Many people who have undergone addiction recovery will admit that the first few months are the hardest – even after they’ve gone through detox. Recovery often comes with drug cravings, mood swings, difficulties sleeping, and a lot of work to patch up the damaged areas of life. For these reasons, people in recovery are usually recommended to refrain from getting in a relationship until they have been clean and sober for at least a year.
Typically, when someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, the first thing that suffers is their relationships with the people close to them. Addicts often have a long history of relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners that have gone bad for one reason or another. Once a person has gone through recovery, they may understandably crave to repair these relationships or begin new ones. However, romantic relationships are one of the leading causes of relapse because they can cause a person to feel such strong emotions that they might not yet have the tools to be able to control.
A one-year pause on dating is recommended to people in recovery because it gives them the chance to reconnect with their true selves and learn about what they really want and need – both out of a relationship and out of life.
Dating too soon while in recovery
One of the reasons that people are told to wait one-year after recovery to begin a relationship is the fact that they are likely going to be a very different person by the end of that first year. Newly recovering addicts are just learning how to navigate the world again and deal with their emotions in a healthy way. Dating too soon can not only interrupt the recovery process but it might not be an ideal environment for a healthy relationship to blossom.
An unhealthy partnership
When people choose a romantic partner, they generally choose people who have a maturity level that is the same as theirs. Because of their drug or alcohol use, addicts tend to be emotionally immature when they emerge out of their addiction days. Upon getting clean, they may seek out a partner who is at the same maturity level as them which could make for an unhealthy relationship.
Addicts also tend to have co-dependent and/or abusive tendencies. If they date too soon out of recovery, they may exhibit these tendencies in their new relationship, too. Although a year doesn’t seem like a very long time for a person to grow and mature, a lot can happen within that time! Recovery is hard work and every day that you spend working on yourself is another day of growth!
Addicted to love
Some people have an addictive personality which puts them at risk of developing an obsession or fixation. Usually, there are underlying mental health issues that cause a person to be that way and they can be dealt with through addiction recovery and/or regular therapy sessions.
When a person has an addictive personality, they may try to replace an old addiction with a new one – one that is seemingly “better” because it stops them from participating in the “bad” thing they were addicted to. A great example is a person becoming addicted to chewing gum after quitting cigarettes.
It’s very possible for a person to try and replace their drug or alcohol addiction with an addiction to love. When this happens – even if the former drug user doesn’t realize it – they are replacing the “high” that they would get from drugs with the “high” if being infatuated with another person. This can lead to unhealthy attachment and co-dependency, both of which are detrimental to an addict’s recovery.
When you enter a relationship, you shouldn’t be looking for another person to make you feel complete. This will only deepen those feelings of co-dependency and make you feel like you are unable to go on without that person. Waiting until you have completed the work it takes to heal during addiction recovery is necessary because it helps you to first be a more complete person on your own and then find someone to share your true self with.
Advice for people dating a recovering addict
Those who are going through addiction recovery aren’t the only ones in the partnership who might have a hard time navigating the relationship. Dating someone in recovery might take more work and acceptance than a person is ready for so it’s important to understand the implications of dating a person in recovery.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their sobriety. You should know right off the bat how long they’ve been in recovery for so that you can gauge where their mind is at. If they’re still in their first year, it might be best to remain friends.
Be prepared to accept their “baggage.” When a person struggles with addiction, they may have done things that they would never have done if they were healthy. You might have to be prepared to ride the wave with the legal, financial, health, and familial issues that your partner is dealing with.
Be supportive. You can support a partner in recovery by educating yourself on recovery processes, knowing their triggers and avoiding them (this might mean no drinking alcohol in their presence), and giving them space when they need it.
Don’t baby them. If you’re a naturally nurturing person, you may feel the desire to help your partner in every step of their recovery process. It’s important for their recovery that they are able to do things on their own so that they learn self-confidence and efficacy.
If you have any questions at all about addiction, recovery, or patient care, please don’t hesitate to call our facility. Our lines are open 24/7 with someone ready to take your call. All calls are 100% anonymous.