone away. Being able to recognize that perhaps a lot of my health struggles were stress related has really put a whole different perspective on life for both of us, I think.
Kira Arrillaga: That’s amazing. Good for you.
Tamara: Thank you.
Kira Arrillaga: Good for you. Never underestimate the value of having a job you like.
Casey Arrillaga: And a life you like.
Kira Arrillaga: And a life you like and a husband that you like.
Casey Arrillaga: Something I want to check as we’re talking in this episode about being in a relationship with multiple family members in recovery at the same time, what do you see in how you were able to support each other in recovery going through this year?
Brian: I had to look at our relationship from the lens of my past relationships and what I wanted in a partner and what she provides me now. I always wanted to be able to work from home and do my schoolwork, and I needed someone to help me and provide some added support and peace, and all of my partners I’ve had in the past, they was just some type of chaos or it was my manufactured chaos. I could never just be at total peace. She really allows me the space. She’s just a real true trooper and a partner, man. Toward the end of the semester – she notices that at the end of the semester, she knows I get really stressed out, and no one sees it more than she does.
Everybody else sees another version of me, but she sees the struggle and the turmoil that I go through, and she’s right there. She’s really evenly keeled, so when you talking about support – I lost my uncle this year. I lost my friend. I don’t know how else to describe it, but she intuitively knows when I start to go through stuff, and she’s there before I hit rock bottom in my emotions I guess you would say. I’m super thankful I have someone to help me and not like when I’m going through something start asking a bunch of questions and for lack of better words effing me when I’m trying to – she knows to back off and just help me through stuff. The flow of the relationship is really pretty good.
Casey Arrillaga: Brian I also want to ask where do you see your own recovery informing how you support your wife?
Brian: It’s like I said before. The lens that I have is from all the other relationships, and so when I do step work in my recovery, and I think about the mistakes and the harm and the damage I’ve caused in my past relationships, and the traits, the humility and the kindness and respect that I want to carry into this relationship, and the prayer and the meditation and us keeping God first – we hit our knees every night before we go to sleep, and there’s us having one mind going forward. I would say not just my recovery but our recovery bonds the relationship. I don’t look at it like I’m doing my recovery and it adds to it. It’s like our recoveries come together.
My mouth and my mind might think something that’s not really, and instead of it coming out, I don’t. It usually straightens itself out. I might talk to my sponsor or talk to my good buddy Stephen, the same guy who hooked us up. I talk through things with him. Everything meshes together, and the things that I was going to say, the chaos that I might have been about to manufacture, I usually see the answer, and I’m like I’m glad I didn’t say nothing, right? Actually, I’ll let you talk on it, babe, when you talk about the chaos that we don’t see that we thought we would have.
Tamara: We were just talking honestly yesterday or the day before about how in our relationship – in the beginning of a relationship, you’re all flirty and you want to be around each other all the time and everything, but then getting to know each other and getting in the flow with each other, there were a couple of times that we would come to each other right around the same time, the same period and we would both be really uncomfortable, but we would break it down with each other, and there was absolutely nothing wrong. We were both just completely uncomfortable with being okay. We both came to that point in our relationship where we were ready to just toss things up just to – because we’re not comfortable with an easy life. It’s crazy to say, but the ease of our relationship was something that we had to work through. That was a difficult time we had to work through, and that was really bizarre.
Casey Arrillaga: Absolutely.
Kira Arrillaga: Yep.
Tamara: One of the words Brian kept using to describe how we work through things together is peace, and that we both get to feel so deeply just because, honestly, the one thing that comes to mind is pause when agitated. There was a time in my life when I didn’t know how to pause, and so just being able to pause and just to be there, be present for the other person but also to let them go through their process because when something hits you, you have to process it in your head before you necessarily want to talk about it or even can know what you feel about it, and so we just give each other that peace and that respect to let each other cope with our own feelings, but we’re there the whole time.
Then when he doesn’t know how to talk about something, I’ll start to prod him with probing questions but slowly and patiently. What’s going on? How do you feel about this? It’s really just learning how to communicate with each other in a healthy manner, and it’s all because of just being sober and having that peaceful feeling in our own selves we’re able to hold that to each other.
Casey Arrillaga: That’s beautiful. I’d like to speak to that because as I mentioned at the top, we were in – both in addiction when we met and didn’t know it. We just thought we were cooler than other people. The rules of the little people did not apply to the amazing cool future rockstars that we were.
