Dating in Early Recovery is Tempting
Dating in early recovery can be a sensitive subject. Everyone has a need for love and companionship. When recovery is new, most of us are feeling a little raw and exposed. Addiction therapy helps, but the comfort of another’s attention can also feel like a welcome salve to our bruised and battered self-esteem. The oxytocin that floods our brain’s pleasure circuits has so recently been denied our drug of choice—a sense of ease and comfort returns.
But where have we heard that term “sense of ease and comfort” before? Well, it’s in the chapter “The Doctor’s Opinion” in one of the seminal recovery texts of all time, Alcoholics Anonymous. In that case, it’s referring to the dangerous allure of picking up a drink. Of course, this does not suggest that people in recovery are to live monastic lives of solitude and never enjoy a romantic relationship again.
Love Is a Drug
The point is that sometimes love is like a drug too. Addiction therapy teaches us that our judgment often isn’t entirely sound in early recovery. At the best of times, many of us have trouble differentiating between love and infatuation. The truth is, dating in early recovery is fraught with peril. No, there is no hard rule in any basic text that says you cannot date in the first year. It’s not found in any of the 12 steps either. But there are good reasons why most newcomers are given the advice to wait for a year of sobriety before jumping into a romantic relationship.
Consider the following:
- Old habits die hard; we may seek exactly the wrong kind of person for us.
- Relationship stress or a breakup is a common trigger for relapse.
- People in early recovery most often date people in early recovery. See the problem?
- Dating someone else in early recovery can make both people more vulnerable to relapse.
- Relationships take energy and attention. So does recovery. Dividing our attention can be dangerous.
Relationships Are Important
We will not speak in absolutes and insist that no one has ever been successful dating in early recovery. However, we will talk about managing risk. Recovery is precious and, in the early days, especially delicate. The bare minimum any of us can do if we value our recovery is to manage risks to it. So many people never even make it into recovery.
Many make it in once or twice only to succumb to the disease of addiction in the end. Addiction is serious. It’s literally life or death for many of us. Recovery will ask us to make sacrifices. But what is certain is what we invest in our addiction therapy and recovery always pays dividends.
Relationships are very important in early recovery. The key is understanding that we should first seek platonic relationships with others in recovery. That is friends, not lovers. Fellowship and friendship are essential in recovery. Many of us find that we build some of the most important friendships of our lives in recovery. Our shared experience and emotional authenticity become the crucible where some powerful bonds are forged.
Final Thoughts About Dating in Early Recovery
The bottom line is this. You will have a hard time finding anyone who wishes they had tried dating in early recovery, but you can find plenty who wish they hadn’t. By all means, meet people, make friends. Just remember that your recovery comes first and anything that jeopardizes it is likely not worth it.
If you or someone you love is living with a substance use disorder, Promises Brazos Valley can help. Give us a call to discuss the options for a brighter future for yourself or your loved one. Please connect with Promises Brazos Valley at 800-393-0391.