The Ban on Love: Avoiding Relationships the First Year After Drug Rehab

couplesIt’s not a hard and fast rule in recovery, but in general, it is recommended that those who are in their first year of sobriety avoid getting involved in romantic relationships of any kind. The goal is to stay focused on recovery and avoid doing anything that will throw you off track. But is it a necessary rule? Are you doomed to relapse if you break it? Some say “yes” and some say “no,” but while there are no guarantees in recovery, it’s clear that romantic attachments are risky at best. Here’s why.

Emotional Roller Coaster

During active addiction, most people tamp down their emotions and, as a result, their emotional maturity is somewhat stunted when they begin the process of learning how to live without drugs and alcohol. Without the years of experience of positively processing emotion, it’s hard to accurately classify events that occur and handle them with the appropriate amount of emotional response. Relatively small incidents can create huge waves of emotion that can be overwhelming to someone new to recovery, and those waves of emotion can increase cravings for drugs and alcohol.

Does my crush like me? Should I talk to them? Will they call? Did talking to them go well? Did I sound stupid? Do they want to go out? Do they want to go out again? Why didn’t they call? Are they dating someone else?

The answers to these questions can trigger a relapse faster than almost any other issue in recovery because they are highly emotional in nature and can damage already raw self-esteem.

Distraction

When you first begin dating someone new, it’s often all-encompassing. Many find it hard to think about anything else, including recovery – and that’s even when all goes well. You may begin to justify missing 12-step meetings to spend time with this person or bring them with you to meetings where you spend more time thinking about them than the topic of discussion. Rather than focusing on your health and progress in recovery, you are instead focused on the health and progress of the relationship. Many often prioritize their romantic partner over their own needs in sobriety.

Identity

In early recovery, many addicts realize that they are rediscovering themselves from the bones out. Without drugs and alcohol, everything about their habits, perspectives, attitudes, likes and dislikes are different. This can be both an exciting and scary time, and many prefer to postpone self-definition and choose to define themselves by their new relationship instead. The likes and dislikes of their partner become theirs, and instead of trying new things, meeting new people, and exploring their options in everything, they often limit themselves to the constraints of the new relationship instead.

What is your opinion on new relationships in recovery? Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts and experiences.