The Dangers of Dating in Early Recovery & What to Do Instead
Dating can be exciting, thrilling, and annoying all at the same time. Almost everyone wants to find someone they can spend their life with, and dating is just the way to get there.
For the average person, dating can sometimes be problematic. Heartbreak, toxic relationships, and infidelity are all possible. For someone in recovery, the stakes may be even higher.
Why You Should Avoid Dating in Early RecoveryWhen people go through our Boca residential addiction treatment, we usually caution them against dating in early recovery and urge them to focus on themselves instead. Although it is for their own good, many people are quick to brush off these warnings. It can be hard to see it in the moment, but dating someone in early recovery could drastically and negatively impact your recovery journey.
Identity IssuesBecause drugs and alcohol become such an important part of an addict’s life, when they are gone, the addict may feel like they lost their whole identity. They need to relearn how to go about their lives without using these substances as a crutch as well as learn who they are without them. If they begin dating in early recovery at this time, they may become too dependent on the person they are dating. They could lose the new identity they were starting to build and find themselves only able to identify themselves with their relationship.
Falling Back into Bad HabitsPoor mental health and substance abuse are often connected, so some people who go through recovery also need mental health treatment. Because of this, part of their recovery will not only mean staying sober but also managing their mental health. For some people, dating and intimacy help them feel better momentarily, but like drugs or alcohol, they may make them feel worse in the long run. If recovering addicts begin falling back into these dating habits, they may also feel tempted to fall back into other bad habits like their substance abuse. Especially if they try dating someone from their past, they may derail their entire recovery progress.
Love as a DrugBefore someone starts looking for addiction services and enters treatment, their substance of choice takes over their life and consumes them. Once they get sober, they have a void in their life where this substance once was. It is common for recovering addicts to replace one addiction with another to fill this void without even realizing it. Dating too soon after rehab could actually cause someone to replace their substance abuse problems with an addiction to relationships or intimacy. With such a strong attachment to others and this new addictive behavior, the recovering addict may never learn how to stand on their own two feet.
Toxic RelationshipsUnfortunately, not all relationships are healthy, and when you are in early recovery, you are likely in an emotionally vulnerable state. This state may make you more likely to find yourself in a toxic or unhealthy relationship because you are still struggling with some self-esteem problems or are too heavily reliant on others. Ultimately, a toxic relationship that was established in early recovery may be harder to escape and could lead to serious issues, including relapse.
What to Do Instead of Dating in Early RecoveryBecause not dating in early recovery can be beneficial for several reasons, it is best to avoid dating for at least a year after you get sober. While this may seem like wasted time, it shouldn’t be. Instead of setting a hard cutoff and counting the days down until you can date again, you should be focused on yourself. Your progress is the biggest indicator that you are ready to start dating again, not necessarily how much time has passed.
Instead of dating in recovery, you should be focused on doing these things instead:
- Building a support system
- Attending recovery meetings regularly
- Getting healthy, active, and fit
- Following a good routine
- Starting to build a career
- Mending relationships with friends and family
- Exploring your thoughts, feelings, and emotions
- Learning to love yourself
Once you are able to learn to love yourself and build a life free from drugs or alcohol, you can then confidently look for a romantic partner without the high risk of compromising your progress.
At Banyan Boca, we understand that addiction recovery is a comprehensive journey. To help our patients prepare for various aspects of life outside of treatment, we use several evidence-based practices as well as therapy programs including everything from yoga to dialectical behavioral therapy in Boca. This type of all-inclusive exposure and programming helps patients combat any issues that arise outside of treatment and lowers the risk of relapse.