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Dating a recovering addict can be challenging, but like any relationship, it can also be very rewarding. There’s no reason to fear dating someone in recovery, but before you do, you should make sure you’re not under any misconceptions about what the experience will be like.
There are unique risks to forming an intimate bond with someone with substance abuse issues. You need to assess things very carefully before trusting your emotional, mental and physical health to someone who’s experienced addiction in their life. Dating a person in recovery can be wonderful for both partners — but first, here are five questions you need to ask them before committing to a future together.
1. What Does Recovery Mean to You?
Before any meaningful relationship can progress, you need to make sure you’re on the same page with your definitions of recovery.
You need to know that the person you’re considering entering into a relationship with is committed to their recovery and a healthy future. It can be difficult dating someone who hasn’t bought into their recovery. They can be unpredictable and abusive, and anyone who isn’t dedicated to personal growth in their future can drag you down with them.
It’s also important to understand that “in recovery” isn’t an achievement handed out when addiction is no longer part of someone’s life. People in recovery will be fighting their battle to some degree for the rest of their lives.
2. How Long Have You Been Sober?
It’s important for you to understand how long a person has been sober before you consider a relationship. There’s a reason experts recommend people in recovery wait at least a year before attempting to find a romantic connection. When a person is in early recovery, they’re still learning how to live a sober lifestyle. This can be extremely challenging and requires an intense focus on self-improvement, growth and discipline. Naturally, this doesn’t leave a lot of room for new relationships.
For your own health, you need to be able to trust that your life will have stability. There’s always a chance of a slip or relapse, but the chances are lower the longer a person has been in recovery. In addition, recovery veterans will be more equipped to resolve the issue before it destroys their personal life or career because they’ve been through similar experiences in the past.
3. What Type of Support Do You Need From Me?
It’s important to set clear expectations when you’re considering dating a drug addict or alcoholic. What do they need from you? What kind of support can they provide you when you need it?
This can be a great opportunity to better understand your partner’s experiences with recovery. What are their triggers? What can you do to help them implement relapse prevention techniques? How can you help them cope with temptation or form a healthy routine that adds stability to their life? If you take the time to understand their recovery needs and how you can support them, you’ll know whether the level of support they’re asking for is something you can provide consistently in your relationship.
4. Are You in Treatment or Recovery Programming?
If you haven’t received formal training or been in recovery yourself, you can sympathize with your partner’s struggle, but you’ll never be able to understand exactly what it’s like. This can be difficult to come to terms with, and it may make you feel inadequate. But it’s OK to admit your partner needs support from a more experienced source in addition to you.
This is why most recovery programs recommend some level of contact with a treatment community or support group for life, no matter how long a person has been sober. Twelve-step groups can be a great way to stay in contact with rehab, as can alumni groups, volunteering at treatment facilities and attending outpatient programming. If your partner isn’t involved in a program, it may negatively impact your relationship.
5. What’s Your Dating History After Rehab?
Getting an idea of someone’s recent romantic history can give you a better idea of whether you think they’re truly ready to commit to you in a healthy way.
For example, if someone started dating immediately after rehab, it’s a red flag for the reasons addressed above. If they’ve had multiple relationships or sexual partners in a short period of time, they may not be ready for something more stable. Understanding where your partner has been — especially as it relates to their recovery — can help you trust that you’re both prepared for the next steps.
Are Both of You Ready for a Committed Relationship?
Again, a relationship built after one or both parties have been through a rehab program can be challenging. It demands a lot of trust, openness and, in many cases, forgiveness.
Understanding Their Experiences Without Invalidating Your Own
When you start dating an addict in recovery, it’s important to take the time to understand the recovery space and provide them with the support they need. You need to know what they’ve been through and comprehend how their experiences have shaped who they are today.
This doesn’t mean looking at yourself as their savior, however. Just because you’re dating a former drug addict doesn’t mean you’re superior to them or they need you to save them. At the end of the day, a relationship founded on this type of unhealthy dynamic doesn’t have much of a chance of being successful for either party. If you’re putting them first without considering your own needs, feelings and experiences, you’re not doing what’s right for you.
It’s also important to understand that a healthy relationship doesn’t mean supporting them unconditionally. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), relapse rates for substance abuse treatment are comparable to rates for hypertension and asthma. Addiction is a chronic disease, and if it’s negatively impacting your health or safety to continue in a relationship with someone in recovery, you should make the choice that’s best for you.
No matter what, dating a recovering addict should be done while your partner is involved in some type of treatment program, such as the ones offered by FHE Health. If your loved one needs help in recovery, don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.