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4 Pitfalls in Recovery Self-care

Recovery is a journey. It is often a lengthy process, and there will be a number of hidden difficulties along the way, many of which you may not be expecting or think that you can handle.

In order to take care of yourself during this time, there may be certain things you think you should do or people to see that will help. However, not everything is safe, and some people or places can be triggering and may put you at risk of relapse.

Spending Time with Certain People

It can be tempting to hang around with the same people you did when you had an active addiction, due to wanting a social life, fun, and connection. As difficult as it may be to avoid these people, it is important to try to spend time away from them when you are in recovery. They could act as a social trigger, an interaction with a person or group of people which prompts cravings for drugs or alcohol.

Making new friends who still drink or use drugs regularly as a way to socialize is dangerous too as this could lead to relapse.

You may be worried that you will feel isolated without these people in your life for now. However, there are other, safer, and healthier ways to form a friendship group and gain support. 12-step meetings and sober support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can help you to feel protected and empowered as well as provide a sense of connection. You could also consider joining a sports team or a hobby you enjoy, such as a pottery class or photography club, as a healthy way to meet new people and not feel isolated.

Overthinking Your Recovery

It is natural to want to have the best recovery possible. However, if you overthink and worry about your journey and something doesn’t go to plan (which may happen), it will lead to self-doubt, negative self-talk, and lower self-esteem. All of these things can make you feel like you may as well give up or that you have failed in some way.

It is important to understand how tough recovery can be and be kind to yourself and proud of yourself for being on this journey, no matter the difficulties you may face or if something trips you up. The key thing is to keep trying and not give up, and letting go of perfection will help to make this process easier.

Starting a Romantic Relationship

Beginning a romantic relationship in early recovery might seem like a great idea: a chance to have a support system, emotional connection, and comfort. However, unfortunately, this is generally advised against.

This is because:

  • It can distract from your recovery journey. Romance in the first year of being sober often replaces your recovery goals and stops you from being disciplined and motivated, which can put you in a vulnerable position. You may miss 12-step meetings, therapy appointments, and spend less time repairing important friendships and relationships with family members to spend more time with your partner.
  • It can lead to identity problems. A life without drugs or alcohol may make you feel as if you have lost a sense of who you are, and feel confused about your identity. It is vital to spend this new year working on yourself, creating healthy habits, and rediscovering things that make you feel happy. Entering into a romantic relationship too soon can fill this gap of identity with another person, which will make you extra vulnerable if you break up or encounter problems.
  • Love is a drug. As a recovering addict, you may become obsessed with the intoxicating feelings of love, and forget to work on yourself and heal from within. Love can have the same effect on your brain as drugs and swapping drugs and alcohol with love is dangerous as it can make it tough to figure out who you are on your own.

Over-Indulging in Exercise

The benefits of exercise in recovery, and in general, are huge: it boosts your happiness, health, and makes you feel good about yourself. However, you should bear in mind that becoming obsessed with exercise has similarities to drug addiction.

Compulsive exercising can lead to someone feeling like they need to work out but not gaining any pleasure from it and can lead to injuries and exhaustion. It can also lead to neglect in other areas of recovery, such as rebuilding relationships and attending appointments.


Being aware of some of the common pitfalls during recovery self-care will help you to feel prepared for, and perhaps even avoid, some of the challenges which may arise. The important thing is to be kind to yourself and not to worry if you make mistakes or feel like you are struggling. Recovery is a difficult process, but with the right support and guidance, you will get through it. Continuing this journey will be one of the best decisions you will ever make.

Should You Start a Romantic Relationship in Early Recovery?

As tempting as it may feel to begin a romantic relationship whilst in early recovery, it is not advised. Relationships can cause a lot of intense feelings and thus put your sobriety in jeopardy. 

As unappealing as it may sound, now is the time to be hitting pause on romance and instead putting your energy into focusing on yourself. Working hard in early recovery will mean that your future can be filled with healthy, sustainable relationships that will benefit both you and your significant other.

Relationships in Early Recovery

Romantic relationships can be wonderful, but they can cause major issues in early recovery:

Identity Problems

It is important to use the first year of recovery to focus on yourself. Using drugs and alcohol can become a part of your identity, and so a life without them may make you feel like you have lost your sense of self. Rebuilding an identity for yourself and discovering your passions, hobbies and what you enjoy in life is vital to feel confident and capable of being with someone romantically later down the line. 

Dating may confuse this new identity you are starting to create, as you may begin to use your partner to provide your new sense of self and become over-reliant on them, which is not healthy or sustainable. 

Love Is a Drug 

It can be incredibly tempting to replace the void left by substance abuse with the intoxicating feelings of love and dating. Swapping your addiction to drugs or alcohol with a relationship is dangerous as you can become addicted to this feeling and never learn about who you are and how to be on your own.

Seeking comfort through a relationship may feel like the right thing to do as it will feel as if there is a gap left from quitting drugs and alcohol that needs to be filled. However, this will ultimately hurt you in the long term as you will become over-reliant on your partner, and in order to be truly happy, you need to fix your internal emotional void yourself rather than using external sources to plug it. 

Intimacy and romance can have a similar effect on the brain as drugs and alcohol. Therefore, substituting substances for dating is risky because, if things go wrong, there is a very high chance for relapse. 

Romance Is a Distraction From Recovery

Recovery is an active effort and it is important to be disciplined in attending appointments and meetings, maintaining a healthy routine, and rebuilding trust and relationships with those you may have hurt. 

Romantic relationships can distract you from your goals and become the primary focus, rather than the recovery journey. This can then put you in a vulnerable position and may make you more likely to slip back into old habits. With time and practice, sobriety won’t feel like such a challenge, and then starting a romantic relationship will be much more sustainable and healthier for both you and your partner. 

Is Dating a Hard No for Everyone?

Although starting a romantic relationship is generally not advised, this is not a strict requirement for everyone. It may be difficult for some people who meet a person they are immediately attracted to, and human connection and closeness is a key component in a healthy and happy life. 

Creating balance and moderation is key. For some, such as those who have a history of toxic relationships or who feel they have used a relationship to fill a void, withholding from romance altogether is the most sensible suggestion in early recovery in order to stay focused on healing. 

If you do decide to enter into a romantic relationship, make sure that it is not being prioritized over your recovery and that your partner is clear about the fact that you are in early recovery. Some questions you could ask yourself include:

  • How does this relationship affect my recovery just now and also in the future?
  • How much free time am I dedicating to this person compared to spending time on my recovery journey? 
  • Do I feel empowered from my relationship, or am I filling an emotional void?

Make sure that you are being honest with yourself about how emotionally prepared you are for a new relationship when you are in the vulnerable stage of early recovery. It is a serious consideration, and you need to bear in mind that there will be two of you involved and you must consider how fair it is on the other person as well. 


Romantic relationships in early recovery, although largely advised against, are all down to the individual. Make sure to take things slowly, in moderation, and not let them overtake your recovery. Be honest and open with support groups or counselors so that you have the right support and advice to help you navigate it without hurting yourself or the other person. 

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