When you begin treatment for drug and alcohol recovery, you’re likely to feel alone—or at the very least, lonely. While it might be tempting to start a new romantic relationship, experts advise just the opposite: stay on your own until you’ve got some sober time under your belt in a drug recovery program.
When we’re healthy, relationships are generally positive, contributing to our emotional well-being. However, when people are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, they might use a relationship like a drug, making it an unhealthy obsession. Ultimately, an unhealthy relationship in which one or both partners have a substance use disorder can take the focus off the individual and his or her alcoholism, drug addiction, or other mental health problems. It allows people who don’t feel good about themselves to focus on someone else, which becomes a distraction from confronting the addiction.
Most professionals wouldn’t recommend dating at the beginning of a drug recovery program. However, there are certain types of social or romantic relationships that are healthy: relationships with therapists, peers in peer group therapy, and friends and family—as well as significant others—if they are open to and supportive of a person’s drug addiction recovery.
While everyone is different, it is generally recommended to have achieved some solid sober time before beginning to date. Twelve-step groups (like AA) say to wait one full year before starting a new relationship. “Dating takes the focus off yourself, so you’re utilizing someone else’s comments, perceptions, and actions to make you feel a certain way,” says Ryan Johnston, an addiction specialist at Cornerstone Recovery Center. “If you don’t feel good about yourself and you’re using someone else to help you feel good, it actually covers up how you feel about yourself instead of identifying and dealing with your issues. It’s a poor coping skill to utilize early in recovery.”
While it’s easy to say “avoid romance during early recovery,” we are only human. For some people, love is an essential aspect to achieving long-term sobriety. To that end, here are some tips for dating in recovery:
At Cornerstone, we offer a full range of drug recovery programs. Our talented staff of addiction treatment professionals will find the individualized plan that works best for you. If you or a loved one needs help for addiction or mental health problems, please contact our admissions counselor online or call 1-888-711-0354 today. All communications with our staff are confidential.