Kira Arrillaga: Hard to believe, I know.
Brian: It’s called addiction, baby. [12:42].
Tamara: Oh, yeah?
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, I was 20. Kira was 22. We were – originally met just as songwriting partners. We weren’t even looking to date, but I was ramping up in sex and love addiction, which had been there all my life but was really starting to come into my own with it, discover my addictive powers, but I didn’t know that. I didn’t have any words for that kind of thing, so chaos was homefield. That’s what I knew, and that’s what we knew together for a very long time, and if things became too peaceful, if there wasn’t enough chaos, I was going to create some.
Kira Arrillaga: I always wondered why there was so much chaos because his need for chaos was bigger than my need for chaos. I had a need for chaos, but it wasn’t as big. I was always just like why can’t we get this right. Why can’t our finances work? We’re always buying new speakers or an instrument or a microphone. We never get a couch. These things would happen, and we would move at the drop of a hat. It was such a rollercoaster, but rollercoasters are fun. We went to Europe for eight weeks when we were married a year.
Casey Arrillaga: With no real plan.
Kira Arrillaga: No real plan. No money. We were going on tour, but we hadn’t set up anything past the first show, and we had no booking agency. We were completely out of our depth, and there were some wonderful things, and certainly, we learned a lot. Some of that we could’ve learned by reading.
Brian: That sounds exciting, though, man.
Casey Arrillaga: It is, and excitement was the name of the game because when I’m in active addiction, excitement is what I want, and the flip side of it I hear you saying here wow, why is our life so chaotic, but for all of our listeners out there to recognize it’s a two-sided coin to say why would you seek a relationship that was always chaotic.
Kira Arrillaga: Absolutely.
Casey Arrillaga: I think if I had not been chaotic, you wouldn’t have found me attractive.
Kira Arrillaga: No, I needed somebody that was going to get me out of my comfort zone and push my boundaries, and he pushed my boundaries.
Tamara: You found the one.
Kira Arrillaga: He was just a manipulative addict, and he pushed my boundaries, and I let him, and I manipulated him too.
Casey Arrillaga: I think it might be important maybe to touch on the fact that you were also in your own addiction and how much we enabled each other.
Kira Arrillaga: Oh, yeah. It’s amazing we stayed together through those first 10 years.
Casey Arrillaga: The first six years, we went to almost weekly therapy with a great therapist who about once a year would bring up addiction, would say oh, I was working with this one client who had sex addiction and describe things, and I would go oh, that’s interesting. I’m not sure why you’re telling me this, but okay. Looking back, and I got back in contact with her 20 years later, and I was like so I’m in recovery now. She was like oh, good. She saw it all along. She knew what was up, but she also knew like a good therapist, a good social worker, there was no point in pushing something on someone who was not ready to hear it. We’ve gotten to see that contrast in our relationship of moving out of that constant need for chaos. I’m not going to say that went away, snap, the day we got in recovery.
Kira Arrillaga: No.
Casey Arrillaga: I was still that guy in recovery who would – our finances were going too well, so I’d trade in the car.
Kira Arrillaga: Yep, good job.
Brian: Oh, yeah. It’s fun.
Kira Arrillaga: It’s the American dream.
Casey Arrillaga: [16:53].
Brian: It’s funny [16:53] we’re doing well, and I overspend, and we have money, which is the crazy thing, and then we’ll go into this weird spiral of I can’t move this money here, and I can’t move money there, and then I want to invest, and I’ll take all the money from that and I’ll move it over here.
Tamara: It’s a balancing act for both of us.
Brian: Matter of fact we were talking about that. It’s like we’re growing together, and luckily, we’re doing so well that it’s like we have this cushion to make mistakes, but what was it, a year before I trusted us with the account – to do an account?
Tamara: That was a really tough trial in our relationship.
Brian: To bond the money. You talk about step work and recovery. It’s like I’m recovering – like you, Casey, I’m recovering from more than just drugs and alcohol. You know what I’m saying?
Casey Arrillaga: I did join a program around money, and I will say that when I took over the family finances – this is around the time – shortly after we moved to Texas where we live now, and I opened up a local bank account, and I had to break it to my lovely wife who had run the family finances for 24 years by herself with me being completely enabled, not paying any attention, just mommy can we spend money kind of thing –
Kira Arrillaga: Which is how it felt.
