The Essential Dos and Don’ts of Dating in Early Recovery

The Essential Dos and Don’ts of Dating in Early Recovery

Is dating in early sobriety a recipe for disaster? Maybe, maybe not. Here we will discuss the dos and don’ts, enjoy some food for thought.

Common wisdom around the rooms of twelve step programs, treatment centers, and sober living homes is to steer clear of any romantic entanglements for awhile, or court disaster and pain for both you and your potential paramour. Why is this and are there exceptions?

The Dos and Don’ts:

Many people suggest waiting until you have had one year of continuous sobriety before diving in. Other people suggest waiting until you are in the middle of your 9th step in a 12-step program, as that is when many of us truly learn how to treat people. Still others suggest waiting until you have completed all twelve steps, as by then you most likely have more to offer others. Of course, you can decide for yourself. Nevertheless, here are some dos and don’ts to consider for the happiness and well-being of everyone involved.

Do: Take Time to Get Well

Newly sober people are often confronting themselves for the first time in years. Or maybe for the first time ever. If you are really trying to get down to the root causes and conditions that made you pick up booze or drugs in the first place, you are likely to be in some pain. It might be ugly. And for many of us, our first response to this initial look at ourselves is to run as fast as we can towards any distraction we can find.

Anything to put a bit of distance between us and the pain, regret, fear, anxiousness, and intensity of early sobriety. If we get involved with someone else during this tumult, we can do ourselves (and them!) a great disservice. We can give ourselves a way to opt out of the pain.

Although the distraction of a partner can be enticing, the truth is often that we are just delaying the deep work that is inevitable if we are to stay lastingly clean and sober. The dos and don’ts listed are merely suggestions.

For most of us, it is critical to sit through the pain long enough to get to the other side, and the only way out is through. If we take that pleasant distraction, and the adjacent dopamine hits from attention and romance, we might miss this vital step in getting well. We miss out on the opportunity to be schooled by our pain, when it is indispensable to our growth.

Of course, dos and don’ts aren’t rules, but rather a broad observation based on experience.

Do: Build a Steady Foundation

Also, this: the newly sober person often needs space and time to focus on building a foundation in recovery, cleaning up the past, and learning how to show up for relationships with love and integrity. Many of us needed a good stretch of time before we could really turn our attention from these things to dating.

Laying this crucial groundwork gives a person time to grow into someone who is truly available for a worthwhile relationship. It gives them time to develop and mature into real partners. So if you’ve got your eye on a someone, you may just be giving your future relationship a real chance by giving it some space and time. Growing a friendship first can be a true act of generosity, as you take the time to heal, learn to trust, and build a new life. After all, this is life and death. Deciding what dos and don’ts work for you, is important as these are all just suggestions.

Don’t: Rush Things

It never hurts to pause and take it slow. The brain chemicals associated with early attraction are potent, and can fool us into making all sorts of insane decisions. The right relationships won’t pass you by, and you might just be giving yourself a chance to develop and flourish. If you want to develop into the kind of person that attracts and maintains quality relationships, give yourself time to heal, grow, and develop. Go slow and trust the process. It is up to your personal discretion in regard to your dos and don’ts.

Don’t: Put Yourself in Dangerous Situations

It is safe to say that in early recovery our judgment is quite off. We may have (barely) survived years of risky behavior and flexible morals. Learning to make better choices and develop wisdom takes time. Our preferences, attraction, and “type” may develop as we gain maturity and sober experience. For countless people, their first forays into sober dating follow the same risky behavior patterns and poor choices that characterized their using, and they found themselves in equally perilous situations.

Just because you are sober doesn’t mean you are covered by an invisible safety net. More reason to follow our last tip and take it slow.

The Dos and Don’ts are Only Suggestions

These are all merely suggestions, the dos and don’ts listed might not be applicable to your experience. We have more information on recovery in our article section if you are interested in learning more.

It's not the end. It's the beginning.