Courtship changes and improves in recovery, but navigating the process can be a daunting task. You should know upfront that dating can be a complicated endeavor for people with sobriety. This is because matters of the heart are quite complicated – especially when recovery is involved. Nevertheless, finding a romantic sober relationship can be very rewarding.

Here’s the straight scoop on dating in recovery, complete with some tips you can take with you as you venture out into the wonderful world of sober dating.

Before You Start Dating, Get Grounded in Your Recovery First and Keep it First

It is important to have a solid foundation in your sobriety before you start dating. Most sponsors agree you should be clean at least year and work all 12 steps before you attempt to start a romantic relationship. This is for the safety of your recovery.  

A year might sound like a long time, but you want to make sure you’re on solid ground before you allow yourself to get whisked off your feet in the name of love. That way, if you fall, you’ll have a safe place to land. It’s never a good idea to start dating if you only have thirty or sixty days clean. You’re just too shaky in your sobriety.

Once you’ve established some solid recovery, you’ll want to keep it. That means, you still need to go to meetings, work with your sponsor, and fellowship with other recovering people even though you are dating. Sure it’s okay to date, but not at the expense of your sobriety. You have to keep your program as your top priority at all times.

When you Date Sober, You Can Expect to Feel a Whole Lotta Feelings

Learning to live a life without drugs and alcohol is challenging. There’s all these feelings involved – many of them strange and unfamiliar. Recovery is very much about learning how to manage your own feelings without the use of chemicals. When you really get down to it, when people relapse, they relapse because they want to change the way they feel.

Dating and relationships are all about feelings. With the exception of a strong dose of heroin, nothing has the potential to change the way you feel like a bite from the lovebug. This is why dating sober can be both exhilarating and devastating. When it’s exhilarating, it’s like a drug. When it’s devastating, it can make you want to get high or drunk.

Many people say dating was one of the most difficult things they had to do in sobriety. When you welcome a partner into your life, you become vulnerable. This leaves you open to intense feelings that you may not know how to handle without drugs or alcohol. While dating can be wonderful, it can also be disorienting.

It’s important to keep this in mind as you begin sober dating. If you know what to expect, you won’t feel blindsided if you start to feel overwhelmed in the early days of courtship.

Talk to Your Sponsor About Your Decision to Date

If you’re working a program of recovery like Alcoholics Anonymous, you have a sponsor. It is suggested that you talk to him or her about your decision to date. Your sponsor will be happy to let you know whether they think it’s a good idea. Of course, you don’t need permission to date sober, but it is a good idea to get your sponsor’s support.

Be honest with your sponsor at all times. Tell him or her what’s going on with you, how you are feeling, and how you are managing your emotions. You’ll want to keep your sponsor close as you take your first steps into the world of sober dating.

In Sobriety, You Get to Choose a Great Partner for Yourself

Now that you are sober, you get to decide what kind of person you want to date. In active addiction, many of us lowered our standards in the relationship department. We settled for less than we deserved. We were abused or betrayed. We weren’t necessarily proud of who we were spending our lives with. Today, we get to choose who we want to be with.

This is a big plus side to dating in recovery.

With a clear mind, you get to spend some real time thinking about the person you want to be with. What kind of values are important to you? What qualities are you looking for in a partner? What kind of life do you want to create with the person you are with? It’s a good idea to meditate about these questions.

Remember, You Are a Catch – Don’t Settle For Less Than the Best

You have worked through many of your personal issues by working the steps, you have gotten rid of a lot of your baggage, and you are clean and sober. You are living an honest and productive life. You are quite the catch!

Make the decision now that you are not going to settle for any less than what you want. Get out there with the attitude that you are going to find someone who is worthy to be with you, someone who will bring joy and goodness to your life – and most importantly, someone who will support your recovery.

Ask Yourself, Are You Willing to Date People You Meet in the Program?

Many people believe people who meet in 12-step recovery should not date under any circumstances. “This ain’t no dating service!” they holler. People feel this way for a number of reasons.

