The guidelines for dating in recovery are similar to the rules of engagement In the early months of recovery, you've given up a lot — your go-to coping it can be tempting to replace the high of alcohol and other drugs with. When partners of recovering addicts have no personal addiction or recovery has been through and how their loved one developed healthy relationship skills. Without more adaptive coping skills, the individual may reenact the in early sobriety or not, certain aspects of dating a recovering alcoholic.
Dating a Recovering Alcoholic | Single and Sober
Eventually, they stop focusing on the progress they have made and begin to see the road ahead as overwhelming [ 16 ]. Setbacks are a normal part of progress. They are not failures. Clients are encouraged to challenge their thinking by looking at past successes and acknowledging the strengths they bring to recovery [ 8 ]. This reaction is termed the Abstinence Violation Effect [ 8 ].
Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable More broadly speaking, I believe that recovering individuals need to learn to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. Therefore, they feel it is defensible or necessary to escape their negative feelings. The cognitive challenge is to indicate that negative feelings are not signs of failure, but a normal part of life and opportunities for growth. Helping clients feel comfortable with being uncomfortable can reduce their need to escape into addiction.
The Stages of Recovery Recovery is a process of personal growth in which each stage has its own risks of relapse and its own developmental tasks to reach the next stage [ 2 ]. The stages of recovery are not the same length for each person, but they are a useful way of looking at recovery and teaching recovery to clients. Broadly speaking, there are three stages of recovery.
Recovery Skills and Tools of Recovery - Coping Skills
The main focus of this stage is dealing with cravings and not using. These are some of the tasks of the abstinence stage [ 2 ]: Accept that you have an addiction Practice honesty in life Develop coping skills for dealing with cravings Become active in self-help groups Practice self-care and saying no Understand the stages of relapse Get rid of friends who are using Understand the dangers of cross addiction Deal with post-acute withdrawal Develop healthy alternatives to using See yourself as a non-user There are many risks to recovery at this stage, including physical cravings, poor self-care, wanting to use just one more time, and struggling with whether one has an addiction.
Clients are often eager to make big external changes in early recovery, such as changing jobs or ending a relationship. It is generally felt that big changes should be avoided in the first year until individuals have enough perspective to see their role, if any, in these issues and to not focus entirely on others. The tasks of this stage can be summarized as improved physical and emotional self-care.
Clinical experience has shown that recovering individuals are often in a rush to skip past these tasks and get on with what they think are the real issues of recovery. Clients need to be reminded that lack of self-care is what got them here and that continued lack of self-care will lead back to relapse. Post-Acute Withdrawal Dealing with post-acute withdrawal is one of the tasks of the abstinence stage [ 1 ].
Post-acute withdrawal begins shortly after the acute phase of withdrawal and is a common cause of relapse [ 17 ]. Unlike acute withdrawal, which has mostly physical symptoms, post-acute withdrawal syndrome PAWS has mostly psychological and emotional symptoms.
Its symptoms also tend to be similar for most addictions, unlike acute withdrawal, which tends to have specific symptoms for each addiction [ 1 ]. These are some of the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal [ 11819 ]: Many of the symptoms of post-acute withdrawal overlap with depression, but post-acute withdrawal symptoms are expected to gradually improve over time [ 1 ].
Probably the most important thing to understand about post-acute withdrawal is its prolonged duration, which can last up to 2 years [ 120 ]. The danger is that the symptoms tend to come and go. It is not unusual to have no symptoms for 1 to 2 weeks, only to get hit again [ 1 ]. This is when people are at risk of relapse, when they are unprepared for the protracted nature of post-acute withdrawal.
Clinical experience has shown that when clients struggle with post-acute withdrawal, they tend to catastrophize their chances of recovery. They think that they are not making progress. The cognitive challenge is to encourage clients to measure their progress month-to-month rather than day-to-day or week-to-week. Repair Stage In the second stage of recovery, the main task is to repair the damage caused by addiction [ 2 ].
Clinical experience has shown that this stage usually lasts 2 to 3 years. In the abstinence stage of recovery, clients usually feel increasingly better. They are finally taking control of their lives. But in the repair stage of recovery, it is not unusual for individuals to feel worse temporarily.
