The real bombshell was hidden in the details of this Hollywood romance.
News that a recently divorced John Mulaney was reportedly dating actress Olivia Munn shocked fans and followers of the two entertainers’ careers.
But to those in the recovery community, the timing of it all was shocking for an entirely different reason.
The reported fling hit on a little-known taboo: Many counselors and therapists say getting into a new relationship early into recovery can seriously complicate the process of staying sober.
“In general, people who are newly sober, if they are not in a current relationship, if they can avoid any kind of relationship with anyone… it’s much better for long-term success,” Bruce Dechert, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and senior family clinician at Mountainside, a center for alcohol and drug treatment, told The Post.
Dechert usually tells his patients to wait at least three to six months after starting treatment before beginning a new romance. Mulaney left rehab in February and entered an outpatient sober care program.
Oftentimes people who are struggling with addiction turn to substances to alleviate themselves from feeling uncomfortable.
“People who are into treatment are all of a sudden experiencing all kinds of feelings they haven’t had recently because they’ve been numbing it,” explained Dechert.
But the urge to start a new relationship is normal.
“When people come out of treatment and they start to feel stressed because of the changes that are happening and they can’t medicate, oftentimes they will look for something external to help them change how they feel. And many times that becomes a relationship,” he said.
But a romantic partner who does not have addiction issues “may not understand addiction enough to be helpful right away,” Dechert said. “They might say, ‘now that you’ve done this, you can have a drink, right?’”
On the flip side, lovers may also be too stern.
“It’s not on the new partner to say ‘Should you go to a meeting? Should you talk to your sponsor?’ You don’t need recovery police,” advised Dechert.
“You need somebody who understands the importance of your own self-care and schedule, not saying, ‘Oh, but I want to spend time with you, why do you have to go to therapy? Why do you have to go to all these meetings?” he said.
The desire to start a romantic relationship can be especially high now, because the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened the community aspect of recovery. In-person therapy sessions and Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings have mostly turned virtual, causing deeper isolation.
But Dechert urged those in treatment to stay strong and commit to their own healing.
“If you’re not in a relationship, have a relationship with yourself.”