incredible-marketing Arrow

Can I Date During an Intensive Outpatient Program?

Many people want romantic relationships. They may enjoy the idea of being wooed and going out on dates. Often, the thrill of getting attention can drive a person to go out with many people. Typically, there’s nothing wrong with dating around in a healthy, honest way. However, when you’re first out of an inpatient program for a mental health condition or addiction, dating can harm your recovery.

Many people in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) recommend that you refrain from making major life changes unrelated to your sobriety during the first year. That includes dating or getting into relationships. In this article, we will outline the dangers of seeking romance during an intensive outpatient program (IOP).

Stifling Self-Discovery

If you’ve lived with poor mental health or addiction for a long time, you might not know who you are anymore. Your identity could center around your mental health labels. In the beginning, you have a unique opportunity to learn who you are outside of your mental health and addiction. Dating could prevent you from giving yourself the self-love and introspection that you deserve. Instead of connecting with yourself, you’ll connect with others. You might find your personality mirroring the people you’re dating. Additionally, they could become the way you define yourself. Ultimately, this leads us to the next danger.

Risk of Co-dependency

When you start your recovery, you risk replacing your mental health disorder or addiction with other unhealthy patterns. One such pattern is co-dependency. In essence, you attempt to fill each other’s emotional gaps. Either you need someone, or you need to be needed. With both positions, the enmeshment makes it hard to focus on your recovery. Soon, you feel like you need the other person to survive. Co-dependent relationships aren’t healthy. In fact, they can turn toxic in the long term. It’s better to wait until you can date smartly and safely.

Adding Stress to Your Life

Lastly, relationships add stress to your life. It doesn’t matter whether you are happily dating the person or not. Positive stress, commonly called eustress, still creates the same chemical effect as negative stress. As expected, stress can cause relapses into self-sabotaging behaviors and addictions. The part of the brain that handles stress neurohormones crosses over with the reward system responsible for addiction. It makes much more sense to wait to date until you have better stress resilience later in recovery.

When you transition from an inpatient program into an intensive outpatient program, you may feel driven to jump back into the world of dating. Though you are no longer in a facility full-time, you need to put your mental health and sobriety first. At The Guest House, we offer a top-notch intensive outpatient program. By engaging in traditional therapy and holistic modalities, you can grow stronger in your recovery. When you are ready to put your mental health first, please call us at (855) 483-7800.