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Dating in addiction recovery: Should you or shouldn’t you?

By Justin Bagnato

I think there are a lot of great things you hear in early sobriety, especially in 12 step meetings. However, much like organized religion, things are sometimes gravely misinterpreted and taken out of context in some of these anonymous groups. My biggest issue with one of these rules when I first got sober was “no relationships or major changes for one year!” This seemed a little hypocritical to me since you are told the “only thing you have to change is everything if you want to stay sober.”

I was contemplating this “no relationship rule” on a sweltering Phoenix summer day while sitting in rehab last August. Admittedly, how and where I was going to meet girls when I successfully completed this 90 day transformation from drugs and alcohol should have been the last thing on my mind. To that, I say a commonly used term recovery: it’s progress not perfection.

Regardless of how I focused on my own program of recovery, I felt there was a huge void with warding off new romantic relationships for an entire year. I fully understood why this rule was so heavily enforced. Relationships, especially new ones, often end in disaster.. and in that case, relapsing is very much a possibility. However, if intentions and motives were above board, could going against and disobeying a major rule or suggestion in early recovery produce a successful relationship? Is healthy dating in addiction recovery possible? Could two addict/alcoholics produce a positive relationship? Or would this increase the possibility of relapse for both?

Are healthy relationships possible in recovery?

Correlation does not always imply causation, and I believe that healthy relationships within the community of addiction recovery are not out of the realm of possibility. This is essentially why I created SomebodySober.com, a dating site tailor made for addicts made by a recovering alcoholic and addict. Why is such a site needed?

Reasons people might use a recovery dating website

1. Better quality of life

I thought very early on in my recovery that if two people that were indeed serious about recovery and their own sobriety got together, a heightened level of sobriety could be achieved, a happier sobriety. Sobriety is a reality and finding someone like-minded may be crucial to companionship. It’s human nature to seek companionship, so why not make it somebody sober? Plus, when you got sober you produced a refreshed, invigorated best version of yourself. Sobriety is meant to exhaust its unlimited potential and there’s no reason any of should feel lonely…

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2. Matching up view points

Getting sober was the hardest thing I have ever done…meeting people that have the identical views about sobriety being the number one priority in life shouldn’t have to be. The extensive profile questions on SomebodySober.com not only give the description of your views on your own sobriety, they help express where you’re at in your recovery. The blog forums allow the opportunity to voice experiences and struggles without the scrutiny or judgment we sometimes feel.

3. A larger pool

I believe that it’s imperative that people draw from a larger dating pool besides the same individuals that are in the rooms of their anonymous meetings?  Nobody else on the planet has this type of site yet. Our questions make people think… think…think. Besides this, there’s not another platform for someone to really get to understand someone’s sobriety; especially if they want to start a relationship.

To close, expanding interactions with the most possible people that have similar goals in mind is a great ingredient for success in recovery. Even though SomebodySober.com, has raised a lot of eyebrows in recovery communities, life should be truly lived to the fullest. And it’s baffling to me why the “recovery cheerleaders” that are extremely vocal about their sobriety are the ones who usually relapse.

Sound off your opinion now

What do you think? Is there wisdom or restriction in waiting to date in recovery? What worked for you and what would you suggest to others just starting recovery? We welcome your questions or comments in the section below and will try to respond to all legitimate queries with a personal and prompt reply.

Photo credit: jessicahtam

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4 Responses to “Dating in addiction recovery: Should you or shouldn’t you?
Sofia
8:12 pm December 31st, 2014

Great article. Many of us find ourselves with little social contact, except for those in meetings, etc. I am one of those people dedicated to sobriety that did ignore that rule, and luckily it did work out for us. Yes, I ignored the rule, but I am still in that healthy, sober relationship to this day (4 years and counting!) I agree that the added support and understanding that we gave each other made this easier, not harder, to maintain sobriety.

11thtrad
3:42 am January 23rd, 2015

In general, relationships in the first year are a bad idea. I have rarely seen it work and often seen it be the cause of pain and suffering. Now, I obeyed the rule and perhaps that’s why I have over 4 years clean and can’t speak from any negative experiences on this matter. I will say that it takes quite some time to develop a healthy relationship with yourself and there is no doubt that you aren’t any good for anyone else until you are at least good for yourself. What?! Yes, that’s what I said, in early recovery you are a liability and you are most likely a mess and very immature emotionally (yes, regardless of how accomplished, intelligent, driven, or capable you might be). Sometimes this is hard for people to accept and some seem to recognize it quite readily. The tendency to allow others to be a solution to our problems is common and dangerous. If having a relationship was required to stay clean, it would be in the steps. Do some people develop successful relationships early on and continue them for years without every using? Sure. Is this the exception? Yes. In fact, simply staying clean is the exception. In all reality, for perfectly healthy normies, the success rate of a relationship is low (and these are people that tend to cope with life better instinctually…it takes us quite a bit of step work and experience to learn how to cope…but then a lot of us get pretty decent at it :) Anyways, I’m not a statistician but I do know that when you multiply two low probabilities (i.e. the chance of staying clean in your first year and the chance of any given relationship working), you get a much much lower probability of success. Don’t bet on being the exception and don’t make your odds any worse than they have to be. Just be a basic ass, normal recovering addict who follows the guidelines laid out for you. Sometimes it’s ok to just do what you’re told.

David
7:27 am January 30th, 2015

Wow “11thtrad!!!” This is a perfect example how “organized anything” gets SO out of hand with misinterpretation! The “rule 62 of AA” is too “not take yourself too damn seriously!” I wouldn’t typically reference the program of alcoholics anonymous whilst trying to articulate a valid point but it seems pretty natural seeing how that’s all that you could regurgitate in your reply! A broken, mundane record of conformity. Nothing wrong with taking suggestions and following rules, definitely something wrong with not being able to produce any thought or emotion without using AA Big book as the true spoken gospel! When you get sober, you’re given a new lease on life and it is too often just used as a prison sentence! Why the f**k would you get sober if you were going to spend the rest of your life walking on egg shells!! You and others that have this obscured sense of interpretation of the AA teachings are certain to relapse in the beer aisle in 7-11 because you couldn’t deal with the temptation. So yes, relationships are sometimes complicated but if two people are more intelligent and mentally equipped than you seemingly are, there’s not a time frame that one year or ten years is going to help. The article states that “sometimes sobriety gravitates towards sobriety” in situations and I fully agree. Labels are for canned goods in grocery stores. Please for your sake, stop feeling sorry for your “disease” and talking about it incessantly! Go grab life by the short and curly’s and ask that person you’ve been undressing with your eyes in meetings for the last 10 months!!!
David B

Angie
12:03 am April 7th, 2015

I really appreciated your post and the questions that you posed. I look forward to following your blog, as I feel passionate about this topic and about how much pain and even relapse is related to relationship issues. My husband and I had each individually been sober for MANY years and experienced painful relationships as well as long periods of being alone. We were so delighted to finally have a healthy relationship — but it took a lot of work on ourselves and more pain along the way. Anyway, we were so grateful we spent two years writing a book about our experience, “A Spiritual Path to a Healthy Relationship,” about working the program in relationships.

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