We typically consider early recovery to be the first year of abstinence from addictive behavior. It is exciting as you work to rebuild your life with sobriety at its center. However, to achieve long-term success, your recovery must remain your highest priority.
You are most vulnerable to relapse within the first year of abstinence. Because of this, most experts advise against starting a new romantic relationship or making other major life changes during this time period. Any big change can take your focus off your recovery goals.
How Dating Can Derail Your Recovery
During early recovery, you are working hard to figure out who you are without addictive behavior. You may struggle with anxiety, fear, self-doubt, and other conflicting emotions. Taking on a romantic relationship can make it more difficult to define your new identity.
Ideally, your new identity will include good physical, emotional, and spiritual health. When you are healthy, you are more capable of recognizing an unhealthy relationship. Until you achieve a healthy balance within yourself, you risk entering an unhealthy or even toxic relationship with another person.
When you develop powerful feelings for someone, your desire to be with them can feel similar to an addiction. If fact, you may replace your old addictive behavior with an addiction to this new relationship. If a new romantic relationship becomes more important than your recovery, your sobriety is at risk.
If you become involved in a new relationship and the relationship ends, feelings of hurt, depression or betrayal can trigger a desire to self-medicate.
Dating someone from your past, a person who is using an addictive substance or a person also in recovery can be especially dangerous. Any of these dating scenarios increases the chances of you encountering a trigger situation that could rekindle your past addictive behavior and potentially lead to relapse.
What to Work On During Early Recovery
Rather than dating in early recovery, focus on strengthening your relapse prevention skills while you learn to embrace your life as a sober person.
- Continue to learn from others in recovery through regular participation at 12-step or another support group.
- Participate in an aftercare program and continue individual, group, or family counseling.
- Build a strong sober network. Make new friends through hobbies, creative arts, community groups, travel, and other sober-centered activities.
- Commit to a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, nutritious eating, relaxation and meditation practices, yoga, journaling, gratitude writing, and more.
- Work to rebuild relationships.
- Find a career that excites you and get the training you need to make it happen. Check your state unemployment office to see if they offer free training. The Florida Reemployment Office provides a variety of free classes.
- Regularly review your recovery plan goals and remember why you committed to recovery.
Keep your recovery on track by taking the first year to learn who you are without your addictive behavior, implement a healthy lifestyle, and develop a strong sober support network.
Turning Point of Tampa has been offering Licensed Residential Treatment for Addiction, Eating Disorders and Dual Diagnosis in Tampa since 1987.