Dating in itself is tough in this day and age, but dating in recovery — now that’s an entirely different beast, especially if this is your first time hitting the dating pool while sober. While the novelty of a new romance can be a wonderful thing – it’s exciting, it’s fun, and it can make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside — it can also be stressful, anxiety-inducing, and downright confusing. When you’re dating after addiction recovery, you have to be extra careful, not only to protect your heart but also your recovery progress.

Why Sober Dating Is Hard

On top of the usual challenges of meeting someone (whether that’s by way of apps or in-person encounters), striking up a conversion, and finding out if you’re compatible, there’s the added challenge that recovery requires a lot of focus and dedication. You have to learn how to cope with your triggers and manage your cravings. You have to be mindful of your surroundings and avoid situations that could lead to a relapse. All of these things take time, effort, and a lot of patience.

Then, there’s the fact that you’re probably still getting to know yourself–it’s why most experts agree, getting romantically involved soon after recovery usually isn’t a good idea. Sobriety changes your perspective and priorities for the better but it can leave you with a whole new set of things to consider in a prospective romantic partner, questions like: 

  • Is this person going to be a positive influence and help me stay the course?
  • Am I comfortable dating someone who isn’t sober? If so, how would I feel about them drinking or doing other drugs around me?
  • When is the right time to disclose your past? 

And let’s not forget about the elephant in the room: alcohol. It’s everywhere and most dates seem to revolve around it. Navigating the scene while dry dating means figuring out new ways to meet people and having to come up with sober date ideas. However, with a bit of creativity and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone, you can absolutely find that special someone who understands and supports you–and your recovery journey. 

How to Date While Sober: 4 Things You MUST Do

Dating is as much a journey of self-discovery as addiction recovery. Finding a good partner means being in tune with your needs, your limitations, and your triggers. Above all else, keep an open mind and continuously evaluate your feelings. Your future partner should bring out the best in you and support your journey — not be another stressor. To avoid the latter, here are four tips that every person dating while sober should follow. 

  1. Look for Red Flags — In Yourself

Depending on how far along you are in recovery, you may not have identified all of your triggers, nor healthy coping mechanisms for dealing with them. No matter how great your partner is, heading into a relationship without first addressing your own baggage is setting you both up for failure.  

  1. Take Things Slowly

Have you considered whether you’re fully ready for a relationship yet? If this is your first time dating while sober living, you may not be as prepared as you think. Move at a slower pace than you normally would have. You have so many more things to take into consideration for a future partner, you deserve to give yourself enough time to evaluate your feelings before the relationship gets too serious. 

  1. Keep Codependent Behaviors in Check

Are you bringing out the best in each other, or are you enabling your bad habits? Even if the relationship is going great, you must constantly make an effort to remain your own person. This means maintaining the relationships you had before you started dating; having plans and interests that don’t involve your lover; and sticking true to the healthy new lifestyle you’ve chosen for yourself like attending AA meetings.

  1. Always Put Sobriety First

The most important thing of all when dating in recovery is to always prioritize your recovery. This means that when your partner exhibits behaviors that are detrimental to your sober lifestyle — or you find yourself acting in a way that’s not conducive to recovery, you need to have the discipline to take a step back if needed. 

Dating after addiction recovery is challenging, but it’s not impossible. It requires a lot of thought, patience, and understanding from both you and your potential partner. But if you can navigate the tricky waters, you just might find someone who makes it all worth it. And who knows – maybe they’ll even inspire you to be the best version of yourself.