Relationships and dating in recovery can be a touchy subject. Different people hold very strong views about this topic. One movie about treatment famously created a three year rule. In year one, you can have a plant. If you successfully keep the plant alive until year two, you can have a pet. If by year three your pet and your plants are alive, you can consider dating. Somewhat extreme and disciplined, others feel that dating shouldn’t be such a big deal. Emotions are a big deal in early recovery, and dating can bring up a lot of them.
Relationships and Dating in Early Recovery
Bring the first 90 days of recovery into perspective. Just three months ago, you were at one of the lowest points in your life. Your brain had been completely altered in it’s manner of thinking. Spiritually and emotionally void, you surrendered to receiving help for something out of your control. Three months later you’re feeling better. More than feeling better, the fact that you are feeling is miraculous. Drugs and alcohol are numbing. Years pass in our lives without properly regulating and managing our emotions. Full of raw vulnerability and honesty, it is easy to seek comforting pleasures, safety, and security. In early recovery you are like a blank canvas, freshly stretched over its frame. You are a masterpiece in the making, but you’ve just started to conceptualize the final vision. Bringing in another person’s technique, materials, style, and vision can act as a disruption to your process. Recovery is a process.
Should you wait to date?
Most advise waiting until the first year is completed before considering dating. The complication with dating in early recovery is not as much a matter of if you can handle it. Love gets messy, and your emotions are messy enough. The real risk is relapse. Six months is a turnaround point in the reduction of cravings and symptoms of withdrawal. Adding emotional pain from a breakup or a fight with a partner is like throwing fuel on the fire. You are just beginning to learn how to handle your life.
Romance in Rehab
“Rehab romance” is the term applied to people who fall in either lust or love during the residential treatment program period. Clinicians and staff will not likely approve of this behavior because it can be distracting from each individual’s goals in treatment.