Recovery Issues: Starting New Relationships

Reviewed Mar 28, 2016

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Summary

  • Wait at least one year before making any important decisions.
  • As the initial romantic high fades, you may look to other substances to substitute for this high.
  • Relationships can bring emotional stress.

"Life has never been better since I gave up booze," says John, who's been clean and sober for 5 months. "I've been eating right and getting in shape. My job is going great. The only thing missing is someone to share in my success."

Life is full of ups and downs—no matter who you are. Although staying sober during the good times is easy for John, sooner or later things won't go his way and the temptation to slip will be strong. Romance, even casual dating, during the earliest stage of recovery will further jeopardize his efforts to stay sober. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recommends waiting at least one year before making any important decisions—including whether or not to date.

For one thing, the rush of excitement that you feel when you first meet someone you like can give you a false sense of confidence and fulfillment. In fact, this initial romantic high is biochemical and as its effects fade you may look to other substances to substitute for this high. Furthermore, relationships (no matter how good) bring emotional stress, and a simple disagreement or misunderstanding can threaten the fragile sobriety of a person who is newly recovering from alcohol use disorder.

Honesty is the best policy

"I'm crazy about this guy Jack at my office," says Beth. "I want to ask him out. But, even though I've been sober for more than 3 years, I'm afraid that once he learns I'm recovering from alcohol use disorder, he'll lose interest."

As Beth knows well, successful recovery is not possible without honesty—the same is true for successful relationships. People recovering from alcohol use disorder need to be up front from the beginning. In this example, after ordering an iced tea at dinner, Beth told Jack in a simple and matter-of-fact way that she was in recovery and couldn't drink. Jack appreciated Beth's honesty. After several months together, Beth felt comfortable enough to talk about her disease and recovery and to introduce Jack to her friends and life in AA.

Even though Beth and Jack are no longer together, Beth has found that telling the truth has become easier over time. "I've learned that if telling the truth about my alcohol use disorder is a turnoff, I'd rather find out in the beginning than waste my time with someone who doesn't want to understand."

Find new places to meet people

"I've been sober for 18 months, and I'm ready to meet new people," says Derik. "Meeting girls used to be no problem—after a few drinks, I thought I was really good-looking and charming. Although I like the person I've become, I'm hesitant to jump back into the singles scene."

Derik's concern is valid, and at this stage of his recovery he would be wise to avoid places where drinking is the focus. Hobby clubs (such as book or hiking groups), the gym, church, classes (both academic and recreational), and volunteer groups are great places to develop friendships with people who share your interests.

You also can meet new people through support groups such as AA, although dating a person with alcohol use disorder can have its pros and cons. It can be great to give and receive support from someone who's been there. On the other hand, if one of you has a rocky recovery, a slip can jeopardize the success of the other's sobriety.

By Christine Martin
Source: The 13th Step: The High Risk of Romance in Early Recovery by John S. Baudhuim, MA. Minneapolis: CompCare Publishers, 1991.

Summary

  • Wait at least one year before making any important decisions.
  • As the initial romantic high fades, you may look to other substances to substitute for this high.
  • Relationships can bring emotional stress.

"Life has never been better since I gave up booze," says John, who's been clean and sober for 5 months. "I've been eating right and getting in shape. My job is going great. The only thing missing is someone to share in my success."

Life is full of ups and downs—no matter who you are. Although staying sober during the good times is easy for John, sooner or later things won't go his way and the temptation to slip will be strong. Romance, even casual dating, during the earliest stage of recovery will further jeopardize his efforts to stay sober. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recommends waiting at least one year before making any important decisions—including whether or not to date.

For one thing, the rush of excitement that you feel when you first meet someone you like can give you a false sense of confidence and fulfillment. In fact, this initial romantic high is biochemical and as its effects fade you may look to other substances to substitute for this high. Furthermore, relationships (no matter how good) bring emotional stress, and a simple disagreement or misunderstanding can threaten the fragile sobriety of a person who is newly recovering from alcohol use disorder.

Honesty is the best policy

"I'm crazy about this guy Jack at my office," says Beth. "I want to ask him out. But, even though I've been sober for more than 3 years, I'm afraid that once he learns I'm recovering from alcohol use disorder, he'll lose interest."

