Getting sober was the hardest and most worthwhile thing I have ever done. I had a lot of questions in the beginning, and fortunately, I was surrounded by people with some answers and healthy suggestions. I had to work on getting a job, following the rules at my sober living house, and getting to IOP regularly- it was a lot to balance. Still, I was left thinking that now that I was sober, it was time to get back into the dating scene. I was frustrated when I was told by many people that I should wait at least a year before dating in recovery. I didn’t understand it and I definitely rebelled against it, but it turns out this was the best piece of advice I got in my early sobriety.
Why Dating in Recovery Should Wait
When people get sober from drugs and alcohol, there is usually a lot they need to work through: triggers, trauma, broken relationships, financial trouble, mood disorders, codependency, and many other complex issues. That was certainly the case for me in my early recovery. The reason many people advise against dating in recovery during the first year of sobriety is because most of us need time to work through those issues, and a relationship can be a huge distraction. Avoiding dating in recovery in the first year of sobriety gives us a chance to:
- Find out who we are and what we want in a partner
- Form healthy relationships with other women who can support our recovery
- Heal from trauma or relationship dysfunction
- Avoid unhealthy patterns, like codependency in romantic relationships
- Focus on ourselves and our healing process free of distractions
Now, this all sounds great on paper, but being the alcoholic and addict that I am, I decided to find out for myself. What I learned is that not following suggestions about dating in recovery put my sobriety at risk, and I am fortunate that I had a support system to lean on when it ended badly.
Dating in Recovery: A Personal Experience
I didn’t follow the advice I was given, and my foray into dating in recovery before I had a solid foundation caused me to put a relationship above my sobriety. While I was living in a women-only sober home, I didn’t take advantage of the fact that I had a network of sober women who could support me right at home because I was too distracted by focusing my energy on my relationship. I also grew resentful at my therapist, my IOP group, and my sponsor for suggesting that I end the relationship and for holding me accountable for my codependent behavior. That resentment disconnected me from the people I needed the most, and I’m very fortunate that ultimately I made the decision to put my sobriety first. When my boyfriend relapsed, it became clear that I couldn’t keep both the relationship and my sobriety. Fortunately, I had a strong network of sober women to help me navigate that painful process. It became clear to me that I wasn’t ready for dating in recovery because I need to work on myself before I tried to function in a relationship.
When Am I Ready for Dating in Recovery?
There is no rule against dating in recovery, and being sober absolutely opens up many opportunities to have healthy and loving relationships. However, it’s important to avoid dating in recovery until we’re ready. There’s no set rule on when that is, but most people suggest waiting at least a year in order to give yourself the best sober foundation possible and to heal from unhealthy, destructive patterns that may have developed in active addiction/alcoholism.
The benefit of waiting to date in recovery is that when we do finally take that plunge, we have a much better shot at having a healthy relationship. It also gives recovering women time to focus on healing, forming friendships with other women, and developing positive patterns of living. It may be frustrating to wait, but the benefits are more than worth it. Today, I have a solid support network of sober women in my life, good coping mechanisms, a recovery program, and a new perspective on life. That is all because I took the time after my break-up to focus on my own sobriety and to lean on my therapist and the women in recovery who could help me. Today, I have the bonus of having a healthy relationship with a sober person as well. Dating in recovery can be a great adventure full of fun and growth, but waiting until you’re ready is the best way of ensuring that sobriety always comes first.