Avoiding Negative Relationships in Early Recovery
May 9, 2016


Avoiding Negative Relationships in Early Recovery

Humans are social creatures and as a result, people typically enjoy spending time with others. This could be as family, as friends, or as a love interest. When those in early recovery are first out of treatment, more than likely there are relationships that were damaged when they were in active addiction. While working the steps, it is suggested to repair relationships that were damaged by the disease. Keep in mind, repairing a relationship and continuing the relationship can be two very different things. Just because a relationship needs to be made right, does not mean that more time must go forth into a damaging association. In early recovery the first and most important focus should be staying true to sobriety and any type of relation that hinders that should be dissolved.

When the recovering addict is in the early stages of their recovery, this is a very sensitive and delicate time in their life. After treatment they are being thrown back into the real world, and day to day life, which usually was falling apart and the reason treatment was sought in the first place.

Being that early recovery is such a delicate stage in a recovering addict’s life, they are given back freedoms that may not have been permitted in treatment. With added freedom, is added temptation, so this is already a very crucial stage to avoid anything that could make the recovering addict relapse. Any person who is spending time with those in early recovery must be 100% on board with the process and understand all aspects of this disease and rehabilitation.

Relationships could even look healthy on the outside but may have a codependent nature, and this can betips-stop-enabling-addiction just as damaging as someone who brings the recovering addict around triggers. A great solution for a recovery addict who is seeking social interaction, would be to suggest going to 12-Step based meetings. 12-Step based meetings provide an environment that is encouraging and supportive of those in early recovery, because everyone there has likely had similar experiences themselves.

In most treatment programs, it is suggested that those in recovery seek out a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who is also working the 12-steps of recovery, but are a mentor figure. A sponsor is there to offer support in recovery, they have typically been in recovery for a solid amount of time, and have had their own sponsor before. This would be the first phone call a recovery addict would make if they faced any triggers or trials in their day to day experiences. A sponsor can be the backbone to staying sober for some.

At A New Start, Inc. there is an active Alumni Program where there are meetings held various times a month. The alumni program also hosts fun events like bowling or golf-carting to spend quality time around the recovery family that has been formed in the IOP or OP services offered.

As previously mentioned there are three relationship types in focus, relationships within the family, relationships between friends, acquaintances, and peers, and of course, romantic relationships.

Relationships within the Family:

Some of the closest relationships that humans will experience in life are relationships that are formed within the family. “You often hurt those who you love the most” sad, but true. This is the same case for those who were recently living in active addiction. This disease makes people do awful things- lying, stealing, hurting those who are close. Many of the time, this starts in the family unit. So for most, there are many family relationships that have been strained over the years. When someone returns after rehab there are many relationships that may should be mended. Since you are typically closest with family, these are the relationships that require the most attention.

Even in family relationships there could be toxic situations that must be avoided. If this means losing touch with someone that is in your immediate family, this may have to be the case for continued successful recovery.

In a perfect world, family members should be supportive of the recovery process for the recovering addict but we all know a perfect world does not exist. It is important for those in recovery to break ties with those who are unsupportive of the process. This does not have to be forever, but during those crucial first few months in early recovery it is important to stay focused and stay surrounded by positive, sober influencers. If cutting ties with a family member is needed then so be it. Recovery is a matter of life or death, so anyone who loves and cares about the recovering addict should know this and act accordingly.

Relationships with Peers (Friendships):

Depression and Addiction Friends are a necessary element of living a life in recovery. As previously mentioned, humans are social by nature and they depend on other humans to provide certain functions of support. When one is in early recovery, usually their friend circle can be a little off balanced. It is encouraged that the person in recovery cut all ties with those who have been a negative influence in the past.

One in early recovery should not be associating with people or hanging out in places where they did when they were living a life in active addiction. This should be common sense when it comes to relapse prevention.

A healthy place to find new friends besides in the rooms would be in various interest groups or recreational leagues. There are many different sports that adults play for fun that could interest someone in early recovery. If sports don’t interest them, there are many other hobbies that people enjoy meeting about. Some of these hobbies may include: book clubs, sewing clubs, young professionals organizations, cooking classes, dance classes, fitness clubs, yoga and other fitness related classes. These are just a few places for those in recovery to meet others with the focus of staying sober.

Romantic Relationships:

In most 12-Step programs it is suggested to avoid romantic relationships for the first year in recovery. The first year in recovery should be focused on working the steps, and working on one’s self. It is important to live a stable life before inviting someone else in. Dating too early in recovery can be damaging to recovery and can take the focus off the main goal at hand, which is maintaining sobriety.

Once the recovering addict does have a solid amount of sober time (at least one year) there are a few things that should be kept in mind when thinking of entering a new relationship. The biggest thing would be to make sure that both parties involved know about the choice for a new life in recovery and that sobriety needs to come first in all aspects of life in order to avoid any potential relapse.

Relationships for recovering addicts should be taken slow, because of the instant gratification feeling that so many recovering addicts long for, this can be a challenging task in itself. For the first year of a new relationship, try to avoid big and studden steps, such as: children, marriage, or moving in together.

The last main tip for romantic relationships in recovery is to try and avoid relationships from places that are a large part of your life on the daily basis. Examples of this would be work, 12-step meetings, or the gym. Any places that are part of a normal routine, or where free time is spent should be avoided. This is a precaution, in case the relationship goes south in the future. This can make the places uncomfortable, and result in discontinuing attendance. The biggest tip in romantic relationships in early recovery would be to proceed with caution.


Relapse prevention Remember recovery in the early stages should be a constant mission to work on one’s self and maintain sobriety. Build a support network with many different people during your first year in early recovery. Staying busy, and finding good people and great sober activities to occupy time will ensure success in the journey. In the first year it is important to seek self improvement, when that happens all the other relationships and situations in one’s life will fall into place.

If you know someone who needs to speak with someone regarding their relationships, or recovery in general, call A New Start today at (561) 571-8849 for more information about our intensive outpatient treatment program.

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