The recovery journey is a long process of getting your life back. What used to be a life lived only for the craving of a particular substance will transform into a life of freedom and health in all areas. The isolation of active addiction is replaced by a secure social network of people who can support you, offer encouragement, and experience the joys of life together.
Amid all these healing relationships, you may find yourself drawn to particular men or women, experiencing attraction and a desire to go beyond a deep friendship. Romantic relationships can be part of a healthy life, but they are also filled with pitfalls that can easily play into your vulnerabilities in early recovery. If you decide to pursue a romantic relationships in sobriety, here are some important things to keep in mind.
A common guideline in recovery is to avoid dating for at least the first year of sobriety. Simply put, early recovery can be emotionally and physically exhausting and busy, and so needs to become your number one priority.
This is the time to focus on yourself, and building up steady routines that can best support your full healing, such as exercise, relaxation, and self-care. Taking on the stress of caring for and worrying about another person can end up taking attention away from what you need.
Even the best romantic relationships can also be very unstable and involve very strong emotions. Romance and sexuality brings on feelings of longing, elation, and anxiety with an intensity few other things can match.
These strong, sometimes unpredictable emotions can be especially hard to handle in the emotionally vulnerable time of early recovery. Recovery is already filled with overwhelming emotions, you might feel awesome one moment and totally depressed the next.
Learning how to manage and control these emotions is a very important part of protecting you from relapse as well as bringing stability to your life. The emotional roller coaster and risk of romantic love is simply going to bring too much emotional unpredictability at a time when you need as much calmness and control as possible.
Especially unwise is giving into the temptation of what is jokingly referred to as "the thirteenth step," or dating someone in your recovery support group. Bringing two people together who are both not ready for a relationship can create higher levels of drama and tension that distract away from the healing you both need to be pursuing.
Furthermore, if the relationship is a rough place or ends, that can make it harder for you want to go to meetings, or bring up hard feelings if you do go to a meeting and see that person. These distractions are exactly what you do not need.
Proceed with Caution:
However, recovery does not doom you to a life without romantic connection. After you have spent time on your recovery, developing self-knowledge, and the ability to form platonic bonds with men and women, your self-knowledge and social network will become strong enough to sustain a rich romantic and sexual life, that can support your sobriety if created wisely. But before you can look for someone to share life with on such an intimate level, you must first reach a point where you are happy and secure yourself.
Continue to be in therapy and support, bringing your relationship up with your social support network. This is a big step in your sober life, and should be considered part of your healing. Share your thoughts and feelings about the relationship, to see what aspects are supportive, or red flags that can be harmful to your recovery.
Be honest and upfront about your recovery and addiction. Any person who is a good date and partner for you must be on-board and understanding of your history and your needs. Honesty is an important ingredient to any healthy relationship, and keeping this important part of your life a secret will make it impossible for him or her to care for you well.
It is possible to have a healthy and fun relationship, but make sure you do not lose yourself in the process. If communicated honestly and thought about carefully, the right person can be a very strong ally, and be a fun part of your life too!
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