Dating is a topic that comes up often in 12 step meetings, and the response is usually this:
Don’t date — at least not for a while.
Could it really be that cut and dry, though? Recovery never truly “ends,” yet most people can’t just stay single forever. Exactly how long should you wait to start dating again?
Generally, it’s recommended that you wait at least three to four months after treatment to attempt a romantic relationship, but it really comes down to the individual and their progress. Some people need longer to become emotionally stable again; only then might they be ready. Knowing when that time has come is trickier than it sounds, because a big part of recovery, along with all the difficulties, is experiencing dramatic boosts in confidence – sometimes too dramatic — toward the end. That cockiness is what leads so many people back to the bars, the casino, or the dating scene–and then back into the addiction cycle.
Relationships and Relapse
Relationships cause emotional turmoil even for regular people; even the good emotions can be too much for someone trying to stay calm and collected, though the biggest threat is, of course, the fighting. For recovering addicts trying to avoid relapse, relationships are like minefields. No matter how safe they seem–explosions happen. Before an addict jumps into a relationship, they should run the idea by their sponsor, their therapist, or someone else involved in their treatment aftercare. Hear them out, no matter how much it hurts. An outside voice is important to have. A failed relationship or broken heart could be a major relapse trigger.
Relationships and Compromise
The addict may not be an active user anymore, but they’ll always be in recovery, which means the condition isn’t just some dark event from the past that needn’t be mentioned; it’s ongoing. If a recovering addict decides to go ahead and date–whether they’re ready or not–it’s essential that the partner understands the territory, and that both partners share the same top priority: sobriety.
That could be a big sacrifice for the non-addict, and it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes painful decisions must be made. If the partner won’t stop drinking or smoking, or there’s too much bickering going on–the relationship must end.
Relationships and Healing
If an addict relapses while in a relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean he should break up with his partner or that it was the relationship’s fault. A relapse doesn’t necessarily mean someone wasn’t ready for normal life (jobs, children, relationships, etc). Recovery is a bumpy road; slips happen. Many addicts swerve into full-blown relapse and land themselves back at square one; others, however, manage to regain control. If someone vows to stay sober despite these setbacks, and the partner wants to stick around and continue to help, there’s no need to object. In fact, the emotional support can serve as a useful tool. Remember, though, that just because you’re clean and sober and happy doesn’t mean your partner has a responsibility to date you forever. Never hold your condition against someone. At the end of the day, you want someone whom you make happy, not a co-dependent partner whose perception of happiness revolves around yours.
Ready to get your life back by seeking recovery from addiction?
Contact Sustain Recovery today to learn about your treatment and aftercare options.