Can Recovering Young Adults Have Dating Relationships?
Young people who are in recovery would often assume they can enter or continue a dating relationship since they have achieved sobriety. Although sobriety is indeed a milestone to celebrate, many health professionals recommend staying out of romantic relationships before reaching a steady phase of sobriety and recovery. What are the considerations behind this suggestion? Does it make sense in real life?
Will Dating Sabotage One’s Recovery Progress?
Quitting drugs and alcohol might give you more free time, so why not date? The fact is, treatment and recovery demand your time, too. You need to prioritize going to support group meetings and seeing therapists. Even after you finish inpatient treatment, you might also have other forms of follow-up care. Post-sobriety life can be very busy, and you need to focus on adapting to new rituals and routines that set up healthy boundaries for your body and mind.
Dating not only consumes your time, but it can also bring about avoidable stress. During your early sobriety, avoiding triggers is another priority, as well. Among the many triggers in social life, stress is one of the most common ones. It may arise from overworking, family obligations, and interpersonal conflicts. While dating can bring some emotional benefits at first, things can become rocky sooner or later for most romantic relationships. That kind of stress can easily trigger a relapse.
How Long Does One Need to Wait?
Many recovery experts suggest that recovering individuals should wait for at least a year to begin romantic relationships. Doing so can help you avoid stress and emotional pain brought by conflicts and sometimes breakups. Some romantic relationships might also generate toxicity and thus sabotage your effects in maintaining healthy relationship boundaries.
Before you achieve steady sobriety, you are not presenting your best self to a significant other. There is just so much repair work to do before you can enjoy the full scope of a meaningful romantic relationship. For example, you need time to heal from years of emotional flatness due to the influence of drugs and alcohol. Alternatively, you may need to care for your own depression and anxiety before entering a relationship with someone who may also have mental health concerns.
Premature dating during recovery from addiction might risk falling back into old patterns, including substance use and mental health disorders. It is wiser to take some time in connecting with yourself, developing your coping and relationship skills before charging into another emotional minefield.
For some recovering individuals, romantic relationships or sexual intimacy might become a replacement addiction. These substitutive activities can generate rewards for the brain system similar to drugs and alcohol. That same mechanism also determines that their influence can be as equally destructive to one’s emotional and mental health as substances.
How Do I Know When I Am Ready to Date?
If you continue to invest in this path towards sobriety, recovery, and healthy lifestyle rebuilding, there will surely be a day when your sense of self and security are not grounded on external things and relationships. When you feel anchored in yourself and self-worth and feel comfortable being known and seen by others in a meaningful way, then you are ready to begin a romantic relationship.
Believe it or not, the relationship and coping skills you have developed in the past months or years of recovery from addiction can greatly enhance your positive involvement in a healthy dating relationship. Once you have done the necessary work to care for yourself, you should have the energy and resilience to build a meaningful relationship that can withstand some storms of life.
How Do I Go From Here to There?
Your first priority should be focused on building a reliable group of sober friends. This can begin with individuals you see at support group meetings. Value these friendships and invest in them. When you feel lonely and tempted to date someone, reach out to these friends for companionship and advice. Friends can do a lot of fun things together that do not require dating relationships.
It is wise to commit to a non-dating decision before achieving full recovery from drugs and alcohol. Do not fetishize romantic relationships as if you are worthless without them. This mentality shows that you need more time to heal before committing to a meaningful relationship. Good things are worth the wait. A future version of yourself with a healthy outlook on your self-worth and life is one of those good things that are worth waiting for.
For young adults who are recovering from substance addiction, starting a romantic relationship might not be a good decision. Before one's recovery stabilizes, dating and its emotional dynamics might create stress for a recovering individual. This is especially true for young adults who are in a vulnerable developmental stage and cannot properly regulate their emotions. If you have a loved one who struggles with this situation, there is always help. Encourage them to reach out to health professionals and make more informed decisions. At South Florida Intervention, our professionally-trained interventionists have helped many teens and young adults in maintaining sobriety. We know how to work with young people and their families and have helped many of them by providing recovery coaching and parent coaching, which can address a variety of concerns. We also offer detailed case management. You can count on us to be your strong support system. Call us today at (202) 390-2273.