During Recovery, Valentine’s Day Should Be a Time for Sober Single Reflection
On Valentine’s Day, everybody wants to be in a happy, romantic relationship. For individuals who have only recently started or completed rehab for substance use disorder (SUD), however, it may be best to remain single.
There’s an unwritten rule in Alcoholics Anonymous that is shared by most addiction specialists and psychotherapists that states people who are in recovery from SUD should not begin dating for at least the first year of their sobriety.
Take comedian Pete Davidson of the television program Saturday Night Live. His marijuana abuse was complicated by pain from Crohn’s disease and depression from his borderline personality disorder. Since coming out of rehab in March 2017, he has ended one long-term relationship and started and ended another four high-profile ones:
- Singer Ariana Grande, May to October 2018: Dates, becomes engaged, and breaks up.
- Actress Kate Beckinsale, January to May 2019: Dates and breaks up.
- Actress (and daughter of model/actress Andie MacDowell) Margaret Qualley, June to October 2019: Dates and breaks up
- Model (and daughter of supermodel Cindy Crawford) Kaia Gerber, Nov 2019 to January 2020: Dates and breaks up.
Davidson may not have been seeking these relationships necessarily. His representatives have suggested that the women pursued him. Nevertheless, despite the seemingly amicable nature of the breakups, Davidson seems to have relapsed after at least one of them. The publicity and cyber harassment they inspired also seems to have been a strain.
There’s no proof that the relationships failed because Davidson was newly sober, or that he wouldn’t have relapsed anyway, but the number of them suggests something may be wrong.
One columnist pointed out that a rule against dating early in recovery doesn’t appear in AA’s Big Book or other official publications, and said he knew of a relationship that began when both parties were newly sober and that it has lasted for years. However, it was the only one out of 100 that he knew about that did last.
There are several reasons for this.
When you are beginning sobriety, you need to concentrate on yourself, to be selfish. A new relationship is a distraction and a temptation. Alcohol is at many places where people go out on dates and is a social lubricant.
For another thing, you may not be making the most well-thought-out decisions early in recovery. Substance use can change the chemistry of your brain, your perceptions, and your judgment. Someone who seems to be your dream partner might be a toxic nightmare.
Also, a new relationship may become a new addiction or a higher power. If the relationship fails, it can be devastating to your mental health and drive you back to substance abuse.
That’s because rejection can trigger the recovering user to make a passive aggressive attempt to “punish” the rejecting partner by getting drunk, high, or wasted. It also inhibits the ability to make better decisions such as resisting the urge to relapse.
We all want to love and be loved, but not dating in the first year of sobriety is a rule not wisely broken, even if it’s not a total prohibition. During early recovery, it’s better to have the support of family and friends.