So you’ve begun to get the cravings under control and are starting to rebuild your life. You’re changing habits, changing your thinking and feeling hopeful about the future.
As you begin to find more enjoyment throughout your days, you might also be thinking it would be nice to have someone to share all these beautiful things with. But before you jump head first into dating or a relationship, you need to ask yourself if you’re really ready for dating in recovery?
While finding that special someone to share your life with has many benefits, it’s also carries a big responsibility. Here are four questions to help you decide whether it’s time to write dating into this chapter of your life or whether spending a bit longer focusing on you may be more prudent at this moment in your life.
1. Have You Given Yourself Enough Time To Develop Your “Ideal Version” Of You?…
Often during active addiction, we can lose our sense of ourself. We’re attached to drugs, alcohol and/or behaviours which take a lot of our time, attention and resources. It’s not uncommon to quit an addiction and find yourself wondering just who you are without it.
Many people find early (and even later) recovery to be a time of self-reflection and renewal. You’re rekindling old interests and finding new ones. You’re re-prioritising your values and core beliefs about yourself and the world. You’re taking up new activities, hobbies and friends. Your life is changing in many ways and it’s important not only to enjoy this process of change, but allow time for it to truly develop and take hold.
If you shift your focus to another person too soon, you risk the possibility of shortchanging yourself on a solid foundation and developing a relationship with the person who matters most: yourself.
2. How Well Do You Know & Trust Your Instincts?…
Addiction and its underlying causes have a way of anaesthetising our gut reactions to people, places and things. Learning to trust your instinct can be a lifelong process, but it is of particular concern in earlier recovery.
Learning to pay attention to internal alarms, as well as how to deal with them and make good decisions which will protect our best interests is key to a healthy foundation. If our internal measuring system for which we determine what is good and healthy for us isn’t fully developed, we can get into trouble and may not even pick up on the warning signs that may be so obvious to others or ourselves, had we spent more time learning about our self over again, in our new life free from substances.
Relationships are vulnerable to this and without a sense of who is good for us and who isn’t, it’s easy to get into something with someone who will only bring us down and could possibly harm our recovery or cause us to relapse completely. That’s why taking time to properly prepare ourselves beforehand is so important. We’ll discuss this in more detail in number 5.
3. Is Your Personal Strength Independent Of Others?…
Sometimes being in a relationship can make us feel strong, feeling as though a problem would be halved if we shared it with someone else. We feel as though we can conquer anything – as long as we have the other person.
This thinking might be romantic, but it is impractical at best. Sure, we want to be with someone who has our back (so to speak), but we need to know that we have our own in the first place and can function without needing to rely on another person. It’s important to be able to stand on our own two feet whether we are in a relationship or not.
Do you think you’d be able to recognise or take appropriate action if the following were to happen?
- Are you strong enough to decide when the relationship is no longer worth the threat to your overall happiness, well-being, health and possibly, even your life?
- Are you strong enough to leave? Even if the relationship is absolutely wonderful, are you strong enough to endure a break up if things don’t work out?
- What if the person you’re with begins to threaten your recovery? Maybe they have addiction issues of their own which may not have been obvious initially when we were trying to get to know them? Maybe they hurt you or don’t support your recovery?
If you feel like any of this might jeopardise your recovery, you might want to hold off until you’re feeling a little more confident in your strength, independence and judgement.
4. Are You Using A Relationship To Escape?…
It’s not uncommon to find someone who is using dating or in a relationship as a way to take them away from the reality of their circumstances. Are you feeling bored? Tired of focusing on your recovery? Feeling lonely? Feel like coping daily is too much for you to do alone?
If you answer yes to these questions or others like them, you might want to look a little more deeply at your motives for seeking out another person to develop an intimate partnership with.
Love can be a powerful distraction, and infatuation or lust perhaps an even stronger one. So many chemical changes take place when we are interested in someone, love and infatuation act very much like the substances we were once dependent upon or using to cope with our daily life.
These chemical changes can make us feel good, like substances did for us before and as we have addictive tendencies to the things that make us feel good, it’s important to ensure that dating, love and list aren’t simply another way of altering the way you feel using the chemicals that can form between two people.
It is critical that you be honest with yourself as to why you are wanting to date or get involved with another person. If it’s for any reason other than to share this super amazing life you’ve been building for yourself, then it’s time to take a step and re-evaluate your motives.
5. If Things Go Wrong Or Don’t Work Out, Do You Have A Strong Enough Support Network?…
On average, 85% of relationships fail. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that you have a strong enough support network to effectively cope, should the relationship fail or end up being not what you expected it to be.
This could come from a wide variety of sources including:
- Friends (those who are in recovery)
- Fellowship sponsors/friends
- Healthcare professionals
- Relevant support groups
- The list goes on…
6. Be Extra Careful When It Comes To Dating Others In Recovery…
If you decide to date or enter a relationship with someone else who is also in recovery, it’s vitally important that you take extra precautions to ensure that you don’t fall foul of the pitfalls that can sometimes occur.
Dating someone else who is also in recovery can cause codependency issues, especially if they or both of you are new in their recovery.
Behaviours that led us into addiction can also cause issues in relationships if they aren’t kept in check. If one persons behavioural traits begin to cause problems while dating or in a relationship, the other person could pick up on this and “feed the fire” so to speak which could cause greater problems for both people.
That’s why it’s so important to be as well prepared, and with the strongest support network around you as possible before you consider involving new people.
Addicts have the unique ability of understanding what other addicts have been through. On the other hand, many addicts experience similar situations and circumstances, which can be a blessing or a curse. Make sure that the common issues that may bring you together don’t cause issues in which either one of you feed the negative behavioural traits that some addicts pick up along the way.
Tips To Keep In Mind
The following are some tips to keep in mind when you’re considering dating or entering a relationship.
- To the best of your ability, try to ensure that the person you’re interested in doesn’t have an addiction to drugs or alcohol. It is also important to take extra care when it comes to dating others who are also in recovery.
- If the potential partner has a history of abuse (in any form but not limited to physical, mental, sexual or financial abuse) then we would highly recommend that you avoid getting into a relationship with this person. Their past behavioural traits could have huge repercussions for you if they were to resurface. This could not only be damaging for your recovery, but also for your health, and possibly your life too.
- Be honest with your potential partner. You need to understand the true person that you’re dating, as the saying goes “warts and all”, and they deserve the same in return. Some people won’t want to date someone who once had an addiction. You need to simply accept this and understand that it wasn’t the right person for you. the right person for you will be able to acknowledge that part of your life and be willing to support you to continue growing and developing in your recovery.
- Don’t take on responsibilities in the early stages of the relationship. Jumping in head first with finances and financial commitments, partners debts, the care of children or family members and others should be avoided when considering a lifelong partner. Taking on these pressures may cause unnecessary stress to you or the relationship which may have detrimental consequences.
- Be who and what you want to be. In your recovery, you have the fun task of creating the new person that you want to become now that you’re free of substances. Make sure that the person you date is willing to accept these choices. Don’t compromise on any of your choices simply to satisfy someone else.
- If you want more help, you can find a wide variety of groups, charities and organisations who can help you on our help and support page here.
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