Love in Recovery
Finding love while in recovery can be a tricky proposition. You often hear about, and may have experienced personally, people getting together during or after treatment. In Alcoholic’s Annonymous, there are twelve recognized steps of recovery. The unofficial “13th Step” can refer to dating while in recovery or specifically to someone with years of sobriety preying on a newcomer to the program. It is generally agreed upon that one should wait for six months to one year before dating or entering into a relationship. It is natural to seek a relationship with another, however, there are many other tasks to attend to in early recovery. This is true if you are recovering from an addiction to alcohol or other substance as well as recovering from depression or an eating disorder. The first year of recovery is an opportunity to lay a solid foundation and develop your new identity. Becoming involved with someone romantically will, in most cases, prove to be a distraction and possibly a derailment from your path to wellness. Also important in these early days is developing a new routine for yourself, and a new relationship can make that even more challenging. A contributing factor to some mental health and substance abuse issues can be low self-esteem. This is why the most important kind of love in recovery is self love.
Learning to love oneself can be a lifelong journey. Here are a few tips that can assist you in developing self love.
1) Positive affirmations: Yes, this can feel a little silly at first, however, reciting positive affirmations has been found to create new beliefs while chipping away at some deeply rooted negative beliefs we hold.
2) Boundary setting: Setting healthy boundaries lays the foundation for self love since it involves valuing our own health and wellness over pleasing others.
3) Journaling: There are many benefits to the process of keeping a journal including stress reduction. It also allows you get to know yourself better. Specifically keeping a gratitude journal, a daily listing of things you are thankful for, can help focus your attention on what you like about yourself and your life.
In the early stages of recovery, the relationship we need to keep in focus is the one with ourselves. Often we know what is best for us, and still decide to make a different choice. Of course, non-romantic relationships can be helpful as well. Develop a support system, if possible, by utilizing groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and Celebrate Recovery. Remember the following: “Life is like a camera, focus on what is important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t work out, just take another shot!”