Casey Arrillaga: Totally. Again, that’s the dynamic we picked. I rant he finances previous to that for one month and then Kira was like good job. Give me all that stuff back.
Kira Arrillaga: I could not let go of the control on that. It was painful. I felt sick to my stomach.
Casey Arrillaga: When I took over the finances, I opened up a bank account. I said I’m really sorry. I’m not going to put you on the account for a year.
Kira Arrillaga: Wow, I don’t even remember that.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, I just wouldn’t sign you on to the account because I did not trust either one of us with money because our track record had been so addictive and so bad that every month the bank account got down to five dollars, ten dollars, and we planned it that way. Kira would show me the list of figures. By the way, on the 13th we’ll have five dollars in the account. I’d be like is there something wrong with this picture? I’m not sure. That’s okay. I’m just going to ignore it because that was my thing. I’m just going to ignore it, right? Make it go away. In one of the recovery programs I work around money, they call that vagueness and just living in vagueness all the time, and the opposite of that in recovery would be clarity, and I’ve found that applies to all kinds of things in relationships. Getting out of vagueness. Getting into clarity. What are we talking about? What emotion is actually happening right now?
Kira Arrillaga: I have to say what happens in vagueness, stays in vagueness.
Casey Arrillaga: Wow, all this time – I’ve been in the program for years, and I’ve never heard anybody say that. I’m going to steal that line right there.
Tamara: That was beautiful, Kira.
Casey Arrillaga: That was amazing.
Kira Arrillaga: One of the things he loves about me.
Casey Arrillaga: One of the many things, yes. I want to touch – when we talked a year ago, we said what kind of plans do you have for 2021, and Tamara, you were like, oh man, it's going to be like a party in 2021 when COVID's over. We're going to travel. It's going to be great. We were looking like expectations when [00:20:10] in a relationship. It's like, hmm. I want to check because at the time you said goals you had in 2021. You did want to travel, wanted to meet each other's families more, or maybe at all. There were sobriety milestones coming up. Tamara, you talked about one of those, which is amazing and fantastic. There was going to be your first wedding anniversary, all kinds of things. What has that been like for you?
Tamara: I will start. I will start by saying we have gotten to travel. Not everywhere we wanted to, but that's been really fulfilling, I guess. It's been really exciting, and fun, and just really nice. We've celebrated a lot this year, so even though we didn't get the celebration we were looking for or we had in mind. When we got married, we expected a year or two down the road, we'll have a celebration for the wedding. It just keeps looking like maybe that's not in the cards for us.
We had – our first wedding anniversary was beautiful. We also celebrated our third year of when we met anniversary. We made that a whole celebration. We got each other gifts for that day. It was just – we've had a lot of fun this year. I think we've really celebrated each other. One thing is we stay in gratitude a lot.
Casey Arrillaga: Can you talk about some of the experiences you've had over the last year, and where your recovery informed those experiences in how you supported each other, and how you worked your recovery individually and together?
Brian: Okay, I'll start on that one. I'm a big believer that God does things right on time. It always seems to me when I'm going through something, or when things get tough, sponsees just come out of the sky. They start falling out of nowhere. It's the same with Tamara.
One thing that we do that I really respect her for – and I ain't going to lie, Casey. I got jealous one time. She has a good sponsee. They're tight. I'm like, she just kept shoving me to the side for her sponsee. I understand, man. She'll go in there, close the door, and they're like – they'll do their – work on their step work. I'm just like, what?
I mean, I joke. At the same time, I'm just – it's so refreshing that I have a woman that's after her recovery and after God more than me. I'm not the primary codependent focus of her life. We were talking about we have a friend who – his girlfriend is pretty much putting her life in his hands. If you break up with me, I'm going to relapse.
It's like this recovery stuff can get super heavy. It can get stressful. We have to make sure that we maintain that focus on God, right, period. She comes secondary to God in my recovery. I come secondary to God in her recovery. That all sounds fine and dandy until – me and Casey talked about this today, until fear gets all over you. Then where do you stand? Then God starts sending sponsees. I'm like, thank you, Lord.
That last week that we talked about, Casey, sponsee just fell from the sky. Do you know what I'm saying? That's like for me trying to balance life when life gets lifey, when I get in fear, when things aren't going my way. Trying to keep that recovery first, man, I think that's going to be a challenge until I – saying till I roll on.
