Starting a relationship with someone in recovery from an addiction

Posted on May 18, 2015


This has been on my mind. When a person is newly sober, they’re unlikely to be ready for a new romantic relationship. But if you get involved in one with someone who’s recently in recovery, then if neither of you are careful, your relationship (or you – or the sex) might become their new addiction.

I thought i’d do some research on this to back up my gut feelings around this matter. I suppose it’s fairly common sensical, and I’ve pretty much been single this past few years for this very reason – I wanted to learn how to love myself, and figure out what it was that I wanted. Now I know, i’m ready to go and get it, and more confidant to recognise when it’s not it and have the balls to take action either way.

It’s interesting stuff. Sure I could like someone. Maybe there’s a connection there. Perhaps i’d end up in a relationship with them under normal circumstances, but the likelihood is i’m delaying their progress and development by distracting them in this way. But equally, I know recovering alcoholics who met someone shortly before becoming sober, and they’ve lasted the distance.

It’s a tough one. But I suppose you have to make your own decisions based on what you think is right. And probably involve the person you’re seeing into the convo.

See below for what I found online, in case it’s useful.

Finding Romance in Recovery

People in sobriety can find romantic relationships to be their hardest challenge. They may have abused alcohol and drugs in the beginning because they lacked the confidence to meet new people. When they become sober, they can once again struggle with shyness. It can also be harder to meet people because they no longer go to bars. Sober people most definitely can find romance in recovery but they can benefit from a new approach. These are some of the most effective ways for people in recovery to find romance:

* It is best if people completely avoid new romantic relationships for at least the first year of their recovery.

* People in recovery can really struggle in romantic relationships. A huge part of the problem is that the self-absorption that goes hand in hand with addiction can continue to cause damage. When people are too focused on their own needs it makes it impossible for them to contribute enough to their relationships; this means that romantic partners tend to get fed up and leave. It is therefore necessary for people to try to reduce their self-absorption before beginning a relationship.

* Old timers in AA offer the following steps that people should take before beginning a romance in recovery. First they should buy a plant and take care of this. If the plant is still flourishing after one year then they should buy a pet. If after two years the plant and the pet are doing well only then should people feel ready for a romantic relationship.

* Meeting people in bars is no longer a good option for people recovering from an addiction. There are still plenty of other opportunities for meeting a significant other. Sober people often to find romance when attending classes or at the gym.

* In order for people to be happy in their relationships, they first need to be happy with themselves. Those who are dealing with self-esteem issues can struggle particularly hard with romance. It means that they can never fully trust the other person and will be prone to outburst of jealousy. If the individual does not really love themselves, it can be difficult for them to accept that somebody else loves them.

* Dealing with relationships is probably the most stressful challenge in recovery. Members of a 12 step group can benefit from a sponsor. They will be able to use this other more experienced individual as a sounding board and a source for advice.

* When people are newly sober their sexual drive can be high. This is because during addiction such feelings will have been anaesthetized by alcohol and drugs. It can feel like the individual has just woken up to the joys of sex. While the awakening of such arousal is a good thing, the individual needs to be careful that it does not lead them into trouble.

* During the early years of recovery, the individual needs to make their sobriety a priority. If a relationship is threatening their recovery then they may need to end it.