Getting back into the dating game when you are in recovery can be a tricky process. Taking the time to know yourself, setting expectations, and thinking about how to communicate about your sober lifestyle can help you to forge positive relationships.
There is an undercurrent of joy and exhilaration that runs through the beginning of many recoveries. It can be a time of hope, pride and excitement about the future, and it’s natural to want to share it with someone. You may be thinking about starting to date again, and wonder how that will work with your newfound sobriety. In order to make safe, informed decisions about how to re-enter the world of romantic relationships during this new and delicate stage, it is important to consider several factors around protecting your recovery and engaging in positive relationships.
Tip 1: Take a Year for You
Conventional wisdom around recovery recommends waiting at least a year to start dating. This is due in part to the loss of identity that occurs during an addiction; as you move into recovery you start to become reacquainted with YOU. You’ll spend a tremendous amount of time learning who you are outside of your dependence.
This can be a difficult journey, particularly as you face the underlying factors that drove your addiction, come to terms with what happened during your addiction, and start down the road of self-discovery. At times it will feel lonely and hard, and it will be tempting to retreat into a relationship where there can be those instant feelings of connection and happiness. The best gift you can give to yourself right now is the time is to understand what makes you happy while you are on your own – this is a key to lasting recovery and to sustainable, healthy relationships.
Tip 2: Know the Signs of Codependency
It is possible to swap one addiction for another, and you may find that you have given up your substance of choice but replaced it with a toxic relationship. This is the harsh realisation of codependency.
Codependency occurs when you rely almost solely on another person for your sense of worth, approval, and identity. The early stages of recovery can make you question all of these things, and can make you vulnerable to falling into a toxic relationship where nearly none of your needs are being met, but you feel inextricably responsible and bound to your partner. In many ways, what a substance had done to your life in the past may now be done by a person.
Ask yourself honestly if you are ready to make your needs and wellbeing a priority, and if you can communicate those openly to a potential partner. If you’re hesitant, wait until you can answer these questions confidently and affirmatively. It will not only strengthen your recovery, but also dramatically improve the quality of your future relationships.
Tip 3: Consider Your Sobriety as a Part of What You Have to Offer
Getting back into dating after a period away is always challenging, and it is important to know up front what your priorities are in terms of a relationship, especially when these now include your sobriety. This doesn’t mean that your recovery has to be a focal point of the relationship, but rather that it is something that is a non-negotiable part of the package. Remember that this is a good thing, because you have identified this as the way to be the best and healthiest version of you.
Before you start dating, consider some different scenarios and how you should respond in order to keep your recovery on track. For example, think of how you might react if a potential partner is questioning your choice to become sober, or encouraging you to have a drink or use again. Also, think about whether you feel comfortable being with someone who does engage in casual use of drugs or alcohol, or if you think this could pose a threat to your recovery. Going through these things ahead of time will help you be clear on your expectations of yourself and a potential partner, and lay the path for candid conversation.
Tip 4: Think about How You will Talk about Your Sobriety
At some point on a date, your sober lifestyle will come up, perhaps even in the first moments of negotiating where to meet. When it does, it is helpful to have some ideas on how to talk about it. There are a few key points that you may want to focus on, such as:
- It’s for your health – while you may be unsure about how to go into all of the reasons that you are now sober with someone you’ve just met, simply saying that it is much better for your physical and mental health is an honest answer
- This is a lifestyle – let them know you are not “sober-curious” or on a break – this is a permanent state that you are committed to.
Depending on how comfortable you feel with your date, at some point you may want to give a bit more context about why you’ve stopped drinking. This can help a potential partner better understand your background and support your choices from the beginning.
Tip 5: Go Slow
Giving yourself time to evaluate a potential partner and decide whether to move forward in a relationship is a good rule of thumb for anyone starting to date again, but particularly when you’re doing the hard, important work of recovery. Consider putting off intimacy until you really get to know the person, and spend time doing just that. Go to movies, take walks, have dinner, go for coffee and give yourselves the opportunity to mutually learn more about each other. Pay attention to red flags, especially signs that the person you are with doesn’t really understand or support your sobriety, or that the relationship is exhibiting signs of codependency. Ending a relationship that clearly “isn’t going to work out” in the early stages of dating, saves you stress and helps protect your recovery.
Taking the time to really get to know someone and understand each other builds a strong foundation for a healthy, positive relationship that will only help strengthen your sobriety and provide opportunities for growth for both of you.
Need Extra Support? The Dawn Can Help
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand can provide support at any stage of your recovery, from the very first time you move away from addiction and towards a healthier future, to later on when you feel like you may need to recharge and recalibrate your commitment to sobriety. We provide highly personalised treatment for many types of addiction, including:
- Prescription drugs
Our programme is delivered by a compassionate, Western-trained team of counsellors and psychologists who have vast experience in treating both addiction and mental health issues.
Strengthening Your Recovery in Thailand
Located just outside the top travel destination of Chiang Mai, Thailand and licensed by the Thai Ministry of Health, The Dawn’s resort-like riverside centre offers you a beautiful, calming environment to focus on your recovery. Our lush grounds and well-appointed amenities, including a swimming pool, yoga and meditation studio, fitness centre and more, provide the perfect setting for getting back to a healthy lifestyle. You will leave feeling better, stronger, and more confident to face all that life sets before you.
If you are ready to tackle your addiction or put renewed energy into your recovery, call The Dawn today to learn more about how we can help.