Establishing and maintaining a relationship can be challenging for a number of different reasons. However, when you add the challenges of remaining abstinent from drug or alcohol abuse relationship issues can become further complicated. Once the decision has been made to engage in a sober living lifestyle, those that are now in recovery have opened up a world of opportunity and possibility for themselves. Opportunities include the option to rebuild one’s life, mending formally fragmented relationships, overall getting back what was once perceived as lost.

Social, familial, and romantic relationships can be a great source of happiness in sobriety, but they can also be a source of great pain. Pain can exist and become exacerbated when friends, family members, or romantic partners continued to punish those in recovery for behaviors conducted in the past, behaviors that were engaged in while compromised by drugs and alcohol. By repeatedly being punished for things done in the past it can create feelings of anger, depression, and resentment as there is a feeling of never being able to escape one’s past, unable to grow and mature. Those in recovery must get to know themselves all over again, i.e., why he or she began using and subsequently abusing drugs or alcohol in the first place, what feelings were they attempting to medicate, what they are trying to escape, etc.

One of the worst and most dangerous things that an individual can do in early recovery is jump headfirst into romance. Jumping headfirst into a romantic relationship can prevent thorough exploration of self and the reasons he or she is seeking sobriety. Individuals seeking recovery are strongly advised to remain focused on themselves until they become strong in their sobriety. Once they are settled in their new life, they can then begin to consider sharing it with somebody else. Those in recommended are encouraged to refrain from initiating or trying to establish a romantic relationship within the first year of their recovery. One of the primary reasons for avoiding a relationship within the first year of recovery include the need and importance of getting one’s priorities in order, which is sobriety.

Once the abuse of drugs or alcohol has ceased the abuser typically experiences an emotional roller coaster, feeling most of the feeling they had avoided during their use. The last thing that an individual will want to do is add additional stressors to their life which can compromise their recovery process. Those in early recovery that rush into a romantic relationship tend to make terrible choices, i.e., mate selection, resolving conflict in the relationship, have communication issues, or maybe attempting to substitute a romantic relationship with that of drugs or alcohol.

Here are 6 signs you are focusing more on your relationship than your recovery:

  • You jump into a new relationship almost immediately after you decide to become sober
  • You stop doing what you need to do to stay sober, i.e., stop attending meetings, stop attending therapy, avoiding sober support system, etc.
  • You start romanticizing the times when you were abusing drugs or alcohol, i.e., painting them out to be enjoyable times in your life rather than focusing on what you have lost because of the abuse.
  • Whenever a conflict emerges in the relationship you begin to consider reverting to alcohol or drugs use as a way of escaping.
  • Your romantic relationship becomes your primary concern rather than your sobriety.
  • You begin seeking out old friends from your substance-abusing days.

Liam & Danielle

Liam & Danielle have been in a dating relationship for 3 months. Liam was fully transparent with Danielle, informing her of his lengthy past with cocaine addiction. Liam has used and abused cocaine for more than 3 years, finally making a decision to get sober after a near fatal use that led to his hospitalization. Liam has been clean and sober for 4 months, i.e., attending meetings, receiving individual therapy to address the underlying issues leading to and maintaining his addiction, and regular maintaining regular contact with his sponsor.

Liam met Danielle 1 month after he became clean, quickly starting a relationship with her. The first month after meeting Danielle, Liam was committed to the recovery process, attending all groups and meetings. However, for the last month and a half he has been inconsistent with his group attendance, frequently cancels his therapy sessions, and avoids calls from his sponsor.

Did Liam jump into a relationship with Danielle too soon? If he remains in this romantic relationship is it likely that Liam will revert to familiar behaviors, i.e., drug use and abuse?