In early recovery, there are several recommendations you should follow to prevent relapse and more easily adjust to your new-found sobriety. These recommendations include avoiding triggering people and places, regularly attending meetings and staying single.
Here are five reasons why staying single is ideal when you’re in the early stages of recovery.
#1: The Focus Needs to Be on You
When you’re concentrating on the first phases of your recovery, the work can be both emotionally and psychologically taxing. The majority of your focus should be on implementing the sobriety tools you acquired during treatment, including managing your emotions and planning for triggers.
If you decide to enter a romantic relationship during this critical time, your focus may shift from maintaining your sobriety to spending time with your love interest. Establishing and maintaining a relationship in early recovery most often serves as a distraction, taking away energy that should be used on your recovery.
#2: Romance Can Cause Stress
Romance can be fun and rewarding, but it also can be stressful—and stress can lead to relapse.1 The energy that you spend on a romantic partner while you’re simultaneously working to maintain your sobriety may cause stress, because there’s only so much of you to go around. You can avoid this stress if you hold off on romance until you are further along in your recovery. You’ll be better equipped to handle the potential stress of romance later in recovery.
#3: Your Mind Needs Time to Heal
Substance abuse causes major changes in the structures and functions of the brain, and during early recovery the brain is repairing itself. The mental processes that help you to make good decisions and rational judgments need time to stabilize. Entering a romantic relationship before you’re mentally ready means you’re more likely to miss red flags in someone’s behavior that could indicate incompatibility.
#4: Romance Can Mimic Addiction
Research suggests that romantic love leads to a mental state that’s similar to substance abuse.2 Feelings of romantic love activate the same areas of the brain that addiction does, and this can further shift your focus away from recovery and onto your love interest. At this critical time of early recovery, becoming romantically involved can be destabilizing to your sobriety and open the door to relapse.
#5: If the Relationship Goes Bad, Your Recovery Could Be Threatened
Breakups are hard to go through for most people, but the ending of a relationship could be especially hard in early recovery. If you’re upset or depressed over a breakup, it could lead to a relapse if you resort to old coping methods that involve substance abuse.
It Will Be Worth the Wait
It’s better to wait until you’re further along in your recovery and on firmer ground before beginning a romance. Waiting ensures that you have healed more thoroughly and can make sound decisions about entering a relationship. Early recovery isn’t the time to add romance to your life; it’s the time to build solid foundations so that when you’re ready to date, you’ll be the best person you can be for your partner—as well as for yourself.