It’s recommended that newly sober alcoholics and addicts don’t date for at least one year. This advice does not pertain to individuals who are already in relationships, only those who are unattached. One year can sound like a long time, especially for those who enjoy companionship. However, this wisdom is built on the experience of millions of recovering people. The first year of sobriety comes with many challenges that require the person’s full attention. This is true whether you’re undergoing holistic outpatient rehab or “doing it on your own” with 12-step groups.
Why Relationships Should Wait at Least One Year
Entering a new relationship can be stressful and increase a person’s risk for relapse. It can also take their attention away from the emotional, mental, and physical work required for a full and lasting recovery. Furthermore, outpatient rehab centers in Arizona don’t want recovering alcoholics to find replacement addictions. For example, some people seek out new relationships so they can enjoy the thrills of the honeymoon period.
Because most relationships eventually end, and most people in early recovery are not emotionally, physically or financially stable, it’s best not to get involved with someone who is in the early weeks and months of recovery. But, what happens when this year passes and you meet someone who is ready to date? Is it okay to enter a relationship with them?
Generally speaking, yes. What’s most important is that the person is secure in their sobriety. If you feel that they are, be sure to take things slow, keep a healthy perspective on what the relationship may entail and be cautious with opening your heart too quickly.
Tips for Dating a Recovering Alcoholic
Below are some tips for starting a relationship with someone who has completed holistic outpatient alcohol treatment, has been sober for at least one year and feels they are ready to date.
Take Things Slowly
Jumping headfirst into any relationship is not a good idea because you still have a lot to learn about each other. You need to take things especially slow when dating someone in recovery. Even a year after rehab in Phoenix AZ, people are still recovering mentally and physically from their addiction and learning essential coping strategies.
Accept the Consequences
People in recovery are not just dealing with their addiction but also the factors that led them to this point. With this mind, your partner may have mental illness, unresolved trauma or other things in their past they are trying to heal. As a result of their addiction, they may also have serious financial troubles, a criminal record or limited contact with their children.
By entering a relationship with someone in recovery, you must be ready to accept these consequences. The addiction is not entirely in the past, therefore, you will feel some of the ramifications in your current relationship. Past mistakes do not need to be a deal breaker, but they should not be ignored either.
Educate Yourself on Addiction
If you don’t know a lot about addiction, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on it. Addiction is a brain disorder characterized by impulsivity and continued engagement despite negative consequences. It is not a lack of willpower or a moral character flaw. If you enter a relationship thinking that your partner just needs to be strong, it won’t be helpful for them or you.
Also, keep in mind that holistic recovery for addiction is a lifelong process. Your partner will always have a higher risk of returning to addiction, especially when stressful situations occur. It’s important to create a relationship that is conducive to sobriety. This includes keeping alcohol out of the home, avoiding social gatherings where alcohol will be present and managing stress.
Over time, as your partner grows stronger in their recovery, they may be able to be around alcohol without feeling the desire to drink. But this could be many years from now or not at all. And, when your partner is feeling the desire to use, it’s important for them to have a sympathetic ear.
Know Your Partner’s Triggers
Another way you can help your partner is by understanding their triggers. There are all types of triggers – sights, sounds, smells, situations, etc. Avoiding triggers is important, but it’s impossible to stay away from them all. Fortunately, your partner will learn ways to manage temptation in alcohol outpatient treatment in Arizona. But there are still things you can do.
For example, be mindful of the social activities you plan and the dates you go on. Instead of going to a nightclub or bar, you can see a movie, go on a hiking trip or volunteer your time. There are plenty of healthy, sober activities you can do together. You’ll just need to plan ahead more carefully.
Be Willing to Put Recovery First
Recovery must come first. If it doesn’t, a long-term relationship with your partner will be impossible. So, even though things may be difficult right now, remember that this will benefit you in the long run and make any drug rehab in Arizona more effective.
What does it mean to put recovery first? Your partner should be going to all of their 12-step meetings, group therapy sessions and individual therapy sessions. You may even want to join a support group of your own. Examples include Al-Anon, Families Anonymous, SMART Recovery and NAMI.
You should also build a lifestyle that is conducive to abstinence. This means hanging out with like-minded friends, engaging in sober activities, eating healthy foods, exercising and maintaining a balanced schedule.
Give Yourself Self-Care
Dating someone in recovery comes with many hurdles, though no relationship is perfect. Don’t become so preoccupied with your partner’s needs that you forget about your own. Make time for exercise, sleep and stress-relieving activities. Spend time with friends and family outside of your relationship. Self-care is not selfish.
Be Aware of Codependency
Remember that you can’t fix anyone. You can be a source of compassion and encouragement, but the decision to remain sober is your partner’s alone. If you are trying to rescue someone, you may be suffering from codependency and this is not healthy for either of you. Here is an excellent resource on codependent relationships, what they look like and what causes them.
Fortunately, you can overcome codependent tendencies if you find a therapist and explore the root causes of your behavior. Often, codependency stems from childhood trauma, emotional neglect, low self-esteem and shame.
While being in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic can be difficult at times, it’s important to remember that all relationships have challenges. As long as your partner is secure in sobriety, has been clean for at least one year and is committed to their recovery, you can enjoy a healthy and loving relationship.
Continuum Recovery Center offers a full continuum of care for people struggling with drug addiction, alcoholism and/or mental illness. Whether your loved one needs to start alcohol outpatient treatment in Phoenix or continue therapy, we can help. Contact us today to verify your insurance and learn about your options for treatment.