As the holiday is upon us once more, I wanted to share some common feels with others who struggle with recovery. Recovery from anything: drink, drugs, eating disorders, self-harm, etc. If you are or are with somebody who considers themselves “in recovery,” this is for you. Now I only have the perspective of (using Male/female D/s for ease moving forward, but any shuffle of PE relationships fits) a Dominant taking on a submissive that is in recovery and some helpful hints in managing that submissive.

The holiday season is hard. So hard sometimes. It's a time of fattening food in abundance, constant holiday parties with alcohol flowing, stress about money, stress about family, and for us s-types, stress about serving on top of so many additional obligations. It's tempting for those of us in recovery to have setbacks or full on relapses.

I want to share what has worked for us, in our dynamic, in hopes that this can be in some way helpful to others out there dealing with a similar situation.

As always, but particularly in this serious of a conversation, this is only what has worked for us, and take that for what it is worth. This should open a dialogue. Please, talk to each other and the other people involved in the recovery plan (including doctors and therapists) for specific personal do’s and don’ts.

I did some research on paths of recovery other than my own, and it seems like there are some common threads.

  • The submissive needs a support person in her recovery. This support person  can be the Dominant, or it can be somebody else. If the Dominant  is going to be that support person, be aware they are obligating themselves to a pretty important role in that person’s life, maybe even more so than the role of Dominant. Recovery is a lifetime thing. If you are not in a lifetime D/s relationship, consider having a third person support party so if the D/s dynamic ends, the submissive is not left dealing with the stress of a break up on top of losing her primary support person. If there is an outside support person, I’d suggest having the Dominant and support person have a decent relationship, and be able to communicate about the submissive so everybody is on the same page and in support of keeping the person in recovery.
  • If you are in a lifetime D/s and romantic relationship and as a Dominant decide to also be their primary support person, well, be prepared for the pressure that is all of that. It is a heavy cross to bear.
  • Consider requiring healthy physical care as a must-do for submission. Create a reward and punishment system that encourages taking good care of the body and punishes anything detrimental to the body. Across the board, staying in “recovery” puts emphasis on: eating a nutritious diet, taking a multivitamin, drinking lots of water, plenty of fresh air and sunshine, a good solid exercise program, and quality sleep. Create something for the person in recovery to work towards: exercise a half hour a day five times a week and you’ll get a new corset for them in a month. Eat three balanced meals and a solid amount of water and at the end of the day they earn an orgasm. Whatever works  for them to stay motivated to be healthy physically.
  • Also, it is highly important for somebody in recovery to have medical help available to her. Her doctors should know about the recovery path, and as a Dominant, encourage them to see their doctor regularly (whether it is medical or mental health doctors, or both) and consider attending appointments with them once the relationship is comfortable enough to do so.
  • If you don’t want them to slip, have them stay out of slippery places. We all know that PE dynamics are based in honest communication. With the person in recovery, this couldn’t be more important. Find out what their potential triggers for relapse are, and help them avoid the situations at all costs. If you are managing a submissive recovering from alcoholism, don’t bring them to meet friends at a bar. If they are triggered by disappointing the people important to them and that is what leads them to cutting, you may need to adjust how you dominate that person and rule with a velvet glove instead of iron fist. Everybody has triggers. Talk about them. Learn them. Help avoid them.
  • That also heads into the idea of  lead by example. It is probably not wise to create a power exchange dynamic with a recovering drug addict if you are in full support of the "420 lifestyle". If you are a binge eater yourself, second guess taking on a recovering bulimic as a submissive. One of the most helpful things to a person in recovery is having a great example of what “normal” or “healthy” looks like. And I don’t know if y’all know this or not, but us s-types really look up to our D-types. We are trusting enough to hand over our control to you. So we need to trust that you will be a positive light in our recovery path.
  • Become educated on the path of recovery specific to the person. You don’t need to read every peer-reviewed study on the specific type of disease/disorder/illness you are working with here. But, it would be advantageous to know the basic ins and outs of the general recovery process and discuss how it applies to your specific submissive. Do a bit of internet search. Do it with the submissive. Ask them to point out relevant information, what applies to them, triggers to watch for, the feelings they associate with the most. By talking about it, by bringing it out of the darkness and into the light, you are helping to eliminate feelings of guilt or shame that are often associated with recovery. There is a stigma that exists associated with recovery; as a Dominant, eradicate that.
  • Reducing and managing stress seems to be another common thread on the path to recovery. For a submissive, this is often about properly managing control. A submissive gives up control with the trust and confidence that we are giving it to somebody who can manage it. There is a slippery slope that exists here because a loss of control can be a big trigger for relapse in many paths to recovery. So if and when we give up the control to a Dominant and we get a taste of the freedom that can exist in power exchange, please know:  you must take control and properly use it. An example. If Suzie (S) is submitting to Danny (D) and has agreed that each night she would call in and check in with him no later than 9 PM, her control exists only in her ability to call by 9. Now, if S genuinely forgets to call Wednesday night, and the next day D shrugs it off as “oh well, it was one night, no biggie,” the pillar of control has begun to crumble.  Always do what you say you will do when managing somebody in recovery. Always. To not could make the loss of control unbearable, and the potential for relapse could increase.
