Relationships After Rehab
As positive as dating can be, it is also one of the most potentially dangerous activities after inpatient drug treatment. The emotional ups and downs of a new romance are often too much for people to handle right after inpatient rehab, and a broken relationship can easily lead to relapse. Still, finding a loving partner may actually help some recovering addicts stay away from drugs. Overall, people who have just completed inpatient drug treatment must make a few rational considerations before they reenter the emotional world of dating and romance.
Avoiding New Obsessions: people often emerge from treatment feeling “voids” or “gaps” in their lives. Drug use was an integral part of their daily routines before rehab, and they may not know what to do with themselves while clean. Unfortunately, many rehab patients end up forming new addictions or compulsive behaviors. Some become hooked on food, others on sex, and still others on alcohol, cigarettes, or substances they never used to abuse.
Addicts are also susceptible to these new obsessions in their romantic lives. Just as they had problems controlling their drug use, they may not be able to form healthy boundaries with love interests. If their new partners decide to end their relationships, they may experience unmanageable distress and drug cravings. Addicts who want to date will need to temporarily put aside their emotions and assess their true abilities to avoid such situations.
- Dangerous Distractions: even healthy relationships can be dangerously distracting for addicts in the beginning stages of their recoveries. Inpatient drug treatment is only the first step in a long process, and addicts must be diligent in a variety of daily efforts. Consistent exercise, quality sleep, and healthy eating are crucial. Daily self-reflection and meditation are also important for people who struggle with frequent stress and cravings. New couples tend to spend most of their time together, but recovering addicts can’t afford to miss out on these activities.
- The Risk of Codependency: codependency is another relationship problem which is especially concerning to people who complete inpatient drug treatment. It can easily occur when two recovering addicts form a new relationship. They use each other to fill gaps in their lives, and any problems or arguments cause them both undue stress. Since the dependency is two-sided, neither person will be willing to end the relationship or address major concerns. When they finally break up, both addicts will feel those voids in their lives once again – voids which they will be compelled to filled with drugs.
- Taking a Year Off: Narcotics Anonymous and other addiction support groups recommend that people take at least one year off of dating after they complete their initial treatments. While this hard-and-fast rule may not be necessary for everyone, it is a relatively safe guideline for addicts to follow. This year allows for a great deal of personal growth, and it can also allow rehab patients the time they need to take better control of their cravings.
Continuing Prior Relationships: new relationships may be rocky territory for recovering addicts, but they don’t necessarily need to break up with current partners. Spouses and significant others can provide much-needed love and emotional support for addicts who struggle with stress and cravings after inpatient drug treatment. They can also help to maintain home environments which are conducive to happiness and recovery.
However, addicts may need to end relationships with partners who still use drugs themselves. Co-addiction is common, and marriages rarely last when only one party seeks treatment. The influence of an active drug user is one of the strongest addiction triggers, and divorce is sometimes the only way married addicts can stay clean in the long run.
Whether you’ve relapsed or haven’t yet gone to rehab, there is help available. Drug addiction is a serious illness that affects people from all walks of life. Fortunately, help is available. Drug abuse hotlines are an excellent resource for many with questions about addiction and potential treatment.
More than 2.3 million individuals sought treatment for drug or alcohol addiction at a speciality treatment facility in 2016.* Those living with addiction can recover and remain clean.
*Recommended Citation: Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. (2017). 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Rockville, MD.