Highlights: New romantic relationships in early recovery are a bad idea for several reasons:
- They are distractions from the work of recovery
- They can replace one addiction or fixation with another
- They can be unstable
- They may create too much change
During drug and alcohol recovery, it is important to have a clear mind and to minimize stress and anxiety. Self-care is of the highest importance if you are going to recognize the things that make you more prone to relapse and learn how to avoid them in the future.
One pursuit that most experts discourage is starting a new romantic relationship during the early part of your drug and alcohol recovery. While starting a relationship can be helpful in some ways, like distracting you from your desire for drugs and alcohol, it can be a very bad idea for other reasons and can damage your fragile recovery in the early stages.
A Huge Distraction
One reason why new relationships during early recovery are a bad idea is that they can be a huge distraction from the work of recovery. Most people put a tremendous amount of energy into new relationships, and they can become all-consuming at a time when you need focus to create healthy new habits and process your journey.
Chances are, in early recovery you have a lot to learn about yourself and your responses to triggers, your handling of everyday life without substances, and how you react to the world after rehab. A lot of that work will take a back seat once a new relationship commands your attention.
Replacing One Addiction (or Fixation) With Another
Another reason why a new relationship is not the best choice in early recovery comes from several studies on how new relationships affect the brain. Helen Fisher sums them up in an article for Discover Magazine: Romantic love stimulates the same dopamine pathways that drug and alcohol use does, and lovers express “all four of the basic traits of addiction: craving, tolerance, withdrawal, and relapse.”
Most treatment professionals would tell you unequivocally that attempting to replace one addiction with another won’t work, and although the new relationship is not exactly the same thing as addiction, the similarities are close enough to make it a risk.
No Need for Instability
New relationships are not known for stability. They often have extreme emotional ups and downs, and a good number of them don’t work out in the end. Early recovery is not a good time for instability and emotional upheaval, which could trigger a relapse or make maintaining sobriety more difficult.
Maxed Out on Change
Recovery has likely brought sweeping changes to the way you live your life. People can only handle so much change at one time, and a new relationship is another major change on top of recovery. In all likelihood, assimilating all of this change will cause a lot of stress, even if the relationship is good. The odds are high that your recovery will be negatively impacted.
Once you establish sobriety, new relationships will again become a reasonable option if you are interested in dating again. When you get back out there, you will be glad you waited and focused on your recovery first.
Let Harris House Help
If you or a loved one is in need of substance abuse treatment, Harris House is a smart choice. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs to help with drug and alcohol addiction and recovery. Call us to learn about admissions.