4 Top Tips for Dating in Addiction Recovery

What fascinates me about addiction and obsessive behavior is that people would choose an altered state of consciousness that’s toxic and ostensibly destroys most aspects of your normal life  because for a brief moment you feel okay.”

– Moby, U.S. musician, author, and DJ

For a brief moment, you feel okay

And that’s all it is, regardless of how hard we try to extend it, to make it last, and to let it continue –  endlessly, on and on. Like many, I spent years and years doing that very thing. Using, and definitely abusing, a variety of substances, and washing it all down with copious amounts of the hardest liquor I could get my sweaty, shaking hands on. Because… just for the briefest of moments, I did feel okay.

In the end, my addiction was all I had become and all I was ever going to be.

That was until, and very thankfully, my parents took the drastic steps that I actually needed to take – just on my behalf. They tracked me down to the beaten-up shack I was using as my home, dragged me forcibly to the family car (my Dad was a big guy, and, by then, I was weaker and lighter than a new-born baby), with my Mom crying, until my backside was safely strapped and trapped in the backseat.

My Mom stopped crying when we got on the interstate, and then she put on some Motown radio station, Diana Ross, The Stylistics, that sort of stuff. That’s all I can remember until I woke up in what I thought was a hospital, a nurse by my side, and in the sort of mental pain, only addiction withdrawal could bring.

That day, my parents had driven my wrecked carcass two states over, hoping desperately that this addiction treatment facility in Nampa, Idaho, would somehow save me. The thing is, it did. It really did. Personally, I think my Mom and Dad saved my life that day, I truly do. Now that’s real love – 100% unconditional and supportive, and then some.

That was nearly 9 years ago now, and addiction recovery is as important to me than anything. Without it, I can’t hope to be the son that my parents wish to be. But putting that early motivation aside, I do this for myself now, for me. No-one else. Not even them. Being clean and sober, and having the life I have now, has even encouraged someone to want to share that with me. Yes, I’m talking about love, the romantic, ice cream and chocolate kisses-kind of love.

It’s my own experience of dating in recovery (plus the professional advice of my addiction counselors about doing exactly that – dating) that I wish to share with you here: what we’ll call “4 Top Tips for Dating in Addiction Recovery.”

Keep Your Emotional Distance

In the early days of recovery, romantic relationships should be regarded as a strict “No-No.” The mental readjustment of starting to lead an abstinent life, meaning absolutely zero contact with the substance(s) of your addiction, takes a serious amount out of someone emotionally and mentally, even spiritually. Early recovery and its continuance is a huge personal endeavor, a time when the only important thing in your life should be you, and you alone.

In fact, there’s a saying in addiction recovery circles… Relationships = Relapse.

And it’s true. However, at some point in your first year, you may start to feel you want to begin a relationship with someone new. Hopefully, by this time, you’ll be feeling much stronger, both emotionally and physically, and, if that’s the case, consider yourself ready.

Now the next warning… Go easy. Do not give your heart to the first person that comes along, just to feel that sweet security and comfort of just being with someone. Keep your emotional distance. Seriously, getting too close, too soon, will be a threat to your recovery.

Be Aware of Your “Chemical Reaction”

Ok, so it’s your first date, your only date in a long, long time. You are about to get hit with a serious chemical reaction in your brain. And remember, chemicals saw you to detox and rehab in the first place. A powerful, heady cocktail of potent chemicals is about to be released onto a brain that hasn’t felt such things in a long time. This cocktail, whether you like it or not, is going to affect your judgment, especially your response to possible danger.

How you feel during that first date is going to be heightened, and even distorted, by this flood of chemicals – norepinephrine, dopamine, phenylethylamine, estrogen, and testosterone. Lust, infatuation, call it what you will, it’s all done to that chemical cocktail that’s just been released.

Be Choosy (Be Very Choosy)

Regardless of how confident and healthy, you may be feeling with the “new you,” choosing the wrong partner could be the most toxic thing that has happened since your last drink or fix. It’s that important. Therefore, your choice of new partner becomes vital to your own recovery. Get it wrong, and you could possibly kick your recovery way too hard.

Take relationship conflict. Inevitable. However, how you handle it, and how you handle your partner’s response, could either make or break your new abstinent life. Therefore, one element of choosing the right partner will be how stable the early relationship with them is. If it’s a potentially volatile relationship (often described mistakenly as a passionate one), it’s exceptionally dangerous for you.

And… Be Honest

Recovery is 100% all about honesty. Being truly honest with yourself can be hard enough; admitting that you are powerless over your substance of choice, the one that led to your addiction, is so very vital. Whatever it may be, it’s nothing but poison when you use it. And, if you are honest with yourself, you know this to be true. That will never change.

Bringing someone new into your life needs honesty too. Opinions vary as to when the best time is, but from my own experience, your recovery is an essential element of who you are today, and you should let others know that too. Be honest and be open. As former addicts, we’ve all lied enough, don’t you think?

Go Easy

Embarking on a new relationship when you may well only be just starting your own new way of living is a decision to be taken seriously. Remember, the old saying… relationship = relapse. Choosing to begin dating, and choosing your partner badly, without a degree of thought and care, will only end badly for you. So, as it was said before… Go easy.

Always, always follow these 4 Top Tips for Dating in Addiction Recovery:

  • Keep Your Emotional Distance
  • Be Aware of Your “Chemical Reaction”
  • Be Choosy (Be Very Choosy)
  • And… Be Honest

What advice would you give to someone in addiction recovery who is considering a return to the dating scene? What qualities should they be looking for in their next partner? Please feel free to add a comment below – all are gratefully received. Thank you.

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