New relationships in early recovery

relationships in recovery

The general advice given in Alcoholics Anonymous and in most addiction treatment centres is do not get into a new relationship in your first year of sobriety. Many people do not follow this thinking that in their case is and will be different. They then find to their cost that the advice has some good basis.

Why it is a bad idea dating in early recovery

In early recovery it is usually the case that people feel a lot better about themselves. They begin to take an interest in their appearance, regain an interest in life and the future and feel a need to be loved and wanted. Telling them not to get into a relationship is like telling a teenager who has just discovered their first love not to carry on with it. They will not listen.

The problem is that while you may now be clean and sober, your emotional state is still quite fragile. Your judgement is clouded and your recovery does not yet have firm roots.

Possibility of underlying motives

You will probably be unaware of this underlying fragility. If you meet someone who is not a recovering alcoholic or addict, the chances are they will not understand how serious your illness is. And how important it is for you to remain totally abstinent. If you meet someone else in recovery, you will think they must be OK. Especially if they have been clean and sober for longer than you. You will probably think that if they are clean and sober and have been for some years then they must be good people.

Unfortunately people in recovery are not necessarily good for you just because they are in recovery. The fellowships of AA, NA, CA etc include a cross section of people and not all of them will be ‘decent’ people. Some of them will not be working an honest programme. It is even possible that some of them may be there to find a willing partner for sex. Ask anyone who has been in recovery for a while and attending fellowship meetings. They will probably be aware of early recovery relationships which have led to unpleasant if not disastrous consequences.

Do not rush into things

In treatment centres, no ‘special relationships’ is a golden rule. If people do secretly start a relationship (and manage to keep it under wraps to avoid getting discharged) it is just about 100% certain that the relationship will not last for long after leaving treatment. The relationship can lead to relapse. Either because one is more keen than the other and relapses when the relationship falters or breaks down, or the pair relapse together. And then carry on in blissful ignorance but further down the slippery slope of using. 

Of course there are always the exceptions that make people think that the guidance is wrong. People do have new successful relationships and even get married in recovery. But these successful relationships usually start when both parties have more than a year’s sobriety.

The key message is – ‘don’t rush’. If you are meant to have a relationship with a particular person you have met in early addiction recovery, it can still happen a few more months down the line. It is likely to be a much better experience for the wait.

If you would like free objective advice, please call The Haynes Clinic on 01462 851414 .