The world of sobriety is a new and optimistic place for those in early recovery. With the days of active drinking or drug use behind you, it is now time to begin rediscovering and rebuilding your life. The things that you have lost throughout the years, like self-esteem, confidence, strength, and relationships, are now areas that you can start regaining.
One thing that many people in recovery wonder about is romantic relationships. Is it okay to jump into a relationship right away? Can you recover well while trying to get to know and relate to another person?
Most recovery experts advise that people who are newly recovered should avoid new relationships for at least a year. This time frame allows space for you to focus on yourself and your own recovery. Only after you’ve become stronger in your sobriety can you then freely embark on a new relationship.
Reasons to Wait
Of the many reasons to avoid romantic relationships in early recovery, the major factors are:
- Your inner self is not ready. When most of us get into recovery, our lives are a bit of a mess. Emotionally, we are spent. Mentally, we may be cloudy. Physically, we are tired. And spiritually, we are empty. The last thing you want to do is try to give romantically to another person when you yourself are depleted. The plain truth is that relationships can be wonderful, but they can also be stressful and detrimental. When you are not feeling strong in your recovery, a new relationship could hurt your sobriety and growth.
- You don’t know yourself. Chances are you’ve lost your true self along the way in substance abuse. You don’t know who you really are without alcohol or drugs, so early recovery should be spent solely focused on rediscovering yourself. This gives you time to really come to know and love yourself and not have to look to another person for any kind of fulfillment or replacement for substances.
- Allow time for healing. Entering recovery requires you to sever past negative relationships in your life, but it’s important to also rebuild the positive ones that you might have burned during your time in active addiction. For instance, your relationship with your parents. Your friends before you became an addict. Or your children. Give some time to rebuilding such relationships before you enter an intimate relationship.
Codependency is a disease defined as having an unhealthy attachment to another person. This can especially become a big issue for addicts and their significant others. As a codependent person, you are referred to as a caretaker. You get your self-worth out of caring for another person. You need them and you depend on their approval for your happiness. Essentially, you’re using a person as a drug to make you feel good.
If you feel that you are dependent upon another person, or have been in the past, it is essential that you steer clear of an intimate relationship until you’ve received some counseling on the matter. There are actually Codependent Anonymous 12-step groups in many cities that will help you break free from the codependent trap.
Thirteenth stepping refers to a seasoned AA member getting into a relationship with a newcomer—a big no-no! It is important for an addict to solely focus on their recovery for the first year and getting involved with a seasoned member does not help with the process. It’s too much, too soon and seasoned AA members should know better. However, there are always individuals who will try to take advantage of newcomers, so be on guard.
Before beginning any kind of romantic relationship, it is important to be at a place where you are happy and secure in yourself before being involved with someone else. Take a season to simply focus on you and your recovery. Let others know that you are not interested in dating just yet. Chances are they will admire your courage and commitment to personal growth. The better you feel emotionally and spiritually, the higher the chance of a long-term relationship when you do start dating.
So do yourself and your future partner a favor and commit to dating yourself for a while. You’ll know when you are ready, but it most likely won’t be for a little while. Be patient--it will be worth the wait.