Congratulations! You’ve completed rehab, and you’re enjoying your new life in recovery. But how does dating after rehab fit into this picture? Consider the following important points before you decide to go looking for love.
While dating may seem harmless, you could be swept off your feet by someone you find attractive. Once that happens and emotions start swirling, you’re now in a precarious position to continue the emotional stability required to maintain your recovery.
If you develop a relationship too early in your recovery, you risk falling into negative relationship patterns like codependency.1 A codependent relationship can hinder your recovery. Many in early recovery find they’ve entered into codependent relationships without realizing it.
By giving yourself the time to develop personal boundaries, you can avoid moving too quickly into a relationship that clearly isn’t right for you. By becoming mired in a codependent relationship early in recovery, you’ll take the focus off where it should be: your own recovery and progress.
You want to be upfront and honest about yourself when starting a love relationship. Honesty means revealing your recently conquered addiction. When you can say that you’ve been sober for a long period of time, and not just a week or a month, you’ll experience less judgment and stigma. By having months or a year or longer of sober living under your belt, you’ll be taken more seriously and faceless rejection.
Too Close for Comfort
The sting of a romantic breakup is difficult to deal with, but people in recovery may have a tougher time. A brain study looked at individuals who were in love and were rejected by their partner.2 The participants showed activity in certain areas of the brain when looking at photos of their partners who rejected them.
The same areas of the brain which reacted are also associated with cravings and addiction. Risking rejection by dating too early in recovery can jeopardize your sobriety if these regions are unduly stimulated.
Fix Existing Relationships First
Before you add another relationship, heal the ones you already have in your life. The pressure of a new romance, while you have other people to rebuild trust with, can be too much pressure for someone fresh out of rehab.
Dating After Rehab – Time Is on Your Side
It’s smart to decide to date only once you feel strong enough to handle the negative parts of dating after rehab – rejection, disagreements and failed relationships. You may feel like you can date immediately after rehab, but give yourself the luxury of time. It can’t hurt.
Many counselors recommend waiting at least a year before dating after rehab. While only you will know when you’re truly ready, be sure to get some feedback from your counselor, sponsor or recovery group before you jump into the deep waters of dating.