Why Early Recovery Relationships are Dangerous

Monday, July 29, 2019 | By admin

No matter how many times we hear it from our sponsors, from the techs and therapists in inpatient treatment, and from the old-timers in meetings, most of us will still experiment with touching the hot flame of an early recovery relationship. 

The excitement, danger, and need to ignore our own problems so easily outweighs all of the good advice and experience that is shared with us about the topic. So why do we do it? Even more troubling, why do those of us that have been burned before, get into an early recovery relationship again? 

It really is a question of the ages, as well as almost a rite of passage for millions of us, despite us knowing that only pain will follow. Here are some of the causes and dangers of why we choose to get into early recovery relationships, and warnings for those who might be thinking about it. 

You Attract What You Are

Let’s be honest, before we work our steps, we are leeches. I love all of us and everything we come from and go through, but in early recovery, we are like blind babies, walking through this new journey of life, in a strange land, surrounded by strange people. We are trying to figure out how to just not drink or snort powders or stick needles into our arms on a daily basis. 

So, the most illogical thing we can do during this time is to focus on how to lasso another human being and bring them into our house of horrors. 

It doesn’t make any sense. 

Yet, the majority of us do it. We have heard the stories of those who have come before us, who met “the one” in the back row of the meeting, and they both relapsed a few days, weeks, or months later. Some of them found a whole new bottom, and some never came back at all. 

Yet we think to ourselves, “MY story will be different, this person is the one I just know it”. Well, here’s why you’re wrong:

  • You are still sick
  • They are probably still sick
  • Neither of you is going to save each other
  • This isn’t The Notebook

Until you have surrendered your thoughts and your actions over to something that ISN’T yourself, until you have performed a thorough investigation of WHO you are why you do the horrible, selfish, insane things you do, until you right the wrongs you have done, and until you learn how to become OTHER-centered, you will never find a loving, understanding, honest relationship. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you don’t believe me, ask anyone who has managed to stay sober for over a year, who has worked their steps, and who has ever sponsored anyone.

Early recovery relationships don’t work because, in early recovery, we are absolutely, overwhelmingly insane. Anyone that is willing to get into a relationship with “all of that”, is probably just as off their rocker. This isn’t Bonnie and Clyde. This isn’t the streets anymore. It’s just insanity.  

early recovery relationship

“If you want to experience pain”

I still remember it to this day, even 5 years later. I told my sponsor about a crush I had on a fellow member of the program. My sponsor laughed at me and said, “Go for it. If you didn’t experience enough pain during your addiction, you’ll find what you’re looking for with them.” 

At the time, I thought, what do YOU know? Looking back… I cringe and then I laugh. I now tell my sponsees this same thing. I laugh at them and say okay, go ahead. Because here is the thing, no one could have told me what to do before I was REALLY ready to surrender to the program, and back then, I wasn’t ready. 

Sure, I had lost everything, pawned everything I owned, stole from family, friends, and strangers. I wrote false checks, I got arrested, I sold my body, and I got in countless fistfights in order to keep getting high and drunk, but the first few times I tried getting sober, I still hadn’t admitted I was powerless. 

The only time I ever felt powerful, was when someone was interested in me. Until the insanity of waiting for their texts, wondering if I was saying the right thing, overthinking EVERYTHING literally drove me back to drink.

On one of those drunken, high as a kite nights, I was drinking alone AT that person whom I thought was cheating on me but actually just fell asleep, I drove drunk, crashed my car, got a DUI, and was kicked out of my halfway and fired from my job. Not pretty, but nevertheless, I consider myself lucky to have made it out of that darkness alive. 

Here was what I learned from my, not one, but THREE early recovery relationships:

  • I did not know how to set boundaries, hell, I didn’t even know what boundaries were
  • I was NOT as tough as I thought I was
  • I did NOT know how to relax around someone without being drunk or high
  • I was extremely jealous and cripplingly insecure
  • I also had a slight tendency to want to control… everything

To be honest, I learned all of that the first time I tried to get into a relationship. Did it stop me from doing it again? Nope. Did I learn my lesson? Nope, at least not until after my fifth relapse in a year. 

This is the case with most of us. We are aware of the potential dangers, and what others have been through, yet many of us will still get into an early recovery relationship as soon as someone says hello. 

Here’s Why

Getting clean and sober is painful. It goes against everything we know. In times of chaos and unrest, human beings need connection and companionship. When we feel lonely, insecure, afraid, angry, happy, sad, and bored, we want to share it with another person. 

Rather than getting into a relationship that you know damn well is not a good idea, try to take the suggestions you’re given. Such as:

    • Find connection in the rooms and within your sponsorship family
    • Find a connection to a HIGHER POWER
    • Work the steps HONESTLY
    • Go get coffee with people you aren’t attracted to who have time and healthy sobriety


  • Worry less about “being cool” and worry more about staying alive 


We all want intimacy, yet most of us, if not ALL of us, have no idea what real intimacy even is, and better yet, we don’t even know to connect with OURSELVES, not to mention another human being. If what we want is a real, honest, and meaningful relationship, we have to learn about ourselves first. Work your steps, find out what YOU need and what you have to offer the world. The steps will get you there, and in the meantime, your friendships will carry you through. 

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