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Why You Shouldn’t Date for Your First Year of Sobriety

In 12-step programs, they say you shouldn’t date during your first year of sobriety. This can be a challenge for some people. You meet new people during treatment or at meetings, many of whom understand exactly what you’ve been through. Dating seems only peripherally related to drinking and drug use; could dating early in recovery really be that big of a problem, especially if you date someone who’s sober? It might be. Everyone is different, of course, but if you’re single at the beginning of recovery, there are several good reasons to stay that way for at least a year.

A new relationship is a distraction. Sobriety is a big life change that requires focus and commitment. It often requires discipline and support to stick with it through difficult times. New relationships, on the other hand, are loads of fun. The start of a relationship is when you’re all giddy and you hardly even notice you’ve stayed up all night. At a time when it’s crucial to focus on recovery and make positive life changes, you’re distracted by the new relationship. If your recovery is wobbly, the new relationship will be precarious anyway.

You don’t want to fall into old patterns. Many people who struggle with addiction also have unhealthy relationship patterns. Codependency is especially common. Many people in recovery automatically look for someone to take care of or someone who will take care of them. They may not even realize they do this. Falling back into this rut makes relapse more likely. It’s better to take a little time to do the work of recovery and reflect on the old habits that no longer serve you. You might not be able to do that in a year, but you can make a decent start.

Your new partner might relapse. If you meet someone new in treatment or in meetings, you are in particular danger. It might make sense that you would have more in common, but if one of you relapses, the other is more likely to relapse too. If you decide to date someone else in recovery, make sure you’re both on solid ground.

Sober dating is tricky. Typically, when people date, they have dinner or they get drinks. Even if you don’t mind explaining why you don’t drink, you may have to expose yourself to a lot of temptation if you start dating right away. What’s more, dating often makes people anxious, which might make the temptation even worse. Social anxiety plus easily available alcohol is not good for sobriety.

Failure is always a possibility. There’s always a danger that a new relationship will be good for a while, then turn sour. Being stuck in a bad relationship is stressful, as is deciding whether to break it off. Getting dumped is just depressing. You don’t want to deal with any of this early in recovery. It’s hard whenever a relationship falls apart, but if you can make it past the one year mark, you will at least be better equipped to deal with it.

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