dating in recovery

Should I Be Dating in Early Recovery?

Last Updated: Feb 24th 2021

Reviewed by Laura Riley

Making the decision to enter drug rehab is an important step. You must do so with the intention of not only becoming sober but also learning how to maintain your sobriety. You shouldn’t go into rehab with the intention of finding your soul mate. Sometimes, though, love pops up in the most unexpected place.

The truth is that dating in recovery isn’t something that you should take lightly. That’s why you won’t find many recovery professionals that recommend dating during rehab. However, let’s take a deeper look at the question, “Should I be dating in recovery?”

Learning to Love and Let Yourself Feel Emotions

One of the most challenging parts of rehab may be forgiving yourself. Part of that involves learning to let yourself feel emotions again, including intimacy and love. While this is challenging, it’s also one of the most rewarding things that you can take away from rehab.

Like with everything else, though, you have to take your time. Jumping headfirst into a relationship while you’re still learning to control your addiction can lead to a destructive and dysfunctional relationship. Before you can learn to care for someone else, you must first be able to care for yourself.

Reasons to Avoid Dating in Recovery

Dating during the early stages of rehab can put your whole recovery in jeopardy. Should you be dating in early recovery? The short answer to that question is no. Here are a few reasons why it isn’t a good idea.

Dating in Rehab Often Breaks the Rules

Many rehab centers have very strict rules about clients dating each other. New relationships are fun, but they often take focus and attention away from what’s really important. In rehab, the focus should be overcoming addiction and becoming healthy, not getting intimate with someone else.

Trading One Addiction for Another Is Common

People who have addictive personalities often trade one addiction for another. Those with drug addictions are used to finding pleasure from outside sources instead of from within. When they remove the substances from their lives, they tend to replace those substances with new addictions. In some cases, love becomes the new drug.

If you find yourself in such a situation, you might be seeking love for all of the wrong reasons. You may not actually love the person you start dating. Instead, you might be using that individual to fill the void that your addiction left behind.

It’s only fair to yourself and the person dating a recovering addict, that you don’t become romantically involved. You shouldn’t begin a relationship because you want to fill a void. If you seek love before you finish rehab, you could lack the insight to recognize that you’re making this mistake.

Focusing on Yourself Is More Important

When you get into a new relationship, you can’t just focus on yourself. You have to focus on the needs of your partner as well. However, rehab is a time for you to be selfish in terms of focusing on only yourself. You must use this time to concentrate on the consequences of your addiction and to find your inner power to overcome it.

Dating in recovery is a distraction that you don’t need. While it can be hard to focus, you have to make an effort to move forward. Otherwise, you could put your whole recovery in jeopardy.

Dating Is Emotional and Can Make Staying Sober Harder

Rehab is already hard enough without adding the weight of relationship emotions. Dating can be an emotional roller coaster, which is even more true for new relationships. While the ups are great, the downs are even harder. For someone just learning to deal with addiction, this emotional roller coaster could be too much to handle.

It’s even a bigger problem if you’re in an outpatient program because you don’t have the luxury of living in a drug-free environment. When the emotions of a relationship get you down, you might turn to drugs for comfort, which puts your entire recovery in jeopardy.

Instead, dating in recovery is something better left until after you have a better grasp on your own needs. Once you can handle the emotional stress that comes with a new relationship, you could consider dating.

Tips for Dating in Recovery

It’s easy to give you a list of reasons why you shouldn’t date in rehab. That said, you might not always be able to control when you fall in love. While you shouldn’t actively pursue a relationship in rehab, you can use these tips if you catch feelings for someone by chance.

Be Upfront and Honest

If you start to hit it off with someone, you must be upfront and honest with that person. Every individual has the right to know when he or she is dating a recovering addict. While this might seem like a lot to throw at someone, it’s better for the person to understand the situation. If the individual can’t handle dating a recovering addict, it’s better to know to begin with rather than finding out later in your relationship.

Take the Relationship Slow

It’s easy to jump into a relationship at warp speed. When dating in recovery, though, it’s imperative to take the relationship slow. In fact, consider treating the relationship like a part of your rehab.

Think about it. Typically, addicts are used to getting instant gratification from the substances that they abuse. It stands to reason that they would want it from their relationships as well. In order to keep the “high” of the relationships alive, they tend to keep upping the stakes.

For example, they might get into relationships, move in with their partners, and get married all within a short time. Once there’s no more ante to up, they lose focus and look for something else to scratch that itch.

However, a good relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. Get to know with whom you’re getting into a relationship. Additionally, it’s essential for the person dating a recovering addict to understand the need to take it slow. The individual shouldn’t push you into doing anything too quickly. Once again, that’s why it’s so important to let the person know that you’re in recovery when you first start dating.

Put Your Sobriety First

When you’re on a plane, the staff tells you to put on your oxygen mask in an emergency before helping the loved one next to you. Think of being in a relationship while in recovery the same way. While being in a relationship can change your priorities, it’s crucial to remember that your sobriety has to come first.

Don’t put your time in rehab on the back burner for your relationship. Also, avoid situations that might put your sobriety in jeopardy. For instance, let’s say that your new partner is going to a family get-together, and alcohol will be there. If you’re not far enough into your recovery, this might be too big of a temptation.

While it might hurt your partner’s feelings, you have to explain that going to such a gathering might put your sobriety in danger. By doing so, you put your sobriety ahead of your new relationship.

Don’t Date People From Places That You Frequent

Nothing is more important than structure and routine during recovery. That’s why, when you’re dating in recovery, it’s necessary to avoid dating anyone from places that you frequent. Avoid dating people from work, your rehab meetings, or even your gym.

The reason is that dating people from these locations may put you in a stressful situation if you break up. If you date someone from your favorite gym but break up, you might find yourself avoiding the gym so that you don’t see your ex. This hurts your routine and puts you at risk of relapse.

In addition, there’s a possibility that the people you hung around before your recovery were bad influences. You should weed out such individuals during recovery. The last thing that you want is to date someone who will steer you down the wrong path.

When Is It Time to Start Dating?

A good rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t even think about dating for the first six months to one year after you start rehab. Waiting gives you time to focus on yourself, find balance in your life and get a firm grasp on your sobriety. It will make it easy to deal with the hardships that come along with dating, including the stigma of being a recovering addict.

According to a study from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, there’s a greater stigma for drug addiction than for any other mental health issue. It can be tough to deal with, so you should be mentally prepared before you get back into the dating scene.

Once again, that’s why it’s vital to take things slow and be upfront with whoever is your partner. Whether you’re dating in recovery or afterward, being honest about your situation is a crucial step in achieving a healthy and happy relationship.

Get the Help You Deserve at North Jersey Recovery Center

At North Jersey Recovery Center, we take great pride in offering the best addiction treatment possible. We offer a wide range of programs so that we can provide treatments that work for everyone. Some of these programs include:

Don’t wait any longer to get the treatment you deserve. Let us guide you down the path to recovery. Contact us to schedule an appointment today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.

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