By Christa Banister
It’s barely the day after Christmas when the onslaught of red, white and pink is officially ushered in with aisles filled with flowers, heart-shaped candies and Hallmark’s latest sappy declarations of love. Before long, the commercials quickly follow suit with images of candlelit dinners, overpriced roses and elaborate proposals complete with the perfect diamond.
Yes, Valentine’s Day is upon us once again.
Whether you’re married, single or somewhere in between, the arrival of February 14 can’t help but conjure up certain feelings and expectations. There’s so much pressure placed upon one supposedly magical day that it’s easy to get dragged down when the holiday doesn’t live up to the hype.
And what if you’re someone in the early stages of recovery where romance is often discouraged by experts for the first year of sobriety?1 Well, Valentine’s Day can be particularly difficult. That’s why it’s important to have a strategy where taking care of yourself is the primary focus.
Romance Can Replace One Addiction With Another
It’s no secret that the first year of sobriety is a crucial one that’s often filled with its fair share of challenges and struggles. When you’re no longer experiencing the escape found in drugs or alcohol, it’s often tempting to replace the former addiction with a new relationship.
But in the first blush of romance where everything is exciting and viewed through rose-colored glasses, it can become increasingly more difficult to address the underlying issues that caused the previous addiction in the first place. Even worse, this new partner and the emotional drama that often accompanies new relationships can become a distraction from accomplishing the real work of getting healthy — physically, mentally and emotionally.
New York Times’ bestselling author Sarah Hepola, like many people, thought that waiting to date for a year wasn’t a prerequisite for success. She describes this feeling in her book Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, a first-person account of recovery from alcoholism. She found herself in and out of recovery, drinking again and quitting again because she’d failed to take the time to get to know herself, establish boundaries and become a healthy person who could actually identify a healthy potential partner down the road.
Go Ahead, Make Some Plans
Sitting alone with a pint of ice cream and the latest deviation from reality the Hallmark Channel is airing — or whatever the male equivalent of that is — on Valentine’s Day could make anyone feel depressed, sad and lonely. And that’s why it’s important to make plans for February 14 well ahead of time.
Whether it’s having dinner or seeing a movie with a group of friends or doing something good for a neighbor who never has much in the way of company, getting out and doing something will do your heart a world of good.2 Although tempting, this is also not the moment for ruminating on past relationships and romanticizing the past, another reason why opting for company is often a healthier option than being alone.
And if you do find yourself alone? It’s important to treat yourself with care and respect. Maybe that’s a good opportunity for a good sweat session at the gym, a mani-pedi, dropping in on a recovery meeting or Facetiming with a beloved friend or family member — anything that contributes to your overall well-being.
Forging Ahead Stronger Than Ever
While the greeting card companies and jewelry designers make it their mission to sell the idea of true love in conjunction with the perfect Valentine’s Day, it’s important to remember that all the commercialized hoopla is just something that lasts a mere 24 hours.
When it comes right down to it, the pressure to do something big on Valentine’s Day so you don’t feel like you’re the only person on the planet not in love has nothing to do with having a successful relationship or your worth as a human being. What is important is continuing on the journey to become the best, healthiest version of yourself every day of the year.
1 Castaneda, Ruben. “Why Newly Sober Alcoholics and Addicts Shouldn’t Date for a Year.” US News & World Report, February 13, 2017.
2 Morin, Amy. “3 Ways to Stay Mentally Strong When You’re Single on Valentine’s Day.” HuffPost, February 10, 2016.