Dating in addiction recovery can lead to relapse. Use these tips for dating in recovery to ensure you stay sober, healthy and strong.
Let’s face it, dating can be stressful no matter who you are. How do you spark up a conversation with someone you find interesting? And where exactly do you meet these interesting people? How do move from casual friendship to dating once you do meet someone
Then there’s the rollercoaster ride of new love– sure to be full of strong emotions that all seem to flow together: excitement, uncertainty, passion, anxiety, happiness, fear. Add being in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction to the mix and the prospect of dating quickly becomes overwhelming. But, dating in recovery doesn’t have to be a nightmare, and can lead to the happiest and healthiest relationships of your life.
The One Year Rule
If you’re looking to start dating in recovery, first it is important to keep in mind that many therapists, recovery programs, and experts in addiction treatment strongly encourage their clients to wait at least one year before beginning a new relationship. Why? The first year of addiction recovery is a vital time when your sobriety should be in the absolute forefront and will take all of your focus and energy.
It is also a time when recovering addicts are starting to rediscover themselves. The early stages of recovery are spent figuring out who you are without drugs and alcohol, rebuilding your own sense of self-worth and self-esteem, and re-learning how to cope with stressors of everyday life.
If you do meet someone special within the first year of recovery taking it slowly and being honest that your sobriety is the most important factor in your life is crucial. You may consider asking yourself is this love or a distraction? One reason dating is not recommended in the first year after leaving alcohol or drug rehab is that often times these relationships in early recovery are used to fill a void that is left by no longer using. New relationships can also cause a shift in priorities and easily distract someone from their focus on recovery.
Why is Dating in Recovery Challenging?
Social anxiety. Dating in recovery can be challenging for a myriad of reasons. Just the thought of re-entering the dating scene can bring up temptations to slip back into old habits of imbibing in a little liquid courage to meet new people.
Cultural norms. Meeting up for a drink is a common suggestion at the request for a first date—one that has to be met with honesty from you about your sobriety—a conversation that is not always comfortable, especially at first. It goes without saying that if you’re dating in recovery, meeting someone at the pub is not a good choice for your long term health and abstinence.
Increased exposure to triggering situations. While meeting at the pub is not advised, dating in recovery can often mean exposing yourself to more social situations where alcohol is present, another reason why being solid in your sobriety is recommended before you begin dating.
Changes in your thoughts, feelings, and routine. As if recovery is not challenging enough on its own, new challenges are sure to arise when starting a new relationship. You may become distracted from a routine that has been solid in your early recovery, which increases the risk for relapse.
What Can Make Dating in Recovery Easier?
Be in therapy. Or be sure to continue attending any support groups you are active in. Dating in recovery will likely bring up new emotions and questions you’ve never encountered before. A therapist can help you determine if you are seeking a new relationship for the right reasons, and help you continue to build upon your ability to have healthy relationships. It is imperative to continue to seek support from those who believe in your recovery as you begin dating again.
Be honest. You may fear being judged about your addiction history, but being upfront with potential partners about your recovery is the best way to start a new relationship on an open and honest note. Sobriety is a part of your life that you can be proud of, and a potential partner should be 100% supportive of this.
Use online dating. Maybe you never imagined you would use online dating, but online dating in recovery can be a great way to meet new people. Many recovering addicts struggle with social anxiety, and the prospect of meeting your next partner in line at the supermarket probably sounds horrifying. Most online dating profiles will include a section about your alcohol consumption which can help weed out those who would not be supportive of your recovery from the start.
Look outside places you frequent. Anywhere that has become an important and conducive place for your recovery, such as AA meetings or a new job, may not be the best place to find a partner. Breakups can put people at risk for relapse, and if a breakup also makes a place that was once a solid part of your recovery uncomfortable, this risk gets even greater.
Don’t expect your new partner to change. If you meet someone who currently drinks or uses drugs, believing that person will change for your relationship is detrimental.
Dating a Recovering Addict
When dating in recovery, you will probably meet other recovering addicts in your quest to find someone like-minded to share your time with. While two people in recovery can share a fulfilling and healthy relationship, there are some things to keep in mind before embarking in a new relationship with another recovering addict. If one partner relapses it can be very difficult to maintain the relationship, but also difficult to leave. Would you feel responsible for their relapse? Would they feel responsible if you relapsed? Is there a chance you may relapse together? Dating another recovering addict is advised only if both people are secure in their recovery, making both partners’ risk for relapse less likely.
You have done a lot of work to become more emotionally stable, self-aware, and sober, when the time is right this can lead to experiencing the happiest and healthiest relationships of your life.
At Shafa Home the aftercare support we provide all of our clients is a valuable resource as you begin dating again. Remember as you begin dating reach out to the supports you have gained in your own recovery process.
(This article is the sole property of “The Cabin Chiang Mai”; they are its original authors)