Dating and sobriety: it’s a touchy subject, controversial, even, to some. One school of thought is that recovery and the early days of sobriety is too shaky a time to seek out or form new romantic bonds. People in early recovery are vulnerable to manipulation and coercion; they may subconsciously invite coercion, manipulation, and, consequently, relapse. Some experts in the field recommend staying away from dating for the first year of recovery, if not longer.
Personally? I tend to lean more toward the other school of thought. I think dating in recovery is tricky to navigate, but it can definitely be done. It requires a lot of self-awareness and prioritization of one’s sobriety over all else.
Here’s 3 tips for navigating dating and sobriety!
#1: Never Compromise Your Recovery
This is number one for a reason. There is absolutely nothing and no one worth compromising your sobriety for; anyone who would tell you otherwise is not someone you need in your life. If you choose to date during the recovery stage of your new sober life, it’s important to be mindful of their lifestyle in relation to yours. While you cannot control another’s behavior, you can decide what you will and will not allow to happen in your presence.
For people in recovery and committed to living a sober life, that includes use of alcohol and drugs. It may be tempting to permit such behavior in favor of gaining a companion, doing so is nothing more than inviting the devil of addiction back into your life. Empathy and compassion may lead you to believe you can facilitate recovery in your potential love interest, but deep down you know better than anyone: no one can force sobriety onto someone who is not ready to accept it.
#2: Take Things Slow
Once you determine that your romantic interest is someone who is worthy of pursuing, it’s important to take things slowly. As a person in recovery, you are rediscovering not only the world, but yourself. In such a time of vulnerability, it’s easy to be manipulated and molded by outside forces. This is why it can be dangerous to rush into a relationship while in recovery from substance abuse; getting swept up in what can be overwhelming emotions is an easy way to find yourself once again struggling with substance abuse.
Through rehab and continued therapies, you can learn positive means of coping with life, but if you do not employ these new mechanisms, facing difficult situations which can arise in a relationship can cripple your sobriety. Drama, jealousy, and infatuation stir up urges and temptation to fall back on a familiar remedy. Don’t do it. You are only setting yourself up for further troubles and relapse.
It’s important to be upfront with your partner. Explain that you need things to process slowly because of your journey. Hiding your past or your current journey of sobriety will do nothing but complicate things in the long run- besides, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are a warrior, fighting a battle which thousands succumb to each year.
#3: Know When to Walk Away
Just as important as it is to take things slow, you have to be continuously mindful of rather the relationship is working in your best interest. Knowing when to walk away from a situation which has become toxic or unsavory is key to maintaining your sober journey. This isn’t something unique to people in recovery; healthy dating is based on knowing when to call it quits.
However, people in early recovery may subconsciously invite manipulators and other unpleasant characters in their vulnerability. Many people in recovery carry guilt or issues of self-esteem and self-worth which must be worked through in therapy; in these states of mind, people may allow treatment and behaviors which are not normally acceptable, perhaps even abusive. By remaining conscious of one’s self and mindful of the state of the relationship, one may stay ahead of potential downfalls and protect one’s self from the emotional fallout.
That’s not to say you have to bail at the first sign of trouble. Relationships are all about working together and finding common ground; both parties are expected to compromise, offer support, and grow with each other. The difference lies when the balance shifts in favor of one or the other party. While this can be easily remedied, when it becomes clear that the dominant party is unwilling to bring back the balance, it’s time to walk away. Controlling, manipulative, and abusive behavior in order to maintain dominance should not be tolerated. Any relationship which makes you fear for your safety or damages your sense of self is not one which you should continue to nurture. Get out before it’s too late.
What other tips for sober dating can you offer? Leave them in the comments below!