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5 Things No One Tells You about Relationships in Recovery

By: Jenny Hunt and Nicole Armstrong

When it comes to being in recovery, treatment centers will prepare you for life outside of rehab. They will teach you life skills and the tools you need to get sober and stay sober. There are certain things that I had to find out for myself after rehab such as being in a relationship in recovery. So I made a list of 5 things no one tells you about relationships in recovery.

5 Things No One Tells You About Relationships in Recovery: Intimacy Can Be Difficult

If you’ve never been intimate with someone without being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you may have trouble adjusting to it. Drugs and alcohol lower your inhibitions, and can allow you to feel instantly comfortable in an intimate situation. Without a “social lubricant,” you may be self-conscious and awkward when the time comes to get busy. The best way to deal with this is to get to know the person well outside of the bedroom first. This doesn’t mean you won’t feel any anxiety the first time you’re together sexually, but at least you’ll be comfortable enough to be honest about how you’re feeling.

5 Things No One Tells You About Relationships in Recovery: You may not have the same “type”

Though I didn’t realize it at the time, all the guys I dated in active addiction either drank and used drugs like me or were the “stable type” that could pay my rent when I blew all my money on drugs or pick me up at the club at 2 am when I was too wasted to drive. I chose partners based on who would best enable my addiction. I quickly lost interest in the guys who had their lives together and actually set healthy boundaries with me (and they weren’t sorry to see me go once they realized what a mess I was). Once I became sober, I realized that I had no interest in the kind of guys I dated when I was using. I actually had no idea what “type” of guy I liked once my addiction was taken out of the picture. This is part of the reason that most people advise staying out of relationships in early recovery. You’ve got to give yourself time to get to know yourself before you can get to know someone else.

5 Things No One Tells You About Relationships in Recovery: Dating a “normie” can be difficult

Dating someone who is not in the program can be difficult for someone in recovery. They may drink or even use drugs socially. They may want to go out to bars and clubs when you go on dates. We may not feel comfortable opening up about our past to them, and they may not understand when we have to meet with a sponsor or attend  meetings at inconvenient times. They may not want to take on all of our “baggage” like accrued debt, legal problems, or damaged relationships that can make interactions with friends or family awkward.  This is why many recovering people end up dating other people in program, however….

5 Things No One Tells You About Relationships in Recovery: Dating another person in recovery can be difficult

It’s pretty common for people in recovery to date other people in recovery. They “get” us, we don’t have to hide our past from them, and they don’t drink or use drugs either, so it’s a safe bet that our first date won’t be at the bar. But dating someone else in recovery comes with its own problems. If you’ve been around the rooms for a while you’ve probably heard the saying “Two sickies don’t make a wellie” or “The odds are good but the goods are odd.” Many newly clean addicts and alcoholics are compulsive, pleasure-seeking, obsessive and sometimes kind of crazy. Even those with a lot of “sober time” can revert back to this state if they aren’t working a good program.  Which brings me to my next point..

5 Things No One Tells You About Relationships in Recovery: Sober time does not indicate wellness

To avoid these issues when dating another person in recovery, many people look for people with more “sober time” or people who have already worked steps. Unfortunately, sober time is not a guarantee of emotional health. When I was very new, I started dating a guy with two years sober. I had only a couple weeks sober at the time, anyone who could go a few years between cocktails/pills was a winner in my book. It never entered my head that he could have other issues. We started a relationship, and although I had a weird feeling about him, I pushed it aside because I was getting attention. It felt great just to be wanted. However, his affection quickly turned to an unhealthy need for control, which erupted into heated arguments. Eventually, I got out of the relationship, but I came very, very close to relapsing. What I learned was that sober time does not indicate emotional sobriety, and even those in the rooms that seem to have it together can have other issues that they still need to work on. Having a relationship in recovery can be a very beautiful thing, I should know because I did have an amazing relationship while in recovery and even though it didn’t work out in the end, I don’t regret it for a second. Make sure no matter what above all of the things I have listed that you are happy and healthy! If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll free 1-800-951-6135.


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