Should You Reenter the Dating World When You’re New to Sobriety?


When a person who has been in treatment for addiction or alcoholism leaves their treatment program, they have a host of concerns to deal with. They must re-enter their home life, return to school or a job they left behind, and rebuild relationships with their family and friends. Above all, they must strive to continue the sobriety they have achieved. All of those tasks make for a full plate of goals to achieve and maintain.

Factoring in dating can seem intimidating and complicate things. 12-Step programs recommend that a person refrain from dating for a year after they begin their sobriety, while other programs recommend a shorter waiting time. Consulting with a mental health professional treating the person or a mentor from a support group can help a person decide what is the best choice for them.

Common Reasons to Put off Dating in Recovery

Sometimes a person who is fairly new to recovery may end up using a new relationship as a replacement for their drug or behavior of choice without even realizing they are doing it. Their focus needs to stay on what relates to staying sober, like the 12-Steps, individual or group therapy, and anything else they are utilizing to stay well. Dating also can be time-consuming and become an excuse to blow off an appointment or therapy session. Recovery is a time that is often fraught with emotion and most people find their plate is full enough with dealing with emotional fallout related to their recovery. Adding in the inevitable drama, uncertainty, and the emotional highs and lows of dating may lead to overload, causing sobriety and romantic aspects to shatter. 

Are You Ready to Date Again?

As a person checks off the days and months that they’ve been in recovery, they may feel a natural urge to add dating to their calendars. The absence of drugs and alcohol that previously clouded the mind makes someone with a newly clearer headspace feel that they are ready to get out there and either date several people or look for one companion. Ask yourself if you truly are ready or just want to be ready.

Talk to those who know you well and want the best for you and ask them if they see you as ready to head back into the dating world. Think about what pace you would like to establish. Do you see yourself dating several people? Are you looking to settle down? Make sure you know your goals before you make any moves.

What Can You Bring to the Table in the Dating World?

Dating after sobriety can be a challenge for both the person dealing with mental health issues and addiction, as well as the people they date. When you meet someone new, ask yourself if you are comfortable being honest with them about your recovery and how many details you want to reveal. At what point do you feel it’s best to bring up the topic? Some people want to put their cards on the table before the first date, letting the person know that they are in recovery and want to make sure the person is comfortable with this. Others choose to wait for a few dates before opening up to see if they feel compatible with the new person. 

Consider that any person you meet that may date you typically expects a certain amount of things from their new potential love interest. They want someone who is emotionally stable and ready to date. They may want someone who enjoys partying and may feel held back by someone who is sober and intends to stay that way. On the other hand, you may find they also abstain from drugs or alcohol, or are a light drinker who doesn’t mind keeping your sobriety at the front of their minds. Ask yourself where you land with each of these possibilities and how soon you should ask someone you want to date or are already dating about these concerns. 

Putting off Dating Again Has Its Advantages

While it can be a disappointment to take a long-term break from the dating world, it doesn’t have to mean a time in which a person is stalled out and just clock-watching. Taking the pressure off yourself by removing dating from your roster of things to do allows for more time to work on your own issues and become stronger in how you deal with your emotions. You will also bank more time being sober. All of this makes you a more viable and steady potential partner for people you date down the line. 

In addition, someone you ask out later on may feel more confident accepting a date from someone they know has spent more than a year working on themselves and being physically and emotionally sober. In a time in which the pandemic is still causing widespread quarantining and limiting places people typically go on a date, waiting on dating or taking it slow now may be easier than it typically proves to be. Remember that with time and attention to getting through it, every difficult phase ends. The choice to limit your dating life now will not be permanent.

One of the biggest concerns young people have when they are new to sobriety is if and when they should date. 12-Step programs recommend waiting a year before reentering the dating world and other programs have other time frames. Taking the time to focus on recovery gives you a leg up and can make you a better partner down the line. Make sure you know if you are ready to date, what you bring to the table, and what expectations any potential partners you meet may have. Sustain Recovery understands the special place that dating has in the lives of adolescents and young adults and can help shepherd our clients through this portion of their recovery. Our trained staff offers help with several types of programs that put sobriety front and center, along with dealing with any accompanying mental health issues. Call our Southern California location today at (949) 407-9052 to find out how we can help you or someone you love become whole again.