Dating a Recovery Addict? Tips to Getting on the Road to a Healthy Relationship
Dating and relationships are complex, to say the least, but perhaps you’ve finally found a great person. However, there’s one thing—he or she is a recovering addict. Now a million questions start swirling in your head, like, “Will he/she relapse?” “Is it wise to start dating a recovering addict?”
Yes, relationships are complicated enough, and adding addiction to the equation can turn it up a notch—but there’s help. Here are some tips to get you started on the road to a healthy relationship with a recovering addict.
Take It Slow and Ask Questions When Dating a Recovering Addict
Take time to really understand the full spectrum of where the person is in his or her recovery. If it’s still early (within the first year of sobriety), chances are this may not work out. During the beginning phase of recovery, addicts are still adjusting mentally, physically, and emotionally to their new life without drugs or alcohol.
When dating a recovering addict, you should also see if the person that you’re interested in is serious about sobriety—does he or she regularly attend meetings? Is he or she in contact with a sponsor?
Finally, when dating a recovering addict, understand that this person may have done things that led to serious consequences before getting sober. He or she may have financial debt or have a DUI and are therefore unable to drive. Consider all these issues before beginning a serious relationship.
Don’t Be Afraid to Question Yourself
Before dating a recovering addict, it is important to assess yourself and what you can and cannot handle. This is especially true once you have a true handle on where your prospective partner stands on his or her recovery journey.
Do you have the strength to date a recovering addict? Is your lifestyle conducive to dating a recovering addict? Are you mature enough to date a recovering addict? If the answer to any of these questions is not a strong ‘yes’, you should consider leaving the relationship.
When addiction is in the picture, it is important to think with your mind before letting your heart take over. Addiction is serious. Love alone is not enough to manage a relationship where one partner is in addiction recovery. Therefore, regardless of how you feel, if you know that this is not a situation that you can handle, leave. It will be the best choice for you and for the recovering individual.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
Visit your local health services office, a library, or search the Internet for reputable resources like the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to truly understand addiction. You can also go to support groups for families and friends of recovering addicts. By attending these meetings, you can get advice and support from people in similar circumstances. You can also find out even more about addiction recovery.
Put Your Partner’s Recovery First
If you’re sure you can start dating a recovering addict and want this relationship to last, you must support your partner’s sobriety and put his or her recovery first. It’s crucial to the health of your significant other and your relationship as a whole. Be supportive and never make your new partner feel guilty about spending time attending meetings or keeping other recovery-related appointments.
Be considerate of your partner when planning dates. For example, if it’s still early in his or her recovery, avoid places where alcohol or drugs are typically found. Instead of taking your date to a party, music festival, or a bar, plan an outdoor activity or see a movie.
Don’t Use Substances Around Your Partner
Part of putting your partner’s recovery first is not excessively using substances around him or her. This is especially true if the substance is something that your partner is addicted to. For example, if your partner is a recovering alcoholic, you should not drink excessive amounts of alcohol in front of him or her. Doing so will only act as an unnecessary form of temptation.
Set Some Ground Rules
When you start dating a recovering addict, it is vital that you set some ground rules for your relationship. For example, you need to decide together what you can and cannot do in front of him or her. Is your partner far enough in his or her sobriety where he or she feels comfortable with you drinking around him or her?
You should also set some ground rules about where your partner feels comfortable with you going. Is your partner alright with you going to a bar or party without him or her? Are there any lifestyle changes that you need to make? What will you guys do if you are in a public place that makes your partner feel uncomfortable? Who does your partner feel comfortable with you discussing his or her addiction with? All of these are questions that you need to answer together as a couple.
Understand Your Partner’s Triggers
Ask your partner about his or her triggers. What causes your partner to have drug/alcohol cravings? Is it anxiety, stress, or feelings of loneliness? Is seeing the substance a trigger? Remember, it’s not your job to protect your partner or solve his or her problems, but you can be proactive about managing some of their triggers.
Give Yourself Some Self-Care
When you are dating a recovering addict, it can be easy to forget about yourself and completely engross yourself in your partner’s addiction recovery journey. Doing this can ultimately be detrimental to both the health of yourself and your partner.
This is because instead of taking care of yourself and acting as just a form of support for your partner, you are spending all of your time and energy mothering him or her. As a result, your partner is no longer learning how to remain sober on his or her own. This will only cause your partner to take a step back in his or her recovery journey.
Addicts in recovery need partners who will hold themselves accountable for maintaining their own sobriety, not partners who will do everything for them. Besides, no one wants to date their mother.
If you ever find yourself feeling burnt out because you are engrossing yourself too much in your partner’s recovery journey, take a step back, and focus on yourself for a while. Make sure to eat well, sleep, and exercise. You can even treat yourself to a relaxing or fun activity. By you being your healthiest, you will be a better supporter for your partner.
Beware of Codependency
Some people struggle with the need to attach themselves to other people. If you find yourself often attaching yourself to people with dysfunctional traits, you may struggle with codependency. It is not your job to be a hero and save your partner from addiction. You cannot fix someone. Only addicts can fix themselves.
To ensure that your relationship is healthy, check yourself to make sure that you are in it for the right reasons. If your self-worth is coming from helping your addicted partner, you may want to take a step back from the relationship or talk to a therapist.
Don’t Allow Yourself to Get Manipulated
Unfortunately, regardless of how long a person has been in recovery, relapsing is always possible. Therefore, when dating a recovering addict, it is important to know the signs of a relapse. That way you do not get manipulated by your partner if he or she starts abusing drugs or alcohol again.
The warning signs of a relapse can be emotional, mental, and physical. One common relapse warning sign is romanticizing former times of drug use. Other relapse warning signs include sudden behavior changes and thinking that he or she can use substances again without falling back into addiction.
If you ever notice some of the relapse warning signs within your partner, you should strongly consider leaving the relationship. Addiction is a strong disease. Staying in a relationship with someone who has relapsed will only hurt you or cause you to get manipulated.
Don’t Make Assumptions
While it is important to ask questions and make sure that you’re not being manipulated, you shouldn’t make assumptions either. If you decide to start dating a recovering addict, you need to stand in your decision. This means not assuming your partner is abusing substances again every time he or she is running late or doesn’t answer your call. If you took the relationship slowly and asked the right questions prior to starting the relationship, trust that your partner is maintaining their sobriety until given proof otherwise.
Addiction and Treatment
If you find yourself falling in love when dating a recovering addict, be honest with him or her, get educated, and ask for advice to make sure this relationship is right for both of you. Get to know the person and make sure that he or she is fully committed to sobriety. And remember, addiction is treatable.