Dating While in Recovery

couple on coffee date at cafe

couple on coffee date at cafe

Learning to build healthy relationships after addiction takes time, patience, and good communication. These aspects are even more important when you’re dating.

A Personal Choice

For some individuals, being single provides a sense of freedom. They love meeting new people and trying different experiences. For others, dating is a little exhausting. They’re not always eager to engage with people on a short-term or even superficial level, and prefer to leave well enough alone. There may also be other factors, such as:

  • Profession—certain job situations can heighten differences or bring two individuals together
  • Family status—such as recently divorced or widowed, a single parent, or never married
  • Health status—whether you have a chronic illness, a disease such as substance abuse, co-occurring mental disorders, or something else


How do you know you’re even dating the right person? Some experts believe there are dating “types” and when you understand certain characteristics, it makes going out with people and defining expectations of a relationship much easier. For example, the research team behind the Myers-Briggs® Type Indicator (MBTI) personality assessments created an infographic of 16 identified personalities and their dating attributes. For example:

  • The “Deviser” is quiet, lovable, and appreciates logical explanations. Often working in the fields of engineering or computer programming, an ideal date activity might involve a word or card game. Perhaps not as sexual as other people might be. Interested in long-term dating.
  • The “Chameleon” likes freedom, fun, and by equal measure, quiet time. Frequently a member of the arts, he or she is charming, quite sexual, and interested in unique activities while on a date. Interested in a casual sexual relationship and short-term dating.

MBTI® is based on concepts by Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. He’s also a pioneer for what we know today of extroverted, introverted and over time, ambiverted, personality characteristics.

If you’re trying to be someone you’re not, or engaging in activities you don’t enjoy just to be active in the dating scene, you might end up frustrated and unfulfilled. It’s important to step back, take a breath, and not rush the process. This advice works for everyone, but it’s even more critical for a person new to recovery.

Know Yourself First

Talking about types is an interesting way to explore facets of your personality but ultimately, the therapeutic discoveries you have in treatment are the most valuable indicators of who you are. The process of defining your sober identity is one of the primary reasons why people in recovery are advised not to date or have sexual relations within the first year of addiction recovery.

This “no dating in the first year” rule is often implemented by 12-Step support groups, but other experts advocate for it as well. Your decision to become sober was a life-changing moment. Now, without drugs or alcohol clouding your judgment and altering your moods, you have an opportunity to truly focus on your health and wellbeing. Your body may be free of substances, but your emotional sobriety, as some people refer to it, may still be in recovery.

In a 2017 article for U.S. News, Anne Lewis—a clinical addiction counselor and psychologist at Indiana University Health—said, “The first year of sobriety is fraught with challenging issues…many people enjoy the honeymoon phase of relationships…making it more challenging to address issues that underline the addiction.”

An additional source for the article is therapist Anita Gadhia-Smith in Washington, D.C. She said, “Many people in early recovery aren’t stable emotionally.” She recommends cultivating a “reliable group of sober friends” who you may see at 12-Step meetings and other support centers to enjoy fun activities with, such as dinner, the movies, hiking, and so on. “Being part of a group also means you’re less likely to get fixated on one person,” she said.

Another challenge of dating in the early stages of recovery is “the law of attraction.” Individuals who are newly sober may have issues with self-esteem or self-worth. People who are unscrupulous, narcissistic, or even abusive may try to take advantage of someone with these emotional qualities.

As you move forward in your life without substances, it’s vital to experience all feelings and trust you can acknowledge and handle them healthfully. While negative people exist in the world, there’s no need to invite them into your circle of influence. The longer you’re in recovery, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with these personalities. You have the right communication tools and can assess expectations with more clarity.

Don’t Use Love as Another Addiction

So, you understand how anyone can date the wrong person and why it’s important to give yourself space and understanding before dating in recovery. When’s a good time to consider actually dating?

When you’re certain love isn’t another addiction.

Process addictions, just like drugs or alcohol, spark the same pleasure centers of the brain. People frequently experience compulsive behavior—a primary catalyst in the disease of addiction—in sexual and emotional relationships. Scientists have proven that new love, especially during the honeymoon phase mentioned above, “engages dopamine pathways associated with energy, focus, motivation, ecstasy, despair, and craving”, according to Discover magazine.

There’s a stark difference between having confidence in your whole being and external validation from a new person. Yet many people in early recovery find the attention from another individual intoxicating—perhaps relying too much on the sensations and feelings this person triggers. If something breaks that connection, it’s too easy to resort to other addictive behavior to fill the void.

Holistic Care for Your Best Self

At Cottonwood Tucson, we want you to experience total health and happiness. We believe when you dedicate positive time to the development of your total self—mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually—you’ll have greater balance and harmony for relationships and for life. Contact us if you’re ready to start this exciting journey.

For more information about Cottonwood Tucson, Arizona drug and alcohol rehab, call (888) 727-0441. We are ready to help you or your loved one find lasting recovery.

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