You’ve gone through detoxification and gone through the program into recovery. Maybe you’re feeling extra free without the weight of a substance abuse problem on your shoulders and you want to rush back into the full spectrum of life now that you’re substance-free. Maybe you think it’s time you found Mr. or Mrs. Right to make your life complete.
Hold on there and slow your roll a little bit. With Valentine’s Day, everybody wants to have a partner be a part of this annual celebration. But dating may not be your best choice right at this moment. Let’s take a closer look at something that can complicate your life and lead to a relapse.
IS DATING RIGHT AWAY A SMART MOVE?
You’re new to recovery and you probably already know you’re especially fragile right now. This is a difficult time for adjusting to all your commitments in addition to staying sober–family relationships, finding a place to live, finding a job or returning back to your current job, and finding new friends in recovery. There is no doubt you have a lot on your plate right now, so do you really have the time and resources to try to begin a relationship with another person? Are you looking to date someone who’s also in recovery? Or, if you start dating someone who isn’t in recovery, what should you tell them about yourself?
Just try it on for size. You meet someone new and consider them a potential partner, so you say, “Oh yeah, I have a history of substance abuse.” Maybe you found a wonderful person who is willing to accept that and support you throughout your recovery. Or maybe you found someone who has a codependent personality and is looking for the right person to fix. Most likely, you’ll get a quick lesson in how fast they can run away from you. The bottom line is probably going to be a harsh reality check that you aren’t quite ready for a relationship.
HOW LONG SHOULD I WAIT?
You probably aren’t going to like this answer but the general recommendation is to wait a year before dating again. Yes, that long. Why? Relationships can be a great source of support but they can cause you a lot of stress and they can cause you to become too dependent on that other person. What if you break up? What if you get into an argument? That can be enough to trigger a relapse. Or worse yet, what if you discovere they have a substance abuse problem and they are encouraging you to relapse?
If you become involved with someone who has not had a substance abuse problem, they may want to help you but can cause more harm than good. On the other hand, if you choose a partner who has had a history of addiction, you’ll counting on their success to keep you on track and possibly feeding a tendency for codependency.
There is an old saying, “Start with a house plant. Then get up a pet. If they live, move on to dating.” A little cheeky, but true.
WHEN SHOULD I CONFESS I’M IN RECOVERY?
Okay, you waited a year to start dating and now you have an apartment full of plants and you’re one step away from being considered a crazy cat lady or that guy with five dogs on a leash. You met someone new and think you may have found the right person for your first relationship in recovery.
First, take a deep breath. When you reveal your history is a personal decision and is up to you. There are no hard and fast rules here. In general, you may not want to reveal this on a first date. You may want to get to know each other better before you reveal something so personal. If you have been dating for a while, the best approach might be to say that you have something very personal to reveal and, because you care about the other person, you want to share it with them. Then see how they react. Hopefully, your instincts were correct and they will be understanding and supportive of your recovery.
On the other hand, some people want to get it out of the way right upfront. In fact, it may come up on the first date if it’s a dinner date at a restaurant that serves alcohol. If your date tries to encourage you to get a drink, you may need to simply say you’re in recovery and you don’t drink.
WHAT ABOUT DATING SOMEONE ELSE IN RECOVERY?
As mentioned above, dating someone else in recovery presents a few special problems. You are relying on that person’s ability to stay clean so they can help you in recovery. Likewise, they are counting on you to support them. This can cause you to rise to those standards or it can just cause you more stress because now you’re focused on someone else’s recovery as well as your own.
On the other hand, you face the prospect of having someone who truly understands your struggle and you can both help each other navigate a lifetime of recovery. If you find someone like that, great. However, you can also send each other off the rails and create a relapse for one or both partners. If one partner relapses, then the other one probably will too. Don’t become the next Sid and Nancy no matter how glamorous the movie makes it seem. It’s not.
As much as we may want to have a relationship, when you enter recovery it’s best to stay single for a while and not jump into dating right away. Most rehabilitation counselors recommend waiting for at least a year before you take on the dating life again. Once you start dating again, when you reveal your substance abuse history to potential partners depends on you–you may tell them upfront or choose to wait. You should exercise increased caution about dating another person in recovery because then you may be worried about their recovery when you need to focus on your own. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we are here to support healthy decisions while you navigate recovery. Our programs range from traditional counseling to alternative therapies like yoga and we can help you learn coping skills with dating and recovery. Our mission is to help you get sober and stay that way. Call our facility in Riverside, California at 866-DETOX-25.