As Beth knows well, successful recovery is not possible without honesty—the same is true for successful relationships. People recovering from alcohol use disorder need to be up front from the beginning. In this example, after ordering an iced tea at dinner, Beth told Jack in a simple and matter-of-fact way that she was in recovery and couldn't drink. Jack appreciated Beth's honesty. After several months together, Beth felt comfortable enough to talk about her disease and recovery and to introduce Jack to her friends and life in AA.

Even though Beth and Jack are no longer together, Beth has found that telling the truth has become easier over time. "I've learned that if telling the truth about my alcohol use disorder is a turnoff, I'd rather find out in the beginning than waste my time with someone who doesn't want to understand."

Find new places to meet people

"I've been sober for 18 months, and I'm ready to meet new people," says Derik. "Meeting girls used to be no problem—after a few drinks, I thought I was really good-looking and charming. Although I like the person I've become, I'm hesitant to jump back into the singles scene."

Derik's concern is valid, and at this stage of his recovery he would be wise to avoid places where drinking is the focus. Hobby clubs (such as book or hiking groups), the gym, church, classes (both academic and recreational), and volunteer groups are great places to develop friendships with people who share your interests.

You also can meet new people through support groups such as AA, although dating a person with alcohol use disorder can have its pros and cons. It can be great to give and receive support from someone who's been there. On the other hand, if one of you has a rocky recovery, a slip can jeopardize the success of the other's sobriety.

By Christine Martin
Source: The 13th Step: The High Risk of Romance in Early Recovery by John S. Baudhuim, MA. Minneapolis: CompCare Publishers, 1991.

Summary

  • Wait at least one year before making any important decisions.
  • As the initial romantic high fades, you may look to other substances to substitute for this high.
  • Relationships can bring emotional stress.

"Life has never been better since I gave up booze," says John, who's been clean and sober for 5 months. "I've been eating right and getting in shape. My job is going great. The only thing missing is someone to share in my success."

Life is full of ups and downs—no matter who you are. Although staying sober during the good times is easy for John, sooner or later things won't go his way and the temptation to slip will be strong. Romance, even casual dating, during the earliest stage of recovery will further jeopardize his efforts to stay sober. In fact, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recommends waiting at least one year before making any important decisions—including whether or not to date.

For one thing, the rush of excitement that you feel when you first meet someone you like can give you a false sense of confidence and fulfillment. In fact, this initial romantic high is biochemical and as its effects fade you may look to other substances to substitute for this high. Furthermore, relationships (no matter how good) bring emotional stress, and a simple disagreement or misunderstanding can threaten the fragile sobriety of a person who is newly recovering from alcohol use disorder.

Honesty is the best policy

"I'm crazy about this guy Jack at my office," says Beth. "I want to ask him out. But, even though I've been sober for more than 3 years, I'm afraid that once he learns I'm recovering from alcohol use disorder, he'll lose interest."

As Beth knows well, successful recovery is not possible without honesty—the same is true for successful relationships. People recovering from alcohol use disorder need to be up front from the beginning. In this example, after ordering an iced tea at dinner, Beth told Jack in a simple and matter-of-fact way that she was in recovery and couldn't drink. Jack appreciated Beth's honesty. After several months together, Beth felt comfortable enough to talk about her disease and recovery and to introduce Jack to her friends and life in AA.

Even though Beth and Jack are no longer together, Beth has found that telling the truth has become easier over time. "I've learned that if telling the truth about my alcohol use disorder is a turnoff, I'd rather find out in the beginning than waste my time with someone who doesn't want to understand."

Find new places to meet people

"I've been sober for 18 months, and I'm ready to meet new people," says Derik. "Meeting girls used to be no problem—after a few drinks, I thought I was really good-looking and charming. Although I like the person I've become, I'm hesitant to jump back into the singles scene."

Derik's concern is valid, and at this stage of his recovery he would be wise to avoid places where drinking is the focus. Hobby clubs (such as book or hiking groups), the gym, church, classes (both academic and recreational), and volunteer groups are great places to develop friendships with people who share your interests.

You also can meet new people through support groups such as AA, although dating a person with alcohol use disorder can have its pros and cons. It can be great to give and receive support from someone who's been there. On the other hand, if one of you has a rocky recovery, a slip can jeopardize the success of the other's sobriety.

By Christine Martin
Source: The 13th Step: The High Risk of Romance in Early Recovery by John S. Baudhuim, MA. Minneapolis: CompCare Publishers, 1991.

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