Why New Relationships in Recovery Are a Major Threat to Sobriety

by pgh

Alcohol and drug abuse and addiction are bad for relationships. That is the plain and simple of it. But perhaps more interestingly, new relationships themselves can put the recovering alcoholic’s or addict’s chances of a complete recovery at risk. In fact, new relationships during recovery are a major threat to sobriety. Why is that?

It makes sense when you think about it for a second. New romantic relationships are tricky enough to start with. The beginning stage of a relationship is a period of time with a lot of emotional ups and downs. The infatuation period is especially stressful on the emotionally vulnerable, as anyone who has experienced the ups and downs of a passionate affair can attest.

Recovering alcoholics and addicts are especially vulnerable to these strong negative emotions as they are already dealing with something that is emotionally taxing. Though it isn’t the case in every scenario, starting a new romantic relationship is generally not a very good idea for someone going through recovery – and it certainly isn’t a good replacement strategy.

What is a Replacement Strategy?

In its most basic sense, a replacement strategy is a way for a recovering alcoholic or addict to replace their old lifestyle, especially the drug or alcohol use, with something new and healthy. A replacement strategy also takes the place of the attitudes and beliefs that go along with such an addiction. In addition, a replacement strategy serves to introduce the person in recovery to new friends and acquaintances, developing a new social circle away from their life as an addict.

Why Replacement Strategies Work

Replacement strategies are often very successful in replacing a covering addict or alcoholic’s old and harmful lifestyle. However, there are some that work better than others. Most of the replacement strategies that work involve pursuing things in life that you’re passionate about, things in life that offer an opportunity for personal growth and improvement.

Meeting new people that support your decision not to drink or do drugs is one of the keys to sobriety. This is one of the reasons that AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) is so popular with many recovering drug addicts and alcoholics.

The people that you meet at AA serve to replace your old drinking buddies. It sets up a solid support system. It gives you a new network of people that know what you’re going through and have several of the same goals. It gives you someone to contact when you’re struggling with your sobriety.

Why New Romantic Relationships Can Be Dangerous in Recovery

Oftentimes freshly recovering drug addicts and alcoholics become involved in new romantic relationships. The results are often devastating.

Recovering addicts and alcoholics often use the new relationships as replacement strategy – not a good idea. One of the keys to success in early recovery is avoiding the emotional extremes that tend to trigger relapse. But more often than not, new relationships have emotional ups and downs that a recovering addict or alcoholic just can’t handle.

The heavy emotions that come with a new relationship – heck, with any relationship – can be hard for anyone to handle. When a new relationship goes sour or when there’s a bump in the road, it can easily trigger relapse for a person in early recovery.

Alternate Strategies

It is hard to tell someone not to see anyone new just because they are recovering from addiction. I mean, everyone deserves to spend time with the people that they share a mutual attraction with. However, if you’re in recovery, it is in your best interest to steer clear of romantic relationships for at least your first year of sobriety.

Instead, spend your alone time and creative energy working on yourself. Establish friendships with other people in your meeting group (if you are going to one) and try to meet people in other areas of life that also have your best interests in mind. Connect with old friends that you know understand your sobriety. Connect with your parents. Take up new hobbies, focus on your career/education, and whip yourself into shape. Do what you can to work on yourself in that first year.

If you do happen to meet someone that you are really interested in, you don’t have to avoid them completely. Fill them in on your recovery, and make sure they understand how difficult the process is and how vulnerable you are. Honesty and openness is the key here. It goes without saying that – if your new partner is more interested in partying and having fun than your emotional well-being and sobriety, your new relationship is going to be a one way ticket to relapse.


New romantic relationships can put a stress anyone trying to overcome and recovering from addiction or alcoholism. It’s best to just avoid them altogether and focus on self-improvement for at least the first few months sober. However, if you follow the tips above, there is still a chance that you can see someone new while maintaining your sobriety for the long haul.

Remember, the most important thing that you can do is spread your replacement strategy out among multiple people. If you do get into a new relationship, don’t put all of your emotional investment into that one person. Continue to work on yourself and build a support network. This will keep you more emotionally balanced if things don’t work out in your new relationship. Doing this could likely save your sobriety.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

aiyana August 20, 2013 at 12:30 am

i found this article helpful, thanks for writing and sharing!