Sober living requires a strong network of support to help bring about lasting recovery. The problem, however, is that some sober house residents may equate support to being in a romantic relationship. Generally speaking, romantic involvements are not encouraged during and after drug treatment. In fact, many old-timers in recovery like to say: “no relationships for the first year” because the major emotional transition that happens during rehabilitation could spell higher than usual costs to recovery.

But why does entering a relationship during the early stages of recovery considered damaging to long-term sobriety goals? Why is getting intimately involved with another person frowned upon when recovery is basically dependent upon a reliable support system? And when will it ever be okay to be in a relationship if one is a recovering addict or alcoholic?

The answers to all of these questions hinge upon an understanding of the true nature of addiction.[1] At its core, all addiction is essentially addiction to self. An addict or alcoholic who is in the early stages of recovery will find it hard to establish true intimacy as much of his or her focus is on and should be on himself or herself. Romance at this point may just be a replacement for the void that was once filled by alcohol or drugs. Until the individual has managed to build a strong recovery, he or she is bound to feel vulnerable in a new relationship.

It is a different story, however, when the addict has learned enough life skills that enable him to set aside self-interest in favor of loving relationships with others. By this time, the recovering alcoholic or addict should have learned how to be happy with himself or herself and is not plagued anymore by self-esteem or trust issues. Of course, even in a “normal” relationship, one must put in the time and the effort to make it work so it goes without saying that in a relationship where one or both is a recovering addict or alcoholic, the demands are twice if not thrice as high. Every relationship must grow if it is intended to stand through the test of time. If growth is blocked, the relationship becomes fraught with tension and it is at this stage where most flounder or fizzle altogether.

If you are finding it hard to get through the first year of recovery without being in a romantic relationship, just continue working your program, practicing the 12 steps and meeting with your sponsor. [2] In a sober living California setting, nobody is pressuring you to get a girlfriend or a boyfriend right away. Be patient, make a long term plan and become a person that you yourself would like to date. Recovery is a lifelong process and you have plenty of time to build a solid foundation and the keys to a new life.