Dating After Recovery: 7 Guidelines for Approaching Non-Addicts
Building healthy relationships may have been one of the challenges that contributed to the growth of your addiction. Everyone struggles with dating challenges, and the transition from the safe environment of sober living homes and 24/7 addiction treatment opens a world of new possibilities for those in early recovery.
Making choices about romantic relationships is one of the first tests of your newfound strength and clarity. Are you ready for this step? How can you avoid the common issues that recovering addicts face when dating non-addicts?
Let’s cover some good advice about dating after treatment for addiction and what to look for in a healthy recovery relationship.
When Is It Time to Consider Dating?
Most treatment facilities and 12-step programs recommend waiting until you have been sober for at least a year before looking for a romantic relationship. There are many factors and pitfalls which could put your recovery off track or trigger a relapse. Your top priority in early recovery should be caring for yourself and learning to live free of addiction.
Still, every individual is different and took a different path into drug or alcohol abuse. The path away from addictive behavior is also a personal journey, and some of those in recovery may be ready sooner or later than the one year mark. Some questions to ask yourself before moving ahead include:
- Are you dealing with daily stress and emotional moments by using healthy coping mechanisms?
- Are you confident that you can experience unexpected triggers without relapsing?
- Have you openly shared your intentions to date with your sponsor or counselor?
- Have you listened to the concerns of those who support your sobriety?
If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then you may be ready to move ahead with dating again. As you take this step, be mindful of these factors:
1. Appropriate Honesty Is Essential to Trust
Some of the work you did in your sober living facility or outpatient treatment program will help you address trust issues in your past relationships. Trusting others and earning their trust in return begins with honest communication up front. Be prepared to answer questions and educate your new friend.
While you don’t have to talk about every low moment you may have experienced, sharing your recovery status and expressing your commitment to living sober will be the best start to a new relationship. Answer questions you feel comfortable with, and openly say if a question is too uncomfortable for you to answer right now.
2. Give Your Date Time to Think
Raising a sensitive topic like past addiction or current involvement in treatment services might be a surprise to your potential partner. Pushing for an immediate answer is not the right approach. Part of establishing trust is allowing others space and time to make their own clear-headed decisions.
If you are open and confident, your past does not have to define your future. If this romantic interest is not comfortable supporting you in maintaining clean and sober housing, then it is best for both of you if the friendship stays on a platonic level.
3. Keep Your Network of Support Involved
The support groups and meetings hosted by sober living programs in your area are an essential part of your recovery network. Don’t sacrifice your attendance or put your recovery on the back burner in the excitement of a new relationship.
Your friends and sponsors in your sobriety network will help keep you grounded and self-aware as you take this step into dating. They offer socialization without the stress of romance and provide sober outings where you can relax without triggers.
Even if your group disagrees that you are ready, their experience and counter-viewpoint are there to help you. You may choose to hear and disagree, but don’t cut yourself off from those who have your best interests and mental health in mind.
4. Avoid the Lure of Replacement Addiction
There is a reason that the addiction treatment offered in sober living homes and outpatient programs works on a wide variety of addictive behaviors. While specific substances cause different bodily reactions, they all cause chemical changes in the brain which stimulate euphoria. It takes time for the body to stop craving this constant stimulation.
Being in the honeymoon phase of a relationship or experiencing falling in love also causes pleasurable chemical changes in the brain. During early recovery, it can be quite easy to replace one addiction with another, like gambling or thrill-seeking. You owe it to yourself and your romantic interest to consider this possibility and guard against it.
5. Make Sober Friends First Before Taking the Next Step
Your first year of sobriety is a good time to build supportive friendships and repair existing relationships. These sober friends offer support while you deal with the triggers that arise in daily life. Without the expectations of romantic involvement, making friends allows you to explore healthy socialization and avoid focusing all your attention and needs on one person.
Knowing someone well and achieving mutual understanding will help you overcome the challenges of dating someone who has never battled addiction. Let them in on your struggles and let them see how their social use may be an issue. Just kissing someone who has been drinking can be a strong trigger for an individual in recovery.
A wide circle of supportive friends who understand the real you is a good way to eventually find that special person who accepts your past and admires your commitment to sobriety. That person will be willing to wait for you to truly be ready for other commitments.
6. Reach Out for Help if a Breakup Happens
This is one reason it is important not to isolate yourself from your support network and group meetings. Even if your sponsor or mentor recommended against dating, they understand the danger of relapse that emotional crises cause for recovering addicts and want to help.
Reach out immediately for support and reassurance that:
- Even if you feel angry and depressed, you can weather these feelings without using drugs or alcohol.
- Ending relationships is difficult for everyone, and you can attend as many meetings as needed or consider other treatment options to get back on track.
- Your higher power and purpose have not changed as a result of this experience.
- You will find healthy relationships in the future as you grow stronger in sobriety.
7. Remember Your Journey Makes You Strong
Someone who has worked hard to achieve sobriety actually has advantages in dating and relationships. Most people have not spent as much focused time working on themselves and recognizing their personal responsibility as you have.
Some of the skills learned in recovery that can help you build the meaningful and supportive partnership you want include:
- Improved communication and relationship skills
- Anger management and learning to cope with stress in healthy ways
- Meditation, relaxation, and mindfulness of words and actions
- Deeper self-awareness and understanding of others
- Empathy, acceptance, and supportive skills to offer a partner
- Self-confidence and commitment to a better future
How to Recognize the Right Relationship
You have reached this point and you feel you might be ready for dating, but maybe your track record in the past was less than stellar when it came to choosing romantic partners. If you haven’t witnessed healthy relationships, it can be hard to recognize what makes someone a good choice for the emotional investment you are willing to make.
It might not seem romantic, but speaking or writing down what you need and expect from a relationship will make very clear if you are choosing from old habits or from your desire to have a strong and positive influence in your life.
Your sponsor or group might help you develop a list of healthy dating goals like these:
- I want to date someone who is not actively addicted to drugs or alcohol.
- I want to date someone I am proud to introduce to family and friends.
- I want to date someone who treats me with respect, values my voice, and wants a long-term relationship.
- I want to date someone who is self-sufficient, productive, and shares my interests.
Finding Your Future Partner Starts with Finding Yourself
As you or your loved one step out of treatment and begin a new life free of addiction, achieving a full and satisfying life in recovery is within reach. No matter what your starting point, with comprehensive treatment services from RECO Institute and RECO Intensive, you can be ready for all aspects of your future life, including a loving relationship.
You can start this journey or refresh your motivation in beautiful Delray Beach Florida today. Contact us to find new direction and guidance toward the things you truly want in life. Health, happiness, and true love are waiting in your bright and promising future.