The Allure Of Rehab Romances
People enter rehab for many reasons: some by way of external forces such as family, friends, legal obligations or employment requirements, while others are personally committed to turning their lives around. Once people walk through the doors, they are in a contained environment that may feel dramatically different than life at home.
Looking around the group therapy room or dining hall, the newly sober person may lock eyes with someone and feel a familiar flutter in the heart and butterflies in the stomach. Serotonin and dopamine that are activated in the brain when a person is using an addictive substance are not all that dissimilar from the chemicals released in human attraction. Add to it the brain chemical oxytocin, known as the “cuddle hormone” and the “tend and befriend hormone,” and there is a set-up for what is colloquially called a “rehab romance.”
Is It Really Love?
The dynamics of rehab romances are infatuation masquerading as love. Of course, there is loneliness and fear that wants to be comforted into submission. In such a setting, there is the common thread of loss, trauma, abuse and addiction that binds people together.
Comments such as “S/he gets me like no one else,” “We can stay sober together,” and “I need a place to stay when I leave here and s/he offered hers,” are commonly heard and used as justification for establishing a relationship that almost universally becomes a recipe for disaster. Why is that so?
The Perils Of Romantic Relationships During Drug Rehab
Consider that someone in the throes of addiction has a relationship with their substance(s) of choice that superseded all others in their lives while they were using. They put it ahead of their partner, children, career and health. Saying goodbye to it is not a one-and-done event. It is an evolving process. Think of getting involved with someone in an addiction treatment program as a rebound relationship. Are you willing to be the rebound guy or girl and risk playing second fiddle to the addiction should they relapse?
Many in recovery are also dealing with codependence and have a need to be in a caregiving role. Meeting another struggling soul is the ideal opportunity for those patterns to surface. There are likely as many who are willing to be on the other side of the equation, and surrender to being enabled.
For some, dishonesty went hand in hand with the other addictive behaviors and if someone is in a monogamous relationship outside of rehab, there may be a temptation to lie about interactions behind those doors.
Safer sex practices may not have been a consideration out in the community and may be only an afterthought in an inpatient drug rehab setting. Predatory behavior may also have been part of the addiction cycle for some in treatment and might evidence itself behind the doors of the program they are in.
Short-term gratification is part of an addict’s pattern and seeing another person who seems available in the moment is like being a proverbial “kid in a candy store.” There is often no time to think about the long-term consequences of indulging in the sweets on the shelf.
Peers in treatment may show one face in the program and another once they are discharged. The best advice is: “Don’t take anybody in. Don’t take anybody on. You don’t know what someone is like in their daily lives.”
Worth The Wait
In 12-Step recovery, the newly sober are encouraged to refrain from engaging in budding romantic relationships for at least a year, primarily because they need to focus on their recovery and create a healthy bond with themselves without the distraction of another person. Ask yourself this: “Would you want to be in a relationship with you now? Are you stable enough to sustain positive interactions with someone else?”
Take the time to really get to know, love and respect the woman or man in the mirror before reaching out to bring in a partner, particularly one who, like you, is a newborn, vulnerable infant entering into the world of recovery. Relationships are not 50/50. They are 100/100 with each person bringing 100% of who they are to the table. Wouldn’t you rather be truly prepared to bring the best of who you are to a relationship and welcome in a partner who can do the same? You are likely to find that it is worth the wait.