Relationships are an essential part of life. Regardless of what stage of our lives we’re in, as human beings, we crave closeness. We crave familiarity above all, we crave a sense of belonging. However, knowing when you’re ready to start dating in your recovery process can be difficult to identify for yourself. Towing the line between healthy connections and replacing one addiction for another can be complicated. Most challenging, however, may be learning how to repair and rebuild relationships that began while one partner was an addict. All three of these, no matter how seemingly difficult, ARE possible for relationships in recovery.
When is the ‘right time’ to start dating once I’m in recovery?
Seems like such a simple question, doesn’t it? I wish I could point to a date on the calendar and tell you that on such-and-such a date, you will be ready to date again. But, truth be told, there is no precise ‘right’ time to begin an intimate relationship once you’re in recovery. The timing will depend on your own personal milestones. The more comfortable you are with yourself, the better prepared you’ll be to bring someone into your space (physically and emotionally) and share yourself with them. However, if you’re a little more ‘Type A’ and need a date on a calendar for the go ahead to start dating, experts say that addicts and alcoholics shouldn’t start a new romantic relationship for at least a year after entering recovery. Relationships fail. Arguments, infidelity, etc. are all things that can easily trigger a relapse in early recovery. The first year of sobriety should be focused on recovery and rediscovering yourself.
Am I in love, or am I replacing one addiction for another?
Ah, the high of new love. It’s a feeling most of us remember, and for a good reason: it is literally a high. According to a team of scientists led by Dr. Helen Fisher (Rutgers), romantic love can be broken down into three categories: lust, attraction and attachment. The flood of chemicals our bodies release in these three stages varies, but all can be an intoxication substitute for the high of drugs and/or alcohol. When we feel lust, our brains release testosterone and estrogen. When we feel attraction (which is similar to lust, but involves the brain pathways that control ‘reward’ behavior), our brains release dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. When we feel attachment (which can happen in family, friend and romantic relationships), our brains release oxytocin and vasopressin. For some, love and sex can emerge as new addictions. And simply replacing the previous addiction makes it difficult to do the important work of addressing underlying issues.
So, how do you tell if you’re replacing one addiction for another? A good question when facing relationships and recovery. The importance lies in the waiting period. The being alone and truly working on yourself. If you’re not fully content with who you are, you will always be searching for what you feel you’re missing in another person. Not only is that unfair to the person you’re pursuing, it’s unfair to you and your relationships and recovery.
Can I repair a relationship that started when I was using, now that I’m in recovery?
There’s no question about it: there WILL be broken relationships in need of repair once you’ve gone through treatment. These may be romantic relationships, parent-child relationships, sibling relationships or friendships, but since our topic is romance, we’ll focus on that.
First of all, YES, you can repair a damaged romantic relationship now that you’re recovering. It’s imperative to understand that repairing these relationships won’t happen overnight. Your partner will need to re-learn how to trust you, and you will likely need to learn how to trust others again. Communication is essential for any relationship to survive and thrive, but this aspect even more crucial when one partner is a recovering addict. Will it be easy? Absolutely not. But it is almost always worth it as long as both partners are willing to put in the work. Be patient – it will take time for people to see you’ve changed, especially if you made the claim in the past. Having said that, once you’ve asked for forgiveness, it’s time to move forward. Don’t focus on the past and be honest about your feelings.
If you’re in recovery and to pursue relationships and recovery, it’s vital to continue prioritizing yourself and your sobriety. Continue to attend meetings. Try your best to follow the one-year rule. Commit to yourself and your sobriety. By doing these things, you’ll be able to give your best, healthiest self to a new relationship. Plus, having a firm hold on your sobriety means dating is less likely to threaten your recovery. As Buddha said: “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection”.
At Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California, we provide a relaxing, comfortable environment for addiction treatment and recovery with many addiction treatment program options, including our Medication Assisted Treatment program. Contact us today at 1-(888)-789-4330 to learn more about our services and how you or your loved one can prepare for a successful rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction at our California treatment center.