Dating is one of the thrills of life. To find someone you’re compatible with, establish a relationship, create memories and plan for the future is enjoyable and fulfilling. There’s no wonder it’s the subject of most popular movies, books and TV shows.
Dating is surely exciting, but it also comes with challenges. Dating in recovery is one of those challenges.
Achieving sobriety can sometimes seem like a solo climb, but the truth is that your recovery and the people around you are incredibly intertwined. Your dating relationship can be damaged by your recovery, or you may find that your recovery is impeded by a significant other.
In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of relationships and recovery and how to manage them.
Dating in recovery
Relationships in recovery come with a unique set of pros and cons. While the bulk of recovery is on your shoulders, it’s important for our loved ones to support us, and to do so effectively without slipping into enabling behavior.
Dating in recovery is unique in every circumstance, but there are some common threads. Below are the benefits and drawbacks of dating in recovery:
Benefits of dating in recovery
A dating partner can be an asset in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. As the person who is generally closest to you (emotionally and in proximity) he or she has a distinctive perspective on your substance use habits. Your loved one may be able to pick up on behaviors and symptoms you may have not noticed.
Your partner may initiate an intervention or encourage you to attend treatment. Your partner can provide financial support, transportation and a listening ear. Moreover, relationships in recovery often benefit from added internal motivation, as the person in treatment desires to make the other proud.
Dating in recovery can provide accountability, aid in identifying and mitigating triggers and help a person process the difficulty of healing from substance use.
Drawbacks of dating in recovery
Sometimes partners can be less than helpful in the pursuit of freedom from substance use. It may be that we’ve developed a codependent relationship, in which our partner provides addictive drugs to establish himself in the dominant role. Substance use may contribute to an abusive relationship, or a partner could be a fellow user and opposed to seeking treatment.
Dating also brings up cultural and societal issues. Your significant other may feel that professional recovery programs are ineffective, or have the mindset that seeking treatment demonstrates a personal weakness. Your loved one may come from a background that discourages medical or mental health intervention, too.
Treatment may also create a financial burden and time constraints on your schedule. Committing to sobriety requires significant time, energy and resources, and a partner may struggle to accept this big change.
Even after treatment, your dating partner may encourage you to use it. Even if your loved one has the best intentions, she/he may enable addictive behavior or accidentally encourage relapse. Your partner may feel that a single use to celebrate a month of sobriety is a good idea, or an argument could trigger returning to substance use.
Dating someone in recovery
Being in recovery while dating someone is an entirely different role from dating someone in recovery. If your loved one is currently struggling with substance abuse or has been affected by a substance use problem in the past, it can be tricky to know how to help and how much responsibility you have to encourage treatment.
You may find that symptoms of withdrawal are extremely unpleasant or your loved one refuses to seek medical intervention when it seems clearly necessary to you. The nature of addiction makes relapse common, and a return to substance use may be extreme frustration.
In addition to the addiction itself, the behaviors that come with substance use can be off-putting. Physical changes (such as neglecting hygiene or a lingering smell), financial issues, job loss and other symptoms of addiction are difficult to bear with. Moreover, someone who is constantly absorbed in thinking about the next fix will be difficult to engage emotionally and may prioritize drugs over your relationship.
Each person in a dating relationship will have to weigh the adverse impact of addiction with the benefits of the relationship. If substance use is damaging your own life, it’s time to consider ending the relationship.
Starting a new relationship in recovery
The period of early recovery is a rocky time, and it’s strongly recommended to refrain from new dating relationships during this tumultuous period. The pain of withdrawal, the strong lure of physical cravings and the newness of treatment are plenty of changes to manage on their own. Embarking on a new dating relationship for the first few months of recovery could invite unnecessary stress or triggers to relapse.
Your best bet for dating in recovery is to refrain from at least the first few months of treatment. Establishing a solid foundation and making reasonable progress in sobriety should be your priority at this stage. After inpatient treatment is done and you’ve achieved a few months of sobriety, you’ll find dating is easier and you’re more attractive to others when there’s a stretch of time between you and a past addiction.
Making the best of relationships and recovery
If you or a loved one is faced with a substance use addiction, healing is possible. Regardless of the severity or length of addiction, any person can find freedom with the right treatment.
Silvermist Recovery offers and evidence-based, holistic approach to drug and alcohol recovery. Contact us to learn more or refer a loved one.