People recovering from addiction often want to know when they can start dating again. This is especially true of teens and young adults who would most likely be dating, had their substance use not intervened. Most experts recommend that you have at least a year of solid recovery before you start dating again. Here’s why.

You need to focus on recovery for a while.

At the beginning, recovery from addiction is a full-time job. Even after you leave treatment, you may have to go to meetings every day or even multiple times per day. You will likely have other forms of follow-up care, including therapy appointments. You will have a recovery plan to follow that may involve establishing a regular routine, making healthy lifestyle changes, prayer, meditation, journaling, and other things. This is a time when you have to focus on adapting your new recovery skills and behaviors to daily life and creating bonds with other sober people who can help you stay on track. Dating is a huge distraction from that. When you’re dating someone new, that person tends to consume your attention. You may end up skipping meetings or otherwise deviating from your recovery plan. Your focus will be on the new relationship, and not on recovery.

Dating can cause avoidable stress.

Stress is one of the biggest triggers of drug and alcohol cravings. Many people with substance use disorders use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, especially stress from interpersonal conflict. While dating someone new is always fun at first, things can often go bad quickly. Most relationships don’t work out. If you start dating too soon, you may have to deal with the stress of arguments or even a breakup in addition to the normal challenges of recovery. This can all be avoided if you decide not to get involved in a romantic relationship for at least a year.

You may fall into old patterns.

Many people with substance use disorders have unhealthy relationship patterns. These are often learned as children and continue into adulthood. For example, people with abusive parents often end up with abusive partners—and that abuse may contribute to depression, anxiety, and substance use. They don’t choose abusive partners intentionally; it’s just a behavior pattern. If you start dating again right away, there’s a greater chance you’ll fall back into old patterns. It’s much better to take some time, develop your coping skills and self-awareness, and then later, when your recovery is on solid ground, consider dating again.

Dating may become a replacement addiction.

Addiction causes an imbalance in your dopamine system, which often causes depression or emotional flatness in the first months or year of recovery. Many people recovering from one addiction will cope with these feelings by adopting a replacement addiction, perhaps unconsciously. It may be food or gambling, or it may be dating and sex. Dating and sex are powerfully enforced by the brain’s reward system and therefore make tempting replacement addictions. Unfortunately, they can be just as destructive as substance addiction, so it’s best to be careful in the first year or so.

At Fort, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 817-381-9741 or contact us through our admissions page.


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