It's Valentine's Day, and love is in the air. Yet February 14th can be tough for a lot of people, especially those in recovery who face a unique set of challenges on this day of celebrating romance.
This may come as a surprise beyond the recovery-care community, but addiction experts strongly recommend that one does not enter into a new romantic relationship during detox and treatment. In fact, it's preferred that one stays single for the entire first year of their recovery, and instead take part in beneficial acts of self-love and self-care.
It may be difficult to understand at first, as emotional and physical support from friends and family during a person's recovery is always encouraged. However, getting romantically and emotionally involved with someone else during this period may lead to preoccupation and extreme dependence (emotionally, socially, and sometimes physically), which can become a pathological condition that affects you and the co-dependent in all other relationships.
Our Vice President of Clinical Development, Dr. Romas Buivydas, is an expert in addiction recovery and mental health issues, and explains how a romantic relationship during the first year of recovery can create an unhealthy environment, co-dependency and overwhelming guilt.
“The consensus both in research and anecdotally is that folks in early recovery are still contending with feelings of guilt, anger and shame – and they need to take care of that before entering into an emotional relationship, and taking on another person’s feelings. For the first year in recovery, the brain is still trying to stabilize itself. It is re-engineering itself to operate without the chemical it was once dependent on,” explains Romas.
The result of this re-engineering - or, as it's clinically called, Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS): mood swings, rigid thinking patterns and sleeplessness. Because of this, people in recovery may respond to an emotional situation with a partner in a way that they - and their brain - perceive as normal, but isn’t. When these problems become too much to handle, it can re-open the gateway to relapse.
But, all is not lost. There are countless ways to find love by taking care of yourself - body and mind. So, this Valentine's Day, pamper yourself! If you have the means, get a massage. Buy a day pass to a nice gym, escape the New England snow and take a dip in the hot tub or a steam in the sauna. Go for a walk. Engulf yourself in a good book. Whatever it is that makes you feel good, and you don't usually have the time for - do it!
And remember that you're not alone. 12Step programs hold meetings every day, but February 14th is understandably a bit busier. Check your local schedule and get in some time with people who understand and support your journey. You may be single, but you’re certainly not alone.
So, in short, if you're in recovery from substance abuse, your Valentine is you. Today is a day to celebrate you and your recovery and concentrate on helping and loving yourself.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Spectrum Health Systems can help. Please call (844) 233-6372 anytime.