How soon is too soon to be dating after rehab?
So you went to rehab and emerged on the other side. You’re clean, your head’s on straight, and you can think clearly for the first time in a while. People arrive at this point ready to take on the world, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, when it comes to dating after rehab, waiting is key.
The pitfalls of entering a relationship too soon
Most people in rehab are young adults, and dating is something that young adults do. There is no getting around that. There is also no getting around the fact that by going to rehab you just invested a ton of time and effort into your well-being. No one is worth coming in between that.
Unfortunately, new relationships in recovery carry a high risk of leading to relapse, or at the very least taking your focus away from yourself. After rehab, you and your peers are particularly vulnerable. You have a new sense of freedom and strength, but the truth is you are also extremely impressionable. This is why having a proper aftercare regimen is crucial to maintaining sobriety.
Still not convinced? The number of people who relapse right after rehab is anywhere from 50 – 90%. When young adults relapse, they often do so in a group. If you are dating someone who is also new in recovery, they are just as vulnerable as you and they are still learning to trust themselves to stay sober. If one person is tempted, it is easy for the other to be the “tipping point” that sends both in a relapse downward spiral.
On the other hand, if you are dating someone who isn’t in recovery, they may not understand what you are going through. They may unintentionally cause you to relapse by drinking alcohol or taking drugs while around you. Also, you may still not be comfortable enough to be honest about your situation. Before you are, don’t tempt yourself because you’ll be likely to give in to peer pressure thinking you can do so “just this once”.
Things that Factor Into Your Ability to Date in Recovery
The answer to when you personally are ready to date relies on your history, where you are in life, your current mindset, and how strong you feel. Many factors help to determine if you are ready for dating and what your chance of relapse will be. Here are some things to think about.
- In your new sobriety, you are re-learning who you are. You may have spent six months in a downward spiral of drugs or alcohol, or six years. Either way, it significantly impacted the way you lived your life, the people you hung around with, and the activities you took part in. After rehab, you are getting to know yourself on a completely different level. Things that don’t involve drugs or alcohol (like hobbies) will begin to surface. You need to get to know what those are on a deep level before you can share them with someone else.
- Next, you need to think about where you are in life. If you are living in a halfway house that is a great first step towards sustained sobriety. However, it isn’t the best launching pad for a brand new relationship. Most reputable sober homes have a strict policy on bringing members of the opposite sex around or dating within the house. It isn’t worth getting in trouble and risking getting kicked out.
- Also, this is a time to get yourself financially stable again. Focus on finding work and getting back on your feet before you dive into the dating pool. No one wants to go on a first date and barely have the money to treat your love interest to a diet coke. For the first time in a while – possibly the first time ever – you are spending money on something other than drugs and alcohol. Allow yourself to get back on your feet before you begin to spend your money on someone else.
- Think about where your head’s at, and be honest with yourself. Do you cringe every time you pass by a bar and want to go in and have a beer more than anything? Or do you still get massive cravings for your drug of choice and know that in your heart you’d give in if it were in front of you? If so, the substance is still in control, not the other way around. Wait until you aren’t constantly struggling with the temptation to put yourself out there.
So When is it the Right Time to Begin Dating After Rehab?
Many people say the right time is a year. While this is a good guideline, it isn’t the same for everyone. It’s important to take the factors above into serious consideration. A solid year of sobriety after rehab gives you a better sense of self. You will have gone through a number of life experiences and successfully handled them while sober. Each experience that you do so makes you stronger.
You need to evaluate whether or not you are dating someone for the right reasons. No matter what, it is never smart to rely on someone else on your own personal happiness. They will not be able to fill the void you are trying to fill. You will only end up becoming co-dependent. Learning to work through life’s ups and downs by yourself will make you a strong individual. That’s what will make you equipped to be a good boyfriend or girlfriend when the time is right.
Lastly, don’t worry that you are going to miss out. If that cute girl you met at your home group meeting is really fated to be the one that’s meant to be your life partner, she’ll still be around in a year or so. It makes more sense to wait until the time is right to build a life with someone, rather than risking the potential of bringing each other down.