Why Are People in Recovery Told Not to Begin Relationships?
Addiction affects relationships insignificant and highly damaging ways. For example, alcohol destroys relationships in many cases because drinking is a person’s number one priority when they have an addiction. The same is true of other drugs. Often, many of the early days of your alcohol recovery process focus on rebuilding and repairing the relationships destroyed by drugs or alcohol and your addiction. You’re no longer focusing everything on your alcohol abuse, including binge drinking or heavy drinking. You can focus on your real priorities in life without alcohol consumption or drug use while in Recovery programs.
What about new relationships? Why do treatment practitioners and therapists warn people who are new in drug or alcohol use disorder recovery to avoid starting relationships for a while?
- During your early recovery, you’re doing a lot of work.
- Along with abstinence from alcohol, you’re dealing with your physical health and co-occurring disorders.
- You may be tackling a traumatic family history in therapy.
- Brain function and cognitive functions are in healing mode as you recover from psychological dependence and physical dependence.
- You could be attending several Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings a week.
- You’re working to fight off an initial relapse and help your body get past the toxic effects of your addiction.
What is Recovery?
First, what is meant by recovery within the context of addiction?
Recovery can mean different things to different people. Generally, when we talk about recovery, we refer to the period after you receive addiction treatment.
- You’re moving past your addiction and into the next period of your life.
- Recovery indicates you recognize you have a problem with your drinking habits or drug use; you are taking steps to fix it.
- Some people use recovery interchangeably with being in remission. If you’re in recovery, you are no longer in active addiction.
- Your chronic alcohol abuse or drug abuse isn’t currently happening.
While you may not be using drugs or alcohol, that doesn’t mean that you are cured. Addiction will continue to affect you in different ways throughout your life, and there’s no magic bullet to cure addiction despite the many effective treatment options.
- Recovery is a period of active engagement to maintain your remission from addiction, and it will continue throughout your life.
- That doesn’t mean recovery doesn’t get easier.
- Your recovery will go through different phases, and it’s a process.
According to the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Commission (SAMHSA), recovery is a process of change. During this process, you are working to improve your health and wellness, reach your full potential and live a self-directed life.
According to SAMHSA, there are four main components to support recovery.
- The first is health. In recovery programs, you should manage or overcome your disease and mental health disorder symptoms and make choices that support both physical and emotional well-being. For example, you could have long-lasting health effects when you stop drinking after excessive drinking or drug use, such as liver disease, withdrawal symptoms, or high blood pressure. You have to manage these effects medically to improve your overall physical health.
- The second is a home, meaning you have a safe, stable place to live outside of inpatient treatment or residential treatment.
- The third element of smart recovery is a purpose of having the independence and resources to participate in society.
- Fourth is community, which means you have a social network that provides friendship, love, and hope as you overcome your alcohol dependence or drug addiction. Treatment programs and support groups are great places to build up this support system.
Stages of Recovery
There are often stages of recovery that different organizations define, but there isn’t a universal acceptance of these stages.
For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the stages of recovery are early abstinence, maintaining abstinence, and advanced recovery. There’s also the Developmental Model, where the stages include:
- Early recovery
- Middle recovery
- Late recovery
Some addiction specialists believe that are rules that you can follow to avoid a relapse. These include:
- Change your life. Create healthy friendships, find things to do that you enjoy while sober, and work to manage stress and develop coping mechanisms for yourself without dependence on alcohol or drugs.
- Be honest. When you have an alcohol or drug use disorder, it means constant lying to yourself and the people around you. In recovery, you learn to be honest and deal with the lies and dishonesty from your past.
- Reach out for help. Isolation is not suitable for recovery. If you don’t have sober friends and family to rely on, joining a self-help group is important to reduce isolation.
- Engage in self-care. Self-care is anything you can do to take care of yourself mentally and physically and show yourself, love.
So, where does a potential romantic relationship fall into all of this?
Why Are Romantic Relationships Discouraged?
You see a lot above the importance of supportive relationships when you’re in recovery programs, which may seem counterintuitive to the traditional advice that you should avoid romantic relationships in early recovery. Mental health providers at treatment facilities will often discourage romantic interactions strongly.
First, avoiding relationships isn’t something you should do for your complete recovery. The keyword above is early recovery. Early recovery is a precarious time. There will still be triggers and challenges, and you’re navigating how to live life in a completely different way.
Some things to understand about romantic relationships in early recovery from substance use disorders include:
- When you’re in substance use treatment, you’re still sick with addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease, and you may be working to manage the symptoms. However, you still have work to do even if you’re sober for a complete recovery.
- Early recovery is a time to discover who you are without drugs and alcohol. You may have given up a lot of different aspects of your life to pursue your use of drugs and alcohol. You have to learn who you are without those substances, and you’re strongly encouraged to focus on yourself during this time. It’s challenging to begin an authentic relationship when there are still so many things you don’t know about yourself and how you want your life to look going forward.
- During your period of self-discovery in early recovery from an addictive substance, you need time to create new routines and a direction for your life, rather than putting energy toward a romantic relationship.
- Even healthy romantic relationships can have turbulence. While that’s normal, the ups and downs of a relationship could be too challenging for you early on. You may still feel the urge to alleviate the discomfort you feel emotionally with drugs or alcohol. Suppose there’s even a relatively small bump in the road in a new relationship. In that case, it could increase your risk of relapse and create other harmful effects.
- When you’re in a romantic relationship, especially a new one, it impacts parts of your brain that substances affect. You could replace one addiction with another, chasing the thrill of romance and intimacy to deal with alcohol cravings or drug cravings.
- Your schedule is going to be packed in your early recovery, as was mentioned. You’re going to be connecting with your rehab center, going to group meetings, going to therapy, and more. You may not have the time in that schedule to pursue something romantic.
To Date or Not?
Above are some good reasons not to date early in recovery. You do also have to recognize that dating isn’t a complete deal-breaker in a recovery program. It’s up to you to make your recovery work in your life, and if you do meet someone, you can still maintain the work you’re doing. You have to be conscious of how a relationship could affect your recovery. However, we all require romantic connections, but it’s helpful if you can wait until you’re more stable in your recovery.
To learn how to get started on the path to recovery in your own life, please contact the team at Silver Linings Recovery by calling 833-847-6984.