Even after one’s treatment program has concluded, their journey is not over. However, the reintroduction back into the “real world” and the deep breath that is a fresh start on one’s sober life can be incredibly exciting. For some, it may be tempting to begin looking to jump back into a romantic relationship with their new, sober identity. However, immediately entering into romantic relationships can be a difficult and dangerous endeavor.
Finding a healthy and supportive relationship is not impossible, but dating after treatment for addiction can be an incredibly complicated, personal, and vulnerable situation. This is risky to navigate without proper preparation, setting appropriate expectations, or providing oneself with the time needed to transition back into the “real world” while safeguarding your newfound sobriety.
Understanding the Desire for Romance
Love is a great feeling, and jumping into the dating scene can seem like a good idea for a number of reasons. One’s desire to prove their transformed, sober identity can lead them to seek an intimate, romantic relationship as they rebuild their lives.
Others may look to the comfort of having a caring, loving relationship to fall back on to help cope with other stressors. Some may see a romantic partner as a sign that they are moving forward with their personal ambitions and putting their addiction behind them to focus on a brighter future.
Regardless of the reason, there are several risks when jumping into a romantic relationship too early in one’s recovery. Despite one’s desire to find a romantic partner, it takes time and effort to prepare oneself for any kind of intimate relationship during one’s recovery journey.
The Dangers of Rushing Romance
Engaging in a romantic relationship without preparing oneself or considering the potential ramifications of the relationship can create a number of hurdles, which could lead to destructive outcomes. Rushing a relationship before one has had time to truly establish their own routines, interests, hobbies, or identity outside of the recovery sphere can compromise one’s still developing sober identity.
How an individual begins a relationship and how they act later in recovery may be very different. This is because they may have different personal and professional goals, values, and interests. These continuing changes in identity and lifestyle can change a relationship dynamic. One’s own desires and expectations from a partner may drastically change, which can lead to a difficult and strained relationship if everyone is not on the same page.
Recovery is marked by numerous transformations as a person works to overcome past thoughts and behaviors and develop a new identity and life for themselves. As such, there is a risk that a person may mold their new identity after their partner, instead of taking the time to develop their own interests. This can undermine many of the self-actualizing aspects ingrained in addiction recovery.
Taking the focus away from one’s personal development for any reason can compromise personalized ambitions and recovery goals. Others may find that their emotional resilience is tied to their relationship, and any strains in the relationship can leave them ill-prepared to cope with the stresses and vulnerability of their own emotional turmoil.
Preparing for Romance
Romantic relationships take a lot of time, dedication, and compromise. Before beginning a romantic relationship, it is important for the individual to take time to understand what they are looking for in a partner and how that will affect their own identity and goals.
Likewise, it is also important for a person in recovery to reflect and identify what they are–and are not–able or willing to offer another person. If a person is recovering from an addiction to alcohol, starting a relationship with someone who values having a few drinks with friends could lead to conflicts in the relationship. This could even compromise their own sobriety and recovery efforts.
Create a Self-Care Routine
Self-care is a personal practice that does not rely on the approval of others to be effective. Having an established self-care routine with activities that one enjoys worked into their daily schedule can help them build a relationship around these sober practices rather than relying on another for one’s self-care.
Introducing a partner to one’s own routines can help to communicate important aspects of their individual identity while still relying on one’s own time and strategies. These scheduled self-care routines can also inform an individual if a relationship may be actively detrimental to their continuing sobriety. For example, if a person is asked to change their hobbies, is teased for their interests, or is treated as if that time is not important, it could put their sobriety at risk.
Start Slow and Set Appropriate Expectations
Relationships are delicate, and starting slow before jumping into emotional dependency or physical intimacy can help manage one’s expectations for the relationship. Setting appropriate expectations for oneself and one’s partner can help in creating a clear–and healthy–outline for one’s relationship without compromising one’s identity or coping strategies.
Starting slowly provides a better idea of what a relationship may entail. It is possible that one may realize that managing a vulnerable and delicate relationship may be more difficult than anticipated. Distancing oneself may prevent over-reliance on a partner and better focus on one’s personal development in recovery.
Be Honest With Yourself
Being honest about desires and expectations for a relationship can be very revealing. Sometimes what an individual may need is not a romantic relationship, but rather any kind of intimacy with a supportive individual. Others may be looking for love as a replacement for one’s drug or alcohol use, which can have dangerous implications when it comes to replacing one addiction with another. (Yes, even love can be an addiction).
However, this honesty can prepare an individual for important and inevitable discussions surrounding their past substance use. One’s history with addiction will surface eventually, and it is important to be prepared for this conversation and to cope with any shame, guilt, or anger before engaging in a relationship.
Romantic relationships are complicated on their own, and one’s journey through addiction recovery can be another hurdle to overcome when looking to dive back into a romantic commitment. At Everlast Recovery Centers, we understand the desire to get back into these relationships but also understand the need to properly prepare for the complications and vulnerabilities that they can create. Your time with us can be personalized to help you better understand your goals and ambitions in sobriety, and we are ready to work with you to create your own effective self-care and daily sober routines to help you establish your sober identity inside and outside of the recovery sphere. With individual and group therapy, education, relapse prevention, and an intimate and supportive community in a home-like environment, we are prepared to help you establish your identity as you prepare to reenter a romantic relationship. For more information, call to speak to us today at (866) 388-6925.