Finding Love in Recovery by Sara Loughlin, LCSW

Finding love in recovery can be challenging, but it can also be much more rewarding, healthy, and lasting than any relationship while one is in their addiction. Real love requires intimacy, which is something that the very nature of addiction blocks. People in their addiction will often escape the difficulties of a relationship by using, and this prevents both partners from communicating and working through their issues. Someone that is truly working a recovery program is developing insight into their feelings and behaviors and is practicing open and honest communication on a regular basis. They have also practiced coping tools to manage their feelings. These actions are foundational to a successful relationship.
Alcoholics Anonymous and many other recovery models strongly suggest that you have at least a year of sobriety before you start dating. There are many reasons for this, the main one being that the person in recovery can build up their sober coping tools before testing them in the intense arena of love. Most addict/alcoholics are avoiding painful feelings. In recovery you have to learn how to tolerate strong feelings while resisting the urge to escape these through using. We are most vulnerable when we are in a relationship and therefore it brings out the most extreme feelings in us. Trying to have a relationship while newly sober is like going straight into American Ninja Warrior after being a couch potato for years- you are going to wipe out. Wiping out in this case equals relapsing, which can take a dramatic toll on one’s health, self esteem, trust that you just started rebuilding with friends and family, not to mention any legal consequences, losing one’s job, etc. etc.
Once you have your year’s sobriety it can be daunting to start dating again. Many times people will have feelings for peers in their recovery program- maybe someone from their home group. Be careful with this. By hearing someone’s story and going through the process of recovery with someone it does build a connection, but you have to think of the consequences if it doesn’t work out. Will it be awkward at your home group? If so, you have just damaged a major support structure for your sobriety. There are many people in Los Angeles, so there are other people to date. There are even many dating apps that can connect you to other singles with a year or more of recovery.
Other tips for dating in recovery are to take it very slowly. It can be easy for people in recovery to use dating like a distraction- they escape focusing on themselves and get totally wrapped up in what is going on in their dating life. Once in a new relationship the intense feelings can be intoxicating- it is important to slowly get to know the other person while staying grounded in your recovery program. The relationship that is most important in recovery is your relationship with yourself- that you rebuild your self worth. Don’t put yourself in situations where you will feel badly about yourself afterwards. As always, wishing you all the best on your recovery journey!

Elana Clark-Faler
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