Seeking or maintaining romantic relationships in recovery is challenging and it can be necessary to avoid places like bars and dance clubs. This might make it difficult to continue frequenting your usual date night places as they often have alcoholic beverages aplenty. Trying to maintain a healthy relationship or find a new partner will require you to venture outside your home to different places so becoming a recluse isn’t on your list of options. Fret not, as this will narrow down some options to help reduce your stress of trying to think outside of the usual box.
Entering the Dating Field While in Recovery
Universally, experts say that anyone in recovery should not try to engage in new relationships or relationship changes within the first year as your focus will need to stay on your recovery. Also, if you’re in a long-term relationship or marriage, it is advised that you don’t terminate the relationship during that first year. But if you are a graduate of our treatment program or any other you will want to take careful steps. Regardless of when you take the first step towards dating, here are some basic rules to utilize.
Active in recovery program and/or therapy
Starting up a new relationship can be great, but odds are this new mate is not a professional drug and alcohol counselor. Even if they happened to be a world-renowned expert, they are not your counselor, mentor, or sponsor. While this new mate could help in your recovery, you will need unbiased professionals looking out for the best interests of your recovery. This could prove especially true while learning to navigate a new relationship and maintaining sobriety.
Starting a new relationship can be intimidating for while you keep it a secret that you are recovering, but I have great news for you! You won’t keep it a secret because it is vital to know this potential mate is going to support the recovery process while you try to build this relationship. You’re wondering “how in the world to I tell them I’m in recovery?” Still those worries as the process will be addressed below.
Slow and steady wins the race
Being in recovery is a big deal and you have taken steps to get your life in order. That is excellent and you want to stay on that path so please don’t jump into these new relationships with both feet only to find out the water is freezing. Dating in recovery can be intimidating for both partners and just like you may not be ready, a new mate may not be ready to jump in either. Try not to be offended because there are millions of possibilities as to why a person might pull back from dating. Have empathy for their concern like you would want them to have for your recovery. When you find someone that is a great fit, continue moving slowly and keep your recovery as the priority.
Avoid dating people from unavoidable places
Think about all the places you go on a regular basis such as work, the gym, religious services, coffee shop, etc. Now that you have that list in your head, mark everyone that works or frequents there out of your dating options. In the case that someone you’re dating does not work out, you don’t want the added stress of seeing them all the time as it could hinder your recovery. Always remember, recovery is the priority.
How to Disclose You are in Recovery
Understandably, you probably don’t want to go shouting from the rooftops that you are recovering. Building new relationships in recovery can be a little more challenging, but you will need to disclose your recovery at some point early on. Sooner is generally better as it could help you avoid potential dangers to your relapse like getting pressured to drink or use drugs. There are plenty of date ideas that will allow you to avoid alcohol and other intoxicants, but eventually you’re going to be somewhere that is going to offer you alcoholic beverages so it would be best address it quickly.
Straight out of the gate
You may want to avoid the potential of later issues and tell the person upon your first date. It doesn’t have to be the first words out of your mouth, but rather than letting it be the elephant in the room, you can just be up front and let them know during normal conversation. It could be something very simple like “I just want to be totally honest with you and let you know that I am recovering from alcohol (or drugs) and my recovery has to be the priority. I just want you to know so we can avoid any awkward situations down the road if we continue dating.” They may have questions and you are free to disclose as much as you would like.
Perhaps you are concerned that someone may reject you due to your recovery process. Keep in mind, people may choose not to date someone for any number of reasons. If your recovery is one of those reasons, then you are much better off letting them go; however, if you feel you’ll have a better chance by disclosing after you’ve dated a few times then you’ll need to plan those first few dates to avoid places that serve alcohol which will be addressed with 10 alternative date ideas listed below. Once you feel the relationship could turn into something more long-term or the time is right, you would address it much the same as above. Again, they may have questions and you can go into as much detail answering them as you would like.
Keep in mind, there are many people in recovery so don’t feel like you have a big neon sign that says “avoid me” hanging over your head. Over 20 million Americans have substance use disorders, so many of these people you might date have seen friends, family or coworkers suffer from the same issues or go through the recovery process. You are not a freak and if someone chooses not to date you because you are in recovery, there are others that will gladly give you a chance to thrive while supporting you through the process.
10 Alternatives to a Date at the Bar
Why should someone date sober? You will maintain better control of your actions and remember the date the next day. You’ll stay alert enough to see red flags when people don’t fit you well or might hinder your recovery. Remember while building relationships in recovery, the recovery has to be priority. Sober dating will allow you to focus building deeper connections. Alcohol and drugs tend to put people on the fast track to sex rather than relationship building and often will keep them in that shallow version of a relationship. With a sober mind, you can deep dive into serious topics: family, career, goals, spiritual beliefs, education, etc. These are the subjects that will help you connect on a deeper level and build strong relations.
With that being said, here are the amazing 10 alternatives for bar dates:
Most shops don’t serve alcohol, it’s cheap, usually quiet and who doesn’t love caffeine? If you want to take it up a notch, go on a coffee shop tour and visit several throughout the morning. Please drink water in between so you don’t dehydrate.
There are ample places that offer sweets and don’t have alcohol such as ice cream shops, bakeries and frozen yogurt shops.
Travel to somewhere nearby that has a nice view such as mountains, lakes, woods, high rise building, parks. For a bonus, incorporate #4 below.
Purchase or make a meal and bring to somewhere peaceful such as the places from #3.
There are museums for all types of interests and they offer a peaceful environment where you can talk quietly and get to know each other.
Take a class in something such as cooking, art, dance, or yoga. These can be fun and help lighten the mood. Google away and see what you can find!
Take in an activity that gets the heart rate up. A few ideas are a theme park with roller coasters, rent some jet skis, indoor rock climbing (or the real kind for the brave), skydiving, rafting or kayaking.
Find an area with food trucks set up so you both can grab the type of food you want and chat over a nice meal.
Find yourself an area that is dimly lit and look up at the stars. Bring a blanket and lay or the ground, the hood of a car or the bed of a truck.
Walk and talk
Last idea, but definitely not least! This is something you can do anywhere and anytime. Take a walk and get to know each other. You can incorporate this with almost any of the other date ideas as well! Many of these ideas can be combined, but save something for the second and third date.