Getting into romantic relationships in recovery can be a difficult thing to do. You’ve probably heard many recovering addicts or experts recommend waiting. After all, it’s no secret that most experts recommend waiting until you’re at least a year into recovery. The recommendation is made because recovery takes up a lot of time and effort. It’s also because relationships come with a lot of turbulence. It could interfere with your efforts to achieve sobriety.
With that said, if you’ve found the right person while in recovery, should you really wait? What can you do or what you should you do? What are some golden rules that you should follow, so that relationships in recovery can work out?
There are simply so many questions that need to be answered. In this article, we’ll explore why many people claim that it’s bad to get into relationships in recovery and what you can do despite that.
The Turbulence Of A New Relationship
Let’s first explore why many experts recommend avoiding romantic relationships in recovery. It may not seem like a big deal whether you’ve met your Prince Charming or Cinderella while in addiction recovery. However, romantic relationships in recovery come with a lot of turbulence.
It’s like taking a plane ride in windy skies. While positive emotions may run high, there may also be a lot of negative issues that arise. It’s not unusual for couples to find out that they don’t agree on an important issue or for couples. After all, both couples are still working out how the relationship will work. 85% of all romantic relationships don’t end up working out.
With arguments and mistakes come anger and hurt. These emotions are not strangers to addicts. When negative emotions run high, each person will want to seek some form of consolation for the pain. Unfortunately for many addicts, this might involve returning to their addiction.
Abstinence is a lifestyle choice. It takes time, practice and discipline. For those in early addiction recovery, they may still feel compulsive. They may still feel drawn to their drug of choice to ease discomfort and pain. These feelings can contradict with their progress in recovery and cause conflict. It can interfere with an addict’s ability to implement strategies to avoid substance use. In short, romantic relationships in recovery can expose a recovering addict to a higher level of risk for relapse.
A Dependence On Substance Use Can Transform Into A Dependence on the Relationship
Romantic relationships transform the brain in different ways. Your brain will release dopamine and oxytocin while in a relationship. This is the basis of attraction and also causes the feeling of a strong bond. Many areas of your brain will also light up and show activity when looking at or engaging with a romantic partner.
Since your brain is flooded with many neurotransmitters, it changes the chemistry level in the brain. Some of these chemical changes can mimic the same changes that are experienced when doing illicit drugs and alcohol. Drugs addict may feel a boost of euphoric feelings when in a romantic relationship.
These chemical changes can result in a type of dependence. Instead of being dependent on drugs and alcohol, people in recovery may become dependent and addicted to the relationship. After all,
their brain is still trying to get over the addiction. These chemical changes can also interfere with addiction treatment. Addiction treatment attempts to restore chemical balance in the brain from drug and alcohol abuse.
It’s important to note that chemical changes in the brain continue to happen as the relationship soldiers on. As the relationship progresses, a molecule known as corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) gets released when couples separate. This molecule creates unpleasant feelings that make couples miss each other. It makes couples yearn to see each other again and get back together.
In men, especially, another molecule known as vasopressin is also increased in the brain. Vasopressin has been linked to territorial behavior. This molecule could be the reason why men feel possessive, loyal and protective over their partners. Vasopressin can also promote fidelity in a relationship.
So Should You Jump Into A Relationship Or Not?
With the above factors in mind, it’s important not to jump into romantic relationships in recovery. Keep in mind that this might just be your brain’s way of finding another addiction. After all, it’s easier to convert over from one addiction to another.
Relationships in recovery can cause a significant amount of strain on addiction treatment. It can also cause poor mental health. This is especially true if the relationship is not healthy. If the relationship or the person is right for you, they can wait until you’re able to get and stay sober with the help of addiction treatment programs.
While it’s best to wait until you’ve been sober for quite some time, relationships in early recovery can still work out. If you’re keen on jumping into a relationship, it’s important to let a counselor or a psychiatrist at the drug rehab know. This will give them the opportunity to watch out for warning signs. They’ll also help you navigate through the turbulence of relationships in early recovery. They’ll teach you how to juggle addiction treatment for alcohol and drugs with the emotions of being in a relationship.
Things To Do and Not Do When Getting into a Relationship with a Drug Addict
Getting into a relationship while in recovery is not only difficult for the people in recovery. It’s also difficult for the other party as well. If you’re interested in someone who is in recovery, it’s important that you know what to do to help them get through a drug addiction. You’re a huge pillar of support in their life. Your choices can easily influence their actions and what they do. Let’s look at what you should and shouldn’t do.
Things to Do When Getting into A Relationship With People Going Through Addiction and Recovery
If they have less than a year under their belt, it’s a good idea to let them go through addiction and recovery first. Give them time to get grounded and to establish a strong foundation in recovery before embarking on a new romantic relationship. If both of you feel that you’re ready to get into a relationship, here are some things you can do to support them in their recovery:
- Learn about their recovery program to offer more support. There are a few changes that you might need to make in your own life to support them. This may involve avoiding situations with drugs or alcohol. It may even involve attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings with them.
- Educate yourself about the disease of addiction. Learn about the type of addiction that your partner has. For example, if they have a heroin addiction, take a look at the side effects or withdrawal symptoms that are to be expected. It’s important to understand that addiction is a chronic mental health disease. If you believe that addiction is shameful or a moral failing, don’t jump into a relationship with a recovering drug addict.
- Know your own limits. Figure out what your limits are and stick by it. It’s important to understand that addiction comes with many unsavory effects. Your partner may relapse or may still be under a lot of debt from their drug addiction. They may need to re-enroll in a rehab facility at times to get better.
Being in a relationship with a drug or alcohol addict can be stressful in and of itself. It’s important that you know what you can and cannot tolerate. It’s also important to understand that your involvement can have a profound impact on their addiction recovery.
Things Not To Do When In A Relationship With A Drug Or Alcohol Addict
Dating a drug or alcohol addict involves a substantial amount of responsibility as well. Your actions can have a profound impact on their addiction recovery. If the relationship goes south, it may negatively impact their substance abuse treatment. With that said, there are plenty of things you can do to support your partner. Consider doing the following things:
- Avoid making snap judgments. Don’t judge a person in recovery just because they’re struggling with an addiction. It takes a level of humility and self-awareness for a person in recovery to identify that they have a problem. They’re already doing the best that they can by seeking addiction treatment. Don’t let the stigma of addiction affect how you treat romantic partners in recovery.
- Do not try to rescue or enable the drug addict. It’s not unusual for partners to want to protect the person in recovery from the consequences of their actions. However, these consequences are a necessary part of rehab. Learn how not to enable the addiction.
- Do not ignore the signs of a relapse. Addiction is a mental illness. It’s not unusual for drug users to relapse. Learn how to identify signs of a relapse and how to identify when a person is sober. It takes a lot of skills training to resist temptations. Keep an eye out for signs of addiction.
If your partner has a rehab that they often go to for a relapse, get more rehab information. You want to be a pillar of support every step of the way. Learn about outpatient treatment and inpatient treatment programs, as well as how to best support a loved one. Help them improve their self-image, so they feel confident again.