It’s something many, if not most of us single people think about on a regular basis: finding someone we can spend the rest of our lives with and living happily ever after. Before we get to that point, however, we have to go through the turbulent and often downright terrifying world of dating. This can be, and is, daunting enough for people in the sober community and it can be even more overwhelming for those of us in recovery.
When we first leave treatment, we’re often told not to rush into anything; to live one day at a time; to take on only what we can handle. As time goes on, however, we find ourselves longing for company, as everyone does from time to time. When we start thinking about dating again we basically have three choices: rush into something for which we know we’re not ready; get depressed over the belief that we’re never going to be able to find anyone who understands us; or have a bit of perspective, listen to our instincts, and make smart decisions. Although we’d all like to believe that we’d choose the third option every time, humans are flawed and we are all going to make mistakes. Here are a few things to remember before putting ourselves out there.
We don’t have to wear a badge that says, “Hi I’m in recovery” on it, but we should be comfortable with ourselves to bring it up sooner rather than later. Our journey is nothing to be ashamed, and we should be free to be ourselves. Our dates’ reactions can also be a good character diagnostic as well.
Some people are thrown when we tell them we’re in recovery, that’s just the way it is. There is years of stigma attached to this disease and we shouldn’t take it personally when people are taken aback. We also shouldn’t get mad at ourselves or get depressed when the first, second or even first ten dates don’t work out for any reason.
If we’re fortunate enough to start a long-term relationship, it should start off as a game of inches. This means avoiding cohabitation or even daily interaction until you we are completely comfortable with ourselves as individuals. Recovery doesn’t have to define us, but it does leave us with a lot of baggage that can take a long time to sort out.
We all want “happily ever after”, but not if it only means “happily for a few months after.” By exercising basic discretion, caution, and common sense, we can find happiness not just with ourselves but with a partner.