Dating and Recovery: Dos and Don’ts
Going through addiction and entering treatment will significantly change your world view, so everyday human social interactions are also bound to be approached differently in recovery, especially something like dating. During treatment, you worked on understanding how to hone your coping skills to help rebuild your life, and you are still working on those aspects every day in recovery. This can open you up to ideas of dating or connecting with others in a new way. It’s important to approach these opportunities with the right mindset and precautions in place to ensure you’re entering every relationship in a healthy way that will also serve to better your life and not jeopardize your long-term sobriety. So, if you think you’re ready to get your feet wet in the dating world, keep some things in mind to help you navigate the romantic waters while still staying committed to your recovery.
Yes, recovery can be a lonely place, and sometimes you wish you didn’t feel the need to isolate yourself to keep your sobriety “safe,” but reentering the dating scene should be gradual. So far, you have been trying to surround yourself with only positive and encouraging people, and when presented the opportunity to date someone who fits this description, you may be tempted to jump right in. However, entering a romantic relationship should be a deliberate decision, not an impulsive one. Keeping your priorities straight and remaining committed to them can help you from rushing into something that can lead to emotional turmoil, compromising your recovery journey.
Do prioritize yourself.
Entering the dating scene can very well help you along with your recovery if and when you find the right person, but even so, it’s crucial to place your health and your progress above all else. It’s easy to fall head over heels in a new relationship and lose focus on the things you have to do to stay in recovery. In recovery, though, sometimes it’s a tightrope walk between losing sight of your plans for your future and investing your attention and time into someone you love or being in a healthy relationship where two partners are equally invested in each other’s wellbeing. It will usually come down to the healthy coping skills learned in counseling and any additional personal work in therapy.
Don’t settle for less.
Being in recovery or having a past of addiction or substance misuse doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be in a loving relationship with someone who treats you with respect. Avoid falling into the thinking that you have less value than other people just because you have a substance use disorder; it doesn’t make you any less deserving of good things in life. This kind of mentality can lead people into unhealthy relationships or “settling” for someone who isn’t treating them well. Settling on anyone who is a potential partner, even if they are showing undesirable traits because you think you should feel “lucky” anyone would date you at all is harmful and simply untrue. Knowing your self-worth before stepping out into the dating arena is important to finding and selecting a partner that best suits you.
Do choose the right environment.
Meeting people and setting up dates can be exciting, but it’s vital to ensure that you are doing so in healthy environments. Many social gatherings involve substances like alcohol, so if that’s one of your triggers, you will want to avoid common date spots like pubs or bars to prevent potential relapse triggers. Triggers are people, places, and things as well, so even though alcohol may not have been an issue for you in the past, it’s important to note that nightclubs and similar atmospheres can trigger you in other ways that you may not expect. Instead of choosing a meeting point that may put you at risk, suggest something that aligns with your recovery instead, like a healthy hobby or activity you enjoy.
Don’t hide your recovery.
There is never a “right” time to tells someone you are interested in about your recovery, and sometimes, it doesn’t have to be discussed right off the bat. Depending on how you choose to handle your substance use disorder recovery process, approaching this discussion can be handled many different ways. Whether you want to see where things go before opening up this part of your life to the other person, or you want to be up-front about your past, it’s a personal decision that is important to address at some point. Transparency in a relationship can keep it healthy and honest, which is something to strive for when stepping into the dating world. If the person you are looking to date is going to become your partner, it’s important for them to understand and accept recovery as a big part of your life and to be on board.
Do avoid codependency.
One of the biggest areas of growth in recovery is the breaking of behavioral cycles and previous unhealthy behaviors. In terms of relationships, codependency is a risk to beware of and to avoid at all costs. Codependent behavior is difficult to break free from, especially in stages of early recovery. If you feel like you may sense yourself falling into these old patterns, it may be too soon to start dating. Rushing into relationships quickly is a warning sign because they tend to end up being one-sided, abusive, or contain an unhealthy power balance between two partners. These types of relationships can form quickly and springboard into emotionally, mentally, and physically unhealthy situations that can wreak havoc on recovery. Steering clear at the very first red flags that anyone may show when easing into dating is essential to avoid falling into a codependent relationship that can dismantle so much of your hard work.
Dating can bring about a range of emotions, from excitement to fear, and it can also require a bit of work to find someone with whom you are compatible. While in recovery, the emotions and thoughts can become amplified, potentially changing the dynamic of your recovery, as well. Take your time when entering the dating scene and use the tools you have learned during your hard work to take control of your life to keep yourself on your journey, possibly adding a partner to walk by your side along the way.
Reach out to AppleGate Recovery for Help
AppleGate Recovery helps patients with opioid use disorder and their loved ones manage addiction. Through medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, we can reduce the effects of addiction and help patients learn recovery skills. For more information about our programs and how we can work within your schedule, contact our staff today.