Dating after Recovery
If you are single and you have taken the huge steps of admitting to having an addiction, asking for help, going through rehab, and beginning your new life of sobriety, you may now be just beginning to think about dating. Simply living your life sober and resisting the urge to relapse is difficult. Add to that the stresses of dating and you may end up with more than you can handle. On the other hand, finding a special someone who will love you as you are and who will support your sobriety can be a wonderful thing.
Should you be dating?
Deciding on the right time to begin dating in recovery is a very personal consideration. When you feel strong enough to get back out there and face the possibilities of rejection and failed relationships is largely up to you. You may be ready to do this right out of the gates, or you may feel hesitant and want to wait a while. Some experts give a general rule of waiting one year to start dating again, but only you truly know when you are ready.
As you think about your options, there are some things to consider. The reason experts and those who have been there before you would urge you to wait is that dating can be dangerous for the addict in recovery. For a non-addict, the failure of a relationship, which engenders feelings of shame, rejection, and other emotional pains, is something that can be overcome with a good cry, a few weeks of feeling bad, or a long talk with a good friend. For you, those feelings will likely produce a strong urge to use again. Addicts use to push down emotions and before you enter the emotional world of dating be sure that you have healthful and productive ways of coping with rejection and hurt feelings.
How do you meet the right men?
Once you are ready to date, it is time to meet men who will be kind, caring, and compassionate enough to date a recovering addict. As you know, there are two main types of people: addicts and non-addicts. Should you be dating a fellow recovering addict? There are different schools of thought on this issue. Certainly, being around recovering addicts can be helpful. For instance, support groups are a great outlet for you. You can commiserate and these are people who understand you. Dating another addict, however, is a different story. You run the risk of causing each other to relapse. For many addicts, being intimate with a non-addict may be a safer option.
To meet a man who will love you and support you in your recovery, turn to sources you can trust. If friends or family members feel they know someone who would be right for you, go for it. They know you and your situation and can help you find a man who can meet your needs. Also consider getting involved in social groups that will lead you to the right type of men. For instance, you may get into volunteer work to find a caring partner, or you might join a social group with people who share your interests such as a book club or hobby group.
How to you come clean about being clean?
Perhaps the most difficult part about dating for you will be telling your new partner that you are in recovery. Unfortunately and unfairly, addiction still carries a stigma and many people look upon addicts as weak-willed or somehow morally bankrupt. To avoid an instant judgment you need not tell someone on the first date that you are in recovery. Let him get to know you first. Within a few dates, however, it is important to come clean. This is an important aspect of your life and one which you cannot keep a secret forever. For a strong and healthy relationship, get it out in the open sooner rather than later.
What are some pitfalls to avoid?
Dating will not be easy for you, but if you learn from the mistakes of others, you can navigate this new world with success. Beware the temptation to turn your substance addiction into a love addiction. If you are not far enough along in recovery, you may find yourself replacing your substance with your relationship. Take dating slowly to avoid this pitfall and to avoid being consumed by infatuation.
Do not let dating disrupt your recovery. Make sure that you take the time to attend your support group or counseling sessions to help keep you sober. Your primary focus should be on staying clean and dating should be secondary. Finally, do not rely on a new boyfriend to be your white knight. Only you can save yourself and it is important to your sobriety to keep this perpective.