Tamara: I don't know how to follow that. I was just thinking the sponsees example is really good. We both came into this relationship being very well established in the AA community and just in our own recovery. We have, for the most part, not on purpose, but we've kept it separate because we already had our own lifelines. It wasn't that we didn't want to divert, but there was no need for us to put it all together because we had a good thing going for both of us.
Now, every now and then we do overlap our recovery. We'll go to meetings together every now and then. We have a lot of mutual friends. Yeah, we had our own established recovery. Then just bringing that into the relationship just – it just made everything flow so smoothly for us. It's like we can see things a lot more clearly than in our addiction.
We will notice one of us or both of us will get a bad attitude. We'll point it out to the other one. We'll try to break it down instead of just be like, you're being a jerk, I'm leaving. We'll break it down with each other. What's going on? It doesn't have to be like a whole counseling session. We'll talk about it a little bit. Inevitably, it always seems like we get so involved in our own lives we step away from God a little bit. We step away from our recovery as well.
Over time in our relationship, just having to, I think, reevaluate these things periodically, I think it strengthened our relationship with each other and with our higher power. One thing I know, we're both really dedicated to His praying. We wake up in the morning. We get on our knees, and we pray. We go to bed at night. We get on our knees and pray before we go to bed. We really encourage each other. Brian will be too tired to get out of bed, and I'll push him out of bed. He'll do the same with me. We'll tease each other about it. We really just encourage each other to be better. That all comes from recovery in the recovery world and everything.
Casey Arrillaga: That's very cool. I know for us, of course, we had a little bit of a different experience because again we started together in addiction. Then ten years in, when again I'm the more obviously and overtly addictive, chaotic person in the relationship. Neither one of us really suspected that Kira had any problem going on. When I first got in recovery, there was this wait, you need to go to a meeting every week? For real? How long is this going to go on?
Kira Arrillaga: I'm so embarrassed by that.
Casey Arrillaga: It's just –
Kira Arrillaga: Looking back.
Casey Arrillaga: It's the reality. I want to put this out there again for any of our listeners where first of all, somebody in the relationship gets in recovery first. I think it's fairly rare, in my experience, that both people in a relationship wake up one day and say, boy, we need to get sober right now. Right? Usually, one person is. The other person is like, oh, I'm not so sure about the sobriety, or you really have to do this, or I liked you better in your addiction. I mean, there's all kinds of variations.
For the people out there listening where one of the partners right now is listening going, yeah, I do have a problem when he or she goes to meetings all the time. There I am going to meetings. Then one day I come home and I'm like, I think I need to start going to two meetings.
Kira Arrillaga: That was hard.
Kira Arrillaga: That was very hard. I felt very abandoned.
Casey Arrillaga: I remember the first time when I had to say, well, I know everyone wants to go out to eat, but I have to go to a meeting. That was a hard conversation to have. We liked to go out to eat, man. That was a source of a lot of our spending, bonding time. We used to say only semi-jokingly that every important decision we made was made at a restaurant.
Kira Arrillaga: It was.
Casey Arrillaga: It was, and that's – food's one of those things.
Kira Arrillaga: I'm a food addict, and I wasn't in recovery at that time. Telling me I didn't get to go out to dinner was really –
Tamara: No kidding.
Brian: Oh, bummer.
Kira Arrillaga: Difficult.
Casey Arrillaga: It's a big deal.
Casey Arrillaga: We're going along like that for about three years where I'm the identified patient. I'm the one with the problem. Then one day Kira came home. You'd been crying. I was like, what's up?
Kira Arrillaga: What happened for me is my mom knows all these healers and stuff. She had sent me to this guy who is a chiropractor, but he also does other healing modalities. I consulted with him. He said, the first thing is I'm going to put you on a two-week sugar detox. What we're going to do is we're going to take out all the sugar. You're going to read labels. You're not going to eat any fruit. I'm like, I can't do that.
He said, well, okay, I'll do some tapping. He did some tapping on my head. It did help. I did stay off sugar for three weeks. At three and a half weeks, I was supposed to be adding sugar, right, just little tiny bits. I put a teaspoon and a half of sugar in my tea at work. Twenty minutes later, I was explaining to my boss that I needed to go to the liquor store right now.
