Life in addiction recovery offers many new possibilities (e.g. getting a job, earning an education, reestablishing a relationship with your family, making new sober friends, etc.). One of the possibilities is starting a new intimate relationship with a healthy person. The relationships that you had during active addiction were most likely purely based on drugs/alcohol, codependency, and sex. In addition to being toxic, those relationships may have even been abusive. Sober dating is a completely different thing than dating during active addiction.
Guidelines for Sober Dating
Wait At Least a Year
Most addiction experts would recommend that you should wait until you have reached one year of sobriety before you start dating. The reason is the first year of recovery is when you are most at risk of relapsing. Addiction experts also say that you are most likely to choose the same type of person as you would when you are using before you reach your one year of sobriety. The first year of sobriety is a time of many stressors as you are becoming acclimated to living sober. A relationship is one stressor that is not necessary.
Make a Recovery Dating Plan
Many people in recovery are advised to make a dating plan once they are ready to start dating. You should make a list of three categories, which are green (ideal qualities), yellow (warning signs), and red (deal-breakers). You should also make a timeline of what is acceptable at what point in time (e.g. text messages, amount of money spent on the other person, physical contact, etc.). Though the dating plan is definitely subject to change, making a plan will give you a clear idea about your comfort level, expectations, and boundaries.
Choose Another Sober Person
The best choice in a partner is another sober person. This person can be another recovering individual or someone who simply does not use alcohol or alcohol. Recovery meetings (e.g. AA, NA, SMART Recovery, etc.) are the ideal places to meet a sober partner. However, you should not ask out someone who just started coming to the meeting; you should choose someone who has been in the program for a while to ensure that they are definitely not actively using or behaving like a using person. You should also be mindful of “13th Stepping” which includes making advances toward another member of the program without his or her consent and/or going to meetings for the sole purpose of finding dates. Thirteenth stepping can get you kicked out of a meeting.
Be Mindful of the Places that You Choose
You should not choose to go on a date in places where alcohol and/or drugs are present (e.g. cocktail parties, clubs, bars, etc.). Some places that are good for a sober date are restaurants where alcohol is not right in your face, movie theaters, bowling alleys, recovery clubs (if they exist in your area), boardwalks, etc.
Set Realistic Expectations
Setting realistic expectations will avoid heartbreak and codependency. You cannot expect someone to be your future spouse after two dates. You will also need to take the other person’s feelings into considerations. Though you may be falling in love with someone, they may not feel the same way about you. Just like you have to take your recovery one day at a time, you will need to take your intimate relationships one day at a time.
Communication is Key
Communication is the key to any relationship. You should communicate your thoughts, feeling, boundaries, and history with your partner. If your partner offends you in any way, you should express it to them in a calm way. Bottling up emotions and keeping secrets is a recipe for disaster.
Sober Dating in Nutshell
Sober dating is definitely possible if done right. You should wait until you have achieved at least one year of sobriety, made a recovery dating plan, and are confident that you are ready to start dating. Choosing someone who does not use drugs or alcohol for any reason is your best bet. If you decide to date someone who is in your recovery meetings, tread carefully. Make sure it is consensual and that you are not going to meetings solely to find dates. Once you start dating, choose the right places to meet, set realistic expectations, and communicate with the other person.
Recovery is a gift. If you are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction, seek the gift of recovery that you deserve by seeking professional addiction treatment. Though the idea of giving up drugs or alcohol may sound daunting, keep in mind that the short-term pain is nothing compare to the freedom and joy that you will experience in recovery.