Oftentimes, after successfully completing treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and co-occurring mental health conditions, an individual may still face challenges. Finding direction in early recovery before dating is one of them.
Getting professional support as well as learning helpful strategies to cope with reentering daily life can be extremely beneficial. Practicing self-care, removing toxic relationships and building new connections with others, mending problems with family, and finding support before committing to one person early in recovery are imperative to reaching long-term sobriety. Ensuring an individual has the support and routines they need to stay sober in place before dating prepares them for a happy relationship. Balancing each aspect can assure stability in one’s life too.
The Cons of Dating Too Soon
When finishing treatment, experts often advise individuals with a history of SUD to completely makeover their life. One part of this process is to remove toxic relationships with friends or partners who make unhealthy decisions.
This can be an extremely lonely process. Depending on the severity of one’s condition, a lack of additional support, direction, or proper guidance from loved ones or professionals can make a very confusing start for an individual. Therefore, initiating a new romantic relationship can seem comforting.
Dating too early in recovery can come with many challenges, though. Waiting just one year can make a significant difference. Reasons to wait to date include the following:
- Putting all an individual’s energy into one person can distract them from their personal goals
- Dating may replace addictive behaviors with relationship addiction or co-dependency
- Relationships can increase stress levels which could lead to relapse
- New romance may come with rejection which often leads to depression and anxiety
- Choosing a partner with poor habits can be a bad influence
The Importance of Self-Care Before Dating
Before pursuing a romantic relationship, focusing on self-care practices in early recovery is crucial. According to the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, as an individual’s life starts to improve, they may become lax with personal care. An individual may stop practicing the healthy strategies taught in treatment. They may neglect these things thinking that they no longer need them once they are in a more stable place.
Self-care is one of the most overlooked aspects of recovery. Lack of self-care can eventually lead to a relapse. Managing mental and emotional health can be a challenge because individuals in recovery tend to be very hard on themselves. If an individual does not practice caring for themselves, they may eventually return to feeling uncomfortable in their skin. Under the circumstances, the individual may search for unhealthy means of remedying this discomfort through a new partner or other people.
One of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) four dimensions in recovery calls for an individual to focus on their health. This is a guiding principle that people with SUD should follow. Individuals need to learn how to manage their disease, stay informed on their condition, and make healthy choices that support their emotional and physical well-being. The individual must concentrate on their personal needs and their physical and mental health before starting a new relationship.
Making a Change
Purpose is another principle of the four dimensions of recovery. Part of recovery is finding purpose and meaning in daily activities. Starting a new life may consist of finding a new job that best suits the individual’s lifestyle, pursuing an education, caring for a family, creating goals, gaining financial stability, and finding independence.
These factors are significant to create a solid foundation before bringing a partner into an individual’s life. Dating during this phase in life can be extremely distracting. If one is not ready emotionally, one cannot be a healthy partner. Therefore the relationship may experience strain and hardship.
Participating in society and making new connections is another area of focus. Building a positive circle of support is very beneficial for the individual’s mental health and future as a whole. If the person heads straight into a romantic relationship without maintaining their health or life’s purpose well, and they do not have support from the community, they may be at risk for emotional distress and extreme loneliness from a potential breakup. Having healthy relationships and social networks that provide friendship, love, hope, and overall support is an essential part of recovery.
Choosing the Right Partner
Only after a recovering individual has gotten into a routine of healthy choices and is stabilized in sobriety, usually after about a year, should they consider getting back into the dating scene. People the individual is interested in as potential partners should share their values and goals. The individual must avoid lowering personal standards to please their partner.
Every relationship comes with complications. The individual must be ready to accept that if their new partner is steering them away from recovery, they may need to cut ties to keep a good self-care routine going. This is crucial to prevent a potential relapse and live a better quality of life.
Dating in early recovery can contribute to relapse risk. Practicing a self-care routine and making healthy changes in ones life can be highly beneficial before committing to one person. Reaching out for additional support from professionals to ensure a healthy start in recovery can make a significant difference in a persons life. At 12 South Recovery, we use proven therapies such as relapse prevention and an evidence-based approach to addiction and mental health treatment. If you or a loved one are interested in working with a mental health professional to identify high risk situations and how to avoid relapse, call 12 South Recovery at (888) 830-8374 to learn more.