It is often suggested that during the early stages of recovery, and up to the first year, we do not get involved in any romantic relationships. This recommendation of course has some opposition, and is either one of these topics which do not get enough attention, or huge arguments break out over it! Therefore, I would like to start by saying that I believe that recovery is not one size fits all, and what might work for some or even most, will not work for all. There are always exceptions!
Nevertheless, I still believe that some suggestions and recommendations may give you a greater chance in achieving and maintaining sobriety because recovering alcoholics and addicts are especially vulnerable to these strong negative emotions as they are already dealing with something that is emotionally taxing – getting sober.
During the early stages of recovery, it is essential to remain focused on nurturing your recovery. So if you are finding yourself worried about the idea of recovering “single,” and you are rushing into finding a romantic relationship, first ask yourself, where does this feeling come from? Are there any abandonment issue that you have not dealt with? Are you objecting to this because you believe that you need someone in order to recover? Or, are you possibly holding on to old fears or motivations?
Most of the time, the opposition to being single in early recovery comes from some obvious, yet also very understandable drive that has nothing to do with a desire to become recovered, but our desire to be needed and wanted. By asking these simple questions, you may be able to examine your own feelings about these long standing preconceptions which in turn may help you see, that being single and keeping focus on yourself and your new recovery process is the most important.
Many of our addictive behaviors are directly related to relationship issues as well as our natural desire for love, companionship, and intimacy. I know that for me, romantic relationships also became a tool to justify that I was OK as a person, and the wellness of the relationship was a huge basis of my self-worth! I believed that if I did not have a romantic love in my life than I had nothing. Furthermore, I had never been single before, and the mere thought of being single and sober petrified me!
However, we all know relationships can make life quite challenging, especially when we are dealing with many unhealthy habits that we have acquired while being dependent on alcohol.
Here are the 5 reasons why I believe staying single in early recovery may be beneficial to you:
1. The relationship itself can become an addiction or a substitute to the addiction that you are trying to give up. This “replacement” could actually further perpetuate the cycle, and hinder your recovery. The stress and dysfunction of an unhealthy relationship can lead to the relationship’s demise, and dramatically increase the risk of relapse.
2. New romantic relationships can bring on a fluctuating array of emotions. During those trying times, chances of relapsing are heightened. In addition, if the new partner is a drinker and you are not, that may prove to be a big challenge as you are trying to abstain. Moreover, if both of you are in recovery and one of you relapses, the chance of relapse is heightened again.
3. New romantic relationships often take up lots of time, and may limit your time for creating a strong recovery network, going to meetings, reading recovery literature, and learning how to live an alcohol-free lifestyle.
4. Getting sober is hard and it involves lots more than putting down the drink. Often we uncover many other issues that have lead us to the bottle. Remaining single gives us the best chance of staying focused on our recovery and avoiding adding other challenges.
5. In early recovery, we often learn how to build up our self-esteem and self-worth as well as we learn how to value ourselves. By staying single, we can learn to have a healthy relationship with ourselves without depending on acceptance and love from others.
Developing a good relationship with ourselves first is a cornerstone of creating healthy relationships with others. This is where the saying, “You can’t truly love someone until you first love yourself” comes from. By dealing with your issues first and getting a good base in recovery, you are then gathering tools to be better equipped to deal with romantic relationships.
Of course, all this is not to say that new romantic relationships are detrimental to your recovery. However, it may be a good idea to give yourself some time to learn how to stay sober and live a sober life before rushing into a new relationship.
If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with alcohol addiction, please click the Find Support link for an extensive list of support groups. Also please check out the links to many useful resources in the sidebar, and always feel free to contact me anytime at email@example.com.
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