Relationships in Recovery


Recovery comes first is heard all the time by people actively working a program. Failure to heed those words can result in one’s recovery falling apart, forgetting this can be a slippery slope. With all the distractions in people’s lives it is easy to take your eye of the ball, resulting in the weakening of your program and potentially a relapse. It is for those reasons that people who have acquired a significant amount time caution people new to recovery to be wary about making life changing decisions, such as relocating, changing employment, and dating. When it comes to the latter, people with long term recovery will suggest holding off from romantic relationships for the first year of recovery; waiting a year will give you time to develop your recovery skills and coping mechanisms which will make fights and breakups possible without picking up a drink or drug.

The waiting a year suggestion is easier said, than done, but one that is not without merit. When a person finally sobers up, they often find a new found drive to start seeing others romantically. It is not a unique force, but it is one that has led many to relapse in early recovery. Dating for the first time in recovery is a wholly new experience, being involved with another person can bring up a number of foreign feelings. People new to recovery have not dealt with such emotions sober, and if your program is not rock solid, the littlest of hiccups in the relationship can lead to poor decisions.

If you are considering beginning to date others it is imperative that you speak with your sponsor or recovery mentor before doing so, for they are (in a way) your recovery barometer and will be able to tell you if they think it is a good idea. While most will say that dating in the first year is unwise, most sponsors are realistic and understand that the likelihood of that is fairly slim. However, if one is actively working a program and is working the steps, then it is possible to safely begin dating, but it is always a good practice of having your sponsor sign off on any major life changing decisions.

If your sponsor or therapist believes that you are ready to begin seeing others romantically and you have prayed and/or meditated on the matter long and hard, there are few practices you can employ that can help you develop relationships that will not jeopardize your program.

Honesty: It is important that you are upfront and honest with any potential partner regarding the fact that you are working a program of recovery, committed to living a life free from drugs or alcohol. If you are seeing someone who is also working a program, then the aforementioned will be fairly obvious. But, if you are dating outside of the program it will not be apparent, and when you sit down to dinner they may wonder why you did not order a drink. If the person you are seeing is not supportive of your recovery, it is paramount that you cease romantic activity.

Take It Slow: Addicts and alcoholics can be fairly impulsive people, more concerned with the finish line than the starting line. There is no rush, and if you are truly interested in someone, it will be all the better if you move slowly. Having several dates before considering have the conversation about intimacy is always a good idea. Moving full speed ahead can result in developing unrealistic expectations, which can become dangerous if your expectations do not come to fruition. If you have come this far, you have made conscious contact with a higher power. Meaning, you no longer run the show and if something is supposed to happen, it usually will with or without your say.

Program First: Steady employment, paying the bills, and being accountable in general all rest on one’s program. Without your recovery, everything else can fall apart and lead you down the wrong path. It is crucial to stay true to your recovery schedule and commitments, lest you begin to backslide into old behavior. If you are finding that dating is coming between you and your recovery, it’s best to break it off and refrain from dating for a while. Romance is not worth relapse.

Please remember, romantic pursuits should only begin when your sponsor or therapist believe that you are ready.

Remember, your desires are not always in concert with a strong program. Recovery is not a race; it’s a process that requires eternal vigilance. Dating will always be there when you are ready, another recovery is not guaranteed.

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