Let’s say your recovery is going well. You’ve stayed sober for quite some time now, and you’ve been taking care of yourself—eating right, getting exercise, going to therapy, practicing mindfulness, the works. And let’s say you’ve got a little crush on someone you’d like to ask out.
What’s the next move?
You might find that you’re feeling nervous about entering a new relationship—especially with someone who might not know you are in recovery for a substance use disorder. It’s natural to wonder when and how to share that information–and how the person you’d like to date will react to the news.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you consider a new relationship.
How Secure Are You Feeling in Your Recovery?
Jumping into a new relationship early on in your recovery is probably not a great idea. You have lots of hard work to do and lots of temptations to overcome. You should give yourself time to get your feet firmly under you. A good rule of thumb might be to wait a full year after leaving a treatment center. You’ll have a better sense of how to maintain your sobriety, and you’ll be able to assure a new romantic partner that you have been facing—and overcoming—the challenges that come with sobriety for an extended period of time.
How Will You Build Trust and Establish Ground Rules?
A key portion of building trust in a new relationship is, of course, being upfront about your recovery as early on as you can. It probably doesn’t need to be your opening line, but if a moment for sharing arises naturally (say, when you refuse a glass of wine on a first dinner date), try to take advantage of it. The longer you wait, the harder it might be to share the information.
Be honest, but don’t feel like you have to share every last detail. Explain that you are in recovery for a substance use disorder and share the kinds of situations you avoid to protect your sobriety. For example, be clear about whether or not you can spend extended periods of time around people who are drinking.
Being open about recovery may bring your relationship to a quick end if your date is troubled by your past—or likes to party in ways that would threaten your sobriety. But it is better to have that conversation early rather than months down the road when more is at stake.
By demonstrating that you trust a person with personal information, you lay a good foundation for a relationship built on mutual honesty.
How Will You Respond to Problematic Suggestions?
If your partner is a partier, you may not want to stay in the relationship. But what if your date is a social drinker or a casual drug user? How will you react if they suggest you have just one drink at a sporting event? What if they want to hang out with friends you know will have drugs? What if they encourage you to drink just a little wine at a dinner party so you don’t offend the host?
You will have to be prepared to stand firm for the sake of your sobriety. That might be uncomfortable. Indeed, if the person you are dating simply won’t stop needling you about drinking or using drugs, you may have to end the relationship to prevent a relapse.
How Will You Respond to Hurtful Comments or Jokes?
Maybe your new relationship will be off to a great start before you notice that your new partner has a tendency to make jokes at your expense related to your substance use disorder. You’ll want to have an open conversation about why these comments or jokes hurt your feelings—and even threaten your recovery.
If the person won’t stop making hurtful comments, it is time to get out of the relationship. Verbal abuse is never okay—and it can be particularly problematic for someone in recovery.
We’re Here to Improve Your Relationship with Yourself
Before you can form lasting relationships with others, you need to improve your relationship with yourself. That means getting help for your substance use disorder and any co-occurring disorders that may be contributing to your use of drugs or alcohol. At Wooded Glen Recovery Center, we have the compassion and expertise necessary to help you find your way back to yourself so that you can build a life of lasting sobriety. Once you’ve done that, there’s no reason you can’t build a long-term relationship with someone special who understands your past, accepts your present, and is committed to your sober future.