Romantic relationships are particularly challenging for a person in recovery. This is not to say that recovering people do not have healthy, happy and harmonious relationships. Of course we do! The trick is that we first must become healthy, happy harmonious people all by ourselves. We can’t give away what we don’t have and when we don’t love ourselves, we can not love someone else. If we have been self-destructive, disrespectful and downright nasty towards ourselves, we will likely treat other people that way, which is a combination for disaster.

Most 12-step recovery programs suggest that you shouldn’t get romantically involved in a new relationship until you have a full year of sobriety under your belt. This is a fantastic suggestion for many reasons. Unfortunately, few people follow this suggestion and stumble blindly forward into the abyss, unknowingly setting themselves up for a relapse.

Too Early in Recovery

The main reason why romance isn’t a good idea in the early days of recovery is because most addicts and alcoholics are ill-equipped to deal with the intense feelings that accompany such an endeavor. Sure, when things are good and love is in the air, life is sunshine and roses. But when things go south in a relationship, the results can be devastating. Dealing with rejection, disappointment, jealousy and disagreement can become too much to bear. Break ups are especially difficult for someone who isn’t accustomed to dealing with feelings without the use of drugs or alcohol. Because the newly sober person has not yet developed the coping skills needed to maneuver such misfortune, a relapse –or extreme heartache –inevitably follows.

Another thing to consider about romance and recovery is that we “attract where we’re at.” In other words, if we are a mess of a person, trying desperately to get our life on track, we are probably not going to attract someone who is responsible and well put together. Successful and “together” people want to be with other successful and together people –not people who can’t stay off drugs and alcohol and manage their own life. If we’re a mess, we will attract a mess…and the last thing we need is another person’s mess to deal with. It’s difficult enough to clean up our own side of the street!

In the early days of sobriety, sobriety must be your number one priority. You don’t need anything else in your life competing for the kind of attention and energy it requires to stay clean one day at a time and work the 12 steps. Right now, focusing on your recovery program and your own mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health must be number one. There is plenty of time for romance and dating later.

If you wait, It’ll be Worth it!

Waiting a year might sound extreme, or even impossible, but this suggestion has been offered for a reason. People with long-time sobriety have learned the hard way that jumping into a relationship right away is simply not a good idea. Take this free advice and you will surely save yourself a lot of anguish and despair. Give yourself the opportunity to grow as a sober person. Find yourself, get to know yourself and learn love yourself. Then, you will attract a wonderful person who has just as much to offer as you do…and they will be worth the wait.

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