When Is the Right Time to Start Dating in Recovery?

Are you starting to think about dating in recovery? If so, you may wonder when the best time to start dating is, especially if you're relatively new to recovery. Opinions vary on the best dating timelines for recovering individuals. Many programs recommend waiting until you have been sober for a year to start dating, while other opinions may be longer or shorter. The general consensus is not to date during early recovery, though many do it without considering the potential dangers. 

Dating and new relationships can be complex. Emotions tend to run high during early recovery, and getting to know someone new in that context can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you have not dated in a while.

Understanding the risks of dating in early recovery is not the only thing to consider. You also have to think about when to tell a romantic interest about your recovery and prepare for whatever reaction they might have. Though there are plenty of professional recommendations and advice out there, you must decide for yourself when it is the right time to start dating. It should not be a decision you make lightly.

Is It Okay to Start Dating in Early Recovery?

Some people start thinking about dating before they even finish a treatment program. However, dating while in rehab tends to be widely discouraged. Many aspects of new relationships can hinder the treatment process. Some of the things that can interfere with your rehabilitation include: 

  • Entering a relationship that turns out to be toxic 
  • Dealing with complex emotions before you are ready 
  • Preventing you from finding your identity 
  • Causing you to spend more time on the relationship than your recovery
  • Replacing substance-related habits with other bad habits 

These are the dangers of dating in rehab, so perhaps you are wondering about early recovery. Is it okay to date then?

As mentioned, many professionals discourage people from dating in early recovery. Experts and even 12-Step groups recommend waiting to start dating until you have been sober for at least a year. It is vital to have a stable foundation of sobriety before diving into any kind of romantic relationship. Focusing on yourself first allows you to: 

  • Learn healthy coping techniques 
  • Find your identity outside of treatment 
  • Discover potential triggers and learn how to prevent them 
  • Focus on post-treatment goals  
  • Make amends to the people in your life 

In addition to understanding the benefits of staying single through rehab, you must consider the potential dangers of dating during early sobriety. 

Dangers of Dating During Early Recovery

Some dangers of dating during early recovery are similar to the risks associated with dating while in rehab. However, there are other factors to consider. 

First, dating can distract you from your primary post-treatment goals. Life after treatment requires many changes and typically comes with a lot of challenges. Relationships take a lot of time and energy, which may detract from the critical work you must do in early recovery to set you up for a lifetime of success. 

Secondly, dating can induce a lot of complex emotions. Meeting new people, being rejected by some, or not feeling a connection on your first few tries can cause anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and other negative emotions. These negative emotions may trigger desires to drink or use, especially if you are not yet confident in your coping skills. 

Another risk is that the person or people you date may drink or use drugs recreationally. Social influences are strong when it comes to substance use. The presence of drugs and alcohol during early recovery can be detrimental, especially in relation to someone you're interested in. It may not be intentional, but someone casually ordering a drink on a date or smoking marijuana recreationally can put your recovery at risk.

With these factors and professional recommendations in mind, it is also necessary to note that each person should have a say in when they are ready to start dating. 

When to Start Dating in Recovery

Generalizing when people should begin dating in recovery is hard. Every journey is unique. For some, one year is not enough time to establish solid enough sobriety, while others may only require a handful of months.

Once you create a foundation for your recovery and have a solid routine, you may be in a place to consider dating. Ensure you are not starting to date for the wrong reasons. Dating because of loneliness or boredom is a concern. You should discuss these feelings with a therapist or support group rather than randomly decide to go on a date. 

The recovery process will teach you many new things about yourself. In a way, you have to get to know yourself again. Dating before you understand these new parts of yourself is dangerous, and you may end up hurting yourself and the people you date. 

A Final Aspect to Consider When Dating in Recovery

A critical factor to consider when dating in recovery is how people react. There is no way to know how someone feels about mental health and addiction. Despite efforts to end stigmas and stereotypes, the topic can still be taboo. Many people are still ignorant and uneducated about addiction, refusing to see it as a complex mental disorder. Acknowledging this and understanding that you can't predict how people will react is necessary when dating in recovery. 

If you have any concerns about dating for the first time in recovery, discuss those concerns with a therapist, friend, or support group. Individuals who have been through this before will likely be able to offer guidance and advice about navigating the dating world post-treatment. 

Anyone new to or who has taken a break from the dating world may struggle to navigate it. However, there is an additional risk for individuals in recovery from addiction. Dating in recovery is complex. For starters, recognizing the best time to start dating can be challenging. Professionals encourage people to wait until at least after the first year of sobriety. Doing so is prudent, as this first year of sobriety can be hard, and dating during this time can be risky. Nevertheless, you must determine the best time for yourself based on how the foundation of your recovery and when you are ready mentally and emotionally. For additional advice on dating in recovery, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400

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