Relationships in Recovery

Why is it that nearly all sponsors say not to get into relationships in recovery within your first year? Here are a couple of the many reasons our OC drug rehab can think of off the tops of our heads.

You really don’t have anything to offer yet

Let’s face it, when we enter the rooms of recovery, we are pretty torn up. We come in with little physically, mentally, spiritually, or emotionally.

But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be with someone else. Although we don’t realize it at the time, this is often because we want the escapism and validation we found through our drug and alcohol [ab]use. Rather than work the Steps or improve our spiritual health, we’d much rather find that so-called special someone who “really gets us.”

Of course, we don’t even know ourselves at this point, so how can anyone else be expected to know what we’re really like?

Your head still isn’t fully clear—even after one year clean and sober

Even if you do work the Steps and work a kickass program of recovery, your mind has still not recovered fully after one year of being clean and sober. Although the worst of your detox is finished, you still have years before you are back to pre-abuse functionality neurologically.

That is, of course, assuming your brain recovers fully, which isn’t guaranteed. However, most of the neurological damage is repaired after three years of abstaining from drugs and alcohol.

Framed in this context, the recommendation to not get into a relationship in your first year is pretty generous.

We don’t know how to make mistakes in relationships in recovery without drinking or using

We all make mistakes. We, as addicts and alcoholics, all consume chemicals like it was going out of style. We also don’t know how to handle those mistakes when we make them other than getting loaded.

Part of the reason that alcoholism and addiction are so damaging on our development is that we miss out on a lot of the practice we get learning how to actually cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. These coping skills take years to develop, but instead, we’ve opted to bypass this necessary social skill.

When we get clean and sober, we have a lot of catching up to do, and subjecting another person to our lack of development in a relationship is not fair to either person. It is also highly likely that any issues that arise will result in using the coping mechanisms we’ve used or so long: namely drinking and/or using.

We all pretty much know how that turns out.

To protect old-timers

A man much wiser than myself told me once that not getting into a relationship in your first year has nothing to do with protecting the newcomer—it’s to protect the old-timer!

Newcomers go out and get loaded all the time. This isn’t new, or shocking, or a judgment; they are addicts and alcoholics doing what addicts and alcoholics do, which is get loaded.

For the person who has been fortunate enough to put some time together, though, it is a break from the norm. In a sense, the sober alcoholic with time is an endangered species (literally). Therefore, it is important to protect that which is a phenomenon (i.e., the sober alcoholic) from being wiped out by encroaching forces.

To teach reliability on God—not someone else

Perhaps the biggest reason not to get into a relationship in your first year is because often times, alcoholics and addicts become dependent on that new relationship rather than working towards greater spiritual health. Both the relationship with another person and the relationship with God take work, and guess which one feels better most of the time—especially when you have very little or no self-esteem.

Once we learn how to have a healthy relationship with our dysfunctional selves and a Perfect Entity, we can then take the training wheels off and work towards forming romantic relationships. That doesn’t mean it can’t work out, but the odds are stacked against the addict/alcoholic.

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