Dating in Early Recovery

The mantra in Alcoholics Anonymous and in most treatment centres is do not get into a new relationship in your first year of sobriety (early recovery). Many people do not heed this and find to their cost that the mantra has some good basis.

Many people in early recovery suddenly feel a lot better about themselves. They have energy, begin to take an interest in their appearance 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.

Emotionally Volatile

The problem is that while we may now be clean and sober, our emotional state is volatile and not strong. Our judgement is clouded. Bill Wilson, founder of AA, called this ‘emotional sobriety’ and said that people in early recovery tend to get into unhealthy relationships and have unhealthy expectations.

We none of us see this when first dating in that first year of sobriety. If we meet someone else in recovery, we think they must be OK. Especially if they have more recovery than us. We automatically think that if they are clean and sober and have been for some years then they must be good people. It is like believing they have been checked out by MI5! What we need to realise is that people in recovery are not necessarily good for us just because they are in recovery.

The fellowships of AA, NA, CA etc include a cross section of people and some of them will still have negative personality traits. 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. In my recovery I have personally witnessed several early recovery relationships which have led to unpleasant if not disastrous consequences.

‘Special Relationships’

In treatment centres, no ‘special relationships’ is a golden rule. Yet it is almost impossible to stop people who decide they want to creep about in the night and go to someone’s room to start a sexual relationship. These people usually get discharged but I have never known any of these relationships last once the people are back in the real world. They are usually over within a matter of weeks.  Unless there is a pregnancy to contend with (which can happen and has in my experience). Or sometimes the pair can relapse together and 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. My personal experience is of having a relationship within 4 months of recovery and this was a beneficial relationship for me which several years on has given me many advantages in my life. I still have a loving relationship with this man and have no regrets. I have also known people to get married in recovery. These relationships usually started when both parties each had more than a year’s sobriety.

In Early Recovery Don’t Rush

Generally there is more truth in the statement that we are sick people getting well and some people are sicker than others. Like attracts like and two sick people do not make for a healthy relationship. So don’t rush. If you are meant to have a relationship with that person. It can still happen a few more months down the line and is likely to be a much better experience for the wait.

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