For many women struggling with substance abuse issues, sex, and relationships can be a major stumbling block on the path to recovery. Some women experience addiction relapse multiple times because they’ve allowed sexual activity or a new relationship to distract them from focusing on recovery. Often, women in the early stages of addiction recovery embark on new relationships with recovering men who they met in rehab or in support groups.
Some addiction experts think that addiction may be a symptom of an intimacy disorder, an inability to enjoy real emotional intimacy or build a healthy relationship. If you’re a woman who has struggled with addiction recovery and experienced relapse, an underlying addiction to love or sex may be the problem. Avoiding relationships and sex in early recovery can help you focus on maintaining your sobriety. Ultimately, you can learn how to build healthy relationships and enjoy a normal and fulfilling sex life.
Addicted Women Face Common Relationship Challenges
Addicted women entering recovery often have a history of unhealthy or unstable relationships in adulthood, and they have problems prioritizing their recovery over relationships. For many of these women, acquiring or maintaining romantic and even friendly relationships may seem more important than focusing on addiction recovery. Women who struggle with addiction may have a hard time leaving romantic or sexual relationships with people who are still using drugs. They often have a history of entering or staying in relationships because the partner could supply them with drugs. Similarly, they may have a history of staying in relationships in which substance abuse was the only thing they had in common with the other person.
Female addicts may neglect platonic relationships in order to focus on getting closer to potential romantic or sexual partners. They may feel they need substances in order to enjoy sex, or to tolerate an unpleasant, abusive, or neglectful relationship. They may use substances in order to please a partner who is also addicted. They’re likely to leave treatment simply to please a partner who is also actively addicted or relapsing. They may also turn back to substances to soothe the emotional pain of a breakup in early recovery.
These challenges are most often the result of emotional trauma sustained early in life. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from parents and other caregivers may leave women unable to form healthy emotional connections. Many addicts turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain of early life trauma. When drug or alcohol abuse occur in the context of a relationship, then dating and sex itself can become a trigger for addiction relapse, and the recovering addict must learn healthy ways of relating once he or she enters treatment.
Are You Suffering From Love Addiction?
Most recovering addicts are well-advised to avoid starting a new relationship in the first year of recovery. Early recovery is a time of emotional vulnerability and instability, and it’s difficult to build a healthy relationship during this period. The break-up of a relationship can send any newly recovering addict spiraling into relapse.
But if you can’t accept the idea of spending a year alone, much less the 30 to 90 days it will take to get through inpatient rehab, then you might be suffering from a love or sex addiction in addition to your substance addiction. Not only can pursuing sex or romance in rehab distract you from working on your recovery, it can cause you to be expelled from treatment. If you have a history of pursuing sex in rehab, addiction treatment for women in a single-sex environment can help you get started on the right foot. Your treatment should also include psychotherapy to help you build healthy relationship and intimacy skills.
Signs that you may be suffering from a love or sex addiction include:
- A history of promiscuity, anonymous sex, risky sex, or multiple affairs, especially when accompanied by substance abuse
- Feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem when not in a relationship
- An inability to spend time alone
- A history of returning to old partners, or finding new partners, in the first year of recovery
- A history of looking for casual sexual partners at bars, clubs, or parties
- Dating or having sex while still in drug rehab
If sex, dating, or romance has undermined your recovery efforts in the past, you need therapy to explore the reasons behind your disordered approach to intimacy. For the most part, addressing the causes of disordered sexual behavior is essential to maintaining sobriety. As you begin resolving these issues, it will become easier to avoid unhealthy sex and relationships, and before you know it, you’ll find yourself more secure in your recovery and your love life than ever before.