How to Navigate Dating and Sex in Sobriety
- Ready to start dating in recovery?
- Getting ready to date in recovery: tips, tricks and unique date ideas.
When you first start dating in recovery, it is normal to feel completely scared and confused – after all, where is all that liquid courage? Here we take you through the best steps to getting back out on the scene while ensuring that you do not relapse in the process.
Dating in addiction recovery can often lead to relapse if you are not ready for what lies ahead. From the abundance of strong emotions at the beginning of a relationship, to the emotional turmoil experienced during a breakup, dating can often cause a person to put their recovery on the back burner, or worse – experience a relapse. This is why it is often recommended that you wait at least a full year before starting to date in recovery.
Why You Should Wait One Year to Start Dating in Recovery
Many experts in addiction treatment strongly encourage their clients to wait at least one year before beginning a new relationship. Why? The first year of addiction recovery is a vital time when your sobriety should be in the absolute forefront and will take all of your focus and energy.
It is also a time when recovering addicts are starting to rediscover themselves. The early stages of recovery are spent figuring out who you are without drugs and alcohol, rebuilding your own sense of self-worth and self-esteem, and re-learning how to cope with stressors of everyday life.
If you do meet someone special within the first year of recovery, taking it slowly and being honest that your sobriety is the most important factor in your life is crucial.
Why is Dating in Recovery Challenging?
Dating in recovery can be challenging for many reasons. Here, we explore a few of the most common challenges:
- Social anxiety.
Meeting new people sober is scarier than meeting people when you are wasted. Social anxiety may cause cravings to drink or use drugs.
- Cultural norms.
Meeting up for a drink is a common suggestion for a first date – which means you may be pressed to speak up about your sobriety before you are completely comfortable. (Keep reading to find our list of unique date ideas that are substance-free.)
- Increased exposure to triggering situations.
Dating in recovery can often mean exposing yourself to more social situations where alcohol is present – another reason why being solid in your sobriety is recommended before you begin dating.
- Changes in your thoughts, feelings, and routine.
You may become distracted from a routine that has been solid in your early recovery, which increases the risk for relapse.
What Can Make Dating in Recovery Easier?
- Be in therapy.
A therapist can help you determine if you are seeking a new relationship for the right reasons, and help you continue to build upon your ability to have healthy relationships.
- Attend group meetings.
It is imperative that you keep on track with your recovery progress by attending regular meetings. Not only will this be a great place to talk about the new feelings that arise as you first start dating again, but your group members will help keep you focused on what is important – your recovery.
- Be honest.
You may fear being judged about your addiction history, but sobriety is a part of your life now. And that is something you can be proud of! Plus, a potential partner should be 100% supportive of this, so it is important to be honest with them straight away.
- Use online dating.
Many recovering addicts struggle with social anxiety, which makes online dating a great option. Some online dating sites are even geared specifically for sober people.
- Look outside places you frequent.
Anywhere that has become an important and conducive place for your recovery, such as AA meetings or a new job, may not be the best place to find a partner. Breakups can put people at risk for relapse, and if a breakup also makes a place that was once a solid part of your recovery uncomfortable, this risk gets even greater.
- Do not expect your new partner to change.
If you meet someone who currently drinks or uses drugs, believing that person will change for your relationship is detrimental.
Should You Date another Recovering Addict?
While two people in recovery can share a fulfilling and healthy relationship, there are some things to keep in mind:
If one partner relapses it can be very difficult to maintain the relationship, but also difficult to leave. Would you feel responsible for their relapse? Would they feel responsible if you relapsed? Is there a chance you may relapse together?
Dating another recovering addict is advised only if both people are secure in their recovery, making both partners’ risk for relapse less likely.
Is it Possible to Date Someone Who is Not Sober?
Again, this comes down to how secure you are in your own recovery. Some people are able to find ways to make it work, while others are not. If you do choose to embark on a relationship with someone who still drinks or takes drugs, you must ensure that they take your recovery seriously, and you may want to lay down some ground rules about substance abuse in your presence.
Getting in the Game: 8 Unique Sober Date Ideas
There are many great things you can do on a first date that do not involve getting inebriated, and that can help you get to know each other better – which is what a first date is all about, right?
1. Have a brunch date
Everyone loves a good brunch. And if the meeting goes well, you might just have a full day of fun ahead of you!
2. Go to a used bookstore.
Used bookstores are full of interesting artefacts and can serve as a springboard for any number of brilliant conversations.
3. Go for a walk.
Going for a walk can lead to a spontaneous and open-ended first date. Plus, when the conversation goes silent you have the scenery to fill the gaps. Stop for an unexpected sweet treat, or walk as far as you can in one direction and then take a taxi or bus back.
4. Go to an art gallery.
Or a museum. Use what you see as conversation starters, and awkward silences will be less likely.
5. Become a tourist in your own town.
Visit a tourist attraction neither of you have been to, or get on a hop-on, hop-off tour around your own city – you will be amazed at the amount of new information you will actually learn about the city you thought you knew!
6. Take a class together.
Any class can be a great first date idea! Try a cooking, rock climbing, art or yoga class. Find something you are both willing to try and give it a go!
7. Go to an arcade.
Or play video games. Dating in recovery doesn’t always have to be so serious. Embrace your inner child and have some fun!
Invite your date to volunteer with you. There are a myriad of ways you can volunteer for half a day in your community – go to the pet shelter, serve food at a soup kitchen, or clean up the local park. Not only is it a great way to get to know each other and help out, but volunteering is great for your recovery too.
Remember, it is not just the first date that will be substance-free, all of them will be! Keep things interesting by incorporating a shared interest, adding an element of competition, or creating new variations on old date ideas – such as waking up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise in the park.
The Reality of Sober Sex
First dates out of the way, moving forward sexually can be a difficult step for a recovering addict. Many recovering addicts will find that they were most often sexually active in the past while inebriated. Tackling first-time sex completely sober can cause feelings of anxiety and insecurity which must be dealt with by being honest with yourself and with your partner about how quickly you want things to proceed. Ensure that you are truly comfortable with this person before you put yourself in a position to feel insecure and anxious, as these are two major causes of relapse.
Sober Dating is Rewarding, Really.
Alcoholism and drug abuse seriously impact your ability to have meaningful, healthy relationships. Dating in recovery means that your connection and conversation will be more genuine, caring and from a place of greater emotional health, leaving both you and your date feeling fantastic – whether or not a romantic relationship is sparked.
Remember to Put Your Recovery First
When those first pangs of love ring through your body, and you feel like you want to do anything for that person, it is imperative that you remember that your addiction recovery must always remain your number one priority.
The Cabin Chiang Mai has helped thousands break free from addiction and stay on the path to recovery. If you feel that you are on the way to relapse or are currently relapsing, contact us today to see how we can help.