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Dating in Recovery: Myths, Facts, and How It Works

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By April 25, 2019
dating in recovery

Adjusting to a life in sobriety can be more difficult than many of us expect. There are new problems and hidden temptations around every corner, and it can be difficult to adjust to these new changes. 

Ten percent of Americans are working through recovery from substance abuse. One of the most difficult new situations for this group can be dating. We take for granted how much the assistance of substances can help us feel comfortable in a dating environment. 

The pressure of a dating scenario, where one is trying to make a good impression, can also lead us to make some potentially dangerous choices. There’s a lot to know about sober dating before you get started. 

If you’re going through recovery and ready to get back out there, read on. We’ll walk you through everything you want to know about dating in recovery. 

Challenges To Dating In Recovery 

Dating, in general, is already difficult. And the difficulties and struggles of the process are made no easier by the transition to sober living. 

Social anxiety is already a big factor when it comes to the dating world. It’s natural to want a new person, especially someone you hope to get to know well, to like you. It’s natural to feel awkward or uncertain. 

But it’s these same feelings that help urge us towards drinks or drugs in the first place. It’s much more frightening to have to meet someone sober than it is when wasted. The anxiety can help induce cravings to drink or do drugs

The traditional cultural norms of dating can also make the situation more difficult. It’s very common to ask another person out for a drink, which may make you bring up your sobriety earlier than you’d prefer.

You might feel strange or awkward having to pitch different date ideas. Or you might feel uncomfortable having to reveal such information about yourself right off the bat. 

Even if you do mention your sobriety, a dating environment will likely lead you to be around more triggering situations. Even if you plan on not drinking, there will likely be alcohol around. You’ll have to adjust to this reality and be on solid footing to maintain your sobriety. 

Dating, in general, can be a challenge to the routine you’ve set up for yourself. A steady routine can be the key to maintaining sobriety in the early stages of your recovery. And yet, dating essentially forces you to be flexible and welcome new changes into your life.

This is just one of many reasons that medical professionals recommend waiting for a year of recovery before starting to date. 

Ways To Make Recovery Dating Easier 

Understanding the challenges to sober dating can be important before you launch yourself into the process. Failure to do so can result in big problems for your love life and your recovery process.

Once you’re familiar with the challenges, you can take steps to make the process easier and more enjoyable.

Attending therapy in an individual or group setting can make the process of recovery easier. A therapist will be able to walk you through the relationship process and ensure you’re approaching these new changes in a healthy manner.

Attending group meetings will help you remain on track in your recovery. Discussing dating with others who have gone through the same process can help you feel better about your own struggles. A sense of community can be incredibly valuable as you continue to move forward. 

Many of your group will likely be able to offer advice or insight to your situation that you may not have thought of. 

Approaching the dating world with honesty and openness will also increase the odds of your enjoyment. There’s no shame in being sober, and being open and upfront about your situation is likely to make your date more enjoyable.

If your date is anything but supportive of your sobriety, they probably aren’t the right partner for you regardless. 

At the same time, if the person you are seeing still drinks or uses drugs, you have to understand that you can’t force them to change. Attempting to force your sobriety onto potential romantic interests is not the right foot to start a new relationship on. 

Sober Dating Ideas

If you’re inching back into the dating world during recovery, it can be very helpful to do so in a setting that is far removed from alcohol. Dinners and bars are popular first date spots, but they aren’t the only options out there.

You could bring your date to a pleasant brunch, for example. A trip to the movies, to the opera, or to a local theater show is also likely to be substance free. 

Simple dates, like a walk through town or to a museum or art gallery, can both be enjoyable and temptation free. You could even volunteer together at a soup kitchen or by picking up trash at the beach. 

The more time you’ll spend with your new love interest, the more you’ll discover commonalities and shared interests. This will make future dates easier to plan and even easier to enjoy. 

It can be a big adjustment if your previous dating and sex life involved frequent inebriation. But with a little work and creativity, sober dating can be very rewarding as well. 

How Dating In Recovery Works

Many people don’t know how dating in recovery will play out for them. If you’re used to being under the influence while dating, it can be hard to adjust to a new kind of dating.

If you take the time to understand the challenges and plan ahead, you can still have a rewarding romantic life ahead of you. 

Need more help with your recovery? Reach out to us with any questions you might have. 

Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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