Brian: Oh, wow.
Kira Arrillaga: I would have been willing to be fired. That is how serious I was about getting a candy bar after a teaspoon and a half of sugar.
Casey Arrillaga: She came home and said, "I was sitting in my car, crying, eating this candy bar because I couldn't stop. I found that I had lost the power of choice and didn't know it." She said, "For the first time in our relationship, I think maybe I need to go to a meeting too."
Even though we were looking at very different programs and all that kind of stuff, I luckily – and here's the upside of being in recovery for three years at that point, is that I was able to say, "Good for you. That sounds good. Get to it." Then we had to work on me not being the guy with three years of recovery who can tell you all about it. I know we talked about this when we talked last year, but not being each other's sponsor, not being mister recovery.
Kira Arrillaga: Not being each other's higher power.
Casey Arrillaga: Oh, boy because as a sex and love addict, she was my higher power.
Kira Arrillaga: He was my higher power.
Casey Arrillaga: If she liked me, then I was good. If she was upset with me, then I wasn’t. That can sound really sweet in a pop song, but in reality, it makes for a terrible relationship because it leads to a lot of manipulation and a lot of dishonesty. We both had to learn how to not do that anymore having done it already. All my previous relationships were high school. This is my entire life romantic history more or less right here.
Brian: Right when you were talking about that I was thinking about that exact dynamic because we came into the relationship having lived through the codependence, having lived through the chaos that we evicted upon our partners. I mean, she told me some of her stories. I told her some of mine. You all did the same thing but your relationship just evolved. I think that’s amazing that you all stayed together through that. That’s pretty cool.
Tamara: I do, too.
Brian: That’s amazing.
Casey Arrillaga: Therapy and meetings, let me tell you. Because like I said, we did six years of individual and couples counseling when we first got together. My mother-in-law, very presciently, looked at us and said, “You know what? Before you even get married, I’ll pay for you to go to therapy.” I think maybe she was crossing her fingers that it would break us up.
Kira Arrillaga: It broke up my last engagement.
Casey Arrillaga: That’s true. It had scared off her last boyfriend, but here’s the thing. I heard that story. She had told me this story of like, oh, the last guy went to one therapy appointment and he wouldn’t go back. I’m like, note to self: whether you like therapy or not, you keep going. I kept going. Eventually, I caught on. Okay, this is cool. I’m learning from it. It’s great. After about six years, we’re like, “Cool, I think we’re therapized. We did what [00:31:48] we did what we needed to do.”
Four years later, now I’m in recovery and it’s a whole other level. I got into recovery – my story is that I went to go see the therapist. I wasn’t even going for me, in my mind. I was going because I wanted to get a professional consultation, catch this, on how to cheat on my wife with her knowledge and keep our marriage together, because I know I didn’t want to leave her. I didn’t want to lose her, but I also knew that in my mind, I could not be monogamous. We had that conversation. I was a sex and love addict who didn’t even know it was an addiction. I thought my addiction was who I am and I was just like really sorry I can’t be monogamous or I talked to this therapist. Guess who I go to, brilliant? I went to my mother-in-law for recommendation because she was so good at recommending practitioners. I’m basically going to say, “Hey, can you recommend a good person so I can learn how to cheat on your daughter?”
Kira Arrillaga: Our old therapist who was awesome had moved to New York and so we couldn’t see her anymore.
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, she was out of the picture. My mother-in-law beautifully and wisely didn’t go, “What?” She said, “I think I know somebody.”
Kira Arrillaga: Because that’s what you say.
Casey Arrillaga: She sent me to somebody really good. In the first ten minutes, she said, “Have you ever heard of sex addiction?” I’m like, “No, but oh, man, now that you said that out loud, all the pieces fell into place.” I did another three years of therapy. Having done all that therapy before, I’m like, it wasn’t like starting over, but it was like switching into a much higher gear of now I get to deal with all this therapeutic stuff that was completely out of reach when I was in my active addiction.
Kira Arrillaga: I just want to point out that I’ve heard you say this before, Casey, where our second therapist said, “Have you heard of sex addiction?” The fact is you had heard of sex addiction. You had blocked it out, but the first therapist had mentioned it pretty much every year for six years, but you didn’t – you just…
Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, it’s true. You’re not ready to hear what you’re not ready to hear.
Kira Arrillaga: Yeah, so it certainly – I’m sure you were being completely honest when you said no.
