As you continue to rebuild your life clean and sober, you may now have the desire to look for a partner who can be a part of your support system and become an added benefit to your new life. However, the idea of now trying to search for a potential partner may seem daunting or even frightening. You have more things to take into consideration now that you are sober and you may not even be certain if your current stage of recovery is a good time to look.
Mountainside Addiction Psychiatrist Dr. Alkesh Patel weighs in on what you need to look for in a potential partner and when is the best time in your recovery to start looking for one.
When is the best time in recovery to start looking for a relationship?
This is often a difficult question and sometimes one of the most common questions people ask who are looking to embark on intimate relationships while in recovery. There are no hard and fast rules to answering this question, other than one must understand that the better one feels comfortable with themselves in recovery, the better they will be prepared to introduce others into their lives. Understanding oneself first helps build a better foundation from which other relationships can hopefully prosper.
Are there any benefits or concerns with seeking out other individuals in recovery?
One would think that it would be a benefit or easier to seek someone else out in recovery. The pros and cons have to be weighed here. Not everyone who has abstained from drugs or alcohol are in a good spot in recovery. Some people may not be working a good program, or may have other agendas or issues related to codependency and not being able to successfully manage loneliness. If you are considering a relationship with someone else in recovery, make sure you are first in a good place, and make sure that the other person does not have other “hidden” agendas. If you end up dating or being with someone in recovery, make sure you each prioritize your recovery and do not “blend into” each other, but make sure each of you can commit to your daily commitments and stay sober.
What are the most important things they should take into consideration when looking for a potential partner?
Trust, honesty, and integrity are some basic values. Avoid common pitfalls such as dating people who recently relapsed, or those who have not been working a good recovery program. You want to avoid people who recently relapsed because they need to focus on their program, and will probably not be so focused on building relationships outside themselves. Maintaining sobriety can be a selfish endeavor, and sometimes for good reasons!
How much should they tell a potential partner about their addiction and when is a good time to do so in the relationship?
This is always a difficult question and there really is not an ideal set time in which one should share their past history of treatment or addiction. You will feel and know when the right time has come, and usually a better time is after you have met several times and established a basic sense of trust and feel comfortable sharing this information.
What are good types of places a person in recovery should consider when looking for someone? And what places should they avoid?
Places that do not jeopardize personal recovery are places where one can go to explore other relationships. It would be more prudent to consider meeting someone in a sober setting rather than a bar or place where drugs or alcohol are in close proximity. Always secure your sobriety first, never putting oneself in danger, even when trying to meet other people.
Once they have found someone, what healthy techniques should someone in recovery use to cope with any anxiety that may come with a new relationship?
Open communication, not hiding secrets, being transparent, and having a two-way dialogue talking about the new experience and journey together can really help bridge the gap and alleviate anxiety. If anxiety becomes overwhelming, it’s also a good idea to get it checked out and speak to a therapist or psychiatrist for a second opinion. Talking about fears and anxiety in your 12-step program can also help and make the transition much easier!