02 Feb What You Should be Doing Instead of Dating After Rehab
Ahhh, February: the month of love. This season tends to split us all up into two groups: Those of us who are in a satisfying relationship, and those of us who wish we were. If St. Valentine has got you thinking that dating sounds like a great idea, think again. If you’re in your first year of addiction recovery, it’s pretty much guaranteed that dating is a bad idea, and there are safer, more productive things you need to be doing instead.
Building Your Sense of Self
Since addiction has ravaged your mind, body, and soul, you can hardly recognize yourself anymore. The early days of recovery are all about getting to know yourself again. The confidence and sense of self you build during this time will be essential for your foundation of health and happiness. Beginning a new relationship too early on can shift your focus away from yourself and onto someone else. Even if that someone else is wonderful and perfect, it’s just not what you need to be focused on right now.
Practicing Decision Making
Let’s face it, our long standing patterns of addictive behaviors don’t exactly make us the best decision makers, even after the dust has begun to settle. Decision making is a life skill you will have to reacquire and practice for some time in recovery before you begin to be able to trust yourself and your own judgement again. If you get into a relationship now, chances are you will choose someone who is unhealthy for your recovery. Even if this person ends up being wonderful and perfect, you’re probably not equipped to make sound relationship decisions that lead to long term happiness. Spare yourself and your future soulmate some heartache, and wait until you’re better at this whole life choices thing before you begin dating.
Reducing Stress and Triggers
Let’s face it, relationships are complicated. They are, at best, a roller coaster of euphoric love scenes, sprinkled with moments where we want to cry our eyes out. Even if your new love interest is wonderful and perfect, there are going to be ups and downs in a serious relationship that are stressful. Too much stress, and even a very little heartache can be a huge trigger for relapse, and you really don’t need that right now. Wait until you’re stronger before you put your heart on your sleeve.
You know what else is a common trigger and source of stress for those in recovery? Loneliness. If the month of love has got you feeling down, don’t give in to it. You don’t need a romantic relationship to feel happy. There are lots of other kinds of love you can celebrate, so get after it. Have a girl’s night, take your mom out to dinner, or find someone else who’s struggling and send them an anonymous Valentine’s package. You’ll feel better if you get involved in the festivities in a healthy way.
Ally Keenan is a University of Utah graduate and currently works as a Clinical Social Worker and Substance Use Disorder Counselor. Ally started her career in 2009 working in adolescent residential treatment as an assistant program director. Since 2010, she has worked as a clinician with individuals suffering from addictions, chemical dependency, and co-occurring mental health disorders in both the Intensive Outpatient and Residential treatment capacities. Ally currently serves on the board as vice-president of the non-profit foundation Recovery Outreach; a 501(c)(3) organization created to help fund treatment for individuals suffering from addiction and lacking the financial resources to afford it. In 2010, she took the opportunity to incorporate her passion for animals, and their powerful healing nature, into her work through the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA). She truly enjoys facilitating Equine Psychotherapy, and life-skills sessions, as a form of experiential therapy.