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Relationships In Recovery: Just a Romantic Distraction?

So many people rush into relationships in early recovery. This may be related to neurochemistry: we’re suddenly deprived of the substances that made us feel good and we need to find a substitute.

I’ve spent the last six and a half years of recovery wondering why I have been so emotionally immature when it comes to romantic relationships.

Why have I sulked over communicating my needs? Why have I formed such insecure attachments that I wonder when I’ll see the person again before they have even left? Why have I felt so crazed and simultaneously flummoxed at my behavior? Reflecting on my relationships during my recovery, I can describe them in one word: disaster. But they’ve also been a blessing.

When I found recovery, relationships were the last thing on my mind; I could barely function. I spent most days struggling to sufficiently caffeinate myself to get out of my apartment and to a meeting. For the first few months, I lugged my 300-pound body around wondering where this elusive pink fluffy cloud was, because it certainly wasn’t on my radar.

As time progressed, my body began to recover: my liver regenerated—which is quite remarkable considering the quantity of cocaine I snorted and the four bottles of wine I drank each day—my depression lifted enough that I was able to function, and I lost weight. I was hardly experiencing the promises, but I could see that my life had improved. The fact I no longer felt compelled to drink was a miracle in itself.

Sufficiently recovered—or so I naively thought—I looked for romantic distraction in the rooms. A smile from someone at the break would elicit a rush of feel-good hormones. I wonder if they like me? would play through my mind (well, that’s the PG version I’m willing to share, but you get the picture). Needless to say, this didn’t end well.

I ignored the guidance to stay single for a year after finding recovery, because in my mind I was thinking: I’m a 32-year-old woman. Why shouldn’t I date? I’m an adult! Off I went and dated, just like every other person in the room because—let’s face it—few people actually adhere to that rule!

And so I chose some lovely chaps from that swimming pool of dysfunction, Narcotics Anonymous. Promises that they’d treat me right, and that they really liked me, were exactly that: just promises. Even though I expressed my desire for a relationship over just messing around, my experience was that once these guys got what they wanted, they were off.

Wondering what was wrong with me—and playing the victim role really well—I’d move on to the next dude…

Do you think it’s best to wait a while into recovery before starting a relationship? Find out more about how Olivia navigated her romantic life in the original article Sober Romance: Why We Act Like Teenagers When It Comes to Relationships at The Fix.

Relationships In Recovery: Just a Romantic Distraction?

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APA Reference
Guest Author, P. (2018). Relationships In Recovery: Just a Romantic Distraction?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Oct 2018 (Originally: 17 Oct 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.