Dating is hard. So is being in a relationship.
There are times I’ve been on dates and in relationships when I’ve told the other person that I’m in recovery. There are times when they’re accepting, supportive, and have questions. Though, there are other times when they’ve looked at me like I have five heads.
If you’re not in recovery, and you’re dating someone who is, chances are, you’re about to have some questions. Recovering from addiction requires acceptance, self-awareness, and dedication – and so does a relationship.
Here are 7 things you should know about dating an addict in recovery:
Remember, We’re Human
Addiction and people in recovery have a huge stigma surrounding us. Chances are in this day and age, you’ve known someone that’s had substance use disorder. However, if you don’t, there’s a belief that people who have had a dark past with addiction are individuals you see on viral videos with impaired judgements or erratic behavior, and oftentimes we seen at the public level as “less than.” For decades, this combination of personal shame and public stigma has produced tremendous obstacles in allowing those to tell their stories and become open and honest about their addiction.
However, these observations and this barrier of stigma is completely false, and often times holds us back from becoming vulnerable with a potential partner. It’s important to remember that many of us in recovery were and still are successful people. We’re lawyers, coaches, great daughters, aunts, and great students. We’re people just like you – we just have a couple of obstacles we’ve overcame – and we also deserve to find love.
Don’t Try and “Fix” Us
If you’re a rescuer or someone that loves to try and “fix” others, know that this relationship may not last. Just because we’ve suffered from substance use disorder, doesn’t mean that we’re in need of someone to take care of us. In fact, now that we’re sober, we’re completely capable of pointing out our own character flaws and taking appropriate actions to address them. Chances are, if we practice a good recovery program, we may be one of the healthiest people that you have in your life.
Oftentimes, not asking questions and making assumptions can lead to un-communicated feelings, resentment, and broken trust. If you’re not in recovery and dating someone who is, it can be easy to jump to conclusions. If you’re uneducated with addiction and recovery, going straight to the source can keep trust and communication lucid. Just because we’re an alcoholic doesn’t mean that you have to dodge the subject, and can’t order a drink at dinner. We don’t want you or expect you to babysit or safeguard our sobriety. The important thing is to ask, be open and mindful about our responses.
Additionally, if we’ve been dating for awhile, just because we don’t answer our texts or calls doesn’t mean we’ve relapsed. Starting to worry or become anxious about potential downfall may create bitterness and broken trust and be just enough to ruin a relationship before it goes anywhere.
Know Our Recovery Will Come First
While dating and new relationships exciting, recovery and support groups will need to take priority over the relationship in order to keep it strong. As a saying goes, “whatever we put in front of our recovery, we’ll lose.”
Accept Our Baggage
Everyone has baggage. However, chances are, if you’re dating someone in recovery, there’s going to be some baggage or skeletons that we’re still trying to shove into the closet. This could be anything from legal, health, family, social, or financial issues. While this doesn’t make us bad people, it’s apart of our past and important to address. During this time, it’s important to be honest about if you’re willing to accept us for our faults and be truthful about your level of tolerance. If not, don’t lead us on. Break up the relationship before getting more involved.
Know Our Warning Signs
Lying? Cheating? Manipulating? These are all some of the signs of relapse. While lifelong recovery is possible, it’s important to know that relapse can be common. While you shouldn’t be responsible for pointing out a potential relapse, as a partner, you should know us well enough to know now if something with us is off.
Get Your Own Help
In recovery, we’re always trying to better ourselves, and it’s important that you do the same thing. Often times in recovery we can have a lot going on – whether that be support meetings or therapy. It’s important that you develop your own hobbies and interests separate from us. Relying too much on a relationship to fulfill unmet needs can be a sign of codependency. Figure out what you can do to practice self-care so we’re better able to enjoy our time together.
Love Won’t Be Enough, But Support Can Be
I hate to break it to you, but you cannot love someone enough to get them sober – especially if the person isn’t committed to their own sobriety. If we’re still using or actively in relapsing, it’s crucial to hold off on your relationship and support them in getting help or entering treatment. If we have a support group, close sponsor, or sober supports, it may be wise to get their input if you’ve been in contact with them. At this time, you’ll also want to continue to educate yourself about addiction and make an informed decision to either continue the relationship once we get help, or break it off.