Dating relationships and finding the one is not an easy feat. It can be a long journey full of uncertainties. Everyone experiences these feelings but for individuals who are recovering from addiction, these emotions may be a lot more intense.
It is natural for individuals in early recovery to feel lonely and want to get close to someone. Relationships and finding new love may help counteract the loneliness and can be an important part of healing. However, waiting for the right time before jumping into a new relationship is as important as finding a healthy partner who supports your recovery.
So, when is the right time to go back to dating in addiction recovery?
While everyone handles addiction and recovery differently, experts universally advise against starting a new and/or ending existing relationships during the first year of recovery. They believe that the ‘one-year rule’ for waiting on dating may help safeguard your recovery.
The initial phase of addiction recovery puts you at a very vulnerable stage. It teaches you a lot about your new self: the one without the drugs that you used to take. Hence, your primary goal should be taking proper care of yourself and not letting a new relationship distract you. Moreover, while you are still learning about yourself, you may not be in the right place to judge if someone would be a suitable partner for you.
During addiction recovery, it is likely you might attracted to someone at your rehab facility who is also struggling with substance addiction, abuse, or emotionally unavailable tendencies.
Because both of you have unresolved issues, it is important you consider focusing on yourself during your first year of recovery and start dating once you are ready to embrace new relationships.
Here are a few questions that you might want to ask yourself before taking a plunge into the dating game:
- Have you regained your family’s trust?
- Do you trust your new self?
- Are you able to fight triggers without relapsing?
- Are you using healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stress and difficult emotions?
If your answer to these questions is a ‘yes’, then you are probably ready to date again with minimal risk of a relapse if the relationship were to become difficult or fail.
Take notes: your dating plan
Whether you consult your counselor or therapist, or decide to do so on your own, it is crucial to come up with a list of dating goals. Some of these healthy goals may include:
- Not dating anyone who you are not comfortable in or willing to introduce to your family and/ or friends
- Not dating anyone who uses you for sex
- Not dating someone who is addicted to a drug
- Dating someone you can develop a long-term relationship with
- Dating someone who appreciates and supports you
- Dating someone with similar interests and a steady job
Your counselor or therapist may help you evaluate your goals to make sure your expectations are realistic. The key is to go slow and find someone who understands you and shares healthy interests instead of falling for a physical attraction or a superficial quality.
Four strategies for successfully dating in addiction recovery
Here are some tips and tricks for a successful dating experience in addiction recovery.
1. Play the stranger card
Where there is dating, there are obvious risks. You are sharing personal information with someone you don’t know all that well. Safety can be a big concern, especially if you are dating online. The best way to go around this is to be a stranger, which is exactly what you are, and tread carefully.
There is no way you can get to know a person right away – it takes at least a year to know someone well enough to trust them. Getting too familiar with someone too quickly without vetting them carefully is just a way to fool yourself. Therefore, before you cross the line, make sure you look for signs of common characteristics and interests, while also looking out for signs of addictive behavior.
2. Beware of the ‘high’ of a new relationship
While you are in the early stage of addiction recovery, it is important for you to ease into romantic relationships and wait for the right time and the right partner.
As your brain and body recover from drug addiction, it is highly possible for you to get tempted to replace the high of drugs with the arousing chemicals that dating offers. Dating can cause your brain to release a flood of chemicals, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, phenylethylamine, estrogen, and testosterone that create the ‘high’ of new romantic love.
For some recovering individuals, dating and relationships become an addictive behavior, while others may develop an attraction to someone who is abusive or addicted to drugs. Hence, never jump to conclusions after just a few successful, happy dates.
3. Be the partner you would want to have
During a conflicting time in a relationship, it is easier to point the finger at your partner, labeling them as flawed or needing to change. It is important to understand that the partner you choose for yourself reveals a wealth of insights into your own challenges. An individual gets attracted to someone who is at the same level of emotional maturity, period.
So, if your relationship feels like a never-ending challenge, it is time to work on your emotional health. This way you will be able to meet someone who is equally developed emotionally and has a better capability for love.
4. Be honest about your past
Whether it is your addiction recovery or other aspects of your personality or life experience, you should always be honest. It is crucial to let the prospective partner know you for who you really are, rather than who you want them to think you are. Even if it is something unpleasant, just let them know!
As far as your addiction recovery is concerned, some people might frown upon it but you should know that it is something to be proud of. Put this matter on the table early in order to prevent the chances of a relapse due to a failed date or relationship.
While dating someone new can be exciting and helpful for your recovery, it can sometimes cloud your judgment. So, make sure your sobriety is your top priority. The aforementioned tips and strategies may help you date and form healthy relationships in addiction recovery. As mentioned, having guidance during these times can be of utmost importance. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center offers counselors and therapists who are available to help, whatever your struggle may be. Call us today to speak with a specialist directly, and let’s find out how we can be of assistance during your recovery.
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Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007. Call 888.512.1705.