It’s a well known saying in recovery that it’s safest to wait a year into sobriety to start a relationship. Your emotions are so raw, and it’s easy to let a relationship become a distraction from working on your recovery. Yet the thrill of meeting someone who understands, who has been there, and who is sympathetic to your struggles is sometimes overpowering.
Here are some tips I learned for managing those emotions…without wrecking your sobriety!
A Match Made in Recovery?
I met him only a short time into my recovery. He had a lot of sober time and he had a stable lifestyle, unlike so many of the men I’d dated in active addiction. We shared so many interests outside of recovery. We exchanged books, had long talks over coffee, and went to sober social events together.
I started to feel the same high I felt from drinking…and I knew I had to be careful. We also had explicit rules in our recovery group that dating between members was strongly discouraged. So there was a level of safety. I decided to be honest about my feelings. I confessed that there was attraction, but that I knew it was safer to not get involved “that” way.
Here’s what I learned:
- Agree on boundaries regarding the relationship. Don’t leave it open to chance…you could end up much deeper than you need to be.
- Focus on friendship. Learn about each other’s interests. If it’s meant to be, he or she will be there later, once you’re both on more stable ground. The more time you spend getting to know each other, the better an eventual relationship could be.
- Learn what you want to emulate in this person. If he or she has a lot of sobriety, ask how they got there. Often we develop crushes on people who we idolize. Take a hard look at what you really want: The person, or their lifestyle?
- Try to avoid fantasy. During our chemical dependency, we were always looking for a quick fix. Be it a drug or a drink, it’s something that took the pain away. The quick high of a romance can release the same brain chemicals as drugs or alcohol.
- Remember that long-term recovery is exactly that: long-term. There’s no magic pill (or person) that will save us from the pain we have to go through to get to the other side of substance abuse.
Remember your emotions are raw in early recovery, but it’s possible to build real friendships without falling on to that third rail of involvement.
Additional Reading: Warning – AA Meetings Push Some People into Harmful Dating
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