If you’re anticipating a Valentine’s Day as a single—and sober—individual, there really is a lot to celebrate. People in early recovery are often advised not to make any major life changes, such as beginning a romantic relationship with a new girlfriend or boyfriend.1 The emotional highs and lows that can come with dating a new person are associated with an increased risk for relapse. Here’s some of the science behind the benefits of being single and sober.
Training Your Brain to Be Single
Mental health professionals are nearly unanimous in saying that being single—or staying in a relationship, if you’re already in one—for the first 12 months of sobriety is the safest approach to take.
When you’re newly sober, you’re facing enough challenges as it is. Adding the complexities of dating and all of the emotional highs and lows that come with romance can create instability that doesn’t support your recovery. Consistency in routine is important to helping you maintain focus on your sobriety and prioritizing your recovery above all else.
Additionally, there is concern that a person may follow negative behavior patterns and switch one addiction for another. A person in recovery can replace the high from using drugs or alcohol with the highs of romantic attraction and sex. While you deserve to be happy, there are other ways to accomplish this besides starting a new romance.
Finding News Ways to Relate to People
Unfortunately, a common defense mechanism for someone in recovery is isolation. A person may tend to cut themselves off from others because they feel ashamed or are struggling and don’t have a support system in place.2 Being in recovery is a great time to build relationships, but these don’t have to be romantic to be fulfilling. Learning how to start new friendships or re-connect with your friends and family can go a long ways toward reinforcing your sobriety.
Being single on Valentine’s Day is great because it shows that you are trying to start personal relationships with people in an honest, friends-only way. Once you can create authentic friendships and build your support system, you can then think about a future romantic relationship.
When Are You Ready?
During active addiction, you may not have been honest with yourself about your emotions. As a sober individual, you are learning to sort out these emotions, and you’re establishing how you feel about yourself and the world around you without drugs or alcohol.
While it’s a good idea to stay single this Valentine’s Day, this doesn’t mean you have to commit to a lifetime of singlehood to stay sober. Some of the signs that you are ready to get back into the dating world include:
- You have a strong social support network made up of friends, family, sponsors and therapists
- You have established a strong sense of who you are and what you need
- You have bonded with friends in and out of the recovery setting in a non-romantic way
When you are ready to begin a romantic relationship, try telling close family or friends. This way, if you should find you need extra support along the way, they’re there to help you.