Learning about a history of substance abuse can put a damper on the first date. However, dating someone in recovery can work out surprisingly well.
A little understanding goes a long way, so don’t rule out a relationship just yet. Here are some guidelines.
If you don’t know anything about addiction, take time to educate yourself. This disease has nothing to do with a lack of willpower or moral failure, and the fact that your love interest sought help speaks volumes.
People in recovery have a significant advantage over some of those other fish in the sea: They’ve worked on their issues, they know they have issues, and they’ll continue to work on their issues.
Recovering substance abusers are learning to be brutally honest. They’re tackling the root causes of addiction, which may include low self-esteem, heartbreak, or sexual abuse. They’re trying to process negative emotions in healthy ways. They’re learning to respect themselves and others. Most are getting fit and eating right.
In short, they keep getting better.
Ask Questions But Think About Them First
To avoid striking a tone of interrogation, respectfully admit that you have some questions. He may tell you to fire away. She may ask for more time before going into details.
How long has your love interest been sober? Most experts recommend at least a year of sobriety before starting a serious relationship. People in recovery have serious work to do, and rushing things is a trigger for relapse.
Is your date actively involved in recovery groups and counseling? If you’re willing, ask how you can be of support.
As in any new romance, not everyone is comfortable talking about personal issues right away. However, someone who refuses to open up over time may not be ready for a relationship. Honesty is critical in battling addiction.
Ask Yourself If You Can Handle the Baggage
While everyone has baggage, addiction can throw life into chaos. Your date might be grappling with financial disarray, a damaged reputation, or legal problems. Family relationships may be strained. A bitter custody battle may be dragging on.
Know thyself, first and foremost. If you feel like you’re in over your head, there’s no shame in saying so.
Resist the Temptation to Coddle
Romance can easily cross over into codependency if a well-intentioned partner assumes the role of caretaker. That’s the last thing someone in recovery needs.
You may be on dangerous ground if caretaking becomes compulsive, if you feel responsible for your partner’s success or failure, or if you tend to rescue rather than lend support. Putting your own needs on the back burner is another red flag.
Codependency isn’t good for anybody. For the recovering substance abuser, it shifts accountability to the partner. Accountability is crucial in recovery. For the partner, it’s draining, isolating, and emotionally destabilizing.
Guard against codependency by seeing your friends, engaging in hobbies, and setting aside time for self-care.
You can undoubtedly cuddle, but don’t coddle.
Prepare for the Likelihood of Relapse
Relapse, unfortunately, is the nature of the beast. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse rates are between 40 and 60%.
Ask your date about personal triggers to substance abuse. Triggers might be certain emotions, social settings, or even people. You can’t be expected to babysit, but you can be sensitive to environments that aren’t safe for your date. Are you willing to leave a fun party early or skip the wine at dinner if your partner seems anxious? Recovery must come first.
Is relapse a reason to end the romance? It all depends on how your partner responds to it.
People who are serious about recovery remain positive and bounce back stronger than ever. A flippant attitude, denial, deception, or self-pity, on the other hand, should give you pause.
Seek Help While Dating Someone in Recovery
Dating someone in recovery can be an eye-opener. If you suspect that you may have a problem of your own, we can help.
Every day, professional rehab equips people to reclaim their lives. Experienced, compassionate caregivers love setting people on the path to recovery.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.