Lately, we’ve been fielding quite a few questions regarding relationships in early recovery. If you’ve ever been to a community 12 Step meeting, I’m confident you’ve heard this issue addressed with multiple responses, such as:
– No dating before you get a year in sobriety.
– No major changes in the first year: if you’re in a relationship, stay in it; if you’re not in one, don’t start a new one.
– Buy a plant. If it’s alive after six months, get a pet. If they’re both alive in another year, you can think about starting a relationship.
– There’s no such thing as a relationship in early recovery, just a hostage situation!
Getting through a year of life – the holidays, celebrations, disappointments, and grief – with the support of the program first is a positive choice. I do believe there is some validity to the suggestions listed above. Tapping into the wisdom of folks that “have been there” will always be beneficial, even if you don’t agree with their suggestions!
Personally, though, I have an alternative suggestion. Instead of starting a new relationship with someone else, especially when you’re so vulnerable, how about you embark on a new relationship with yourself? Do you know who the “clean and sober” you is? There’s a definitive difference between the addictive you and the sober you! Who would you like to be and how will you get there? What’s your favorite color? Your favorite food? Have you tried anything out of your comfort zone since your recovery journey began? Seems silly, but make no mistake, these are very real issues in the first few months of the recovery process.
The best example I can share with you today is based on actual events that happened to someone I know pretty well. He was beginning a relationship (he was 14 months clean and sober!) with a person that, at one time, was a prima ballerina who had danced with some pretty famous ballet companies. She asked him if he’d like to attend a ballet. Of course, he refused, citing the fact that he was “an athlete, not a dancer.” After some coaxing, she convinced him to go. To this day, he still talks about the shame he felt when watching the performance from the first row, marveling at what he described as “some of the best athletes I’ve ever seen.” To this day, he still attends these and other live shows. He not only got out of his comfort zone, he enjoyed it! He began to discover himself. Here he was confident that the new sober him was ready for a new relationship, yet he didn’t even know who the new sober him really was.
So, get to know you, get to like you – seek, discover, and enjoy you. In doing this, you will have a small idea of what you can bring to a true relationship!