Most recovery experts agree that newly sober men and women should wait a year before dating. Many of us are both rebellious and looking to change the way we feel, so the urge to break the dating rule can be powerful. It’s
helpful to remember that our own will landed us in a residential treatment
facility, a twelve-step program, the hospital, or jail.
The wait to date suggestion is strongly recommended because experts agree that we should spend a full year focused solely on our recovery. If possible, we should avoid making any significant life changes in the first year. As strong as the temptation to buck the system may be, those of us who have surrendered to the advice about waiting to date have been able to accrue long-term clean time.
Following direction works; it isn’t always fun or easy, but it does work.
1. We Don’t Even Know Who We Are Yet
The consequences of our addiction negatively impact our self-esteem, and many of us have never had a healthy sense of self. Additionally, many of us have a background of past trauma. We’ve likely used drugs and alcohol to avoid feeling the emotions that arise from our past experiences. Recovery offers us the chance to work through past trauma and get to the other side of it. Until we get to that other side, though, we don’t truly know who we are yet.
Until we begin to recover, we may define ourselves by our past actions. However, that is an unclear reflection of who we actually are. We are much more than what we’ve done and what has been done to us. We are spiritual beings who are capable of a complete renewal of body, mind, and spirit. Waiting a year to date when newly sober gives us time to heal, so that when we do begin dating, we can show up
healthy and as our best selves.
2. The Rate of Relapse Rises
Twenty years ago, I was in a recovery residence. I was told not to date while newly sober. The man I was talking to also seemed committed to his recovery. We were swept up with the romance of getting sober together. Fast forward a bit, and he was finished with his treatment a few days before my program was completed. He convinced me to leave the program early and go with him. I envisioned this beautiful, romantic sober life.
Against all advice, I left. I got into a taxi with my new boyfriend, and within minutes, the driver took us to a gas station and my “boyfriend”
handed me drugs. I did NOT say no. I didn’t give myself the chance to learn how to say no. I tried to go back to thetreatment facility after my relapse, and they wouldn’t take me. It took me TEN YEARS to get back into recovery.
One date, one drive, and ten years lost because I thought I knew better. So, when I tell newly sober men and women not to date, it is because I didn’t do it on my first try and suffered the consequences. On my second try, I waited two years before dating, and I stayed sober. If I got into a cab today and someone handed me drugs, I’d have the strength to say NO. Not because I have a superpower, but because I willingly followed good orderly direction long enough to discover my worth, to find joy without drugs, and to feel the desire
for continued sobriety.
Also, to dispel the myth that I relapsed because I left with another addict, I’ll add one more point. If we date a sober person when we are newly sober, and we get hurt or endure a breakup, how will we face that heartbreak? A newcomer doesn’t yet have the coping skills to endure additional heartache. If they don’t use, they’ll want to. Why risk it?
3. We Don’t Know What We Want
Some of us have been in very unhealthy relationships in the past. We may have been married to or dated people who were physically abusive, emotionally abusive, or manipulative. We may have come into sobriety having never seen a healthy marriage – even in our own families.
I have been married once. I thought I understood the definition of love. I wanted a successful, nice, reliable, calm man, and I found that in him. However, as noble as those virtues are, they omitted the most important one. LOVE. I never thought to ask for a man who loved me for exactly who I am.
One of the many gifts of sobriety is being able to carve out the dreams you have for your new life. When I finally felt healthy enough to date, I understood the true definition of love and that I am worthy of it. I waited two years, but when I made another list of what I wanted in a partner, the number one thing on my list was to be loved in return.
Work the steps, of course! Go to therapy. Learn to laugh. Make new friends. Form a connection with your sponsor. Focus on your family. Get a job that helps build your sense of pride. Pray. Grow like a weed. Learn to love yourself. Learn to love others. Feel the sunshine on your face. Look at the flowers your addiction kept you from noticing.
When you’re ready, HELP OTHERS. Whether you do service work or chair meetings, get involved and give to others what has been given to you. You’ll find tremendous rewards and relief in kindness.
Sobriety allows us to accept our past and rewrite the story of our future. May your future story be beautiful and give you all the love you deserve.
I’m an addict in recovery and went through a residential treatment program that was run by Chris Jacobs, CEO
of Breakthrough Recovery Outreach. I’m just like you.