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What is a Rehab Romance?

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When we’re new to recovery, connection to a community is crucial if we want to maintain sobriety. Listening to the experience strength and hope of others who have hit bottom and turned their life around is the tried and true method.

Not surprisingly, this vulnerability and sharing of personal history can lead a newcomer to developing feelings for someone else in recovery. You’ve both done the same things, you’ve both felt the same feelings, and now, you’re both on the same path to a better life. This kind of affection can develop early, often before treatment is complete.

But anyone in with long-term sobriety will tell you that early recovery is a time to focus on yourself; your own needs, your own health, your own peace of mind. Jumping into a relationship might feel good—like a natural and harmless high—but few things can jeopardize your early sobriety as much as a rehab romance.

Are Couples Rehabs Good?

Of course, not everyone is single when they’re ready to get sober. Seeking treatment is often intended to mend relationships — romantic or otherwise — that have been negatively impacted by our drinking and drugging. Sometimes couples, in which both partners are dealing with drug abuse and addiction, will try to enter treatment together. While certain addiction-related resources will advocate for couples getting sober together, there are many issues with this approach.

If a couple decides to enter rehabilitation at the same time it is beneficial to enter separate facilities. After all, everyone has their own unique struggles that need to be faced, even those in a relationship. Rachel Markus, LCSW-C, Clinical Director of Foundations Recovery Center of Maryland, said treating a couple in the same treatment center does not make sense for clinical reasons.

“Treatment needs to be a safe place to share feelings openly and work through underlying issues related to addiction,” Markus said. “If one’s significant other is in the same program, this would not be conducive to creating a safe place for that to happen. Having a partner in the same center is likely going to be a huge distraction from a client staying focused on his or her own recovery and treatment process.”

Codependency in Early Recovery

Addiction manifests in a variety of ways, and it is not limited to substances. Sometimes we are addicted to relationships, a condition known as codependency. Codependent people exhibit similar symptoms to drinkers and drug users, looking for anything—or anyone—outside of themselves to validate themselves. This often means we are sacrificing our own needs to please others to our own detriment. By seeking treatment, we begin building strength and independence so that we can be present for our loved ones.