You May Be Doing Well—But Are You Really Ready?
With Valentine’s Day behind us, you might be thinking a lot about relationships and dating. Whether you’ve just started your recovery or have been living the sober life for a while now, you’ve undoubtedly been told how important it is to wait at least one year before putting yourself back into the dating world. But once you’ve reached that milestone, how do you know when it’s safe to start looking for romance again?
Ultimately, the amount of time you need to take away from beginning a new relationship depends on how determined you are to change and how much progress you’ve made with your recovery. While a year may be enough time for some people, you might find that you need additional time to grow and mature.
Relationships are all about trust and communication. Oftentimes addiction goes hand in hand with feelings of guilt, anger, mistrust, and dishonest behavior – none of which are conducive to forming and maintaining a healthy relationship. During the early stages of recovery, it can be difficult to get a handle on emotions and understand your feelings. Investing time and energy into a relationship with someone else takes the focus away from yourself and makes developing the skills needed to deal with your own emotions and feelings even more of an uphill battle.
Make Sure You’re Prepared
Diving back into the sea of romance can be a daunting thought, especially for someone who has been recovering from addiction for a year or longer without any dating practice. Many people in recovery have never had a relationship in which they were sober, and the idea of getting to know someone new without the crutch of drugs and alcohol can cause waves of anxiety and stress.
Before you go setting up a Tinder profile, there are some important things to consider. Ask yourself a couple of questions: “Would I date me?” “Can I talk about my feelings openly and honestly?” If you answered “no” to either of these questions, then you might not be ready to start a new relationship. Don’t fret, however, because feelings of insecurity and the fear of being truthful are common obstacles that those recovering from addiction face.
Build a Relationship with Yourself First
The road to recovery is a journey of reflection, self-discovery, and growth. One of the most critical aspects of this journey is the process of getting to know yourself better and learning to love who you are.
Building a solid foundation of self-trust and acceptance is vital to understanding who you are as a person and maintaining a healthy, sober lifestyle. To effectively defeat addiction, you need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and see someone that you like, enjoy spending time with, and would do anything to help. Learning how to be comfortable in your own skin is an integral part of the recovery process and an essential step in feeling safe and secure around other people.
This is one of the primary reasons it’s important not to begin a new relationship during the first year of recovery. When you have taken the time to truly get to know and love yourself as a sober person, you will be much better equipped when you finally do begin a new relationship.
Be Honest with Your Feelings
For many people in recovery, contending with negative feelings can be overwhelming and even crippling at times. Many had previously chosen to ignore their feelings and abused drugs and alcohol as a way to avoid confronting and dealing with their emotional turmoil.
This toxic behavior can be difficult to overcome and doesn’t just disappear overnight. Being honest with yourself about how you feel is the first step towards being able to talk truthfully and honestly with others.
Relationships only thrive when both parties share a mutual trust in each other. If you can’t talk to your partner about your feelings, then that trust will be one-sided. Not only can that cause serious issues for your relationship, but it can also set back the progress you’ve made with your recovery.
Communication is Key
Relationships are a two-way street. Being able to embrace your own feelings is an important starting point for anyone intent on beginning a healthy relationship while in recovery, but being open and willing to share others’ thoughts and feelings is just as important to the success of a lasting relationship.
Empathy is not always something that comes easily, and addiction can cause people to become self-absorbed and ignorant of how others feel. Even if you struggled with empathizing with others while involved with drugs and alcohol, you can develop your ability to be empathetic by practicing good listening habits.
Learning how to actively listen to someone else without interrupting them is as critical to a relationship as being able to talk about how you feel. Putting aside your own thoughts and preconceptions as best as possible and giving yourself some time to absorb what your partner has said will allow you to better understand their perspective and give them a thoughtful response.
Lastly, being honest and open about your recovery is essential to making a relationship work for you and your partner. Coming up with excuses as to why you aren’t drinking can only get you so far until you end up in a situation where you’re on a date somewhere that might allow you to slip up. Sobriety is an important part of your life, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of – in fact, it’s an amazing accomplishment. Being upfront about your sobriety will help you avoid people and situations that may tempt you to relapse.
Take it Slow
Even if you feel like you’ve got a good grasp of everything discussed in this post, it’s important to avoid moving too quickly. Though you might be tired of hearing it, taking the time to get to know yourself and understand your feelings cannot be emphasized enough. Romantic relationships can be a source of obsession and can cause you to lose focus of the most important thing in your life right now – being sober and staying sober.
Once you feel like you’re ready to put yourself back out there, avoid going on dates to places like boozy restaurants or night clubs. Instead, choose sober clubs like The Other Side or venues that offer entertaining, fun – and most importantly – sober activities and events.
Remember, the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself. Make sure you’re happy with who you are and where you are with your recovery before you begin searching for that special someone.
The Other Side
93 E Berkshire Dr, Unit G
Crystal Lake IL 60014