Usually addiction recovery professionals recommend steering clear of new relationships until you have been sober for about a year—of course, this amount of time will depend on each person’s situation.
Remember that in your post-treatment lifestyle, you need to first figure out how to independently find stability and health. You have endured detoxification and persevered through substance abuse treatment.
It is time to put all of your new skills and knowledge to use.
It is normal to feel lonely post-treatment, as many people must separate themselves from the unhealthy social circles where they used to find belonging. But do not let this feeling be an excuse to fall back into harmful coping mechanisms or substitute addictions; e.g. throwing yourself into a new relationship when you are not ready yet because you are searching for affirmation or identity in the wrong places.
If you have been sober for a year or more now and the prospect of telling a potential new significant other about your history makes you very uneasy, take that as a warning sign that it might be too soon for you to jump back into the dating pool. And that is more than okay!
Again, the first priority needs to be you in this kind of situation. This is not a selfish mindset, but a necessity when pursuing a healthy relationship where both partners can benefit from, support, and challenge one another. You simply cannot love and take care of someone else if you are not first doing those things for yourself.
Why Should You Share Your Story with Your Date?
Successful relationships are built upon honesty, and it is often by sharing vulnerable information that we build trust and intimacy. It will be best for both you and your significant other if you share your story. This way you can receive the support and understanding you need and grow closer to one another. Your disclosure will probably open the door to sharing your partner’s own personal struggles. Additionally, if you keep putting off telling your partner the truth about your sobriety, it will inevitably grow into an issue where there did not necessarily need to be one.
Remember: more people than we realize have experiences with addiction, mental illness, and recovery. Just because someone cannot empathize does not mean they cannot sympathize. This conversation could be a chance for both parties to practice putting themselves in the other person’s shoes.
When Should You Tell Them About Your Recovery?
Of course, you don’t need to post your recovery testimony on your dating profile or share every single detail on the first date unless you want to. But, if the relationship is becoming serious and you feel good about taking this next step forward, it is definitely time to share your story.
You should never feel ashamed about having a history of substance abuse and for being in recovery, but this is still is very intimate information. Feel out the person before deciding to tell them and put some consideration into how you want to go about this.
Focus on the things that are in your control: the setting, your words, and your mindset. Use your intuition and social skills to know when and where would be appropriate for you to share such a personal but integral part of your life.
Would you feel most comfortable at home or in a public setting such as a restaurant or coffee shop? Do you want to plan the discussion or would it feel best for you to wait for a time to spontaneously present itself early in the relationship?
What Should You Say?
Obviously only you can know the specifics of your story and the pace at which you feel comfortable sharing it. However, there are some basic points that you should plan to be upfront about.
- Let your partner know what substances you were addicted to.
- Briefly reference what led you to that point in your life.
- Tell them what inspired you to seek recovery treatment.
- Share what motivated you to push through the process.
- Let them know about any situations or conversations that are triggering for you.
- Tell them how they can support you in your sobriety.
What Should You Not Share?
Since substance abuse and similar illnesses do affect more people than we expect, try to avoid a lot of gruesome details as they could unknowingly bring up painful memories or situations for your date.
On the other of side of the same coin, don’t feel like you have to share any specifics beyond what was previously outlined. It is a privilege for your significant other to hear your story. You do not need to back up your struggles or sobriety with details if you don’t feel comfortable or it would be triggering.
What Should You Do if the Talk Doesn’t Go Well?
If your new date responds negatively to you sharing your story with them, take a step back from the conversation and consider what this means about them as a person and your compatibility as a couple.
Depending on how much you like them and on the underlying place that the negative response is coming from (e.g. misinformation), their response could be like a litmus test for this person’s character.
Remember that a negative response reflects poorly only on the person who said it. It is not your responsibility to forgive them for their insensitivity, or to educate them on their ignorance.
What Happens if They Respond Positively?
This can be an exciting new chapter of your life, but try to remember that dating can be hard regardless of if you have a past of addiction or not. As always, be gracious and loving to yourself.