Don’t date during your first year sober.
It isn’t something you’ll find written in most recovery literature, however, it is important to your health, your well being and your sobriety.
Following this advice isn’t on the agenda of most newly sober individuals though. Common arguments can sound like:
Won’t it be easier to stay sober if I have someone I love helping me?
Isn’t being in a healthy, sober relationship a good thing?
Won’t loneliness put me in danger of relapse?
Dating During Your First Year of Sobriety and 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t
You Aren’t Healthy
The number one reason you shouldn’t date during your critical first year of sobriety was explained pretty plainly by our own Dr. Carter recently. He was directing these words to clients still in a drug rehab environment, but this advice crosses over to anyone in early sobriety:
Why shouldn’t you date, especially while you are in treatment? Because this is a hospital, and it’s like someone in ICU dating someone else a few beds over. You’re both sick. It’s not a good idea.
Think about this for a moment. Addiction is a medical illness, just like diabetes or cancer. Years of addiction have taken their toll on your body, mind and spirit. You need time to recover. Would you really want to begin a new relationship during this time. When you aren’t healthy, you don’t bring much to the table, after all. This means you’re placing the entire relationship on the other person’s shoulders. This isn’t exactly fair to them, and it’s not fair to you either because you miss out on building that strong foundation with them. If both of you are in early recovery, it just doubles the chance of disaster.
Your Current Focus Should be YOU
Dating during sobriety is a nice distraction from the problems you’re going through, but it’s just that: a distraction. If you’re being distracted by anything, including dating, you aren’t focusing on healing. During the first year of sobriety, focusing on yourself is extremely important. If you begin a new relationship, everything will be all about the other person. You may lose sight of your goals, your purpose and everything you worked so hard to accomplish.
It may sound selfish, but making this first year about you is the best way to ensure long-term sobriety.
Addiction Treatment is Intense
If you’re just starting treatment, you may not yet realize how intense addiction treatment actually is. It isn’t just a place to go where people help you stay away from alcohol and drugs. You learn about yourself here. Possibly things you didn’t know. You learn how to express your feelings, how to love yourself and how to cope with situations in the outside world that might tempt you toward the road of addiction again.
Some addicts experience certain emotions again for the first time. Emotions they have buried beneath years of substance abuse. This can leave you feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed. You need to have the time to yourself necessary to sort out all of these emotions and learn how to use your coping skills. If you begin a relationship too early in your sobriety, you may find that all of those new emotions focus in on one specific person. Take the time to discover your feelings again.
Dating is Hard
Dating can be a roll of the dice. You might land on a six, but there’s just as good a chance you’ll land on a one or a two. During your first year sober, the ups and downs of this type of relationship can be emotionally draining. Because you’re so vulnerable, you may also pick the wrong person (the first person you see), which can be toxic to your body, mind and spirit. These are the perfect ingredients for relapse. By waiting 12 months after treatment, you will be more emotionally ready to take a chance and deal with the tough parts of dating.
It’s Like a Drug
We’ve all been in the new beginnings part of a relationship. It’s emotionally intoxicating, and for good reason. Positive feelings caused by the possibility of falling in love are directly connected to your ‘feel good’ hormones. Unfortunately, as an addict, it’s very easy to clamp onto these emotions, relying on them to get us through our days. Once the relationship gets past this point and reality sets in, the crash can be hard. Relationships take work, compromise, give-and-take, and serious discussions and decisions. This part of the relationship can leave us feeling vulnerable and can even bring up old wounds we’re not ready or equipped to handle.
When you begin recovery, focusing on yourself is important. While there are some who find love in the first year and make it through, it’s a very difficult process. It’s better to wait until you are truly healthy and ready for the ups-and-downs relationships can bring.
If you or someone you love is ready to begin the journey of sobriety, The Shores Treatment and Recovery is ready to help. Give us a call or contact us by email right now. A caring member of our team is waiting to speak to you.