The end goal of addiction treatment is returning the individual to a normal way of living without drugs and alcohol. It’s not an easy process if the individual has been mired in their addiction for a long time. In such cases, there are some really simple steps the recovering person can take to make sure their recovery stays on track.
One topic that seems to always come up for single people after rehab is how to proceed with dating in recovery. This is obviously a very important part of life, but there are potential dangers one might face if they jump back into the dating scene too soon into their recovery.
The Generals Dos and Don’ts of Recovery
Above all else, staying sober has to be the number one concern of someone who suffers from an addiction illness. While the individual might feel comfortable with their progress, their inner addictive behaviors are remaining strong enough to reappear at any time.
Given the ever-present threat of a relapse, the recovering individual has to remain diligent. They have to stay out of harm’s way and avoid temptations. They have to manage their coping skills to deflect triggers. Finally, they have to avoid anything that might interfere with the recovery process, that might include relationships in recovery.
Dating in the Early Stages of Recovery
If someone is already involved in an existing relation, they will likely have relationship fences to mend. If their partner was part and parcel to their addiction, it might be a toxic relationship that warrants close scrutiny. Love of self must always rule over misguided love of others. It’s far better to end a toxic relationship that to allow it to break down the ability to defend oneself against addiction.
For the people who are simply ready to resume the search for love and companionship, caution is a must when dating in recovery. It’s very easy to get caught up in the emotional roller-coaster of love and attraction. It’s that bombardment of emotions that could end up breaking down the individual’s defense mechanisms against their addiction.
The first rule of dating is to find someone who is compatible and low-maintenance. Anything less is likely to create challenges that will eventually test one’s ability to remain in control while their addiction is screaming it can help. In an effort to help people in recovery get back to a normal dating life, we offer the following suggestions.
Be Forthcoming About Your Addiction
Having an addiction is not necessarily something to brag about. Just the same, it’s also not something of which you need to be ashamed. When you start dating someone new, someone that does not know your history, you should disclose you are a person in recovery. It will keep you from having to explain certain behaviors you go through to protect your sobriety.
At the end of the day, you don’t want to waste time with people who might be judgmental about your past. You stand a much better chance of finding the right person if they truly know who you are, your strengths and weaknesses. Remember, conflicts are possible if your new love interests don’t know with whom they are dealing with. If you’re addicted to alcohol, is it really appropriate to be dating someone who loves to hang out in nightclubs and bars?
By letting them know about your addiction upfront, you are respectfully giving them the opportunity to decide if your limitations match well with their lifestyle. If the answer is yes, you might have a keeper. If the answer is no, it will save a lot of time and stress.
Take It Slow
Thanks to your time in treatment, you have a long life ahead of you. There really is no reason to immediately jump back into the dating scene.
Many addiction treatment experts will recommend you do no dating for the first year of recovery. Of course, that sounds like a long time. However, you can make that time go quickly by focusing on building a stronger recovery. If you are not dating, you have more time for 12-Step meetings and some additional counseling to help build those layers of defense. You’ll have more time to resolve issues from your addiction life, which will help pave the way to a cleaner future. Finally, that year will give you a chance to become the best you possible. The best you will likely find the best partner.
Sobriety Must Come First
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of meeting a new love interest. Relationships in recovery can also be very distracting. In all likelihood, you would want to spend as much time with that person as possible. However, working your sober program has to remain your highest priority.
Remember, this new love might not like the you who was caught in the cycle of addiction. Furthermore, you don’t want that individual to become part of a new problem that enables you to fall back into old habits. You must not let anything interfere with your recovery. That means staying on top of the things you do (12-Step meetings, counseling, meditation, healthy eating, exercise) to stay strong against your addiction.
Find Love in Unfamiliar Places
Finding love is both exciting and stressful. However, the meshing of two lives together is not without difficulties. During the early parts of your recovery, you will seek out places you are comfortable. That might be your 12-Step groups, work, school or extra-curricular activities. Keep those places scared and without stress and don’t date people from those environments. Find your love interest in other places like the park, grocery stores or by an introduction from family and friends.
You are not permanently broken. You simply have an illness. If you properly manage your addiction illness, you will find you are capable of thriving in a relationship that will bring you happiness and fulfillment. If you need any help along the way, be sure to contact us today.