Getting sober is no picnic. Staying sober is even less of one, and for recovering alcoholics, navigating the world of dating can add undue stress to their lives.
Over at the New York Daily News' Addictions and Answers column, Dr. Dave fielded some questions from an anonymous reader who's still trying to stay dry. Turns out that the reader in question made a huge blunder: He dated another recovering alcoholic.
Therefore I turned to Joe Schrank, co-founder of The Fix, one of the best recovery websites I know. “The worst mistake newly sober people make in dating,” Joe told me, “is doing it at all. It is very easy to prioritize a new relationship over one's recovery. Since most alcoholics are not good listeners, and we all need companionship, the best thing to do when dating is, don't date another alcoholic. Isn't one per system enough? Look at it as practice — See if you can develop a relationship before it becomes about sex. Remember, the right man or woman will find you when you are the one they want to be with.”
According to Dr. Dave, the best alternative for newly recovering alcohoics is a pretty grim one: celibacy — at least for that first tumultuous year.
Our clinical findings are that when you become addicted, your interpersonal development often goes into hibernation. Without their addiction-given powers of denial, delusion and intoxication, people like Eddie find they're like a socially inept 16-year old in the body of a 32-year-old- man. That first celibate year gives you a time to learn adult social skills and — as the grandfather of addiction treatment, Vernon Johnson, once put it — to reach the last stage in the first phase of recovery: accurate empathy for others.
Feeling accurate empathy for others. That's a serious gauntlet to throw down for anyone, much less someone dealing with an addiction.
Readers, how about you? Has anyone out there in Internetland dated any recovering alcoholics? Had they also weathered a year of celibacy before diving back into sex?