Dating someone in recovery is complicated and nuanced.
As a general guideline, most addiction experts recommend that newly sober addicts and alcoholics refrain from dating during the first year of recovery. The early phases of sobriety are challenging and require full focus. This applies both for those undergoing inpatient or outpatient treatment and for those going at it alone with 12-step support groups.
How about if you find yourself in a relationship with someone who goes on to develop substance use disorder and subsequently commits to recovery, though? Here, the above advice will not apply. Some relationships will not stand the test of time, but if you are not in danger and you are not unhappy, what can you do if you’re in a relationship with someone in recovery?
Well, today we’ll be giving you some easily actionable advice for dating a recovering addict. Before that, though, is it wise to date someone in recovery in the first place?
Can you Have a Relationship with Someone in Recovery?
To enter a new relationship with someone in the early phase of recovery is inadvisable. All new relationships come with their own stressors, and you’ll likely increase the person’s risk of relapsing by entering into a new relationship at such a tough time.
It is not uncommon for recovering alcoholics or drug addicts to seek out new and alternative addictions. A new relationship can provide a thrill for that person, but you are liable to be dealing with someone who is not stable, physically, emotionally, or financially.
How about if you meet someone who is a year or so into their recovery, then?
Well, although there are no hard and fast rules, you should find dating someone more stable in recovery is safe and something worth considering.
Dating a Recovering Addict
Maybe you are dating a man in recovery, or perhaps your girlfriend or wife is no longer abusing drugs but is now on the road to recovery.
Either way, dating a recovering addict presents many unique challenges. Although every situation is different and there is no blueprint to follow, focusing on the following areas will streamline dating in recovery, and you could even emerge with your relationship stronger than ever before.
- Slowly, slowly
- Learn as much as you can about addiction
- Identify what triggers your partner to abuse substances
- Prioritize your partner’s recovery without compromising your self-care
- Help your partner without becoming codependent
- Rebuild your relationship on a healthier foundation
1) Slowly, slowly
If you’re dating someone in recovery, you should take things slowly, whether it’s a new relationship or one you’ve been in for some time.
Even after inpatient rehab and ongoing aftercare, those recovering from addiction remain at risk of relapse.
If you are involved with someone in recovery, it would help if you view recovery not as a single event, but rather as a lifelong process, a process that may not always be linear and has no endpoint. Viewed through this lens, you should find it easier to take things slowly in a relationship with an addict.
2) Learn as much as you can about addiction
How much do you know about addiction and recovery?
At minimum, you should be clear that addiction is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder characterized by continued engagement despite obviously negative outcomes. There is no cure for addiction, but it can be treated with a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), counseling, and psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
If you are unaware of this concept of addiction as a disease, you may incorrectly assume all your partner needs to do is be strong. There is much more to addiction and recovery than willpower alone.
The relapsing nature of addiction – between 40% and 60% of those in recovery relapse at least once. Your partner will become more confident in their recovery over time, but you always need to be prepared for relapse with a thorough relapse management plan in place.
Explore our blog for a rounded view of all aspects of addiction. The more you know about this disease, the more effectively you can help a loved one with addiction, whether to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs.
3) Identify what triggers your partner to abuse substances
Those in recovery are triggered by certain people, places, and things that give them the urge to drink alcohol or use drugs. This could be an old drug buddy, a dealer, a bar, a smell or a song.
Speak with your partner about what triggers them to use substances. They will have worked on this during their recovery. Ask what their healthier coping strategies are. Help them to expand these.
By working proactively with your partner, you can help them to more seamlessly navigate the inevitable cravings they will get for drink or drugs, and the stronger their chance of avoiding relapse.
4) Prioritize your partner’s recovery without compromising your self-care
You need to accept that for anyone in recovery, the process of recovery must come first.
Putting recovery first means your partner should:
- Attend all 12-step meetings as appropriate
- Attend individual and group therapy sessions as scheduled
- Maintain an abstinent lifestyle
You could seek help and support from groups for the families of addicts such as Al-Anon and Nar-Anon.
If you’re dating someone in recovery, the relationship will come with many obstacles. All you can do is hurdle these as best you can, but there is an important caveat…
While your partner must put their recovery first and you can do all that’s possible to help them achieve this, don’t neglect your self-care in the process. Don’t think of self-care as selfish. It’s essential for your wellbeing and for the health of your relationship.
5) Help your partner without becoming codependent
A codependent relationship is characterized by one partner acting as caretaker, with the other taking advantage of this. This commonly occurs when one partner is abusing substances. Don’t let it happen to you.
The most effective way to avoid codependency is to help your partner without enabling them. Enabling behaviors might seem helpful and may be performed with the purest intentions, but enabling your partner’s addiction will ultimately be harmful.
Example of enabling behaviors include:
Lying for your partner
- Making excuses for your partner
- Providing your partner with money
- Tolerating or ignoring problematic behavior
If you avoid these behaviors, you can continue to help your partner live and flourish substance-free. You can help to create a superior future to one involving drink or drugs.
6) Rebuild your relationship on a healthier foundation
If you want your partner to stop using substances, it makes sense for you to avoid using substances around them.
Perhaps you’re only a social drinker. If so, don’t drink around your partner. Make things easier for them.
Think about taking up a hobby together. It could be a shared interest, or you might like the idea of trying something new.
Encourage your partner to eat healthily and stay hydrated, while also exercising daily. Do the same yourself and you’ll start noticing the benefits, even if you don’t have a problem with substance abuse yourself.
Getting Sober with The District Recovery
Perhaps your partner has alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder but has not yet engaged with any form of professional treatment. The chronic and relapsing nature of addiction means it is best treated with an evidence-based approach combining MAT (medication-assisted treatment) and psychotherapy like DBT (dialectical behavior therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy).
We also offer dedicated programs for men’s rehab and women’s rehab, so your partner can get the help they need without any distractions. Even better, with our outpatient treatment programs, your loved one can return home each day after therapy.
All you need to do is reach out to TDRC admissions right now on 844.287.8506.