They must confront the damage caused by addiction to their relationships, employment, finances, and self-esteem. They must also overcome the guilt and negative self-labeling that evolved during addiction. Clients sometimes think that they have been so damaged by their addiction that they cannot experience joy, feel confident, or have healthy relationships [ 9 ]. These are some of the developmental tasks of the repair stage of recovery [ 12 ]: Use cognitive therapy to overcome negative self-labeling and catastrophizing Understand that individuals are not their addiction Repair relationships and make amends when possible Start to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable Improve self-care and make it an integral part of recovery Develop a balanced and healthy lifestyle Continue to engage in self-help groups Develop more healthy alternatives to using Clinical experience has shown that common causes of relapse in this stage are poor self-care and not going to self-help groups.
Growth Stage The growth stage is about developing skills that individuals may have never learned and that predisposed them to addiction [ 12 ]. The repair stage of recovery was about catching up, and the growth stage is about moving forward. Clinical experience has shown that this stage usually starts 3 to 5 years after individuals have stopped using drugs or alcohol and is a lifetime path. This is also the time to deal with any family of origin issues or any past trauma that may have occurred.
These are issues that clients are sometimes eager to get to. But they can be stressful issues, and, if tackled too soon, clients may not have the necessary coping skills to handle them, which may lead to relapse.
These are some of the tasks of the growth stage [ 12 ]: When non-addicts do not develop healthy life skills, the consequence is that they may be unhappy in life. When recovering individuals do not develop healthy life skills, the consequence is that they also may be unhappy in life, but that can lead to relapse.
Causes of Relapse in Late Stage Recovery In late stage recovery, individuals are subject to special risks of relapse that are not often seen in the early stages. Clinical experience has shown that the following are some of the causes of relapse in the growth stage of recovery. They start to go to fewer meetings. They take on more responsibilities and try to make up for lost time. In a sense, they are trying to get back to their old life without the using. They stop doing the healthy things that contributed to their recovery.
They think it is almost embarrassing to talk about the basics of recovery. They are embarrassed to mention that they still have occasional cravings or that they are no longer sure if they had an addiction.
The Five Rules of Recovery This section is based on my experience of working with patients for more than 30 years in treatment programs and in private practice. Experience has shown that most relapses can be explained in terms of a few basic rules [ 4 ]. Teaching clients these simple rules helps them understand that recovery is not complicated or beyond their control. It is based on a few simple rules that are easy to remember: Change Your Life The most important rule of recovery is that a person does not achieve recovery by just not using.
Recovery involves creating a new life in which it is easier to not use. When individuals do not change their lives, then all the factors that contributed to their addiction will eventually catch up with them. Rather than seeing the need for change as a negative, they are encouraged to see recovery as an opportunity for change.
If they make the necessary changes, they can go forward and be happier than they were before. Recovering individuals are often overwhelmed by the idea of change. As part of their all-or-nothing thinking, they assume that change means they must change everything in their lives. It helps them to know that there is usually only a small percent of their lives that needs to be changed.
It can also be assuring to know that most people have the same problems and need to make similar changes.
Recovery Skills and Tools of Recovery
Examples of Change What do most people need to change? There are three categories: Change negative thinking patterns discussed above Avoid people, places, and things associated with using Incorporate the five rules of recovery Clients need to develop a healthy fear of the people, places, and things that were part of using.
But this requires significant mental retraining because those people, places, and things were previously associated with positive emotions. Also, clients tend to think that developing a healthy fear of these things is showing weakness or accepting defeat. Be Completely Honest Addiction requires lying.
Addicts must lie about getting their drug, hiding the drug, denying the consequences, and planning their next relapse. Eventually, addicted individuals end up lying to themselves. Clinical experience shows that when clients feel they cannot be completely honest, it is a sign of emotional relapse. It is often said that recovering individuals are as sick as their secrets.
One of the challenges of therapy is to help clients practice telling the truth and practice admitting when they have misspoken and quickly correcting it. How honest should a person be without jeopardizing his or her work or relationships? Clients are encouraged to understand the concept of a recovery circle.
This is a group of people that includes family, doctors, counselors, self-help groups, and sponsors. Individuals are encouraged to be completely honest within their recovery circle. As clients feel more comfortable, they may choose to expand the size of their circle.
Probably the most common misinterpretation of complete honesty is when individuals feel they must be honest about what is wrong with other people. Honesty, of course, is self-honesty. This is especially important in self-help groups in which, after a while, individuals sometimes start to go through the motions of participating. A common question about honesty is how honest should a person be when dealing with past lies.
The general answer is that honesty is always preferable, except where it may harm others [ 1421 ]. Ask for Help Most people start recovery by trying to do it on their own. They want to prove that they have control over their addiction and they are not as unhealthy as people think. Joining a self-help group has been shown to significantly increase the chances of long-term recovery.