The main reason people disagree with dating sober people in the program is that everyone in 12-step recovery struggles with addiction. Two people with addiction issues can get into a relationship and soon find themselves getting high together. Happens all the time. Some people decide not to date people in recovery for this very reason.

However; when two people who are committed to recovery come together and stay clean together, it can be a beautiful thing. No one will ever understand you better than someone else who has struggled with addiction. And, having a romantic partner who understands the recovery process and the importance of meetings and sponsorship can be awesome.

You have to decide whether or not you feel comfortable dating other recovering addicts or alcoholics. There are benefits and drawbacks to dating people in the program. It’s a good idea to talk to your sponsor about this one.

Decide If You’re Willing to Date Someone Who Drinks Socially

Usually, when you venture onto the dating scene, you’re pretty solid on the fact that you’re not willing to date anyone who smokes crack or shoots heroin. But, there is the matter of social drinking.

There are tons of people who drink socially and do not have a problem with alcohol. You have decided you are not one of these people. You are living a sober lifestyle and you do not drink alcohol. The question is, will you date someone who drinks?

Many recovering people say it is okay to date someone who drinks socially as long as they themselves remain totally honesty about their own recovery. If you decide to date someone who drinks socially, it is imperative that you let them know upfront about your sobriety. You need to be clear about the fact that you do not drink or use drugs under any circumstances.

The question is, are you strong enough to get involved with someone who is going to order an alcoholic beverage when you go out for dinner? Only you can decide…..with the help of your sponsor, of course!

When You’re in Recovery, You Get to Enjoy an Authentic Relationship

Think back to the last relationship you had. You know, the one when you were in the throes of your addiction? Icky, right?

You may have been using dope with your partner. Or, you were with someone who didn’t have a problem with drugs and alcohol, but didn’t have a clue about the extent of yours. In either case, when you’re in your addiction, you lie. It is simply impossible to have an authentic romantic relationship when you are a drug addict or an alcoholic.

Everything about the disease of addiction demands that you feed your addiction. This happens at all costs. When you were loaded in your last relationship, you were incapable of genuine human emotion. This included affection, compassion, and real concern for the needs and wants of a partner.

Recovery affords you the opportunity to have an authentic relationship. Everything about your experience will be real. When you’re not medicating with mind-altering chemicals, you get to be the real you. You get to experience the other person in a real way. You get to have real emotions. Real conversations. Real human exchange.

A real relationship.

Sex is Better When You’re Sober

We’re all adults here, right? So, we should be able to have an adult conversation about sex. You’ll be happy to know that one of the benefits to sober dating is the sex. Safe sex, that is.

When you have sex in recovery, you actually get to enjoy it and remember it. It is meaningful and caring and it lasts longer! And, without all of those chemicals surging your body, you have less performance issues to worry about. Yes, one of the many benefits to sober dating is the sex.

It’s a good idea to get a full STD/HIV check before you start dating if you haven’t already. Many of us made foolish decisions when it came to sex when we were drugging and drinking. Knowing that you’re in good health will bring you peace of mind as you step into the world of sober dating.

You Get to Go Fun Places and Do Fun Things When You Date in Sobriety

Sober dating is all about getting out there and having fun. When you were drinking and using drugs, dating was about fitting your partner in between binges. Not so when you date in recovery.

Just think about all the fun things you can do with a date when it doesn’t involve going to a bar, hitting a crack pipe, or popping Suboxone. You can go bowling, take a walk in the park, go to the local fair, go to a nice restaurant, see a good movie, go to an art exhibit, or see a concert. The options are limitless!

There is a lot of fun to be had when you date sober. Just use your imagination and think about all of the activities to do and places to see in your town or city.

Get Out There and Find Someone Special

Ok, so you acknowledge that there are feelings involved in dating sober. You know you need to talk to your sponsor and get a solid foundation in recovery before you start dating. You have some decisions to make – are you going to date someone in the program or go out with a social drinker? You understand that it’s a good idea to get an STD/HIV check. You’re excited about having sex sober. You want to have some fun.

What are you waiting for? Get out there and find someone special!

Do you have experience dating sober? Share it here.