Valentine’s Day is a time for celebrating love and relationships, but when you’re in recovery, is it really the time to be looking for love? Most relationship experts and addiction specialists caution against dating or forming new romantic relationships in the early stages of recovery. Let’s review some important reasons why it’s good to avoid celebrating Valentine’s Day in recovery until you’re ready.
Sobriety Should Be First on the List
Your commitment to staying sober has to be first on your list of priorities in the early stages of recovery. When you find a romantic interest, that person can easily become the first item on your priorities list, knocking sobriety out of the top position.
The Dangers of the “High” from Falling in Love
When you meet someone you like and find yourself looking forward to dates—you may even start falling in love—you may experience a “high” that happens due to neurochemical reactions.1 Unfortunately, for people in recovery, this high can be like the rush from drugs or alcohol.
While this rush of feelings from a new romance is natural and healthy in most situations, for a recovering individual, this neurochemical response can become a substitute for the high from using substances. The relationship may be forming for unhealthy reasons: because it provides a high that’s been missed.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
As you navigate through daily life in early recovery, you’ll encounter triggers and stressors. If you form a romance at this critical time and a breakup occurs, it can throw a monkey wrench into the mix that could easily lead to relapse. During a breakup, you’ll be dealing with stressful emotions that could trigger depression or anger, possibly leading to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate negative feelings.
When to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Recovery
During the first 12 months of your addiction recovery, be patient. Your first priority is healing from the effects of substance abuse, and your primary focus should be on yourself in order to accomplish this. After the first year, because of your commitment and efforts, you’ll be in better shape to form a new and healthy romance.
Once you’re sober for about a year, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions and see if you are truly ready to venture into dating.
- Have you won back the trust of your friends and family?
- Do you consider yourself trustworthy?
- Are you able to handle triggers without relapsing?
- Are you using healthy coping mechanisms when experiencing daily stress and stormy emotions?
If the answers are “yes” to these questions, it’s more likely you’ll avoid relapse if you form a romantic relationship or experience a breakup. Consult with someone you trust, like your sponsor or therapist, to develop a dating strategy.2 By doing so, you’ll be equipped with a plan that will work for you as you celebrate Valentine’s Day in Recovery.