Relationships can be stressful in any circumstance. It is not easy to find someone who shares your values, will be supportive of you and your life goals, and is pursuing the goals you support. Even when everything is sparkly and new in the beginning, there are always a few red flags that pop up that indicate some work will be required in the future. Yes, relationships are complicated enough, and adding addiction to the equation can turn it up a notch—but there’s help. Dating someone in addiction recovery is a unique relationship from the start. Here are some tips to get you started on the road to a healthy relationship with a recovering addict.
What Does it Mean When Someone Says They’re “in Recovery”?
If you’ve never been around a person who’s in recovery, you may be unfamiliar with what recovery entails. While you might have some vague idea about what a recovering individual does, you may also have some misconceptions. Setting the record straight is important for any interpersonal relationship you want to have when someone says they’re “in recovery.”
Take It Slow
Jumping headfirst into a new relationship is never a great idea, but it’s especially important to take it slow when you’re dating someone in addiction recovery. Focus on getting to know each other as people before rushing into a physically intimate relationship. If you’re thinking about dating someone in addiction recovery, it may be best to wait until he or she is more secure in sobriety. It takes time for the brain and body to adjust to living a sober life. You can’t rush the process, even for love.
Look for Honesty
The fact that someone has struggled with addiction need not be a red flag or a relationship ender. What is important is his honesty and openness. If he has been up front with you about his past struggles it shows that he has largely overcome them and is not ashamed. He has done good work and is willing to share that with you. This is a good sign.
Do Your Research
Before getting into a relationship with someone undergoing addiction treatment or recovery, it is important that you do some research to understand their possible struggles and condition. It may be helpful to look up common triggers, withdrawal symptoms, and the nature of a specific alcohol or drug detox. This will help you get an idea of what to expect, and whether or not you are willing to help your partner with these things. Additionally, attending a support group for the friends and family of those in recovery may be beneficial. These groups let you learn more about addiction and recovery while providing a sympathetic ear when you face challenges in your relationship.
Talk to Your Partner About Their Treatment
Although you may have done research, addiction, addiction treatment, and addiction recovery are highly individualized experiences. It’s important to establish open and trusting communication about what your partner needs for support. It may be a good idea to ask your partner about their triggers, withdrawal symptoms (if still relevant), and how you can help them.
Cultivate Healthy Friendships
This is a good rule of thumb for anyone in a relationship, not just if you’re dating someone in recovery. Keep good people around you—people who are wise, loving, who are good judges of character, who will tell you hard truths, who care more about your well-being than they care about being liked. None of us are a perfect judge of character. In the same way people in recovery can’t do recovery alone, you shouldn’t try to support and love someone in recovery alone. If you are dating someone in recovery, you need support.
Set Ground Rules Dating Someone in Recovery
When dating someone in addiction recovery 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 that Their Recovery Will Come First
Outpatient Therapy appointments, AA/NA meetings, meetings with their sponsor, support groups, and self inventory assessments are just a few things that they have to focus on and fully engage in while trying to maintain their sobriety. These are important in their recovery process and will need to be the main priority. There is a saying within the 12 step community that the first thing you put ahead of your recovery is the first thing you will lose. Please don’t make them choose because it can be life changing.
Take Care of Yourself and Know Your Boundaries
There will be times when dating a recovering addict is stressful for you. Being caring is important, but don’t forget to take care of yourself. Take time off to be alone and to do things that keep you happy and sane whenever you need it. Although your partner may need your help with their addiction treatment, it is important to understand that it is not your job to treat them. Therefore, it is important that you both set and acknowledge healthy boundaries for yourselves. This will help create a healthy and long lasting relationship. You can do this by talking openly to one another about your needs and lines that you will not cross when you’re dating someone in addiction recovery.
When You Shouldn’t Be Dating Someone in Recovery
A history of addiction doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, but there are several signals that your relationship is unhealthy. This is particularly true if you’re dating someone who is in active addiction with no recovery plan in place. In these cases, you may both be better off in a different situation for a while. You’re caught up in enabling behavior. When you’re dating an addict you want to be helpful but it is possible to help too much, or in a detrimental way. There is no set standard with anything in addiction because each individual is unique, and that includes you.
Your goals for your life and your relationship come first. If someone is not meeting your needs in the relationship, you have every right to move forward on your own. It is a personal choice and one that you should make while engaging with a therapist on your own behalf, a practice that is highly recommended when you are dating an addict. If you are ignoring your own needs, it may be time to take a hard look at the situation.
Addiction Recovery with Harmony Ridge Recovery Center
Dating a recovering addict is not impossible, but it may represent an additional relationship challenge. The important thing is that you find someone who meets your needs. If that person happens to be an addict in recovery, understand the unique challenges and be ready to meet them. Dating someone in addiction recovery will require some adjustments and compromises, just like all relationships. Each relationship is unique, just like the two people in it. If you decide that this relationship is right for you, then it is also important to understand the nature of your partner’s treatment, establish clear communication and boundaries, remember to take care of yourself, and take things slow. Doing these things should help you create a healthy and successful relationship.