Rebuilding or building new relationships in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) can be challenging. Relationships with peers can often enhance your life in recovery and help you stay on the path to sober living. When it comes to romantic relationships, however, you may need to think carefully. There is always the risk that managing a new dating relationship may distract you from the goal of sobriety.
The Impact of Stress and Anxiety on Early Sobriety
Most experts advise you not to begin a new dating relationship in early sobriety. Why? Your body is still recuperating from the negative impact of substances, and the risk of relapse is very high. A new relationship too early can add another set of stressors that might sabotage your recovery progress.
Romantic relationships are time-consuming and complicated. Even two people with no past addiction may face challenges and uncertainty that pose risks to their emotional health when they become romantically involved. The emotional implications of early sobriety and the newness of this relationship may become a double burden.
Early sobriety should be a time to focus on yourself, not a budding relationship with another person. If you have romantic feelings for another person, wait until you achieve a more stabilized state of mind before pursuing a relationship with them. Many individuals who have struggled with SUD have also been through patterns of dysfunctional relationships and codependency, which is a kind of relationship addiction. Even if you’re not one of those people, it’s best to get to a more stable place in your recovery before jumping into something new.
The “Wait Before You Date” Strategy
Waiting before dating does not mean you have to give up on finding love. Many recovering individuals find great motivation from the support of their romantic partners. Having a healthy romantic relationship can certainly help some people stay sober. It is also conducive to long-term recovery to have social support. If you don’t already have a supportive partner, how long should you wait to find one?
The answer may be different for everyone. However, the general advice is to wait until you have maintained sobriety for a certain time. Recovery experts suggest a year because, at that point, your sober habits are better formed and more stabilized. During this first year of recovery, focus on implementing healthy routines, finding new hobbies, and rebuilding your social life.
Connecting With Yourself Before Dating Someone
Achieving a year of sobriety also helps you know yourself better. Because you do not want to fall back on hold behavioral patterns, it is essential to reflect on yourself and build self-awareness and self-confidence. At this point, you have likely formed friendships with peers in recovery and know better how well you manage social relationships.
Connecting with yourself also builds resilience, so you are not easily broken when relationship problems emerge. View this time as a period to become a better version of yourself to enjoy a healthier dating relationship.
Practical Advice for Dating Sober
If you yearn for a healthy and long-lasting romantic relationship, you must establish boundaries around how to date. First, make sure you date people with a healthy lifestyle. This means they should support your sobriety and even help you maintain it. If you notice unhealthy patterns in a potential romantic partner, your sobriety must come first, and you may need to discontinue that relationship.
When you begin dating, honesty is always the best policy. Be honest about your past addiction and your need to maintain sobriety. Openness about your feelings and boundaries also helps the two of you grow closer healthily. With honesty and vulnerability, your new partner can become a core member of your support system.
It is also important to date at a slower pace. Rushing into things can cause emotional turbulence that may cause excess stress. Remember, you can set the timeline of a romantic relationship. If you feel a relationship is going too fast, make adjustments to slow down and move at your own pace.
Involving a Romantic Partner in Your Recovery Journey
When the time comes for a committed romantic relationship, your partner will surely want to get more involved. Perhaps both of you realize a need to work on some aspects of this relationship together while you are recovering. No romantic relationship is perfectly healthy, and almost everyone needs some adjusting.
Even with a supportive partner, watch out for co-dependent behaviors. Group or couples therapy can help you stay on the right track in your relationship. While supporting your recovery, your partner also needs to prioritize their self-care. Both of you may consider being connected with a strong recovery community so that you can have access to more resources.
In early recovery, jumping into a new romantic relationship is not recommended because dating may cause you to experience negativity or stress. This “wait before you date” strategy also needs to be paired with other improvement methods so that you can become ready for new romantic relationships in their time. At Laguna Shores Recovery, we have a team of experienced health professionals who can help you navigate the timeline of recovery and relationships. Our compassionate staff knows the value of positive support networks. Whether you need to distance yourself from unhealthy relationships or set up a good recovery foundation for relationship success, Laguna Shores can help. Call (866) 229-9923 to discover how to be ready for dating.