People in recovery (especially in early sobriety) are often working to overcome challenges such as low self-esteem, shame or codependency—common concerns that can become obstacles to developing healthy interpersonal relationships. Below, we offer some guidance about how to develop relationships in recovery that are healthy (and avoid those that are dysfunctional):
- DON’T attempt to replace drugs/alcohol with a relationship (whether platonic, romantic, etc.). We recommend instead choosing to use recovery resources like sponsors, meetings, prayer/meditation and the fellowship if you’re feeling vulnerable or if your sobriety isn’t rock solid.
- DON’T start a romantic relationship in early recovery (within the first year). Relationships can be tough—especially if one or both partners are experiencing the ups and downs of being newly sober. Emotional rawness plus less-than-ideal judgment can be a recipe for disaster.
- DON’T rely on one relationship to fulfill all your needs. Focusing solely on a connection with one particular friend or family member to the exclusion of everyone else can lead to unhealthy dependency.
- DO continue with your own self-care WHILE strengthening important relationships in your life with friends, family, colleagues, sponsors, etc.
- DO identify your patterns in relationships. To avoid having your personal history repeat itself, develop an understanding of your own defects of character and the types of relationships you’ve had with others in the past. (We suggest “making a searching and fearless moral inventory” of yourself—step four of the 12 steps.)
- DO choose your relationships wisely. This means finding companions who live up to the values that matter to you, are supportive of your recovery and aren’t in active addiction.
We, as humans, are programmed to be social creatures—and each of us deserves companionship and love. Following the guidance offered here can help to ensure that the relationships you forge in sobriety will be a complement (and not a hindrance) to your recovery.