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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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    Marietta, GA 30066

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