For addicts who are considering the idea of getting sober, fear of dating without the crutch of alcohol can be a major impediment. Newly sober recovering addicts often express anxieties concerning sex and dating. Whether you are single and getting sober, or recovery is a part of your relationship, here are some tips for healthy dating in sobriety.
Many addicts have very limited, if any, experience with sober sex. It is also common for alcoholics and addicts to have a history of codependent or abusive relationships. Because drugs and alcohol can fuel violent and antisocial behavior, relationships are often extremely unstable.
Even among long-term relationships, addicts tend to seek partners who will support and not criticize their substance abuse and related behaviors. As a result, few addicts have much experience with healthy dating.
Dating in Your First Year of Sobriety
It is common in the recovery community to hear advice about dating in the first year of sobriety. Newly sober recovering addicts are often advised to abstain from dating completely during the first year. Some addiction experts recommend a temporary period of celibacy during this time. There are several reasons for this.
Your Date Might Drink
There’s nothing inherently wrong with going on a date with someone who drinks. But for someone newly sober, this can complicate things. You might feel pressure to join your date by ordering a beer as well, just to be sociable. With a stronger foundation of recovery, this impulse is easier to override. But in the first year of recovery, most people find it very difficult.
Dating Complicates Mental Health
Dating can be a source of incredible highs — and equally devastating lows. When things don’t go as planned or you’re dumped without ceremony, finding solace in alcohol can be a powerful temptation. But even the highs can be dangerous.
The feeling of being in love can be so powerful that it can delude many people into thinking that their lives are perfect, that they’re invincible and have superpowers. This kind of magical thinking can lead people to drink — which is likely to ruin the relationship that’s making them so happy in the first place!
You’re Probably Not Great Dating Material Yet
Chances are, after years of abusing drugs and alcohol, the external circumstances of your life aren’t in the best shape. Some people struggle with chronic disease as a direct result of their alcoholism. At the very least, you probably have a beer belly, dress badly, have a rancid fridge and a cluttered apartment.
Many addicts are unemployed or precariously employed with very little savings — and a lot of debt. Maybe you didn’t even finish high school. While of course there are people who don’t care about any of this, and certainly much of it is superficial, you’d be far better off fixing these problems before focusing on dating.
Even if you arrive in recovery materially better off than some people, it’s doubtful that you’re doing well internally. Years of recovery do some pretty serious damage to mental health. You probably have a lot of emotional, intellectual, and behavioral patterns left over from your days of active addiction that you need to work on. Doing so will not only make you a better potential partner but more attractive to romantic interests.
Early Recovery is About Unlearning Sexually Risky Behaviors
Alcohol is highly correlated with risky sexual behaviors. Even if you have a lot of dating and sexual experience, it is more than likely that much of it involves alcohol-fuelled one night stands. Many don’t use condoms or practice safe sex.
It is important for recovering addicts to examine their understanding of consent as well. Recovering addicts are like babies and have to relearn many basic skills that are obvious to many people their age.
How to Date in Recovery Over the Long Term
After the first year, recovery tends to have a stronger foundation. Recovering addicts hoping to have a healthy relationship will surely encounter their fair share of difficulties, but this is normal. With a social support system in place and a strong program of recovery, the risks of dating are somewhat mitigated.
After a yearlong break, most people understand what they want a little better too. You’ll probably have a better idea about whether you’re looking for a romantic relationship or multiple purely sexual relationships. Both are acceptable, but it is important to have clarity about what you want and how it fits into your recovery.
Ultimately, the most important factor in sober dating isn’t how much time you spend on dating sites, but how effectively you prioritize your recovery. No matter how many years sober you have under your belt, if you prioritize your dating life above your sobriety, your chances of relapse are high.
Design for Recovery helps addicts not only develop a program of recovery for long term sobriety but also works with them to develop life skills to enable them to live happy and productive lives in recovery.
Whether you’re in active addiction now or have several months of sobriety under your belt, if you have doubts about your ability to handle pursuits like dating, it’s probably a good idea to enroll in a sober living that can help walk you through the first year of recovery. Contact Design for Recovery today!