Many of us in early recovery wonder the same big questions: are we going to be able to commit to our sobriety, will it last, and how soon until we can date again? We wonder, how will our relationship survive the rollercoaster that is early recovery, and how does dating fit into our aftercare plan?
Early Recovery is Challenging Enough
The early weeks of recovery can be especially lonely and emotionally volatile. This combination can make for a roller coaster between longing for close comfort and wanting to be left alone. From needing someone to talk to 24/7, to not wanting to say a word – early recovery and aftercare notably come with marked waves of missed connection and denied isolation. Building a new life, creating new routines, and finding a new direction requires a great deal of self-discovery time. Relationships in early recovery can be a significant variable in your successful recovery.
Beginning and maintaining a romantic relationship in early recovery is not ideal, and most experts agree that you should wait at least a year before considering a serious relationship. Dealing with personal issues and rediscovering one’s true self should always take priority during aftercare. Relationships in early recovery are more helpful long term when they stick to a “supporter” dynamic and focus on the ability to build healthy relationships and a lifelong support team, rather than a potentially temporary distraction.
Focus on Finding You Again
Your focus on recovery brings an opportunity to rediscover your genuine passions and deep desires. Connecting to one’s core self through self-discovery at such a key time in aftercare can fuel the positive changes needed to take positive actions. Instead of using that urge to connect and get to know a new partner, choose to spend time with yourself. This is an important element of trauma healing.
Taking the time to get to know yourself again and work through recovery with a positive self-image can make the difference between surviving and thriving. Your sobriety should be your main focus during early recovery and that takes significant time and energy. Maintaining a new romantic relationship at this point in aftercare would be distracting and potentially uncomfortable to juggle simultaneously. This is a time to get to know yourself without the influence of drugs and this will take great dedication to self as well as significant attention.
Time For Healing You
Sobriety is a time for healing. While a fresh intimate relationship in early recovery might seem like an ideal way to feel good without drugs, recognize it for what it is — a distraction and potential transfer of addiction. In time, once sobriety begins to feel more like second nature, there will be much more to offer to a potential romantic partner. In addition, at that point, you will have gained skills in creating healthy relationships.
The effort and emotional attention you would put into any romantic relationship ultimately takes away from your recovery. Developing your new sober identity and learning to love yourself for who you are deep inside is a critical and delicate process, especially during early recovery. Taking the necessary time and energy to be highly attentive to this essential personal journey before bringing a partner into your life increases the likelihood of success from all sides.
Healthy Self-discovery Activities
Spending time alone in nature
Writing in a journal
Speaking to a therapist
Learning yoga or meditation
Being a Recovering Addict vs Becoming Sober You
Many holistic practitioners will tell you that mindfulness and living in the moment are the way to a stress free, happy life. However when dealing with addiction, being spontaneous and going with the flow are not useful tactics, especially in early recovery. Often making plans without details could end with you in a questionable situation, risking relapse. It takes diligent planning and preparedness to circumvent situations with increased risk. We all know that without planning for it, emotions can override solid thoughts.
Early recovery is a perfect time to focus on becoming something greater internally before considering a new relationship dynamic. When a new romantic relationship begins, the emotions are high, often intoxicating. Making a decision to not let emotions rule over actions is a huge part of creating healthy behaviors and engaging in a romantic relationship is counterproductive to these newly taught habits.
Risk of Relapse
During treatment, healthy techniques are learned as relapse prevention methods to manage substance abuse triggers and general discomforts. It takes time and a lot of practice to continuously use the healthier behaviors and due to a lack of practice, it is more difficult to utilize these skills during the early stages of recovery. Because of this, the compulsion to use substances to pacify any relationship hardship, including spiked emotions, becomes a very real risk.
Navigating challenges for relationships where one partner is in recovery already include a unique set of issues. Not only are there generally increased trust difficulties, there tends to also be patterns of codependency present. Attempting to handle those challenges in early recovery increases risk of relapse significantly.
Lifetime Sobriety at The Haven at Pismo
For support even after you leave a treatment environment like we offer at The Haven at Pismo, we recommend that you continually evolve your aftercare strategy to meet the ongoing needs of your life situation.
When you need to get back to basics or recover after a relapse, call our team of credentialed addiction specialists: 805.202.3440. Our proven continuum of care includes medical detox, gender-specific treatment, and outpatient treatment to support you in early recovery and beyond.