Dating During Recovery
For many, once they have completed addiction treatment, they are eager to get started with their new, sober life. For single people, that might mean jumping back into dating.
Dating during recovery can be tricky, especially during early recovery. When not appropriately navigated, it can increase the risk of falling back into old habits, including substance abuse.
Can You Date During Recovery?
The short answer is yes, you can date during addiction recovery. However, dating during recovery is usually not recommended for the first year of sobriety—and for a good reason.
Entering into a romantic relationship too early in the recovery process or when not in the right state of mind can adversely affect your mental health and well-being, thus increasing your risk of relapse.
Dangers of Dating Too Early in the Recovery Process
Early in the recovery process, a lot is going on as you learn to navigate your new, sober life. Adding a new relationship in the mix is one more thing that can take the focus off your sobriety.
Additionally, recovering addicts who start dating again early in recovery tend to return to unhealthy relationships with those that may have been around them while using, thus putting themselves in a position where they are around old triggers again.
From a mental health standpoint, those early in recovery tend to be much more fragile mentally. Some recovering addicts run the risk of falling into codependency with another person.
For others, starting a relationship too soon and having it fail can lead to stressors like anxiety and depression—potentially triggering a return to substance use.
Benefits of Dating in Recovery
With all the emotions that come with being newly sober, it might feel comforting to share that journey with someone special.
While experts recommend waiting at least one year before dating someone, that time frame might not work for everyone. For instance, you may already be dating someone when they enter an addiction treatment program.
To ensure that you and your partner are on the same page regarding your past and future, being open and honest is crucial. You and your partner will also want to set boundaries to ensure you are on the same page about your recovery journey.
The most important thing to remember is that your relationship should never take precedence over your sobriety. Not because being in a relationship is “wrong” but because recovery is an important time to rebuild yourself for the future. When the time is right for a relationship, you’ll have done the work to protect yourself and your partner.
Signs That It Is Not the Right Time to Date
As much as you may want to jump right back into dating, you should probably wait if you don’t think you can commit to someone else while prioritizing your recovery journey.
Below are some other indicators that it might not be the right time to date yet:
- You are trying to use dating to fill a void (similar to how substance abuse filled a void)
- You are not mentally ready to commit to another person
- You have not achieved at least a year of sobriety
- You haven’t had enough time to separate yourself from your old social circles and form a new support system
- You don’t feel comfortable being open and honest with someone you just met about your past drug or alcohol abuse
Dating Someone Who Is in Recovery
Dating while in recovery can be a challenge not only to the person who is in recovery but also to the person who is dating someone who is in recovery.
If you are dating someone in recovery, there are certain things that you can do to help both you and your partner have a healthy relationship:
- Take things slowly: There is no real “playbook” for dating someone in recovery, so take things slow and make sure the relationship progresses at its own pace.
- Take the time to learn about addiction and recovery: Learning about addiction and recovery can help you better understand your partner, which can lead to an even deeper connection.
- Learn about your partner’s triggers: Knowing your partner’s triggers and cravings can help you avoid them and support their sobriety.
- Prioritize your partner’s recovery: Understand that your partner’s sobriety comes first.
Are You Considering Dating During Recovery?
If you or a loved one is looking for advice on how to date in recovery, 12-step meetings and support groups such as AA, NA, or SMART Recovery are great ways to build a support system and seek out advice on how to handle situations as they arise in your sobriety journey.
For a list of support groups in your area, visit the Mental Health America Support Group finder webpage or speak with your healthcare provider about other local options.
FAQs About Dating in Recovery
Can you date while in recovery?
Yes, you can date while you are in recovery. It is recommended that you wait until you have successfully navigated your first year of recovery before you begin dating.
What are the benefits of dating while in recovery?
Dating while in recovery can provide companionship and a sense of normalcy. It can also allow you to share your recovery journey and its successes with someone special.