As a recovering love addict, I am well aware of the reasons why we are told to hold off on getting in a relationship for at least one year when we first start recovery. The main one being that we need to work on ourselves and second to that is that the stress of another person (i.e., worrying about their needs, relying on them to meet our needs, etc) can cause us to continually relapse.
Yet, there is another reason that I appreciate which is directly related to our brain. By now, we have all heard of dopamine, the "reward" chemical which gets released in the brain when we use substances, or experience infatuation, new relationships, and sex. The latter, sex, gives us the biggest spike of dopamine which often fuels our desire to experience increasing amounts of sex and love. This is because:
- Sex and love make us feel good about ourselves
- They give us the feeling that we are loveable and attractive
- They relieve us of our feelings of loneliness and boredom
- They bring a sense of meaning into our lives
- They help us manage our stress
- They help us cope with anxiety and fear
While this may sound absolutely amazing, it can also be illusive, addictive, and problematic, especially if we never allow ourselves to fully experience and embrace the natural tides that life's great ocean brings in. By tides I mean feelings of sadness, heartache, insecurity, loneliness, and boredom (to name a few). For so many addicts (and for most people, really), running from anything painful becomes such a normative process that the slightest bit if dis-ease often causes us to run. Sadly, we often run towards something destructive, never allowing ourselves to work through the pain in order to get to the other side where immense healing, intimacy, and deep connection occur.
Yet, challenging emotions and situations are actually gifts (I know, cliché, right?). They act as a guidepost that help us get to the deepest parts of ourselves which allows us to appreciate the moments of clarity, happiness, natural feelings of ecstasy, unconditional love, and a sense of belonging. Without the polarity of opposites that life continues to bring us, we would not be the beautiful beings that we are. By having consistent and healthy tools, support, and guidance to learn to sit in all of our struggles, we realize that we are not going to die by the mere act of feeling.
So when will you know that you are ready to date and/or have sex in recovery? Here are some questions to ask yourself when deciding:
1. Are you comfortable being alone?
2. Are you comfortable being independent?
3. Can you handle the challenges of a relationship including a break up without going off the deep end?
4. Do you feel lovable and confident with who you are regardless of another person?
5. Are you stable in your own recovery with your own recovery supports?
6. Can you identify your emotional and other triggers and manage them in a healthy way?
7. Are you able to communicate your needs in a healthy way?
8. Are you comfortable having sex, being intimate, and being vulnerable with another person? Or is sex a crutch or escape?
9. Are you comfortable waiting to have sex if that is what feels right for you?
10. Can you put your needs first outside of another?
11. Can you have compassion and empathy for yourself and for another person?
12. Can you take time for you to self care, even with another person?
You ultimately get to choose when you are ready to date or have sex, which by the way, can also apply to a married couple in recovery(i.e., starting over in your courtship process--especially if one's addiction has infiltrated most of your relationship). However, it can be especially helpful to ask yourself these 12 questions to see if you are ready to take such an important step for you and whomever you choose to date, or your partner (if you are married). Giving yourself time doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can actually be really healing.
As always, you are so worth it dear ones.