So you’ve begun to get the cravings under control and are starting to rebuild your life. You’re changing habits, changing your thinking and feeling hopeful about the future. As you begin to find more enjoyment throughout your days, you might also be thinking it would be nice to have someone to share all these beautiful things with. But before you jump head first into dating, or a relationship, you need to ask yourself if you’re really ready for dating in recovery. While finding that special someone to share your life with has many benefits, it’s also a big responsibility. Below are four questions to help you decide whether it’s time to write dating into this chapter of your life.
1. Have you given yourself enough time to develop your ideal version of you?
Often during active addiction, we can lose our sense of self. We’re attached to drugs, alcohol and/or behaviors which take a lot of our time, attention and resources. It’s not uncommon to quit an addiction and find yourself wondering just who you are without it. Many people find early (and even later) recovery to be a time of self-reflection and renewal. You’re rekindling old interests and finding new ones. You’re re-prioritizing your values and core beliefs about yourself and the world. You’re taking up new activities, hobbies and friends. Your life is changing in many ways, and it’s important not only to enjoy this process of change, but allow time for it to truly develop and take hold. If you shift your focus to another person too soon, you risk the possibility of shortchanging yourself on a solid foundation and developing a relationship with the person who matters most: yourself.
2. How well do you know and trust your instincts?
Addiction and its underlying causes have a way of anesthetizing our gut reactions to people, places and things. Learning to trust your instinct can be a lifelong process, but it is of particular concern in earlier recovery. Learning to pay attention to internal alarms, as well as how to deal with them and make good decisions which will protect our best interests is key to a healthy foundation. If our internal measuring system for which we determine what is good and healthy for us isn’t fully developed, we can get into trouble. Relationships are vulnerable to this, and without a sense of who is good for us and who isn’t, it’s easy to get into something with someone who will only bring us down.
3. Is your personal strength independent of others?
Sometimes being in a relationship can make us feel strong. We feel as though we can conquer anything – as long as we have the other person. This thinking might be romantic, but it is impractical at best. Sure, we want to be with someone who has our back (so to speak), but we need to know that we have our own. It’s important to be able to stand on our own two feet whether we are in a relationship or not. What if the person you’re with begins to threaten your recovery? Maybe they have addiction issues of their own? Maybe they hurt you or don’t support your recovery. Are you strong enough to decide when the relationship is no longer worth the threat to your overall happiness and well-being? Are you strong enough to leave? Even if the relationship is absolutely wonderful, are you strong enough to endure a break up if things don’t work out? If you feel like any of this might jeopardize your recovery, you might want to hold off until you’re feeling a little more confident in your strength and independence.
4. Are you using a relationship to escape?
It’s not uncommon to find someone who is using dating or a relationship to take them away from reality. Are you feeling bored? Tired of focusing on your recovery? Feeling lonely? If you answer yes to these questions or others like them, you might want to look a little more deeply at your motives for seeking out another person. Love can be a powerful distraction and infatuation perhaps an even stronger one. So many chemical changes take place when we are interested in someone, love and infatuation act very much like the substances we were once dependent upon. It is critical that you be honest with yourself as to why you are wanting to date or get involved with another person. If it’s for any reason other than to share this super amazing life you’ve been building for yourself, then it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your motives.