The Tara Treatment Center Blog

One (Valentine’s) Day at a Time: Mike Denton on Dating in Recovery

an Unofficial rule for newfound sobriety...

There is an unwritten rule regarding relationships for those in early recovery…

When newly sober and in early recovery, don’t date.  Focus on finding yourself.

To be fair–it’s not a formal rule, and not directly addressed in the 12 steps.  But addiction counselors agree it’s a good idea.

Mike Denton on knowing when you're ready to date in recovery

This Psychology Today article argues that “The recovering addict should have at least one year of sobriety, and preferably many more before dating.”  It also stresses the importance of actively working a recovery program when entering into a new relationship.

  • A romantic interest can become a substitute addiction. There is a sort of ‘high’ involved in the infatuation stage of a new relationship, and it can be abused in a similar way. We need to make sure we’re recovering from addiction as opposed to trading one for another.
  • Dating is Distraction. Much of our time must be focused on working the steps, especially in early recovery.  Dating costs us time, money, and emotional energy which might be better focused on our recovery.
  • Dating Doesn’t Fill the Void. Many of those who struggle with addiction are used to using external means of solving internal problems.  It can be tempting to turn to a romantic partner in this way, but the resulting relationship would likely have co-dependency issues.

As Mike Denton puts it, “You’ll know you’re ready to consider a relationship after truly demonstrating that you can care for someone else.  I’d start with a houseplant.  If it’s still alive in six months, get a cat.  If a year goes by and pet and plant are still going strong, you can start to think about a new relationship.” 

So be patient and use this Valentine’s Day to date yourself.  Focus on repairing your existing (family/platonic) relationships and by next year you’ll be able to show off your pet and plant to that newfound love interest.

Check here for more on relationships in addiction recovery