Most experts agree that people who are in addiction recovery should avoid new relationships until they’ve achieved at least a year of sobriety. This includes starting a relationship while in rehab. Wondering why this matters so much? Here’s a closer look at three reasons behind the rule.
1. Love can be a “replacement addiction.”
Addicts live for the “high” that comes from using and abusing drugs and alcohol. Unfortunately, the strong, all-consuming emotions that accompany new love can create a similar feeling in addicts, thereby merely transferring the addiction from one thing to the next.
Psychologist and clinical addiction counselor Anne Lewis told U.S. News & World Report, “The first year of sobriety is fraught with challenging issues. It will be easy for many to find replacement addictions, such as a love addiction, to replace the high the drug or alcohol provided.”
2. It can be a distraction from identifying the underlying causes.
The substance abuse treatment and recovery process isn’t just about stopping using. It’s also about identifying and addressing the underlying causes that facilitated the addiction in the first place. A new relationship can not only be a distraction, but it can also be a deterrent in this process.
Continues Lewis, “Many people enjoy the honeymoon phase of relationships, feeling euphoria from the new love, making it more challenging to address issues that underlie the addiction. Typically these underlying issues are related to our negative core beliefs, a difficult thing to uncover when we are viewed as ‘perfect’ by our new partner.”
Failure to work through these issues can make addicts more vulnerable to relapse in the future, especially when the honeymoon period passes and/or the relationship fails.
Not only that, but any addiction-related, unresolved damage can be an impediment to forming healthy relationships. Sarah Hepola, who wrote the New York Times best-seller, Blackout: Remember the Things I Drank to Forget, cautions, “Alcohol had been an escape from my body and my insecurities, [and] it took a long time for me to feel comfortable being known and seen. A lot of the qualities a woman needs to date successfully — a sense of her own worth, proper boundaries, trust in her own gut – those had been plowed down by years of excessive drinking, and they took a long time to grow back.”
The takeaway? Treatment and recovery aren’t merely obligations; they’re opportunities to focus on improving yourself and your future relationships. Until you give yourself time for this healing to take place, your relationships may be destined to fail or be unhealthy.
3. Love is fragile, as is recovery.
New love can take over everything. When it goes away, what’s left? While the end of a relationship is hard on anyone, it can be particularly catastrophic for addicts who are in treatment or recovery.
Therapist Anita Gadhia-Smith told U.S. News & World Report, “Most people in early recovery aren’t stable emotionally, and relationships in early recovery are fraught with volatility and emotional instability.” The collapse of a relationship at this vulnerable stage can trigger a relapse.
If you’re dating someone who’s also in recovery, the threat is amplified. What happens if he/she falls off the wagon? You may be at higher risk of doing so, too. Concludes Hepola, “A lot of us have a fantasy that dating someone will make the process easier, but it makes it much harder. If that person still drinks, then you have issues like where to go on a date: Will you feel comfortable at a bar? At a party where everyone else is drinking? There’s the issue of kissing a person who has the taste of alcohol on the lips. I was like a vampire in the first year. Just a tiny taste of the stuff would have sent me back to the bottle.”
One last thing to keep in mind? While swearing off relationships can seem unnecessary and unfair when you’re progressing in your recovery, things can change quickly. At the end of the day, taking a timeout from dating can help you truly focus on your recovery priorities. Harris House, a leading drug rehab in St Louis for more than 50 years, offers targeted programs aimed at helping you address the underlying causes that led to your addiction in order to move on with a lifetime of healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Call us to learn about admissions today.