Waiting a Year to Date

A man in recovery brings his girlfriend to an open AA meeting.

Early recovery leads to many feeling fantastic as if they can take on the whole world. This newfound passion for life can lead to many looking for new experiences and fulfillment but can cause them to forget they are still in a fragile state. Many professionals recommend waiting at least a year before entering into a romantic relationship.

The Importance of Year One

Your client’s first year after treatment is the most critical part of their recovery journey. During their first year, they are focused on rebuilding their life. They take all of the tools and lessons gathered from treatment and apply them to everyday life. They are still raw. They are still finding themselves. They are still rebuilding broken connections and establishing their new identity as a sober individual.

In the first year of sobriety, people are still susceptible to relapse, primarily due to Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, or PAWS, which is a collection of emotional or physical symptoms that can occur for many months up to a year after cessation of substance use. PAWS contributes to relapse because recovering individuals are more prone to cravings brought on by irritability and other symptoms. These symptoms can become exacerbated by stress or other negative emotions. The issue here with dating during the first year is that relationships can be an enormous source of stress, even if they are healthy.

The Menacing Pink Cloud

Your client might feel on top of the world, filled with passion, but this is just most likely temporary. Eventually, things start to lose their novelty. It’s not as if sobriety isn’t fun anymore; instead, their new view on life begins to feel normal. The high or honeymoon stage of sobriety in the first year is brought on by what many call “pink cloud syndrome.” You might have heard of the phrase, “looking through life with rose-colored glasses.” The pink cloud is similar in that a person is now experiencing life without substances to cope with life’s difficulties and is influenced instead by a temporary wave of positivity. The pink cloud feeling doesn’t last forever and is often followed by apathy or boredom once things have become routine.

They Are Still Healing

While they might feel amazing right now, there is still a lot of healing that needs to occur. They may have made major breakthroughs in treatment. They might have realized the true source of their addiction and found ways to work on rebuilding their life. While this is great, there is still a lot of action and hard work ahead of them. There will be things about themself and their lives that they will need to continue working on to maintain their sobriety.

Your Client Should Focus On Finding Themselves

This first year of recovery should be about your client reconnecting with who they are. They might have found themselves to a small extent in treatment, but this first year is where they need to expand on that. A healthy relationship involves two people who have a solid sense of identity, which come together to build a life together. However, there needs to be a balance between the life they share and the life outside of that relationship. If they don’t have a solid and stable sense of identity, it’s easy to fall back into old habits and thought processes.

When individuals deal with addiction, they might have struggled with their identity. Additionally, they may have wrapped their identity around it. Now that sobriety and recovery have entered the picture, they might have difficulty recognizing themselves. During the first year, your client should be able to explore all of the possibilities of life without the stress of committing to someone in a romantic relationship. This is when they should focus on aftercare, finding new interests and hobbies, and forming a solid support system.

When They Do Date Again, They Should Take It Slow

Sobriety doesn’t mean that a person needs to be single forever, although there isn’t anything wrong with that. If your client does decide to get back onto the dating horse, it’s recommended that they take it slowly at first. They don’t need to commit fully and completely to the first person they meet on a dating app. In fact, it is a better idea just to get coffee with someone and get to know them. There is not a rush in finding a soulmate. Your client should trust that it will happen when the timing is right and the situation is safe.

The first year of sobriety is an exciting time for the person leaving treatment. The possibilities seem endless during this time period. During addiction, they might have lost important connections. They might feel like they have their life together and are ready to start again. However, if they are still in early recovery, they should still wait to date. Since the first year of recovery is still such a fragile time for your client, they need to remember that they are not indestructible and that they are still learning how to cope in healthy ways. Until they’ve built a healthy foundation and worked on transitioning into a sober lifestyle, they need to take the time to be with themselves and love themselves fully. If you would like to learn more about dating in recovery and when to safely start looking for that special someone, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

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