Love is a wonderful thing – but without the right precautions, love in recovery risks dangerous outcomes.
Relationships of all kinds matter in recovery. Having someone who cares about and supports you gives you hope at even your worst point of struggling with addiction.
“Clearly, supportive relationships provide many benefits. The process of recovery from addiction is supported through relationships and social networks,” says Dan Mager, MSW.
But what about starting new relationships? Specifically, romantic ones? Attraction doesn’t always come at the most convenient time, so what should you do if you want to start dating in early recovery?
Dating In Early Recovery
Most experts agree that those newly sober should abstain from romantic relationships for at least a year because of the issues starting a new relationship can bring into a recovering person’s life.
“The first year of sobriety is fraught with challenging issues. It will be easy for many to find replacement addictions, such as a love addiction, to replace the high the drug or alcohol provided, says Anne Lewis, a psychologist and clinical addiction counselor. “Many people enjoy the honeymoon phase of relationships, feeling euphoria from the new love, making it more challenging to address issues that underlie the addiction.”
It’s important to take a break from dating during this time, to make sure you’re getting the help you need and to make sure your focus is on your recovery, not on another person. Though it can be hard (and sometimes lonely), use this time to build up healthy friendships with those who can support your recovery.
Dating In Later Recovery
If a good chunk of time has passed since you last drank or took drugs, you might be ready to start dating again. But before you do anything, talk about this decision with those closest to you — the input of wise friends can be incredibly valuable in deciding whether you’re ready to date again.
Dating in recovery presents a number of challenges: how do you disclose that you’re in recovery? How do you date without the substance use? How do you find someone who is also sober? Thankfully, there are more options today than ever!
Letting Others Know About Your Recovery
Disclosing that you’re in recovery can seem awkward or shameful. But Mager disagrees: “You may be surprised to find that the vast majority of people will respect your recovery and accept it without difficulty.”
Mager believes it’s easiest if you’re to the point about your sobriety – there’s no need to beat around the bush! But when you should disclose your sobriety is up to you, as it’s a highly personal and emotional choice.
Dating Without Alcohol Or Drugs
With so much of today’s dating culture revolving around substance-filled places like bars, it can be frustrating to figure out how to meet people. But places like coffee shops and quiet restaurants can be great (sober) places to go on dates. Don’t forget about sober-themed events too!
There’s still plenty of fun to be had with with your date, even without drugs or alcohol. And if your date is critical of your recovery or sobriety, it’s a sign that they are not the right person for your recovery relationship.
“Make sure that your partner is unmistakably supportive of your sobriety,” says Alexis Stein, LCSW.
Finding Those Who Are Also In Recovery
Dating someone who is also in recovery can be a great choice, as you’re both making similar life choices and can keep each other accountable. So if you’re looking to date someone else in recovery, technology is here to give you a hand!
There are plenty of great ways to meet people online who are also in recovery. Some of our favorites are the apps Clean and Sober Love and Loosid, and the membership sites Single and Sober and Love In Recovery.
But a cautionary note from Stein: “If your partner is in recovery too, it is important to assess their stability as well as yours. Would you feel responsible if they relapsed? Could they feel responsible if you relapsed? Could you both indulge a case of the ‘screw-its’ together?”
Make sure to consider all these things before taking the leap into a new relationship – love can be wonderful, but it can also be harmful.
If you’re looking to grow your recovery community, try InTheRooms.com. It’s the free recovery tool you always knew you needed.