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tips for dating in early sobriety
March 17, 2018

To Date or Not to Date in Early Recovery – A Recap of Our Feb. 23 Facebook Live Event

tips for dating in early sobrietyRomantic relationships in early recovery were the theme of this month’s Facebook live event, in continuation of the monthly series hosted by Beach House Center for Recovery. 3,000 viewers have now tuned in for the discussion that was led and facilitated by our very own Micah Robbins. Guest panelists were:

  • Writer and speaker Dawn Clancy – Clancy is a leading spokesperson and advocate for recovery. She is also the founder of an online community for family and friends of addicts and survivors of abuse, Growing Up Chaotic. Years of working through and healing from a family upbringing that Clancy would be the first to say was chaotic have given her hard-earned wisdom in the area of healthy romantic relationships.
  • Danny Mills – Mills, who is successfully in long-term recovery, is now happily married to a woman he met and dated during his first year of recovery. He, too, has firsthand experience that adds depth and insight to a conversation about the promise and perils of dating in recovery.

What follow are key highlights from the conversation. (Catch the full and unabridged video recording.)

Put your recovery first

The general wisdom in recovery circles is to avoid dating in your first year of recovery. (Check out these “10 Reasons Not to Date During Your First Year of Sobriety.”) The rationale, as Mills explained it: “We come into recovery lost and confused searching for our identity. Often people relapse because they put high expectations on the other person. When they lose that relationship, they lose themselves.”

But if in early recovery “you’re able to gain that relationship with that Higher Power greater than yourself, then you’re able to maintain that relationship with yourself,” Mills added.

Clancy agreed: “The most important relationship you have is with yourself.” She urged viewers to “put their recovery first,” sharing that what she most wants for her own two brothers who have struggles with drug and alcohol addiction is that they “prioritize their recovery.”

“In my opinion, it needs to be all about you, which is difficult for a lot of people,” Clancy said.

There’s no one approach to the dilemma of whether to date in early recovery

But Clancy was also quick to point out that she has seen relationships work out that began during the first year of recovery: “I’ve seen it work two ways. I don’t know if you can actually say there’s one way to do this. Recovery is unique and forces you to look inside and explore what’s causing you to make certain choices. The most important relationship is the relationship you have with yourself. if you notice that you could lose yourself in someone else, that’s a clue to get out of the relationship.”

Regarding the oft-quoted criterion of at least one year of sobriety in order to date, Mills said, “Obviously, I didn’t follow that advice.” (He started dating his wife when he was “90 days clean.”) For him, the key to a happy and healthy relationship was “good communication” and “healthy boundaries.”

“You have to be able to sit down and have a mature conversation and set your expectations … My wife expects me to be in recovery … It’s about staying in touch with your sponsor,” he explained.

Clancy encouraged listeners to “remain curious about what you’re doing” and “willing to experiment”: “There’s no one way to do recovery. If you’re curious, compassionate and willing to experiment, then you’re on the right path. That leaves room for mistakes. I’m not encouraging relapse … but when it comes to relationships early in recovery you have to start somewhere with learning to trust yourself. Unless it’s going to drive you to a place that you shouldn’t go, you have to stay curious and be willing to experiment.”

Clancy added that in an age when “everything has to be overnight,” what’s important to remember is that relationships take time and “slow and steady” work.

Some of the best nuggets of wisdom regarding love and romance in early recovery emerged towards the end of the conversation. Get them here.

For other Facebook live event recaps and videos, check out:

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