Are you falling for a recovering addict? If so, it’s okay to feel a bit hesitant. You might be worried about whether they’ll relapse and whether you’d be able to be there for them if they do. You might also be worried about how they’d react if something goes wrong in the relationship. Would a bad argument lead to a relapse? The best thing you can do in this situation is to educate yourself so you understand the truth about addiction and recovery and can push aside the stereotypes that could cloud your judgment. With this in mind, here are some how-tos for dating a recovering addict.
What Is Addiction Recovery Like?
Addiction, or a substance use disorder (SUD), is a chronic disease characterized by an inability to control one’s use of drugs or alcohol. Although an addict can become sober and remain sober for the rest of their lives, addiction is not curable. This means the individual will always have to sustain a certain routine and be mindful of any triggers.
If you’re planning on dating a recovering drug addict or alcoholic, you should know that their substance use disorder will always be part of your relationship in some way, shape, or form. For instance, the individual may attend a treatment program, therapy, counseling, or support group sessions to sustain their sobriety.
Mental illness may also have played a role in their drug or alcohol use, as the co-occurrence of addiction and mental illness is common. While your partner may no longer abuse any addictive substances, they may still struggle with their mental health. To properly cope, they may also be receiving mental health treatment or attending therapy sessions.
Another important point to consider is that relapse is always possible. While it’s not set in stone, and it won’t happen to everyone who was addicted to drugs or alcohol, it is a possibility that you have to consider when dating a recovering addict. It’s important to know whether you’d be prepared and willing to be there for them if they were to relapse.
Finally, you also have to change your definition of fun. If you’re dating someone sober, it’s best to avoid clubbing or going to places where alcohol is easily accessible. It’s best to talk to the individual about how they have fun, what they’re comfortable doing, and what struggles they may have that you should be mindful of.
Tips for Dating Someone in Recovery
It’s normal to feel hesitant about dating a recovering alcoholic or drug user. But, it’s important to remember that not every addict is the same, and knowing what to expect, before committing, can be the key to maintaining a healthy relationship. Before you dive headfirst into this new relationship, below are some tips for dating a recovering addict that can help.
Look Within Yourself
As we previously mentioned, you have to be ready to help this person and cope with the highs and lows of recovery. This can include relapse, triggers, sudden cravings, mental illness, and more. However, this doesn’t mean it’s your job to save this person, nor does it mean that they need saving.
Don’t come into this relationship with the goal of being a savior or caretaker. If you were to ask yourself why you feel like dating a recovering addict, and the answer is to “rescue” them, then the relationship is likely to fail. This is unhealthy for both you and the relationship in general.
You also need to ask yourself if there are any unresolved issues that you could potentially bring into this relationship. Is there anything you should work out on your own before sharing it with someone else, especially someone recovering from something as serious as an addiction?
Ask Them Where They Are in Their Recovery
Generally speaking, addicts are advised to take a break from dating for at least the first year of their sobriety so they can establish a routine for themselves. Relationships also come with many challenges, which could potentially be triggering for someone new to the sobriety game.
So, ask the person how long they’ve been sober. If they’ve been sober less than a year, then you may want to think twice before starting a relationship with them. If they started dating before the year was up, there’s a good chance they might ignore a vital piece of advice from their sponsor or counselor.
The first year of sobriety is crucial for recovering addicts. During this time, they rediscover the version of themselves who doesn’t do drugs or alcohol. They also learn what it’s like to live sober, go to work, take care of themselves, communicate effectively, and find enjoyment in life without substance abuse. In other words, it’s supposed to be a year of significant growth and self-discovery, and adding a relationship to the mix too soon could add unnecessary and potentially triggering stress.
Educate Yourself on Addiction and Relapse
If all you know about addiction is what you’ve seen in movies and tv shows, then you likely don’t know much. Addiction is often either glamorized or heavily misrepresented in the media, which contributes to stigmas and stereotypes. Instead, read books written about recovering addicts and medical professionals, watch documentaries, and you can even join a support group to hear others’ experiences and learn how you can be a loving partner to someone in recovery. It’s also important to learn about the warning signs of relapse so you can help recalibrate your partner if they begin to slip.
Prioritize Honesty and Transparency in Your Relationship
Every relationship needs trust, but it can be difficult to fully trust your partner if you’re “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” In other words, if you’re constantly worried about your partner’s whereabouts when they aren’t with you or whether or not they’ll relapse, your relationship will suffer.
Not trusting your partner can also negatively impact their self-esteem and self-confidence. As a partner, you want to show them that you trust them, you’re proud of their achievements, and you’re their biggest cheerleader.
However, it’s also important to establish full honesty when you start dating. Ask the person to be open with you about their triggers when they’re feeling stressed or down or if they ever feel like they’re close to relapse and need help.
Be Ready to Help
If you are planning on dating an addict in recovery, you have to be prepared to cope with a relapse. While it isn’t guaranteed to happen, you should be mentally prepared and have an actual game plan for coping properly. This means knowing where the person would receive stabilization care or medical detox to help them recover and which meetings they’d go to.
It may also include taking time off work to make sure the person is settled and ready to get back into their normal routine once they’ve recovered. You might even have to find out what potentially triggered your loved one’s relapse and eliminate it.
However, a relapse doesn’t have to occur for you to help your partner. Even if it’s as simple as driving them to their weekly group meetings, be ready to play an active role in the person’s recovery. As someone who the person is growing closer to, you’re now part of their support system.
Be Aware of Their Triggers
It’s crucial to be aware of your partner’s triggers because, of course, you wouldn’t want to unintentionally trigger them. While many people think relapse triggers are basic things like bars and clubs, it can be much more complex than that for a recovering addict.
Maybe there’s a particular place where they used to do drugs a lot or old drinking buddies they used to spend time with. Even the clink of glass can remind an addict about their struggles with alcoholism. So, ask your partner what their triggers are and do your best to prevent them from coming up, and be there for your partner if they do.
Don’t Let Yourself Be Manipulated
While addiction recovery can be difficult, don’t allow the individual to use their recovery as a scapegoat for mistreating you. For instance, just because they’re in recovery does not give them the right to lie to you, cut you off from communication, or be unfaithful to you. Additionally, while breaking up with an addict can be tricky, in some cases, it’s necessary for sustaining your well-being.
Help for Addiction at Banyan
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into dating a recovering addict, so make sure that you’re ready to take on this new adventure before jumping into a relationship. Additionally, if you’re in recovery and need additional support, our facility is here to help.
Our Banyan Texas rehab offers aftercare services to help rehab alumni find their footing in sobriety. We also provide various levels of addiction treatment to help those who haven’t started their journeys take that first step.