The chaos of addiction often impairs our ability to trust ourselves. In early recovery and through mindful self-care, we begin to rebuild that trust ever so slowly. When we’re ready to open ourselves up to others – especially when considering an intimate dating relationship – we need to be equally mindful.
Here are four considerations to make before you start dating.
- Is your support system strong? Is the other person’s support system strong (especially if s/he’s in recovery)? It’s critical to keep your support team involved and up-to-date. Your support system knows you well and has your best interest at heart. What they say should weigh on your decisions. You should never enter into a dating relationship because your support system is lacking. The two relationships – at least in the beginning – should be mutually exclusive… your significant other can become part of your support system, but you shouldn’t date someone because you need added support.
- What are your boundaries? We need to set boundaries as we open up to and explore relationships with others. What are your hard stops and triggers? For many of us – especially those early in recovery – being around drinking or drug use is a trigger. If your partner isn’t in recovery, does s/he understand and respect this about you? Have you communicated these boundaries clearly?
- How do you know this person? If it’s through treatment or support networks, is her/his recovery strong? Going back to boundaries, if there is a relapse, what are your expectations going forward? If the other person is not in recovery, does s/he understand addiction or willing to understand? Is s/he patient and respectful of your needs?
- Ask yourself why. What are your motivations for wanting to date this person? Is it to fill a void you feel within yourself? Is it to fix something? How does this person enhance your experience in life? Reflect upon whether the relationship you’re considering is purposeful: there is a difference between love and sex.
Our most sound advice to you: don’t make rash decisions. Take everything slowly. Talk to others you trust; ask for their feedback and ask questions. Similarly, let them ask questions of you and know their questions are coming from a place of love. Be open with your support system (a healthy recovery involves no secrets!). Assess the relationship regularly and ensure that your relationship with yourself is healthy first. We can’t be good for someone else when we’re not good to ourselves.
Recovery is inarguably a difficult feat, and sometimes it takes a few tries in treatment for one to truly get well. If you’re worried that you or a loved one isn’t doing well, reach out to the experts at Shorewood House for help.