Sober relationships in early sobriety

How long should I wait to start a relationship after getting sober? When you connect with self and a Higher Power, you are ready for interpersonal relationships. More sober relationship advice here.

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Q: How long should I wait to start a relationship after getting clean and sober?

A: Once you have a healthy relationship with yourself and with G-d, you are ready for other relationships.

Sober relationships: One size does not fit all

Those who have had advice from old timers in 12 step groups who have been working 12 steps of recovery are often told that they should not get in to “new” intimate relationships until they have been clean/sober for at least a year.  Think about it, there is some logic behind this; but I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer.

Relationship advice after addiction

During active addiction, there are two very important relationships that are deeply harmed, if not destroyed, during the downward spiral that addiction brings. These two relationships are:

  1. Relationship with self
  2. Relationship with something bigger than yourself

1. Relationship with self

The most important relationship a person can have is with self. I have never met an active addict with good self-esteem. In fact, addiction/self-respect don’t always go together.  Once you have decided to stop using, I suggest that you must begin immediately to start building a healthy relationship with yourself. This is no easy matter and requires very intense and emotional work.  But remember that self help alcohol recovery starts with self.

2. Relationship with something bigger than yourself

Secondly, I do not believe any person in this world is the center of the universe. Active addicts tend to place themselves, usually without knowing it, in this role. Selfishness is generally a big part in the addict’s modus operandi.

Know matter what form it takes, the addict must find for themselves a power greater than them and come to understand that the addicted person is not at the center of life. One must work hard at becoming far more selfless and to do this, there must be an appreciation of a power greater than self.  Once you can appreciate this simple fact and come to grips with it, you can form a relationship of trust with this power higher than self. This goal is plain hard work and once again, it can be emotionally exhausting.

When to start a relationship in early sobriety

A simple fact: you can’t give away what you haven’t got (try it with money).

Until you have developed a relationship of love with yourself and right sized your role in this life through an understanding of what is bigger than you, it is impossible to develop healthy new intimate relationships.  To the question initially posed, once you have developed reasonably healthy self-esteem and a relationship with a power greater than you (a trust relationship) then you are ready to build healthy intimate relationships with others.

Time is dependent on when you “get it”.

Clean and sober relationship questions

Do you still have questions about starting relationships when you get clean and sober?  Please leave them here.  We will be happy to try to answer your questions personally and promptly.  And we hope that we can help!

About the author
I am a Master Life Coach who is ICF certified and a certified addictions coach. I consider myself recovered from the effects of addiction (16 years) but still in recovery mode as it relates to personal growth. Professionally, I am university educated, a former corporate CEO and have been in the consulting business for over two decades. I'm a husband, father, grandfather, friend, uncle son, a trusted confidant and many other things but bottom line, I'm Keith. I hope that I can help SOME out there with ideas that will make you think deeply.


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  1. Darlene, I am so sorry that that happened to you. But please do not base AA as a whole off of one incident. That person was absolutely wrong and AA does not teach that. Actually it is quite the opposite, we are absolutely discourages to cheat and your ex-husband took that advice wrong I think. Because you’re right you cannot get away from all stresses and there are some such as a marriage where you need an action plan to work through it. That is what AA has taught me. Again, I am so sorry for what a member of the fellowship has put you through but I can tell you that that is not what we are about.
    I’m sorry but it is not AA you shouldn’t trust. It is certain individuals. Because I know many people in the program that are as you describe but like literally anything else in the world, it’s all based upon who you surround yourself with and I surround myself with some amazing people in AA that wouldn’t ever even think about doing anything like that and would all consider that beyond horrible. Just please don’t put don’t the entire program when it has saved mine and many other lives and I wouldn’t be here without it.

  2. Been in a relationship with an addict for 3.5 years never knew she was we are suppose to be engaged. We have a 2.5 year old daughter together. She just got out of rehab on Monday an went to a recovery house. Have been the only one in her corner the whole time bring her money, phone cards an cigs the whole time there but she was getting more an more distant over the last 3 weeks. She did 75 days in rehab. She doesn’t she we are not together but she also won’t say if we are apart. We have lived together for almost 3 years an I have other kids that look at her as a stepmom but never ask about them or her own daughter or older son. What should I do walk away an keep the kids from her?

  3. My question is this:
    I have never had a healthy intimate relationship in my life. I am only sober for 3 days now and am have met a man who has helped me with not only a roof over my head but is being supportive in my sobriety.
    However, he wants to have a personal relationship with me and I am not ready to do that for many reasons. He says he’s not pressuring me but I can feel his impatience and when I tried explaining to him that a recovering addict/ alcoholic needs time ESPECIALLY being so early, to build a healthy relationship w/ themselves and their higher power, he was confused, hurt and there was an argument. I showed him some literature on the subject and he interpreted the words to say they mean a healthy relationship with another addict or another person with there own issues.
    I’m feeling pressure and I can’t get him to see the truth and facts that are in the literature.
    What can I do because I really want to drink now? Please help.

    1. Hi Cindi. If he is willing to support you in your recovery he also needs to learn that this is YOUR recovery, and your path to walk as you rebuild your life. If he is patient, then who knows, the path you are walking may meet his. But right now I believe that it’s best to focus on yourself, even if that means living somewhere else. Also, when alcohol cravings appear keep your progress and goals in mind. Then, as soon as possible talk with a therapist or a counselor.

  4. Hey Tim. Back away…slowly. After 1 month sober, you’re not in a position to support anyone other than yourself. And that’s OK! A relationship may be tempting, but it can also distract from recovery.

  5. I too have been sober for only a short period 1 month and of course a gal is interested in me. I feel uncomfortable after being clean and the end of 23 years of marriage. How long is long enough? Thank you.

  6. Hi Darlene,
    You have a right not to trust AA. I have been with Jeff for over 10 years, He is cheating on me with an AA member. He goes to meetings and doesn’t get home until 11pm on Saturdays. I found Rush poppers in his backpack. I found condoms and dental dams in his closet. I don’t use any of those things. He has a picture of this woman on his facebook page. The only female from AA, there are no others posted. Of course he denies his affair. He doesn’t want to risk it getting back to AA, He calls me his roommate to the other members. I hate AA.

  7. Hello Darlene. Personalities in AA can tend to mix up the true message of AA, which is about responsibility, tolerance and acceptance. It seems like your husband is using AA as a “way out” of responsibility. If he can grow up enough to meet you in couples counseling, it’s possible that you may have a basis for continuing your relationship with him. If not, I’d suggest that you air out your feelings with a psychologist or counselor yourself to come to terms with what is happening, and what you would like to do about the situation.

  8. iould just like to tell you that aa has broken up my marriage they told him to get away from anything that may stress him or make him drink so he turned to another aa member and has been cheating on me for a while life in itself is stress how do you get away wiyh that i stuuk by him for 25 yrs of drinking and 2 rehabs and stuck with him thinking we would finally have a better life and what does aa do tell him to throw me away like a piece of trash i think aa is a horrible program and should not even be around it hurts more people than helps them he is completly brained washed by aa and is divorcing me

  9. Hi Mona. Thanks so much for sharing about your recovery without a 12 step model and your experiences with relationships. How did you get sober?

  10. Unfortunately, this answer assumes that the recovering individual is a member of a 12 step program. As someone sober nearly 14 years, who is NOT a member of a 12 step program, does not believe that a Higher Power is responsible for my sobriety, and who has been quite successful with relationships in sobriety, I think the key to dating readiness has nothing to do with having “a relationship with a power higher than you”. Rather, it has to do with having a comfortable relationship with yourself, and with understanding the effect that your behavior has on other people.

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