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6 Tips for Dating in Recovery

Recovery is a time for self-care and reflection, establishing structure and controlling urges. Most weeks, Saturday nights are spent at 12 step meetings.

To be clear, no professional would ever recommend dating in early recovery. But, we have to be realistic and look at cases individually. Whether you are single and getting sober, or recovery is a part of your relationship, here are some tips to help you date smarter and safer.

Be in therapy

Recovery is an ongoing process of self-discovery. A therapeutic environment is a necessity for learning more functional patterns of behavior and gaining insight into the origins of your disease. In therapy, you will work on assessing readiness, especially for the dating game. If your partner needs support, couples counseling and ALANON meetings are recommended.

Be upfront about your recovery

Facing uncharted dating territory without your usual liquid courage can increase your risk for relapse. -Alexis SteinOftentimes people in recovery are apprehensive about revealing their sobriety for fear of judgment. Facing uncharted dating territory without your usual liquid courage can increase your risk for relapse. You might make up excuses as to why you aren’t drinking (i.e. “I’m on an antibiotic” or “I have to get up early for work”), but lies won’t eliminate the possibility of future dates at tempting bars and restaurants.

It is imperative to approach this topic honestly, like you would (hopefully) approach the rest of the relationship. Your sobriety is a part of your life and there is no need to be ashamed of the amazing work you have done to get to this point. Being upfront, if not preemptive, will help you to reduce the chance of a slip up, avoid risky surroundings for dates and weed out the people who may be uncomfortable with dating someone in recovery.

Have “solid” sober time

“Solid” sober time is entirely subjective as recovery is an individual process. However, it is important to consider that 12 step purports waiting one full year before starting a new relationship. The first year should be focused on working the program and working on yourself. Recovering addicts need time to learn how to cope with stressors and deal with urges. Beginning a new relationship too early can add to those stressors and actually tap into the parts of the brain associated with addiction.

Take it slow

If you date too soon, you may also be using the relationship as a way to quell the urges in early recovery. It is common for addicts to seek instant gratification and experience a transfer of addictions, particularly in the earlier phases. Take time in sobriety to reset those dopamine receptors. Be aware that diving into a new relationship can trigger the same receptors.

Ask yourself if you are really ready to share your time with a significant other, or if you are using relationships as a distraction. If you are already dating someone, it is a good idea to discuss with your partner the pace of the relationship. Try to avoid making any big decisions within your first year, like moving in together, marriage or children.

Try to avoid making any big decisions within your first year, such as moving in together, marriage or children. -Alexis Stein

Sobriety comes first

man drinking coffee on a date while in recoveryIn order to achieve long-term sobriety, you have to put your program first. This remains true, regardless of your relationship status. The excitement of a new relationship can lead to a shift in priorities. You may neglect the parts of your routine that were helping you to stay sober. You may also expose yourself to more social situations where alcohol is available.

As part of your therapeutic process, it is a good idea to understand what an enabler is and to make sure that your partner is unmistakably supportive of your sobriety. Give them time to learn and understand what your program consists of. If your partner uses drugs or alcohol, it is more likely that they could lead you down a counterproductive path. In addition, there is an increased risk of relapse with breakups. If your partner is in recovery too, it is important to assess their stability as well as yours. Would you feel responsible if they relapsed? Could they feel responsible if you relapsed? Could you both indulge a case of the “screw-its” together?

Don’t date someone from a place you frequent

Structure and routine are crucial to the recovery process. Consider where you spend the majority of your time – work, 12 step meeting, favorite yoga class. To avoid future stressful situations and risk for relapse, do not date someone from these important places. A fall out will make a place that was once comfortable and conducive to sobriety uncomfortable. It may result in you going less frequently, if not at all.

Romantic relationships can be stressful, especially during the recovery process. Proceed with caution. Remember, it is possible to have healthy relationships in recovery and to have fun while doing it!

Also Read: Keeping Up with the Joneses of Social Media by Alexis Stein