There is a lot of confusion and contradictory information surrounding dating in recovery. Some experts recommend waiting until you have achieved a full year of sobriety before putting yourself out there for romance. Others believe that this is not practical advice and it would be better to give individuals in recovery tools to manage dating and sobriety at the same time.
There may not be one answer that is right for everyone. Individuals in recovery might be better served by examining their own unique recovery goals and needs to determine what course of action they should take. If you are considering entering the dating world while working on recovery, you should have a serious discussion with a mental health or treatment specialist. They can help you weigh the pros and cons while developing strategies for dating that could be very helpful.
Why Avoid Dating in Early Recovery?
Some reasons for not dating in recovery early include:
You Are Still Learning to Navigate Life Without Substances
When you are in early recovery, you are learning to utilize your recovery program and resources as part of your daily routine. You have goals and priorities for yourself that demand a certain time commitment. In early recovery, you are still learning about yourself, developing strategies for dealing with stress and triggers, and healing any damage your addiction may have caused. Relationship stress is one of the leading causes of relapse in early recovery.
You Can Find Yourself in Familiar Unhealthy Patterns
While you are early in the process of discovering who you are without substances, you may fall back into old patterns while dating. You might be drawn to the type of person you would have been drawn to before your commitment to sobriety. There’s a good chance you will be entering a relationship that may not be the healthiest for you. You also need to consider that you will be doing a lot of learning, growing, and changing during early recovery. There isn’t a guarantee that a new relationship will grow and change with you.
You Might Be Replacing One Addiction With Another
When considering dating in early recovery, you should be very mindful of the possibility of replacing one addiction with another. The effect a new romance has on your brain is very similar to the effect drugs or alcohol can have. When you enter a new relationship, the chemical effects on your brain are similar to what happens when you are experiencing a drug or behavioral addiction. Be very careful that you aren’t using a new relationship in place of using substances.
Your Recovery Must Come First
Your recovery and commitment to sobriety must come first, no matter what else you have going on in your life. A new relationship might cause you to prioritize romance over recovery. You may be tempted to forego part of your treatment plan in favor of spending time with a new love interest.
You Need Time to Adapt
While the choice is ultimately yours, it might be a good idea to give yourself some time to do the work during early recovery before entering the dating scene. This will allow you to be in a position of strength and confidence when you do decide to start a new relationship.
3 Tips for Proceeding With Caution
Putting yourself out there and dating can be a difficult process for everyone, even more so if you are in recovery. You have to be more mindful and vigilant to protect yourself from potential triggers while also being vulnerable with another person. It can be a hard balance to find, but not impossible. There are a few guidelines you should follow if you are considering dating or starting a new relationship.
#1. Always Be Honest
Just as honesty is a huge component in recovery, it should be just as important when starting a new relationship. You should not try to hide your past from a potential partner. This could lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings in the future and might even place you in situations where you will be faced with your addiction. Communicate about your past and the goals you have for your future; it will be best for both you and your partner in the long run.
#2. Maintain Social Connections Outside of the New Relationship
It is crucial that you keep a circle of support outside of your new relationship. Do not let other connections fall by the wayside in the excitement of a new romance. You will still need outlets like your support group and recovery peers. Keeping your life balanced with a variety of relationships and activities will help you make sure your relationship is healthy.
#3. Take Your Time
Recovery is not the time to make any rash decisions. Give yourself time to figure out how to navigate a new relationship and maintain sobriety simultaneously. Rushing into huge decisions like moving in together will likely lead to heartache for you and your partner.
Do What Is Best for You
The only person who can decide whether you are ready to start dating is you. When considering whether or not to date in early recovery, communication is key. Communicate with your potential romantic partner, talk to your peers, and have discussions with your therapist. Listen to their experiences and advice. Utilize your recovery program to learn the skills you need in real-time with peer support. The key is to always be honest with yourself and others about whether or not you are ready to maintain a healthy relationship and sobriety at the same time.
Navigating recovery can be difficult and lonely at times. You may be considering entering the dating world but have concerns over whether or not it is the right move for you. Dating and maintaining sobriety will be difficult to balance, but it’s not impossible. With communication, honesty, and caution, you can have a healthy relationship in recovery. At Spero Recovery Center, we believe that it is essential to learn better coping skills in real-time with the support of peers and peer counselors. For more information on how you can stay strong in recovery while dating, call us at (303) 351-7888. We can help you achieve any goal you set your mind to.