Many of us desire and seek out romantic relationships. When you decide to start your recovery journey, this desire probably won’t just disappear; after all, humans have a need for affection and a desire to be loved. However, recovery can be extremely difficult. You may deal with triggers, drug cravings, and insomnia. Early recovery is also about confronting emotions that you may have been avoiding prior. These factors mean that the process of recovery is demanding- you have to give it your all. So where do dating and romantic relationships fit into this?
Addiction counselors strongly advise waiting until you have achieved one year of sobriety before dating. In this crucial period, most people are just beginning to know and love themselves. Like the saying goes, we have to learn to love ourselves before we can love anyone else. Who are you outside of substance abuse? How will you show yourself love moving forward? These questions are difficult to answer but until you can answer them, it is best to avoid getting romantically involved with other people.
Let’s dive a little deeper though: what could go wrong if you started dating before you were ready?
- Replacing one addiction with another
Romance affects the brain in a very similar way to substance abuse. Undoubtedly, alcohol and drug abuse are much more dangerous than romance. But when we stop using substances and start dating too soon after, you might start to seek comfort in relationships instead of drugs. In the most severe cases, love addiction can develop. When this happens, the high from substance use is replaced by feelings of infatuation.
The “rush” of a new relationship can derail your recovery efforts because you are so emotionally volatile in this early stage of recovery. By avoiding romantic relationships, you are giving yourself a proper chance to heal. You can begin to address the core issues behind your addictions and work through them with the support of counsellors and specialists.
- You may be distracting yourself from your recovery
Like we mentioned earlier, recovery is a process that requires our all- it is not easy and won’t happen overnight! Rather it is an ongoing journey that requires continued effort for years to come. You won’t be able to put your all into recovery if you are also pursing romantic relationships; instead of putting your focus on recovery, you may start to be consumed by your new relationships.
Once you have spent enough time sober, you won’t have to put as much effort into maintaining your sobriety. At this point, it will feel more like second nature to live a sober lifestyle and you can safely invest more effort into building a romantic relationship.
- Your may choose unhealthy partners
If you start dating too early in your recovery journey, you haven’t given yourself the chance to develop your decision-making skills yet. You might choose to date the same type of people that you would have chosen if you were still using drugs.
In the worst cases this person is abusive and controlling, but it makes sense why we gravitate to controlling people in this vulnerable state. When you feel like your life is out of control, a controlling partner may provide some stability. However, the control can quickly turn into abuse. On the other hand, you may choose a partner who enables your drug use so that your relationship quickly becomes a codependent one. This type of partner would focus too heavily on your needs and wants, doing whatever it takes to keep you happy even if this means lowering their standards to please you.
During recovery, you will become more emotionally healthy and confident. Once you reach this point in your journey, you will be able to make better decisions when it comes to your romantic partners. The way we treat ourselves teaches others how to treat us; by focusing exclusively on your recovery for a longer time, you are giving yourself the chance to learn how to love yourself. Only after you give youself this chance can other people do the same in a healthy way.
The world outside our rehabilitation center can be unpredictable and messy; romantic relationships are no exception. You will need to put in continuous work even on the outside; connecting with one of our SMART recovery programs, talking with counsellors, and looking after your mental health are all important aspects of your post-treatment recovery journey.
If you or someone you love are struggling with substance abuse, please contact us to start your journey of healing.