Following treatment, it can be frightening and challenging when trying to navigate the next steps in sobriety. While treatment offers different forms of preparation for life in recovery, this is when you’re starting to make decisions for a new life on your own.
One of those decisions ends up being who you choose to spend your time with, whether it’s your friendships, family members, or romantic relationships. In treatment, you’re advised to stay connected with the sober community, attend support meetings, and have a robust support system to help keep you accountable. The dangers of codependency in relationships are strongly emphasized in addiction treatment.
Codependency is when someone develops an unhealthy attachment to another person and entirely depends on them. Often, loved ones tend to enable the addict by overhelping to prevent them from relapsing—which ends up having the opposite effect. In early recovery, it’s crucial to have the independence and freedom to decide for yourself. Codependent relationships inhibit the growth and healing process necessary for long-term recovery.
Tips for Dating in Early Recovery
Dating in early recovery can feel unfamiliar while re-entering a completely different scene—a sober one. Sober dating is not as limited as it may seem. There are plenty of outlets to meet people and dates to take them on. The most important thing to remember when dating in recovery is always to prioritize your needs and sobriety.
Studies show, “Addiction is considered a negative (harmful) disorder that appears in a population subset, while romantic love is often a positive (as well as negative) state experienced by almost all humans. Thus, researchers have not categorized romantic love as a chemical or behavioral addiction.” While romantic love is intended to be positive and rewarding, it can do more harm than good if it is not carried out correctly.
If someone is negatively affecting your sobriety, it’s a sign that they are not someone you should be associating with. Here are a few tips to use as a guide when looking to date in early recovery to maintain a healthy, alcohol and drug-free environment.
Prioritize Yourself and Your Recovery
Once you’ve gotten sober and feel equipped to date, it’s vital to establish your triggers and weaknesses in preparation for potential situations. Frequently, people tend to abandon their
needs and prioritize their partners when they’re in a relationship. Having your hobbies and interests is crucial for a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Relationships can test our self-worth because the temptation to dedicate one hundred percent of our time to someone we love is so strong. But when we act like this, we’ll inevitably neglect ourselves.
Establishing your self-care routine before starting a new relationship is crucial. When you’re used to a schedule—exercising, eating healthy meals, reading, journaling, playing a sport, etc., whatever it is you enjoy doing—-it becomes easier to keep up with. A consistent routine becomes a habit and harder to break.
Self-care and self-love are essential for everyone’s physical and emotional well-being, especially in recovery.
Take it Slow!
Finding someone you are romantically interested in is exciting and easy to rush into. It is often done with little thought or true intention when we run into a relationship or a particular situation. It is crucial to ease into a new relationship in early recovery to avoid creating a connection with someone who is not fit for you.
Genuinely getting to know someone—what their hobbies and interests are, what makes them tick, or what they’re looking for—takes time and will ultimately show you the kind of person they are. Enjoy the dating stage—-get to know yourself, meet new people, make new connections, and have healthy conversations before rushing into a relationship.
Avoid Codependent Behaviors
Codependent behaviors are most commonly found in relationships when one or both partners are recovering. It’s common when coming out of treatment and starting a new life to want someone for comfort and support; however, if it is not carried out in a healthy matter, it can turn toxic.
While codependency has not been classified as a mental illness or a personality disorder, codependent behaviors are instead recognized as cognitive and behavioral conditions. Someone who struggles with severe codependent behaviors—extreme codependency, neediness, fear of abandonment, or the need for control has dependent personality disorder (DPD).
Signs of Codependency
To recognize codependent behaviors and avoid adapting them, it’s essential to know what they are. Whether it’s codependency or dependent personality disorder (DPD), some signs of codependent behaviors consist of the following:
- The need for control
- Lack of self-esteem
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of abandonment
- Needing constant reassurance and approval
- Placing someone else’s wants and needs before your own
Codependent relationships in recovery can often enable the addict by allowing them to rely on someone for everything—this is one of the factors that slow the recovery process down.
Go On Sober Dates
One of the things that people think could be improved in recovery is going out and doing activities. There are so many activities to do and places to go that offer a sober-friendly environment. For example, if you’re looking to go on a sober-friendly date, here are some ideas:
- Go to a coffee shop
- Take a painting or pottery class
- Ice cream or frozen yogurt date
- Take a fitness class together—Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, High-intensity interval training (HIIT), etc.
- Go on a picnic
- Kayaking, canoeing, or paddle boarding
- Movie or game night
- Go for a walk or run in the park
The options and ideas for sober dates are endless. Do research beforehand to see what is offered or possible in your area.
Sober Dating Apps
If you struggle with social interactions and organic meetups, dating apps can be beneficial for those looking to date and break the ice. Everyone has unique experiences with dating apps, which is why it’s often best to find out for yourself. Here are a few sober dating apps that prioritize singles in recovery:
Re-entering the dating world after getting sober is not guaranteed to be comfortable or easy. The process will run much smoother if you take all the responsible steps and keep yourself and your sobriety as your number one priority. Relationships in and of themselves are not superficial; however, if both individuals are committed to making it work, there’s hope for a promising future.
- Clean and Sober Love. https://cleanandsoberlove.com/
- Loosid. https://loosidapp.com/sober-dating/
- PubMed. 2016. “Intense, Passionate, Romantic Love: A Natural Addiction? How the Fields That Investigate Romance and Substance Abuse Can Inform Each Other”.
- Thriveworks. 2021. “Relationships Self-Care: 6 Tips for Prioritizing Yourself in A Relationship”.