10 Reasons Not to Date During Your First Year of SobrietyAnna Ciulla
If you’re single and new to recovery, you may be wondering when you can start dating again. The reigning answer in recovery circles is to wait for at least one year after treatment. Once you have a full year of sobriety under your belt, you may be ready for a romantic relationship. Or so goes the popular wisdom—and here are 12 reasons why it’s true, based on my experience working with clients in treatment and early recovery.
- In the first year of recovery, you are just finding out who you really are, what you want out of life, what you like and what you don’t like. How do you even know who you want as a partner or what you want out of a relationship, if you haven’t figured that out about yourself first?
- You are also learning to care for yourself and navigate life without a substance. This process takes time and focus—and a relationship simply adds a layer of complication.
- You attract the love you feel you deserve, so if you are struggling with self-esteem (a common issue in early recovery), this can be a recipe for disaster—possibly even an emotionally neglectful or physically abusive relationship.
- You attract the level of healthy that you are presently, so addicts and alcoholics in early recovery are “magnets” for other dependent personalities like codependents and narcissists.
- Love can become your new drug, which can eventually lead you back to your drug of choice.
- You need to prioritize your recovery above all else, especially during the first year of sobriety. Entering a new relationship at this stage in recovery can actually be an unconscious effort to distract oneself from insecurities, stressors and other issues that need to be dealt with as part of the recovery process.
- Anything that you put before your recovery you will lose.
- You don’t know how to communicate yet and ask for what you need, let alone know how to meet anyone else’s needs.
- In early recovery you are most likely seeking external validation out of a sense of deficiency rather than wholeness, so codependency can develop. (Co-dependency can really flare up in early recovery, and in a sense, the addiction can switch from drugs/alcohol to another person.) It is important to learn to validate yourself, because external validation is temporary and leads to feelings of emptiness.
- If you feel like you cannot be alone, then you probably need to be. There are other 12-Step fellowships like CODA (Codependents Anonymous) and SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, if this is the case.
Together, these 10 reasons not to date during the first year of sobriety can be reframed as a rare and wonderful opportunity: the opportunity to date yourself. With time and more healing, you will be ready to date again. You will know when you are ready when you:
- recognize that you do not need to date but want to.
- have discussed dating readiness with your sponsor (and they agree you are ready).
- have completed the 12 Steps.
- are giving back, by serving others in the 12-step program and actively sponsoring other recovering addicts/alcoholics.