Recovery and Relationships

In the early stages of recovery, you may feel like you can take on the world. You’ve made it through detox, developed the skills to overcome addictive behaviors, and have begun to enjoy a life of sobriety. You may be excited to throw yourself back into everyday life and rebuild relationships with those around you.

However, while healing relationships with loved ones is a healthy way to begin early recovery, it is best to wait a year or so before forming new romantic relationships. Early recovery is difficult, and adjusting to sober life comes with many challenges. The stress and instability that new relationships often cause can lead you to relapse and return to drug use.

Instead of rushing into a new relationship, it is better to wait until you have fully developed your skills, strengthened your coping mechanisms, and internalized your new values and principles. At this point, you will be better positioned to start exploring new, healthy romantic relationships.

How Can You Rebuild Relationships With Loved Ones?

While it is a good idea to wait until seeking a new romantic partner, you can start rebuilding existing relationships as soon as you feel ready.

Addiction can strain your relationships with loved ones and may cause you to act dishonestly and secretively or lead to relationships of codependence. Scientific study confirms that there are often extensive relationship problems in couples where one partner engages in substance abuse. Healing these relationships is important for your personal life, as well as providing stability and support for your recovery journey.

Rebuilding your relationships usually involves regaining the trust of your loved ones – something that can be difficult after years of addictive behavior. Luckily, our loved ones are normally ready to forgive us, and if you continue to keep your word and act with honesty and openness, the bonds should heal with time.

If you are finding it difficult to reconnect with your loved one or would like extra support, you could think about attending couples therapy. Couples therapy involves working through conflicts with the guidance of a medical professional and developing the skills needed to support and strengthen healthy relationships. And it works – extensive research shows couples counseling can improve relationship satisfaction and reduce substance use.

Why Should You Wait Before Starting A New Romantic Relationship in Early Recovery?

Existing relationships can be a source of support and stability, even in the very first stages of recovery. New romantic relationships, on the other hand, can cause stress, uncertainty, and even relapse.

Choosing the Right Partner

During early recovery, you are still in the process of finding yourself. Overcoming addiction involves tremendous personal growth, changing deep-set habits, and building a new you. It takes some time for you to work out your new values and perspectives and internalize the skills you have learned and the changes you have made.

If you jump right into a new relationship, you are at risk of choosing a partner similar to one you would have chosen during your addiction. You may not have internalized the ability to judge a person’s character and choose an abusive partner. Or, you may seek a codependent partner willing to facilitate and support drug-taking and substance abuse.

Both of these dynamics make a relapse more likely. Abusive or unhealthy relationships lead to stress and poor mental health, which are common triggers for drug or alcohol abuse. In a codependent relationship, your partner may support you in your relapse rather than helping you commit to your recovery goals.

Another Kind of Addiction

Many people turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism and an escape from everyday life. In recovery, you may look for something else to replace the ‘high’ of drugs and alcohol and fill the void that has been left in your life. In some cases, romantic relationships can constitute this replacement.

Using a new romance as a coping mechanism can be detrimental to your overall mental health and well-being. It also prevents you from developing healthy ways to deal with stress and can stop you from focusing on personal growth, both of which are integral to long term recovery.

When Can I Start Looking for a New Romantic Partner?

Although rushing into a new relationship can be damaging, this does not mean you can never seek new romantic love. After a year of sobriety, most people feel more sure of their values and are stable in their life without addiction. They have practiced healthy ways to deal with stress and triggers and have internalized their skills and coping mechanisms. At this point, you are ready to choose a supportive partner and build a healthy and balanced relationship.

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