The Risks of Dating in Early Recovery
Former drug addicts who are undergoing addiction treatment are in a transition period that is full of many emotional ups and downs and life changes. Treatment programs are often very involved and require a significant time commitment. It is for these and several other reasons that professionals in the drug and alcohol recovery field highly recommend that the newly reformed substance abuser refrain from entering a new romantic relationship, or try to maintain ones formed during addiction, until after the early stages of recovery have passed without relapse occurring.
Below are some of the concerns and risks to people in recovery if they date in early recovery, even if it isn’t considered an unhealthy relationship.
The development of substance use disorder typically occurs when healthy coping skills are not developed and used for stress. Recovering addicts are still learning to recognize triggers and replace them with healthy and empowering methods of reducing stress. A new relationship can easily take the place of both substance abuse and healthy coping skills because the intensity of the emotions and thrill factors stimulate the same parts of the brain that addiction does.
Substance use disorder is a brain disorder that requires diligent treatment, the same way you need to take a full course of antibiotics to recover from a virus or attend regular chemotherapy to manage cancer. Attending recovery meetings, following the rules of sober living, checking in with your support system, going to therapy, and practicing a drug and alcohol-free daily routine are important parts of recovery that new romantic partners can easily distract from.
Healing from drug abuse is a mental, physical, and emotional process. It’s common for people in recovery to have gotten their first introduction to addiction through a toxic relationship, and the patterns, mindset, and associations with love can become deeply rooted in something unhealthy. Until those bonds are replaced with healthier versions, it’s very possible to be attracted to and fall back into harmful patterns.
Different from distraction, this section is in regard to personal focus and dedication to recovery. Many relationships in early recovery can cause the individual to attach their progress and success to the person they are with, to make them proud, to make them not worry. If the relationship ends, those foundations weren’t laid within the person in recovery themselves, making it an unsteady recovery process to continue. It can also be hard to recognize the signs of drug addiction relapse when you are caught up in a relationship.
Relationships can come with all kinds of triggers that can cause a person to return to drugs and alcohol as a coping method, whether the romantic partner is a negative influence or not. Arguments, miscommunications, breakups, infidelity, etc. It’s also possible for recovering addicts to want to participate in “normal” relationship activities that expose them to nightlife or a partying lifestyle, posing a risk to recovery.
Contact The Detox Center of Los Angeles today at (888) 346-4350 to learn how to access our addiction treatment programs.
Focusing on Yourself in Early Recovery
It’s highly suggested to focus on yourself in early recovery instead of dating. Addictive behaviors often coexist within a person along with mental health issues such as anxiety disorder or a personality disorder. Many addiction programs help those in recovery recognize these cooccurring disorders through trauma therapies, which is an important first step.
Still, though, it can take an extended period of attending behavioral therapy or continuing in an intensive outpatient program to overcome the triggers, patterns, and habits that are formed from struggling with mental health disorders. It is best to dedicate the beginning stages of addiction recovery to this mental healing so you can recognize and build a healthy relationship when you are ready.
When is it Safe to Start Dating in Recovery?
There is no hard and fast rule for when you should begin to explore romantic relationships during your recovery. Some therapists recommend waiting 90 days, while others say to wait 1 year. There’s a popular movie featuring recovery stories that suggested starting with keeping a potted plant alive for a year. If the plant is still alive by the end of that year, get a pet and take care of that for one year. If you find at the end of that year, you can handle the plant and the pet, you can start thinking about dating.
No matter when you begin to date again in recovery, remember to keep your goals and the importance of your sobriety in mind. Is this person a risk to your recovery? Are you transparent with them about what you can and can’t handle being around? Do they support your progress or do they try to minimize and distract you from it? Once you are out of the early stages of recovery, finding a partner who matches your lifestyle and mindset to move through this life with can be a beautiful thing.
If you are in recovery or feel you need support with substance use disorder, the Detox Center of LA is one of the leading recovery resources in Southern California for those in any stage of their recovery. We offer multiple levels of care from residential treatment to drug and alcohol detox, and extensive relapse prevention resources for after you leave our care. Our staff is available 24/7 to answer your questions or walk you through the admissions process. All of our patients are treated with compassion and respect and are given a place to heal free from judgment or scrutiny. We know recovery is possible for anyone, no matter their circumstances or history.