Romance After Addiction
October 18, 2019
One piece of advice addicts often hear early in their recovery is: wait a year before starting a new romantic relationship. This advice is sound. Newly recovering addicts face the difficult but rewarding prospect of forging a new identity. Often they’re too vulnerable and too busy for the hard work of finding new love.
In fact, most Alcoholics Anonymous groups assign same-sex sponsors to those in recovery for this very reason. The intimacy of the sponsor-addict relationship can lend itself to close personal connection, which can evolve into a romantic relationship. And what happens to the newly recovering addict if this relationship falters?
Sure, it’s possible for a romantic relationship to succeed when one of the parties is newly sober. However, studies show that most romantic relationships that occur within the first year of sobriety don’t work out.
The Need to be Alone
Setting aside the emotional risk involved in new romance, the time and freedom to discover one’s self is vital in the early stages of recovery. Dating someone new presents a distraction from this process.
To safeguard his or her sobriety, the newly recovering addict must forge new routines, new safe places, new friendships, and new life goals. He or she also has to take inventory of past relationships.
This requires long periods of personal reflection and quiet meditation. As much as a new significant other might be willing to accept the addict’s “alone time,” friction inevitably arises. This friction can lead to fighting, which can lead to breakup, which can lead to the addict relapsing.
Highs and Lows
It should also be kept in mind that addicts often suffer from what is known as “black and white thinking,” that is, they either view a situation as “perfect” or “all wrong.”
Recovering addicts who enter personal relationships too soon often feel the “high” of new romance very strongly. (In fact, some experts think the brain chemistry behind romantic love is closely related to that of becoming intoxicated.)
By the same measure, these same people also feel the “low” of heartbreak strongly. Falling prey to such strong feelings can be downright dangerous for the recovering addict.
When You’re Ready
Once a recovering addict has accumulated enough sober time to feel confident in his or her new lifestyle, full-time sobriety will feel far less challenging. It is at this time that the recovering addict may be ready and willing to enter a new relationship. When that time comes, it is important to remember the following points:
- Be open and honest about your recovery. Before entering into a new relationship, let the person you’re about to become involved with know that you are in recovery and that you continue to work on personal issues.
- Prioritize your recovery. Hey, you worked hard to get to a good place, and it takes real dedication to maintain it. Try not to forget what it took to get here.
- Take it slow. If a new relationship is “meant to be” over the long haul, it will grow naturally. No need to rush things or take any drastic measures to lock the relationship down.
- Keep it honest. People with substance use issues often have a history of denial, dishonesty, and avoidance. One of the first steps of getting clean is being honest., both with one’s self and others. This must extend to new relationships from the very beginning and continue throughout.
- Keep the lines of communication open. When things are going well, there are rarely any problems. But if the relationship becomes difficult to maintain, don’t hide your feelings. Let the other person know how you’re feeling, good or bad.
Being ready for romance might take six months, it might take a year, it might take two years. Whenever it happens, though, the recovering addict can look forward to not only being “ready” to date, he or she will more to offer as a partner.
Get Help Today
At JourneyPure Elizabethtown, we understand what you are experiencing and want to help. Get in touch with us right now to learn more about what to expect at our intensive outpatient program and how you can get started on the path to recovery.
Chris Clancy is the in-house Content Manager for JourneyPure’s Digital Marketing team, where he gets to explore a wide variety of substance abuse- and mental health-related topics. He has more than 20 years’ experience as a journalist and researcher, with strong working knowledge of hospital systems, health insurance, content strategy, and public relations. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two kids.