  • Help the person in recovery find tools for managing stress. Things like journaling, meditation, and time in nature are all suggestions for reducing stressful days. And if something life changing happens, like a job loss, a death, etc, know that this is a time to step up and help reduce stress in any way possible, even if you aren’t their primary support partner. Even just relieving them of duties for a day or giving them extra attention can help reduce their struggle. Talk to them to see how you can be of best help.
  • Know about relapse. First, there are no hard numbers on the amount of people who relapse before full recovery (and is there ever such a thing?) but most say there is more of a likelihood to relapse than to not. Most people struggling from depression experience an average of five bouts of depression over a lifetime. It’s just  possible. As a Dominant,  don’t base the dynamic on the condition of never relapsing. This is a very damaging concept. To say, “relapse even one time and you lose your collar” creates a desire for perfectionism and a grave sense of fear for the person in recovery. Though it may seem like the ideal threat of punishment to keep somebody walking the line, it actually creates many of the signs of relapse and could backfire. Instead, consider a more laid back, “if you relapse, I will be here for you to help you through, but it would be disappointing because….”
  • Know some of the most common signs of relapse. Things like the submissive feeling a loss of control, having perfectionistic tendencies surface, isolating herself and engaging in secretive behaviors, lacking an outlet for stress, feelings of depression, changes in attitude or behavior, social breakdown such as not wanting to be around friends, family, or even their Dominant, not following their treatment plan, not seeing a benefit to staying involved with their doctors orders, unhealthy habits like poor eating and refusing to exercise can all be signs that relapse is potentially to come.
  • Relapse happens. This may be hard to swallow for some Dominants: this is not about you. Now is the time to get serious about supporting a person instead of them supporting you. In the case of full blown relapse, do so reading or get some advice on the concept of enabling, and unfortunately, you have to protect yourself first. Remember – it’s not your problem. Be a good example for them, encourage them to get the support the need, but don’t let them take you down with them.
  • Don’t let us lock ourselves away. These things thrive in the darkness. Practice full disclosure, open book honesty and communication. When the conversation gets hard, that is when you are on the right track.
  • Help us avoid other addictions. Those of us in recovery can oftentimes drop one bad habit in lieu of another. Pay close attention to your submissive and be sure that gambling/alcohol/(ahem)sex not become a replacement for whatever haunted us before.
  • Be patient and understanding. Power exchange is a hard road to walk, even for those not in recovery. The difficulty is exemplified when we decide to give up control, which is often how we recovered in the first place: by gaining control of our life back. It is a learning curve and we  will make mistakes. Sometimes we have mood swings or struggle with normalcy. Seemingly easy tasks like going out to a munch with you, or eating a piece of chocolate during aftercare can take great effort on our part. Please be patient, and understand that this is part of who we are, probably of who we will always be.
  • Listen. This seems simple enough, but a person  not in recovery cannot possible understand the mental workings of somebody  in recovery. Our brains function differently. For months, years, sometimes decades, our mind was telling us something that wasn’t healthy, and we have the significant task of re-learning normal thinking. Don’t try and discount what we are telling you, because it is often the key to Dominating us properly.
  • Don’t take symptoms of recovery personally. Sometimes I need a break. Sometimes I steam over and yell. Sometimes I need to crawl in bed at 7 pm and sleep for twelve hours and sometimes I need to wake up at 2 am and write for five hours. Begin to see the driving factor. Is this a personal insult to you as the Dominant? Is your submissive willfully and purposefully being rude to you, or are they utilizing every coping mechanism they have to prevent them from going out and buying a pack of smokes and lighting up or calling up their dealer?
  • Boredom breeds bad behavior. Keep your submissive busy. Busy equals purpose. Busy equals being useful. Busy equals being important. Busy equals no time for things like relapse. Idle hands are the devils playground, and as a Dominant, I am confident you can find many ways to make your submissive of good use.
  • Help us love our body and mind. Love of  ourself (not love of our partner or Dominant or even family) will keep us on the path of recovery. We have to love living more than not. Task part of our submission to continuously fall in love with who we are today, to celebrate with us each day we live freed of our struggle. To drink in the happiness that is high self-esteem. Positive words of encouragement can go far, and showing us how much you adore having our body serve  you, dear worthy Dominant strong enough to manage a person like this, can mean the world to us.

And to the people who are reading this that are, like me, in recovery, I say to you: ”If you are reading this, you have survived your entire life up until this point. Good job. A life full of struggle, and pain, and trauma. Heartbreaks, devastation, confusion, sadness and loneliness. Good luck to you and keep fighting the good fight. I for one am glad you are here. You go, motherfucker. You’re awesome.”

Happy holiday season. Be well.