Recovery is a lifelong and deeply personal journey. Your experiences influence successful growth in recovery, and therefore it should move at your pace because it is your story to tell. The process of seeking support, acceptance, spiritual support, and mental growth all builds toward helping you re-establish your identity. Often, when rebuilding relationships, you might wonder when your recovery allows for romance? Furthermore, when is there enough flexibility to safely incorporate another into your journey, and finally, when is it okay to begin dating in recovery? Let’s explore romance in recovery and when and if you should start dating again.
Find Your Footing
Early recovery is an exciting time because you are re-discovering things about yourself that you might have lost touch with from years of substance use. It is also exciting because you are experiencing positive emotions and realizing all the possibilities that lie ahead, which can be very inspiring. However, early recovery is also a fragile process that needs time to incubate and strengthen. Because of the excitement through bonding with others, sometimes people enter into relationships prematurely. While there is no hard rule that states that you cannot date, many health professionals and counselors recommend not dating for at least the first year of your recovery.
Early recovery is about focusing on yourself and learning how to cope with stress and manage emotional triggers. While romantic relationships can feel empowering and supportive, they can also create more tension and harm the process of managing your emotions healthily. However, a good foundation in recovery will not only help you cope with complicated feelings and emotions, but it will also help you better measure yourself and your judgment within relationships. Remember to establish a sound footing before entering into a potential romantic relationship.
Early Romance and Codependency
While early recovery can be exciting and filled with energy and possibility, it is also challenging. Balancing out your emotions after years spent using will have you confronting thoughts and memories that you might not have faced in some time. While this process is necessary for moving forward, it can also leave you feeling lonely or isolated. Part of this is learning from the past and cutting ties with people that trigger you to use. The other part is looking for healthier support from people and participating in more beneficial practices.
Since a new setting for socialization may take time in recovery, you might want to look for a romantic relationship to fill the social void. You could also risk replacing your substance use with the emotional or sexual highs of a new relationship. When you replace one urge with another, this can create a risky pattern of behavior. You also risk developing dependency. Therefore, if you form a romantic relationship without first changing the fundamentals of yourself, you harm your recovery, and it could lead to relapse. If you do not advocate for your personal growth, you could begin to measure your worth through someone or something else. Furthermore, if you develop a mindset of victimization, you might start to self-medicate to cope.
Take Things Slow
While forming romantic relationships has its pitfalls in early recovery, it is just as important to understand that relationships can be wonderful, too. We are social beings, and forming intimate bonds is something that makes us whole. When you gain more confidence in yourself and your recovery, you develop better coping mechanisms and emotional resilience. However, no relationship is perfect, and dating itself can come with rejection and disappointment. It is why practicing mindfulness, meditation, or writing is essential in helping you understand your feelings and how you respond to the situations that might trigger you. Such practices will also help you focus on what is necessary for your recovery and realize that you cannot rush to get what you want; taking things slow is the key.
The more mindful you are, the better you’re able to implement strategies to remain emotionally balanced. The slower you take a relationship, the more time you have to stay mindful. Taking things at a slower pace helps preserve your recovery while adding more depth to your budding relationship.
Honesty Is Essential
You likely understand how important being honest with yourself and others is. Honesty is what got you to admit you need help and then act to get that help. Honesty also contributes to the kind of treatment, reception, and support you get from others. When you are honest, and others see this honesty, not only are they more motivated to help you, but you feel better about yourself.
Think about the alternative and how dishonesty or lying has a way of isolating you from yourself and others. It is why honesty is so important in life, and recovery is a necessary action. When forming relationships, it should be no different. Honesty with yourself and others helps establish certain expectations and goals within the relationship and helps build a healthier foundation.
While there is no exact timeframe that makes it safe or okay to date in recovery, utilizing mindfulness and honesty can help you recognize your preparedness. If you are currently struggling to decide or understand if you are ready for dating, first know that you’re not alone and that it might be time to seek some assistance. At Choice House, we provide a safe and comfortable setting for men to explore and express their readiness or apprehension they might have in their relationships. The professional staff and peers alike are here to help you talk through and evaluate the emotional and mental gains you have so far made in your recovery. We utilize conventional and alternative approaches because we believe each individual cannot receive effective treatment with a one-size-fits-all approach. Remember, you are not able to truly love another until you truly love yourself. Find out more and call us today at (720) 577-4422.