If you’ve been through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or another 12-Step program, you’re aware of the tenet that recommends single people who are newly sober shouldn’t have romantic relationships within the first year. Does this mean they can cultivate other relationships? Is being single better than being in a committed union? What are some of the pros and cons of being sober and single? Let’s take a closer look.
The Pros of Being Single
When you’re new to recovery, there’s a lot to unpack and process. Addiction science experts state that one of the primary reasons going away to an inpatient rehabilitation facility can be so effective for healing is to have an opportunity to focus solely on yourself—not in a selfish way, but in a clear, purpose-driven way.
It’s not that other people are distractions. However, in some ways, they might be, because:
- You can’t help but be concerned about them and their needs instead of directing focus to your work of self-discovery.
- There’s a certain level of vulnerability required in early recovery, which might mean relationships are more challenging. For example, it’s one thing to make amends with important people currently in your life to establish a better connection, but if you’re caught up in the euphoric excitement of a new romance, that requires a different type of emotional currency that deep down, you may not have the energy to spend right away.
- Therapist Anita Gadhia-Smith, who’s also in recovery, notes that some people can give away their personal power too easily to another person, which is a risk, especially if the relationship fails.
So consider one valuable pro of single life as a chance to devote time to rebuilding a relationship with yourself and all that entails. Here are just a few other positive aspects of being single when you’re sober.
An increased focus on essential routine and rituals
Every person who completes addiction rehab works through an individualized continuum of care plan and uses it as a guide to develop healthful routines and rituals. This daily care reinforces goals and sets a course for the future.
More opportunity to explore personal interests
As you uncover important aspects of yourself and what matters to you, your new sobriety paves the way to explore various hobbies, activities, and other things on your time.
A dedicated intention to form meaningful connections
With your newfound clarity, it’s easier to recognize that some people simply don’t mesh with who you are and may even be toxic to your ability to maintain wellness. Choosing to be single means that you don’t have to compromise your sobriety just to be with someone else, and can expand your social network as you see fit.
Cons of Single Sobriety
Generally—and this is a broad generalization at best—people who are in committed (and healthy!) relationships tend to be more financially and emotionally stable. In an article for the Institute of Family Studies, Dr. Marina Adshade highlighted some of the potential reasons for these benefits, as well as how two people share a foundation of health because of the value they place in the relationship.
Potential other cons of single sobriety:
You miss having a partner
Life can be rough, and it’s often easier to navigate it with someone by your side who’s as committed to the relationship as you are. This feeling might be especially poignant if addiction was a catalyst to a romantic partnership ending.
Loneliness in sobriety is a real concern for many people, and can be a trigger to relapse. You need to build a lot of fortitude to reframe how you feel and take active measures to avoid isolation by engaging with people in other fulfilling ways.
Remember, Social Interaction is Always Beneficial
Regardless of age, socio-economic status, or sobriety, positive and consistent social interaction is essential to our well-being. However, it doesn’t always have to be romantic—or at least, not until you’re ready for that type of relationship.
Using AA or other mutual aid groups as examples, think of the unified support shared with a sponsor or during a meeting: individuals from all backgrounds come together to focus on better health. In many respects, they all feel seen, heard, and valued by people who understand what they’re going through, and why their choices matter.
Here are some other tips to maximize connections with people on your terms:
- Using Online Support Groups for Recovery
- Finding Connections in Sober Living
- Including More Sober Friends in Your Life
Consider Willingway’s Connections, Too
Whether through our alumni services programs or continuing care community groups throughout the Southeast—or both!—the professionals at Willingway understand how vital meaningful engagement is to your sobriety. Let us help.