So you’re nailing recovery: you’ve got your cravings under control, you’re developing healthy habits, and you’re feeling positive about your future. As your days are filled with more joy, you might find yourself wishing you had someone to share this new life with. But whether you’re looking for a relationship or just playing the field, it’s imperative that you question if it’s the right time to introduce dating into your life.
Standard advice holds that you should postpone dating for your first year in recovery. This is because new relationships may take the focus off your own work and derail your recovery. Early in your sobriety, you’re just rediscovering yourself and defining your values. It’s a time of self-reflection and renewal, and it’s important to take the time to fully know who you are before seeking a partner. What is important to you? What activities do you enjoy? Who do you want to be? The old adage holds true: you have to learn to love yourself before you can love someone else. Don’t shortchange yourself on building a relationship with the one who truly matters the most: you!
Returning to life without your go-to coping skills of drugs and/or alcohol can be scary. If you start dating too soon, you may find yourself falling into old patterns, choosing partners who aren’t healthy for you and your recovery. Be careful of forming unhealthy attachments in an effort to fill the emotional void left by drugs and alcohol. Before you begin dating, you need to trust yourself and your ability to stand on your own two feet. Can you make decisions in your best interest? Can you tell who is good for you and who isn’t? Do you have your own back? Be wary of things that might jeopardize your recovery. Are you strong enough to leave if the relationship ends up being detrimental? And are you strong enough to endure a break-up if things don’t work out? It’s important that you’ve reached a level of emotional maturity that will allow you to seek partners who will complement and support your sobriety. As you grow more confident in your recovery, your self-confidence will improve. The longer you wait and the more work you do on yourself first, the more likely you are to select a partner who is mature, healthy and a positive influence.
In early recovery, it’s natural to feel lonely. You’ve given up your social network and your old coping strategies and are working to develop a new approach to life. Learning to feel emotions again is a challenging part of recovery, but rediscovering feelings of love and intimacy can be rewarding and exciting. As your body heals from substance abuse, it may be tempting to replace the high of alcohol and other drugs with the new “high” of romantic love. But be wary of replacing one addicting behavior with another!
It’s important to keep working your program even as you begin dating. Take the time to discover who you are and what you can bring to a relationship. You may have to relearn healthy intimacy before you can share your hopes and dreams with another person. Seek help from a therapist as you navigate new relationships, attend group meetings to stay on track with your recovery and talk about new feelings that are arising. And be honest with yourself. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t! Don’t pressure yourself to be in a relationship before you’re ready. Take time to get to know yourself first and to understand what it is you’re looking for.
Where can you meet prospective partners? Think beyond the bar! You can find likeminded people at meetings, community events, dating apps, and anywhere you’ve found to have sober fun. Your local meeting may even host a variety of sober functions where you can meet others in sobriety who are also looking for love. Be honest about your recovery – being secretive is a thing of the past! Find someone with whom you can be open about your journey, someone who truly supports you and who you can trust with your truth.
As millennials, dating is already hard enough. Mix in sobriety, and it can feel next to impossible! But before you jump into the emotional rollercoaster that is dating, it’s imperative you take a look at how it will impact your recovery. Waiting a year may seem like a long time, but it’s the time necessary to clear years of emotional wreckage to recover your mind, body, and spirit.