Intimate relationships can be beautiful and rewarding. They can also lead us down a path of emotional difficulty, blurred boundaries, and compromised values. The best way to ensure that the dating road you are traveling consists of good experiences is to start out from a good place within yourself.
During initial stages of recovery, our resolution to stay sober is still fragile. Our thoughts are still programmed toward craving the substance, and our emotions tend to be raw. This sober space is typically the time that you will want to do a good amount of self work, including discovering – and addressing – what it is which prompted you toward addictive behaviors, in the first place. The amount of self work required can be enough to make some people put the idea of dating off for awhile. If you are certain that you are in a place of enough stability to bring another person into your personal space, you will want to take the following suggestions into consideration.
Be Honest About Your Recovery
Starting out a relationship with any kind of deception doesn’t bode well. Things that are hidden tend to make their way out into the light, eventually, and can leave the scar of damaged trust for those who were taken unaware. The last thing you will want to do is hide your history of addiction from a person whom you are dating.
While it might not be conversation for a first date, bringing up the fact that you are in recovery needs to happen fairly quickly. Your dating partner might not be open to the idea of dating someone in recovery, and failure to mention it is not fair play. On the other side of it, he or she might also struggle with addictive behaviors, and failing to mention the topic can allow space for you to be the one unpleasantly surprised. It is much harder for a couple to maintain sobriety than it is for an individual to do it.
One of the ways that people attempt to conceal an addictive past includes making excuses for not partaking. While out at dinner, for instance, such a person will blame the refusal of a drink on stomach problems, having to drive, or feeling too sleepy. If you aren’t ready to tell your dating partner the real reason that you aren’t ordering off of the wine menu, then you probably aren’t ready to date.
Don’t Neglect Self-Care
It is all too easy to lose ourselves in a whirlwind of budding romance. There is no other time in life when we feel more hopeful, more giddy, or more unselfish than while in the embrace of a new love interest. Our thoughts are always of him or her, and we will drop everything on a dime to answer a call or text. While all of this experience is well and good, remember to abstain from losing too much of yourself to the relationship. Lack of healthy boundaries in a relationship can be a relapse pitfall.
Stay in Treatment
It is not uncommon for humans to humbly ask for help when things are bad, and then leave the help behind when we are feeling good. As much as you might be tempted to think that finding the right partner is the answer to all of your problems, do not forsake your recovery treatment steps while dating. Consider it part of your self-care plan.
Be sure to attend your meetings, do your homework, and continue to strive for those milestones. Your perseverance in finishing this regimen can set the stage for your ability to persevere in future scenarios. Neglecting to see it through to the end can mean setting yourself up for backslide or carelessness. If your dating partner is of the right kind of quality, he or she will understand why some of your time is taken up by the program.
Along with continuing to receive the support of your program and groups, you will want to avoid engaging in triggering scenarios while out on your date. Familiar sights, sounds – and even smells – can cause addiction temptations to rear their ugly heads.
If you have associated your drug or alcohol use with specific venues or activities, don’t sabotage yourself by going into that lion’s den. Find something new and exciting for the both of you to try. If your date suggests going somewhere or doing something that you know will give you a hard time, remember the suggestion regarding being honest about your reasons for declining.
As your dating life is progressing, you may find that it is more than just places and things which produce the temptation to use a substance. You may find that it is your interactions with other people which are the primary trigger. Maintaining a relationship can be tough, and relationship difficulties can be an easy scapegoat for our return to the self-destruction of addiction. Stress arising from low self-esteem, jealousy, arguments, or rejection can become an excuse for relapse.
The triggers don’t always have to accompany negative states of being, either. It may be the case that you realize that your ability to enjoy a healthy time while in a relationship is impaired. You may even find yourself tempted to indulge in drug or alcohol use as a misguided attempt to enhance the existing fun of the relationship. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of thinking that it is fine to use while things are good. Seek additional counseling to get to the root of your difficulty with not associating enjoyment with substances.
Take Your Time
Last, but certainly not least, is the admonition to take your time. Nothing of quality is built by a person overnight, and your intimate relationships are no exception. Resist any urges to act impulsively, and give the relationship the space to let the true natures between you and your dating partner come to light. Allowing things to unfold at a natural and steady pace is the best chance of ensuring that the two of you are genuinely compatible, and can mean the difference between making a decision you are proud of, and one you regret.