This guest blog post was provided by Toby LeBlanc, LPC.
What was that rule again? Was I supposed to wait a year? Or was I supposed to have a plant and a cat first? Let’s face it. The rules for romantic relationships are complicated without adding the wild card of recovery to the deck.
Leaving one’s drug behind is like breaking up. Just like when we end our human relationships, we feel lonely and confused. Replacing old loves with new ones is an old trick. Addicts often don’t realize this is what they’re doing when they jump in a relationship right after getting sober. Often addicts wonder why everyone is making such a big deal. After all, they’re clean.
The feelings of love resemble a high. In fact, I’ve heard many a recovering addict tell me how they’ve never felt this way for anyone before. I’m inclined to believe them since their addiction-altered brain last felt this way about a chemical rather than a person. The lover provides a beautiful distraction the addict believes they can depend on. The feeling is so wonderfully intense it’s hard to believe they ever lived without it, or might have to live without it ever again. The end effect of the new lover is often the same as a drug, too. As the weeks or months pass the love can wear off and/or crash. Now the recovering addict has to take a sober, realistic look at what has become of their life while they were otherwise preoccupied.
I feel the need to say this does not mean all romantic relationships are bad idea for someone in early recovery. However, I do think all individuals in recovery have enough to manage in themselves before they go splitting their attention and energy with someone else. The right time for starting a relationship is personal. Go by the rules if they work for you. But if you decide to step outside of them, do so with the guidance and support of people you already know and trust.