Are You Deciding to Stay Single in Early Recovery?

Two people on a date holding hands.

Are You Deciding to Stay Single in Early Recovery?

Companionship is a necessary element of human life, and being single can be challenging even in the best of times. Yet, there are several reasons why staying single is beneficial for those in early sobriety.

Seeking Comfort Through Substance Use

Substance use is often motivated by negative thoughts and emotions stemming from traumatic life events, mental illness, and other issues. Individuals use drugs and alcohol to gain a sense of relief from their pain. 

Feelings that were suppressed with substances tend to resurface during addiction treatment and can be managed throughout recovery using healthy coping mechanisms. However, some individuals turn to romantic relationships for the comfort substances can no longer provide. 

Although craving a sense of comfort in recovery is normal, leaning on a lover is a risky strategy that can derail one’s progress in recovery. 

Emotional Vulnerability Makes Dating Complicated

Dating can be complicated for individuals who have just started recovery from drugs or alcohol because they are usually emotionally vulnerable. They are still learning to resolve underlying problems that led to their addiction.  

For this reason, clients learn techniques in treatment that will help them manage a range of discomforting symptoms commonly experienced in early recovery. By depending on a lover for emotional support, a person’s ability to apply self-soothing techniques on a consistent basis is diminished. 

Addiction can also lead a person to lose a sense of his identity and break all boundaries he had with others. Jumping into a partnership while simultaneously trying to re-establish oneself can cause a person to avoid building their self-image and engaging in healthy relationships. 

Prioritizing Needs, Ambitions, and Recovery Goals 

Clients also develop recovery goals and a plan to achieve them before leaving a drug or alcohol program. Recovering individuals need to be acutely aware of their needs, ambitions, and recovery goals. Romance can preoccupy a person’s mind, causing these priorities to fall by the wayside. 

The last reason to wait to date is that romantic relationships take a lot of time and emotional effort. Many in early recovery simply don’t have enough of these valuable resources to successfully manage a love life. Most of their time and energy needs to be spent practicing self-care and working through psychological distress.

Other Dangers of Hooking Up Too Quickly 

For individuals learning how to live without substances, hooking up too quickly can result in several sticky situations that can complicate recovery and lead to relapse. The person may:

  • Choose a partner similar in character to the one they dated while addicted
  • Enter into a codependent, enabling, or toxic relationship
  • Get into the relationship for the wrong reasons
  • Attempt to replace their addiction with a new one (love)
  • Seek feelings of euphoria and comfort that are found in companionship


There is one final reason why emotional entanglements can be detrimental to a person’s recovery journey. If the relationship ends, the individual’s source of emotional comfort and validation will be swept from under their feet. This can trigger painful memories of rejection and abandonment from the past, resulting in a return to drug or alcohol use.  

Get the Most Out of the Single Life  

The single life can be difficult for anyone, but it can be especially trying for individuals in recovery. Dating or starting a relationship might not be right for you at this time, but that doesn’t mean this period of your life has to be lonely or depressing. You can get the most out of the single life by:  

  • Keeping in touch with your sponsor and other peers in recovery
  • Spending time and planning outings with your friends and family
  • Attending 12-Step meetings regularly and expressing your dating concerns
  • Identifying a hobby or activity that brings you joy and commit to practicing it
  • Taking time every week to meditate and reflect on your progress in recovery and life
  • Finding a “get well” job to help you ease back into a work schedule and responsibilities


Single for Now, but Not Forever

Don’t forget that early recovery will become a thing of the past in no time. Once you have dedicated yourself to a daily routine, established clear boundaries, and learned to effectively manage your emotional triggers, you may be able to start dating. But for now, this is your time to shine in early recovery and be proud of everything you’ve accomplished thus far.