Dating in Recovery

Dating in recovery is an interesting subject, and a topic of heated debate in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous. Obviously we are human, and crave human connection. In fact, one could argue that the desire for human connection is the single most powerful driving force in the history of the human race, and that it is fundamental to our survival. Sex is obviously necessary for the continuation of us as a species, but it goes beyond that. We crave company and togetherness. It is important to note, however, that connection with another human, especially on a romantic level, is involved with activating the pleasure center of the brain, and is generally centered around the survival brain. As with anything involving the lizard brain, such as drugs, alcohol, food, and sex, the potential for abuse exists.

It is important to work a program of recovery in every aspect of your life if you are trying to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol. A program of recovery is a different way to live quite contrary to the way that drug addicts and alcoholics have lived during their years of active addiction, and in order to have an effective psychic change, every aspect of life has to be examined. This includes relationships with the opposite sex.

It is very easy to transfer an addiction, and often very tempting to do so. Some people replace an addiction to drugs and alcohol with video games, sex, or even just connection with another person. Transferring an addiction is not treating it. It is disguising it as something else. This is a slippery slope because if you are transferring an addiction, you are not really having a psychic change. You are selfishly fixated on something that is providing you pleasure, just like drugs or alcohol. Addiction to another person is very common among people who are trying to get sober. Once the drugs and alcohol are removed they search for something else to latch on to, and the rooms become fertile ground for unhealthy relationships to take root, particularly among newcomers. This is the reason why one hears things like “wait a year to start dating” in the rooms. People with experience know what is going on, and they are trying to prevent the transference of drug and alcohol addiction. 

Also, people in early recovery are generally less equipped to handle adverse situations without relapsing, since they are so used to handling problems with drugs and alcohol, so the emotional rollercoaster that comes with trying to establish and maintain a romantic connection, and the heartbreak associated with relationships not working out, becomes dangerous territory for someone in early sobriety. Until a healthy routine of working a program becomes an ingrained habit, dating is not recommended. Everyone knows how turbulent the seas of relationships can be, so frankly it’s just not a good idea for someone in recovery that hasn’t established and maintained a solid program to be exploring something that may jeopardize their recovery.

Everyone wants a connection with someone; it’s human nature. Once a good relationship with a higher power of your own understanding is established, then the answer of whether or not you are ready to begin dating will become more clear.