Dating a former addict

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“We have to learn to love ourselves before we can love someone else.” People in recovery might choose to date a very different type of person when they first quit using as compared to when they have achieved a year of sobriety, observes Desloover.

Recovering people often have learned to either shut down and hold in their emotions for fear of being hurt or to romanticize their relationships and fall in love at the first opportunity, without discriminating.

Early in recovery, relationships are one of the leading causes of relapse.

Although the Big Book of AA doesn’t offer guidelines on dating in recovery, addiction counselors strongly advise waiting until a person has achieved one year of sobriety.

Tanya Desloover, MA, CADCII, a marriage and family therapist intern at The Rose, a women-only addiction treatment center in Newport Beach, California, also recommends waiting one year.

“It is commonly recommended in the recovery community to avoid romantic relationships for the first year, because most of us are just beginning to get to know ourselves and to define our values,” Desloover says.

This person often is abusive or codependent, as is the recovering person early on.

Codependent individuals focus too heavily on the needs of their partner (“My happiness is dependent on making/keeping you happy”), and define themselves by their relationship, sometimes lowering their personal standards to please someone else.

This control is attractive at first, but soon becomes controlling or abusive” says Desloover.Insomnia, triggers, drug cravings, and the need to deal with emotions that were previously numbed with drugs make early recovery a period of enormous adjustment.Learning to feel emotions again, including positive feelings of love and intimacy, can be one of the most challenging parts of recovery, but also one of the most rewarding.“Love addiction becomes a concern when infatuation replaces the ‘high’ of drug use,” notes Desloover.“Whether the object of the addiction is drugs or an unhealthy attachment to another person, the individual is searching for something outside themselves to fill the emotional void within.” The “rush” of a new relationship can be emotionally damaging and can derail even the most valiant recovery effort.

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