Casey Arrillaga: Because my ears had fingers in them.
Tamara: Right, wow.
Brian: That’s amazing how we’re at the same point but you all have been together for – how long have you all been together, Casey?
Casey Arrillaga: We’ve been together 33 years. We’ve been married 32 and a half out of those.
Brian: That’s awesome.
Tamara: That’s beautiful.
Casey Arrillaga: Which also shows you how quickly a pair of sex and love addicts can get married. You do the math.
Kira Arrillaga: We are the exception as far as staying married. We are the exception. I would not have recommended that we get married going back to another couple in the same position because I think the odds were just stacked against us. Our therapist – oh, God, I love her so much. She said she cried at our wedding because just didn’t know how it was going to turn out.
Casey Arrillaga: Who knows what’s going to happen to these crazy kids?
Tamara: The fact that your therapist was at your wedding is – that’s beautiful.
Kira Arrillaga: That’s true, yeah, yeah.
Casey Arrillaga: She was rooting for us, no doubt.
Kira Arrillaga: Yeah, she was definitely rooting for us.
Casey Arrillaga: She had a lot to do with the fact that we’re still together, but that combination of therapy and recovery fellowships, I can’t speak highly enough for any of our listeners out there what a difference that made. Without that, I have no doubt we would not be together. I can only imagine the two of you, if either one of you, let alone both of you, had not found recovery…
Brian: Let’s just put it this way. At a different time in my life, it would’ve been bad.
Tamara: He would’ve ate me up.
Brian: Yeah, it would’ve been bad. I probably would’ve caused a lot of damage to her. The last relationship I was in was like, my chaos level was here and the girl I was with, her chaos level was Super Saiyan, Goku, flaming hair, Super Saiyan. I was not ready for the chaos she was bringing. After getting my, for lack of a better word, ass kicked, I found this beautiful woman. It was just right on time and I was ready for her and I was ready to treat her how she needed to be treated.
Rewinding back to one of your points about therapy and recovery, there’s something [00:36:18] the steps will cure everything. I’m like, okay, but some people [00:36:24] the steps just aren’t enough. I’m a big proponent of therapy, of medically assisted therapy, whatever is going to get you to equilibrium where you can live happy, definitely go for it. Don’t let anybody tell you how to be happy and what you should or shouldn’t do. When you find a formula that’s working for you, you’re your best advocate and you’re your best barometer for how you’re feeling. I think a lot of people fall victim in even relationships. Your relationship shouldn’t look like this or you shouldn’t be doing that, but I’m happy doing it. They say you shouldn’t be on meds. It’s like, man, how can you tell how I feel when I feel okay right now? Taking too many suggestions past my equilibrium can be harmful. That’s just my opinion, though.
Casey Arrillaga: Tamara, to circle back around to that idea what Brian was saying, he wasn’t ready. You said, “Man, he would’ve eaten me up.” I’ve got to wonder. Before recovery, or even at the beginning of your recovery, would you have been looking for a relationship with somebody who really treated you well? I know we all say we were.
Tamara: Oh, no, no, not at all, no. Brian, in his addiction, was the man for me. That would’ve been the bad boy that I chased after. We would’ve had a mutually horrible relationship with each other. We would’ve loved each other like crazy. He would’ve taken advantage of me and swallowed me up and spit me out. I would’ve been coming back to him asking for more. What do I have to do different?
It wasn’t until I got in recovery, until I got sober, and I had some time being single, I guess. I don’t know what it was, but something started to click for me and I recognized that the type of man – that all of the men that I had dated or been interested in in my life, they all had so many similarities. I wrote down the similarities, all the bad traits. As I started to get sober and meet different guys or whatever, I would recognize that they had these traits and they were probably not a good match for me. The people I started to find myself finding interest in were people that were, for lack of a better word, not as interesting. When I started to hear guys talk about just nerdy stuff, I was like, that’s sexy. They were just different. It was a different dynamic because I realized that what I had been chasing after was disaster and I didn’t want that in my life. Brian has everything. He literally is everything I ever wanted in a man. At the same time where he had to get to this point to be able to treat me a certain way, I had to get to a certain point where being in his vicinity without the chaos became attractive to me.