The combination of a substance abuse program and self-help group is the most effective [ 2223 ]. There are many self-help groups to choose from. Every country, every town, and almost every cruise ship has a step meeting.
There are other self-help groups, including Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, Smart Recovery, and Caduceus groups for health professionals.
It has been shown that the way to get the most out of step groups is to attend meetings regularly, have a sponsor, read step materials, and have a goal of abstinence [ 2425 ]. These are some of the generally recognized benefits of active participation in self-help groups: There is one benefit of self-help groups that deserves special attention.
Guilt and shame are common emotions in addiction [ 26 ]. Clinical experience has shown that self-help groups help individuals overcome their guilt and shame of addiction by seeing that they are not alone. They feel that recovery is within their reach. These are some of the reasons clients give for not joining self-help groups: The negative thinking in all these objections is material for cognitive therapy.
Practice Self-Care To understand the importance of self-care, it helps to understand why most people use drugs and alcohol. Most people use to escape, relax, or reward themselves [ 4 ]. These are the primary benefits of using. It helps to acknowledge these benefits in therapy so that individuals can understand the importance of self-care and be motivated to find healthy alternatives. Despite its importance, self-care is one of the most overlooked aspects of recovery.
Without it, individuals can go to self-help meetings, have a sponsor, do step work, and still relapse. Self-care is difficult because recovering individuals tend to be hard on themselves [ 9 ]. Self-care is especially difficult for adult children of addicts [ 27 ]. A missing piece of the puzzle for many clients is understanding the difference between selfishness and self-care.
Selfishness is taking more than a person needs. Self-care is taking as much as one needs. Clinical experience has shown that addicted individuals typically take less than they need, and, as a result, they become exhausted or resentful and turn to their addiction to relax or escape.
Part of challenging addictive thinking is to encourage clients to see that they cannot be good to others if they are first not good to themselves. Poor self-care also plays a role in these situations. In these situations, poor self-care often precedes drug or alcohol use. For example, individuals work hard to achieve a goal, and when it is achieved, they want to celebrate. Since they did not allow themselves small rewards during the work, the only reward that will suffice at the end is a big reward, which in the past has meant using.
Mind-Body Relaxation Numerous studies have shown that mind-body relaxation reduces the use of drugs and alcohol and is effective in long-term relapse prevention [ 2829 ]. Relapse-prevention therapy and mind-body relaxation are commonly combined into mindfulness-based relapse prevention [ 30 ].
Mind-body relaxation plays a number of roles in recovery [ 4 ]. First, stress and tension are common triggers of relapse. Second, mind-body relaxation helps individuals let go of negative thinking such as dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, which are triggers for relapse.
Third, mind-body relaxation is a way of being kind to oneself. In some recovery circles, there is an unwritten suggestion that new romantic relationships are best avoided during the first year of sobriety. For proponents of this, the reasoning is that this is a time of great personal growth and self-work. Additionally, it is a period when sober skill building occurs, which both solidifies sobriety and allows the individual to gain skills to apply in relationships going forward.
If a newly sober person does get into a relationship too soon after getting sober, the concern is two-fold. Without more adaptive coping skills, the individual may reenact the negative patterns of former relationships that either occurred or led to alcohol. Also, the risk of relapse may be heightened by the emotional aspects of coping with a relationship, and the demands it may make.
Whether or not someone chooses to avoid relationships for a period of time in early sobriety or not, certain aspects of dating a recovering alcoholic remain. It loosens us up. It releases endorphins, making us feel confident, good-looking, and hilarious.
We have to feel all those feelings without liquid courage. Wine with dinner seems like the civilized thing to do. Meeting for a drink at the bar after work or on a Friday night is seen as a great way to relax and unwind with friends. Meeting for drinks seems like the most common first date. The Culture of Drinking Unlike illicit drugs, which are illegal in most of the world, drinking is often seen as harmless and socially acceptable — but alcohol is anything but harmless.
That cost comes primarily from excessive drinking — bingeing on four or more drinks per evening, or drinking heavily all week long. Though the amount of alcohol consumed and the circumstances for example, in Italy, alcohol is imbibed most often along with foodit is clear that in most countries, alcohol plays a role in daily life.
So, what is a sober person to do in a world of drinkers? And, more specifically, what is dating like for both the sober person and their partner? Keys to a Successful Relationship in Sobriety It is easy to create a list of drawbacks and reasons why it is unwise to date someone with a history of alcohol abuse the main one being: What if they relapse?