Thinking of starting your first intimate relationship post-drug or alcohol addiction? The right relationship can strengthen your alcohol and drug recovery. At the same time, dating the wrong person can push you towards relapse. Here are a few things to consider before you start a new relationship.
Build Positive Self-Care Habits First
While you take time to reflect on past dating habits, work on loving and caring for yourself. Loving another person in an intimate relationship starts with loving yourself. Build a foundation of self-love and positive self-care habits before you move on to your next relationship.
One of the biggest threats to a successful addiction recovery is stress. The passion of romance can be stressful, especially for those recovering from alcohol and drugs. Jumping into a new relationship before you master fulfilling your own emotional needs can lead to addiction relapse.
- “Am I happy most days?”
- “When I get upset, do I keep it in perspective?”
- “Do I feel just as happy alone as I do with other people?”
- “Am I excelling at work without feeling stressed out?”
If you can answer “YES!” to these questions, then it’s a good sign that you’re ready for a relationship.
Take Care of a Plant, Volunteer, Start a Project
Once you’ve taken care of your own happiness, try adding on some extra challenges. Taking care of a plant is a classic addiction-recovery cliche. If plants aren’t your thing, try taking on a volunteer project. This can be fulfilling in itself. If you can’t sacrifice a few hours every week to help others, do you really think you’re ready for an intimate relationship? Relationships are time-consuming and can present a lot of emotional challenges. Volunteering is a nice stepping stone.
Before you move on to a relationship, pick up a hobby or start a passion project. It will also help keep you sober and on track with your addiction recovery journey. When you start a new relationship, you’ll have less time to go around. You don’t want to feel like the relationship is preventing you from doing what you love. Once you’ve proven that you can donate time to others and dedicate time to your passions, it may be time to consider dating.
Recognizing Past Relationship Habits
As a recovering alcoholic or drug addicted individual, there’s a chance that you’ve developed some less-than-healthy relationship habits. Before you jump into a new intimate relationship post-addiction, it’s important to press pause and see if you can find any negative patterns that you’d rather not repeat.
Dating instincts are mostly subconscious. The relationship patterns you witnessed your parents engage in can have a significant impact on your dating habits as an adult. If you had parents who were addicted to alcohol or drugs, you might have absorbed some unhealthy dating tendencies. Relationships in the fog of addiction play out differently than when you’re dating with a clean brain and a clear head. By identifying negative patterns in past relationships, your next one will have a better chance of going well.
Avoiding Toxic People
It’s never time to start a new relationship with someone who isn’t emotionally healthy. When you feel like you’re ready, you need to be confident that your new partner will have a positive influence.
Negative interpersonal interactions have an adverse effect on mental health. How do you know that the person you’re interested in is healthy? Take a look at their life as a whole. Do they have a healthy social life? This looks different for every person. They don’t have to have a ton of friends, but they do need to be satisfied with the ones they have. Do they talk positively about life?
People tend to put there best foot forward in the early stages of a relationship. If you’ve only known someone for a few weeks and they’re already complaining, it’s not a good sign.
Start Slow, Love Can Be a Drug
There’s no reason to jump the gun. Take things slow. It can be easy to get too absorbed in your first relationship as a recovering addict. While you were using, you may have deprived yourself of close bonds and genuine emotional connections. Time was spent interacting casually, catching a buzz, and going about your day.
The authentic love of your first intimate relationship can be a drug in itself. In fact, love is a drug — oxytocin to be exact. Oxytocin is a hormone that acts on opioid receptors. It’s activated when you experience emotional and physical intimacy. Oxytocin is influential in the formation of social bonds. The desire to give yourself over to the satisfaction and relief that oxytocin provides can be powerful. Romance has the potential to distract you from your drug and/or alcohol recovery. Your affection should feel like a choice, not an addiction.
Communication is Key
Date someone who is an excellent communicator. Make sure that they’re open to answering questions about their past and answering difficult questions. As somebody working on your addiction recovery, you may have a tumultuous past. Dating someone who’s uncomfortable talking about it isn’t conducive to a healthy and positive addiction recovery. The person you date should be willing to discuss the impact that the relationship is having on your recovery.
Recovery needs to be your priority, and the person you date has to understand that. After all, if you relapse, it’s only a matter of time before the relationship becomes strained.
The High Stakes of Relationships in Recovery
You have to be ruthless with relationships in alcohol and drug recovery. The stakes are high. As your relationship grows, it can impact you in one of two ways. If communication is open and fearless, it can lead to success in recovery and make you a healthier person. If you or the other person doesn’t feel comfortable talking about the hard stuff, it will inevitably strain the relationship and your recovery.
By recognizing past relationship habits, avoiding toxic people, focusing on yourself first, and starting slowly, you can build a relationship that will strengthen your addiction recovery journey and bring joy into your life.
If you or anyone you love is seeking an individual counseling, intensive outpatient treatment program, or are just seeking more information, Stonewall Institute Treatment Center is glad to help. Please, give us a call today at (602) 535 6468 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.