Casey Arrillaga: That’s beautiful. I want to touch on something. I want to give away one of my big trait secrets. This is how it is that we came to be together and why the relationship lasts, in my personal opinion. I did take a little bit of single time. Not everybody is great at that let’s take time away from relationships. Kira is gesturing that that is not her, which is true. I was the last overlap of relationship, but I had taken about six months off relationships, which is a huge deal for me. I remember curling up on the floor in a fetal position. It was so difficult to be single. There I was. I figured out the common denominator thing. All the people I’m attracted to had certain traits, the biggest one of which is me. I am the common denominator in all my relationships. I had come to that similar conclusion, if I find somebody attractive, they’re already bad news. I didn’t know what to do about it.
I took this six months off. I tried religion. I tried complete atheism. When I met Kira, she introduced me to some spirituality. Through all of that, it never occurred to me to ask anyone for help. I’m doing a bunch of self-expression trying to figure this out. The conclusion I finally came to is that the litmus test, the one thing on my trait list of people I’m looking for is somebody willing to work on themselves and work on the relationship. If you don’t meet that test, there’s no second date, there’s nothing to talk about.
On that basis, I dated her roommate first because her roommate standing at the dorm room had said something where I was like, oh, that sounds like maybe she’s like – that time I would have used the word enlightenment. She was looking for enlightenment. We went out on a date and it was like, no, fluke, okay, never mind.
In the meantime, Kira and I started writing songs together. Then we’d be talking after song writing sessions. There were a lot of things going on. I said, she’s dating somebody else. I’m like, oh, okay. The funny thing is she mentioned that this guy was suicidal. I thought, oh, she likes people like that. Obviously, she’s not going to be interested in me because she likes people who have problems.
Kira Arrillaga: This is true.
Casey Arrillaga: This is high comedy.
Kira Arrillaga: I was very interested in Casey.
Casey Arrillaga: We were chatting, and at the same time, she was talking about things like going to therapy and working on herself and dissecting her relationship with her family. I was like, huh, there’s something there. My adolescent brain was just optimistic thinking, well, if we have that, we can get through anything. The fact is we’ve had rough spots, ups and downs, times where we thought we’re not going to stay together, and yet, it always came back down to the basic contract of a relationship is we’re both willing to work. For all that teenage optimism, it turned out to be true. Here we are 33 years later. The momentum is definitely with us, staying together and staying in this relationship because we’re willing to do that. I see that same spirit in both of you. That’s one of the reasons that I wanted to invite you back onto the show.
Tamara: Thank you.
Brian: Thank you.
Casey Arrillaga: It’s our pleasure doing this one. I tell you what. We’re going to take a quick break and then we will be back with more.
Welcome back. All right. We’re going to finish up that conversation with Brian and Tamara. Here we go. For the purposes of this episode, we’re going to start moving towards wrap up. I’m going to give everyone a one-minute summary of what you would want to say to the listeners out there about being in a relationship in recovery together.
Brian: You want to go first or I go first?
Tamara: Okay, I’ll go first. Put your higher power and your recovery first above all else. As long as you continue to do the next right thing for yourself and for each other, you can’t go wrong. I think the glue that’s held us together, more than love, is really just having a mutual respect for each other and each other’s recovery and just being kind to each other and just living in gratitude. We reflect constantly on how lucky we are to be in the position that we are with each other, that the stars aligned to put us in each other’s lives at the time that we were put in each other’s lives.
Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful, Brian, one minute, go.
Brian: Man, I would say if you find somebody and they’re in recovery, and especially if you’re in early recovery, trust your instincts, man. If you see that they’re doing wrong things or not right living or it’s just little bitty things that are off to you, chances are those are red flags and they’ll probably show up later in the future. Never be scared to pull the eject seat.
I tell people this, even though I love my baby to death, sometimes I talk to my dad and recalibrate. I had to do it the other week when I had a rough week during finals week, I said, “Dad, why did I come here? Why’d I come to San Antonio again?” I came here to get sober, man. I didn’t come for my wife. I didn’t come for the job. I didn’t come for school. When I boiled it down to the basics, I’m in this life to stay sober and stay out of prison. That’s my base line.
I would always say, whenever first world problems and these things get too out of control with your relationship or anything, boil it down to the basics and ask yourself, why am I here? What is my main goal I’m trying to accomplish? If you stay about your purpose, you’ll attract a mate who’s about their purpose.
Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful, Kira?
