Romance in Rehab: Why It Doesn’t Work

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Shlomo Hoffman
Jul 10, 2020

It seems counterintuitive, even cruel. Starting new relationships during addiction treatment is universally accepted as a terrible idea.

But why?

Wouldn’t it help drive away the loneliness? Can’t it be a welcome distraction to the emotional turmoil? What’s wrong with a little fun?

Everyone knows it’s true but sometimes it isn’t explained well enough. But it still makes sense. Hear me out.   

1. Emotional Stability

Checking in to a drug or alcohol treatment facility doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You don’t just find one on the side of the road, make sure your debit card covers the night at a decent place with fresh towels, and amble over to the front desk. Getting there takes a story of pain, of emotional trauma and a whole lotta courage. You probably had to dig deep. If not you, someone who loves you did. You need to heal, to watch the tear in your heart slowly close. Scars need to time to fade, and even then, the imprint sticks around. You will be absentmindedly rubbing that uneven skin for a long time to come.

As you begin to get well, calmness and peace are good anchors to try to hold tightly. There are things you start to understand, regrets to work through, and guilt to leave go of. Whatever drama you are dealing with should be stuff from the past. New drama is unnecessary and unhealthy.

Let’s call that annoying spade the spade that it is. Relationships can be a pain in the neck. It has ups and downs. There are times there is no barrier strong enough to divide you from each other, and times there is no bridge long enough to close the divide. Love is exhausting and creates hardships and self-doubt. It takes energy to make it work and work to make it beautiful.

Your energy right now needs to be conserved for the fight to get your life back. Every last drop.

2. Distractions

Distractions while in treatment can lead to forgetting why you are there in the first place. Staying focused is crucial. There is so much to learn, so much to know. Identify triggers. Gain confidence. Breathe the air of a liberation from the devastation of drugs.

Grow! Grow! Grow!

 Ever been to a ballgame and got stuck in the team shop, waiting to buy merch on an endless line and miss a big play? Remember walking back outside, sheepishly holding a 30 dollar hat you could’ve picked up for 10 at Walmart tomorrow in place of the experience you actually came for?

Don’t pass up the opportunity to chase the dream of changing your life for a band-aid that will likely slide off at the first sign of rain.

Stay in your seat.

You are about to win the whole thing!

3. Rediscovering YOU!

Recovery is in essence a process of rediscovery. For the first time in forever, you are tapping into the wonder of your inner self. There is deep beauty inside you, tucked away perhaps, but inside you all the same. You may have forgotten, or never even known it existed, but it is there. Always has been. It’s been hiding for a while, but it is starting to sprout, to bloom and to blossom. Like a groundhog poking at the ground above, it is close to that time of breaking through, of feeling the sun burn on your open face. It is a time to focus inward, to discover the magic that lies within. It’s time to be selfish.

In this context, how does starting a relationship sound? Yep. I thought so too.

Relationships- I’m talking about the successful ones-move outward. Giving of yourself to another, giving in, and in a sense giving away. You can only give when you know that what you have inside is worth giving. Otherwise, everybody is left with nothing at all. That’s where broken bottles of beer on the freeway come from.

There will be time to find someone special. Exercising patience and knowing when to make that investment will ensure a truly worthwhile return.

Focusing only on yourself may seem selfish but sometimes there isn’t a more generous proposition.

Since joining the Avenues Recovery content team, Shlomo has become a thought leader in the addiction field. His popular addiction podcast "Rubber Bands" is a must listen for anyone involved in Substance abuse treatment. He is a Seinfeld junkie, a recovering Twitter fanatic, and a sports expert. He enjoys milk shakes and beautiful views from rooftops. Sometimes he bakes.

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Brooke Abner,

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