Although it doesn’t explicitly say it anywhere in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, it’s generally a good idea to abstain from intimate relationships in early recovery. This is such a widely-accepted idea that most sponsors will suggest refraining from sexual relationships for the first year of sobriety. This might seem extreme but, without suggestions, we’d be lost.
Now, before we go any further, I will tell you that I did not heed this advice. Thankfully, when the relationships (yes, I said relationships, as in plural) ended, each time, I stayed clean and sober. I can’t say the same for the guys with whom I broke it off. I wasn’t completely willing.
I wanted to pick and choose which suggestions I would follow and which ones I’d ignore. And I didn’t really give it much thought, that is, as to why it’s so important to be willing to follow all the suggestions given to me, especially in early sobriety, when I’m my most vulnerable.
But that’s what suggestions are – bits of advice formed from others’ experiences. What, did you think people in the program were just arbitrarily making up “rules” just to mess with you? No! They come from other recovering addicts and alcoholics who had to bump their heads a few times, trying to do things their own way, rather than take taking suggestions from those who came before them, and so on.
Now that we’ve delved a bit into what suggestions are and why they’re important to people in recovery, let’s look more closely at the importance of being single in early recovery. This is a most vulnerable time for us; one that requires our undivided attention and energy. We have to be willing to go after our recovery like we went after that drink or drug. And, if that means sacrificing intimate relationships and other things that really don’t have anything to with our program of recovery, then that’s what we must do. It’s called a ‘selfish program’ for a reason.
Another concern you’ll hear is that newly sober people tend to relapse together, taking each other “out” with them. There is a greater tendency for this to happen if the two are a couple in a relationship together. You could be doing quite well in your program but your partner begins to struggle. Before you know it, they’re using again and it’s only a matter of time until you relapse, too. A friend of mine at my halfway house began seeing a guy, also in early recovery and it got pretty serious, pretty quickly. I recall her telling me that, if he ever left her, she knew she’d use again. I’ve since lost touch with them but, that sort of mentality, as you can see, is troubling.
Yet another reason it’s a good idea to stay single in early recovery is because we alcoholics and addicts have a tendency to form codependent relationships. In a word, these kinds of relationships are unhealthy. Staying single in early recovery will allow you to work on yourself and any self-esteem and codependency issues you may have (and we all have them) so that, when you have some sobriety and you are in a good place, you can have that healthy, loving relationship you so deserve.
All of these you’ve probably heard before. But, I’m going to propose another way to look at this issue.
When we’re newly sober, we’re basically like newborns, learning the basics all over again – this time without alcohol and other drugs. We’re also learning for the first time in a long time, or for the first time, period – about who we are, what our feelings feel like, what we think and believe, our passions and goals in life.
Now imagine just how easily derailed you can be by getting into a relationship so early on in this process of self-discovery. Getting clean and sober is the best gift you can give yourself – really, it’s the gift of life – and throwing it all away on a relationship is the biggest disservice you can do yourself.
It’s difficult to stay away from the opposite (or same) sex in early recovery because we’re getting back our feelings and the sensations that go along with those feelings. I get it. Drugs and alcohol suppress our sex drives and when we get clean and sober, our libidos tend to skyrocket. But, do yourself a favor and give recovery a chance by steering clear of relationships early on.
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