How to Have Sober Relationships & Avoid Relapse While in Addiction Recovery
Your life during recovery will likely be very different than it was while using drugs or alcohol. One aspect of life that can be particularly hard to navigate while recovering is dating. In the early stages of recovery, you should focus on yourself and your own health. Eventually, though, you may want to start dating again. In order to have successful sober relationships & avoid relapse, you should understand why dating during recovery can be challenging and what steps you can take to stay sober.
Why People in Recovery Are Drawn to Partners Who Aren't Sober
Many people who are in addiction recovery find themselves attracted to people who don't live a sober lifestyle. There are a variety of reasons why this happens:
Dating people who use substances can provide drama.
When people first start recovery, they often miss the drama, tragedy, and excitement of using drugs or alcohol. Even if this drama isn't healthy, it can be difficult to let go. Spending time with people who use substances can be a source of excitement for people in recovery. However, this can also be a strong reminder of past habits, so it's incredibly risky.
Spending time with people who use substances can be like relapsing.
Living vicariously through someone else's experiences can be powerful. For people in recovery, watching someone else use drugs or alcohol may almost make them feel like they're using, too.
Being with someone who isn't sober can feel powerful.
Dating someone with a drug or alcohol abuse problem can make the person in recovery feel empowered because they're no longer the "patient" in the relationship. This is not a healthy dynamic for either person, though, and it can lead to one partner encouraging bad habits in the other.
What to Do If Your Relationship Interferes With Recovery
Dating someone who isn't sober won't necessarily interfere with your own recovery. However, it's important to be careful with your relationships, especially in the first few years of your sobriety. Relapse is common in the first years of recovery, and surrounding yourself with the right people is one of the best ways to avoid problems.
If spending time with a partner makes you feel tempted to use or drink again, you should address this issue right away. Be honest with your partner about your feelings, and try to determine why the relationship has this effect on you.
Your partner may be willing to change their behavior to help you maintain your sobriety. You could invite them to attend meetings with you or to spend time with your sober friends. If your partner usually uses drugs or alcohol on your dates, you could suggest sober activities instead.
Unfortunately, in many cases, troubled relationships will need to come to an end if the person in recovery wants to maintain their sobriety. If your partner doesn't understand your sobriety and isn't willing to support you, it's best to part ways. It can be difficult to end a relationship, but you should stay focused on your recovery goals.
How to Maintain Sober Relationships & Avoid Relapse
Many addiction experts recommend that people in recovery avoid dating entirely for at least a year. While recovering from an addiction, it's common to lose your sense of self, and spending time alone can help you regain your identity. The beginning stages of recovery also can bring about serious emotional challenges, and this emotional volatility can put a strain on relationships. The end of a relationship could trigger a relapse, too, especially if it occurs while you're still adjusting to sobriety.
It can be helpful to develop a support network of sober friends if you feel like you're lacking close relationships. When you spend lots of quality time with friends who understand and support your sober lifestyle, you may not feel a need to go on dates.
After a year or two of sobriety, you may feel ready to date again. Dating another sober person can be a good way to stay on track with your recovery goals and connect with someone who can empathize with your experiences. However, you should not date someone from your regular meetings. If the relationship doesn't work out, you may feel uncomfortable attending the meetings, which could result in you losing your main support network.
Most people don't want to limit their choices only to people who are sober. While you should avoid relationships with people who have substance use disorders, dating someone who drinks casually can be safe and healthy as long as you continue to make sobriety a priority.
Open, honest communication is one of the most important aspects of any relationship. Your partner should understand and accept your sobriety without judging you, and you should feel comfortable telling them when you don't want to be around drugs or alcohol.
It's also important to remember that your partner is not a therapist or an addiction counselor. You should be able to communicate with them about your recovery, but they shouldn't be your only source of support or guidance. If you're struggling with your recovery at any time, you should reach out for professional help. An inpatient or outpatient program at a rehab facility can equip you with the skills you need to remain sober while dating.
If you're considering rehab, contact SpringBoard Recovery today. Our addiction treatment professionals can answer any questions you have and can help you begin or continue your recovery journey.