Romantic Relationships in Recovery

Romance and Sobriety

When people become sober it opens up a world of possibility. They can now begin to rebuild their life and get back many of the things they have lost. Romantic relationships can be a great source of happiness in sobriety, but they can also be the source of great pain. One of the worst things that an individual can do in early recovery is jump headfirst into romance. It is strongly advised that they remain focused on themselves until their sobriety is strong. Once they are settled in their new life, they can then begin to consider sharing it with somebody else.

The Importance of Avoiding Romantic Relationships in Early Recovery

It is recommended that people who are still within the first year of their recovery should avoid beginning romantic relationships. This is because their priority needs to be staying sober. The first few months of recovery are often described as an emotional rollercoaster because there is so much going on. The last thing that an individual will want to do will be to add the stress of a new relationship to the mix. It is going to take all their attention to make it through this early part of recovery.

Another reason for why people are advised to avoid relationships in the first year is that they need to get to know themselves better before they choose a partner. Those individuals who get sober and rush into a relationship tend to make terrible choices. They may try to use romance as a replacement for alcohol or drugs. All they are really doing is substituting one addiction with another. Until the individual has managed to build a strong recovery, they will be vulnerable in a new relationship.

Managing Existing Relationships in Recovery

When people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, it puts a strain on their relationships. Their partners will have been harmed by the substance abuse, and it can take a long time for these wounds to heal. When people enter recovery, they have taken a great step towards rebuilding their relationships, but it is unlikely to be enough alone to make everything perfect. It can take years before a partner feels fully ready to forget the past and trust again.

In order to repair existing relationships the individual needs to just stay sober and work on their recovery. The other person needs to be given time to heal and pushing things too much could be counterproductive. There is no panacea that will repair all the damage. The best way for the person in recovery to make amends for their past is by being a better person today. They also need to be kind and try to understand things from their partner’s point of view. The sober person needs to move away from self-absorption and selfishness.

Relationships and Co-Dependency

Partners of addicts need to adapt to the situation or leave. Some of these people will adapt by becoming co-dependent. This is where they become so wrapped up in looking after the addict that they begin to lose their own identity. They spend their time cleaning up after their partner’s mess and making excuses for them. When this other person becomes sober it can be a dramatic change that heavily affect their own life. Their identity of the addict’s keeper is taken away, and they can struggle to find their place in the world. Meanwhile all the attention will be on their newly sober partner’s adjustment, with hardly a thought for how they are coping with the transition. It can be a tough time, but there are resources that can help. Al-Anon is a fellowship that offers support to partners and other family members of addicts.

Romantic Relationships with Other People in Recovery

Beginning a relationship with another person who is also recovery from an addiction can be particularly problematic. One of the main worries is that if one of the couple relapses it could encourage the other to do the same. It would be extremely difficult for a recovering addict to maintain a relationship with somebody who had relapsed, but ending the romance can be hard. Another of reasons for why romance between people in recovery tends to be frowned upon is that both people will be taking a lot of baggage into the relationship. This may mean that it is doomed from the start.

Thirteenth Stepping

Thirteenth stepping refers to a situation where an experienced AA member begins a sexual relationship with a newcomer. This is considered taboo and exploitative because the newly sober person will be vulnerable. This newcomer will rely on the other members of AA to help them find their feet in sobriety. They will not be strong enough for a relationship, and their ability to make good choices can be compromised. Unfortunately there are people who will try to take advantage of such vulnerability to satisfy their own sexual desires. Occasionally, members of AA do form successful romantic relationships, but this is when they are both secure in their sobriety.

Finding Romance in Recovery

People in sobriety can find romantic relationships to be their hardest challenge. They may have abused alcohol and drugs in the beginning because they lacked the confidence to meet new people. When they become sober, they can once again struggle with shyness. It can also be harder to meet people because they no longer go to bars. Sober people most definitely can find romance in recovery but they can benefit from a new approach. These are some of the most effective ways for people in recovery to find romance:

* It is best if people completely avoid new romantic relationships for at least the first year of their recovery.
* People in recovery can really struggle in romantic relationships. A huge part of the problem is that the self-absorption that goes hand in hand with addiction can continue to cause damage. When people are too focused on their own needs it makes it impossible for them to contribute enough to their relationships; this means that romantic partners tend to get fed up and leave. It is therefore necessary for people to try to reduce their self-absorption before beginning a relationship.
* Old timers in AA offer the following steps that people should take before beginning a romance in recovery. First they should buy a plant and take care of this. If the plant is still flourishing after one year then they should buy a pet. If after two years the plant and the pet are doing well only then should people feel ready for a romantic relationship.
* Meeting people in bars is no longer a good option for people recovering from an addiction. There are still plenty of other opportunities for meeting a significant other. Sober people often to find romance when attending classes or at the gym.
* In order for people to be happy in their relationships, they first need to be happy with themselves. Those who are dealing with self-esteem issues can struggle particularly hard with romance. It means that they can never fully trust the other person and will be prone to outburst of jealousy. If the individual does not really love themselves, it can be difficult for them to accept that somebody else loves them.
* Dealing with relationships is probably the most stressful challenge in recovery. Members of a 12 step group can benefit from a sponsor. They will be able to use this other more experienced individual as a sounding board and a source for advice.
* When people are newly sober their sexual drive can be high. This is because during addiction such feelings will have been anaesthetized by alcohol and drugs. It can feel like the individual has just woken up to the joys of sex. While the awakening of such arousal is a good thing, the individual needs to be careful that it does not lead them into trouble.
* During the early years of recovery, the individual needs to make their sobriety a priority. If a relationship is threatening their recovery then they may need to end it.

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