Kira Arrillaga: You guys are very wise. I love getting advice. I really do. The advice I will give will apply to myself as well as everybody else, as it always does. First of all, obviously, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You guys know that. We know that. Didn’t always know that.
The other thing is something that I’ve been dealing with recently is, with my mental health issues, I became even less able than usual to just be in the moment, be in the now. This is a lifelong thing that just got worse in the last couple of years. I started looking at where am I being in the moment and how am I feeling about that and when am I trying to escape. I found out even sex was an escape. I wasn’t having sex to be closer to somebody. I was close to somebody and then I got to have sex with them, but sex was all about that high. Food was about the high. If I wasn’t getting high, I probably wasn’t happy.
Every once in a while, I’d be in what they call flow and music helped me with that. Music was a big one for me where I could just be in the moment when I was making music or listening to music or writing music. I got to do that with Casey which is part of the reason I was so attracted to him is because I got to have that feeling while I was with him and it made me want to be with him more, in addition to his charming personality and being smart and funny and awesome. Of course, he’s a sex addict [00:48:00] with anger issues, abandonment issues, and I just [00:48:03] go for that, or did.
Yeah, being in the moment is something that I have not been good at and so that’s what I’m working on now. I guess that’s the advice I’ll give is check and see if you’re being in the moment. It's good for your recovery and your life.
Brian: Thanks, Kira.
Casey Arrillaga: I want to say, man, you’re all saying really cool stuff. I’ve already made my point about looking for someone and trying to be someone who’s willing to work on themselves and work on the relationship, but I also want to say to really, as much as possible, give space and patience and compassion and kindness to yourself and to your partner in this journey. Because I was not tapping my foot waiting for my wife to get into recovery.
While I was in recovery for three years. I was just being the problem child who was trying to not be the problem child. When she joined the program, I was able to say, okay, this is yours. Let me give you space. Man, it can be tempting to say, why aren’t you working on the issue I want you to work on? That’s not the deal. That’s not how it works. Recognize if I feel powerless over something, that they may feel equally powerless over the thing they’re doing. Just like they can’t snap their fingers and tap their foot waiting for me to just change, same thing goes the other way around. I’m not going to snap my fingers and tap my foot and wait for them to change in the way that I think they’re supposed to change.
To remember I’m not anyone else’s higher power but also to take those moments, especially with two people in recovery, whether it’s one person in AA, the other person in Al Anon, one person in SMART Recovery, the other person in SMART Family and Friends, whatever it is that looks like, to be able to share those moments of recovery. One thing I’ll close with is that we do pretty much every night is out of Page 86 of the AA big book, we go through that inventory. We ask each other as part of our bedtime routine, were we resentful, selfish, dishonest, or afraid? Do we owe an apology? Have we kept something to ourselves that should be shared with another person [00:50:05]?
Kira Arrillaga: Were we kind and loving toward all? What could we have done better? Were we thinking mostly of ourselves or were we thinking of others and what we [00:50:14]?
Casey Arrillaga: We each take the time to answer those questions and we do not give each other feedback or commentary to what we hear. We just bear witness to the other person’s recovery and hold the space for them and then we tuck into bed. It’s a beautiful way to end the night to be able to share something like that in recovery to just hold the space for recovery without comment. That’s something big we’ve learned as we went along. I can’t thank you guys enough for coming back on the show. This has been wonderful. We’ll have to do it again next year.
Brian: Yes, looking forward.
Kira Arrillaga: You’re the first people to be on the podcast twice.
Tamara: We win.
Kira Arrillaga: You’re special.
Brian: Pretty cool.
Casey Arrillaga: There you have it. That is our conversation with Brian and Tamara. What a pleasure this has been. All right. See you all next time, folks. Thanks for being with us through another episode of Addiction and the Family. As they say in many recovery meetings, take what you liked and leave the rest. Go out and explore the possibilities for recovery in your life and give your loved ones the space and dignity to make their own choices. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe. It means a lot to us. If you know anyone else who could use what we have to offer, please tell them about Addiction and the Family. If you have comments about this podcast, have a question you’d like answered on the show, or want to contribute your voice, or just want to say hi, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re also happy to be your friend on Facebook and we can be found tweeting on Twitter.
Kira Arrillaga: Addiction and the Family is produced, written, and engineered by Kira and Casey Arrillaga, with music by Casey.