Let’s face it- dating can be incredibly tough. First dates are awkward at best and downright disasters at worst.
Perhaps the difficulty of dating is why there are currently more single people than ever before.
However, sometimes the difficulties of dating can be a good thing. When you’ve dated one dud after the other, it can feel all the more special when you finally meet someone you like and can envision having a future with.
But, what if one day this really special person suddenly drops a bomb on you. After months of what feels like pure bliss, they reveal a secret: they are actually a former/recovering addict.
What should you do with this information? Can you handle dating an addict?
We’re not going to lie, recovering addicts do tend to carry more baggage with them than the average person. However, this doesn’t mean you should rule them out as potential partners. After all, no one is perfect.
But, if you are going to date an addict, there are some things you need to know first.
So, what do you need to know?
Check out this guide to learn the top tips for dating a recovering addict.
1. Find Out Where They’re At On Their Road to Recovery
Before you dive in headfirst, you’ll first want to find out where the addict is at on their road to recovery.
While this may seem like a trivial detail, knowing what stage of recovery they are at can actually make a huge difference.
Generally speaking, recovering addicts are advised to take a break from dating during their first year of recovery. (The starting point is the day they first became sober).
If the person you’ve been seeing says they’ve been in recovery for under a year, you may want to think twice before getting too serious. If they’ve started dating before hitting the year mark, there’s a good chance they are going against the recommendation of their counselor and potentially aren’t taking their recovery very seriously.
This lack of commitment could easily lead to a failed relationship.
The first year of recovery is extremely crucial for addicts. It’s when they really learn what it’s like to live without drugs and alcohol, how to take care of themselves, and how to communicate effectively, and how to find satisfaction and enjoyment in other areas of their life. They also learn what triggers they need to avoid to stay on the road to sobriety.
Basically, it’s supposed to be a year of tremendous growth and self-discovery. Adding dating to all of this can be super complicated, and not to mention, overwhelming.
Therefore, we recommend either just being friends with the person until they’ve hit the one-year mark.
2. Look Within Yourself
Oftentimes, a relationship between a recovering addict and a non-recovering addict fails because the non-recovering has issues in their own life they’re not facing.
So, before you choose to date a recovering addict, make sure to do a self-check.
Ask yourself why you feel motivated to date a recovering addict. If your answer is that you are looking to “fix” or “rescue” the person, then the relationship is almost bound to fail.
The thing is, recovering addicts do not need to be rescued or fixed by anyone else. What they need to do, is take responsibility into their own hands and figure out what they need to do to live a healthy, stable life. This is something they need to do completely on their own as well.
If you attempt to be their “savior”, the relationship won’t have balance and will be based on an unhealthy dynamic.
Also, it’s not healthy for you to feel like it’s ever your role to save or fix somebody. If this is something you find yourself frequently seeking in relationships, you may want to consider talking to a professional or someone who can help you break this unhealthy dating pattern.
3. Be Ready to Support Them
Even though it’s never a good idea to attempt to fix an addict, you do need to support them.
Of course, all relationships require support. However, supporting an addict really requires you to go the extra mile.
Most recovering addicts (especially early on) need to see a therapist, attend several group meetings a week, and do a tremendous amount of self-care.
While this may not seem like a big deal at first, you may soon find that all of these meetings aren’t super convenient. If you and your partner both work 9 to 5 jobs, they’ll likely have to attend meetings after work. This could interfere with date nights, social events, and other things.
Plus, if an addict feels triggered, they may find themselves needing to get to a meeting ASAP.
This could mean dealing with canceled or postponed plans.
If you don’t think this is something you can handle, then dating an addict is not a good idea for you.
4. Educate Yourself
You may think you know a lot about addiction and recovery. But the truth is, unless you are an addiction counselor or work with addicts on a regular basis, you probably only know the basics.
Therefore, before dating a recovering addict, it’s very important that you educate yourself on addiction and recovery.
Learning about how addiction occurs, who’s susceptible to addiction, and the latest research on addiction can all be extremely useful.
It can also be beneficial to join a support group for friends, family members, and partners of addicts.
By hearing about other peoples’ experiences with addicts, you can learn a lot.
5. Be Aware of Your Partner’s Triggers
When dating a recovering addict, it is very important to be aware of their triggers.
While many people think that dating an addict just means avoiding bars and parties with alcohol, it’s actually a lot more complicated than that.
Addicts can be triggered by something as minutiae as a smell, sound, or sight.
Even the clink of a glass can be enough to trigger an addict.
As the partner of an addict, it’s very important that you are aware of these triggers.
This way, you’ll automatically understand when your partner feels the need to leave a certain place. You’ll also know what places the two of you should avoid altogether.
Also, be aware that even though triggers can fade over time, they are a lifelong problem. This means you will need to be mindful of them during the entire duration of your relationship.
6. Don’t Let Yourself Be Manipulated
When someone is in the throes of addiction, they often spend a lot of time manipulating and convincing others that their drinking/drug use isn’t a problem and that they don’t need help.
While some addicts are able to cut this behavior off once they’ve gone through a treatment program, some carry this manipulative behavior into their post-addiction relationships.
Therefore, when dating a recovering addict, make sure you don’t allow them to use their recovery as a scapegoat.
For example, someone being in recovery does not allow them to cut off communication for days or weeks at a time, bail on you, or be unfaithful to you.
A recovering addict should give you the same amount of respect that you’d expect from anyone else you’d date.
7. There Has to Be Trust
Every relationship needs trust, but a little extra dose of trust is needed when dating a recovering addict.
If you’re dating an addict and you don’t trust them, it will be very hard for them to rebuild their self-esteem.
If you constantly question your partner about their whereabouts or keep tabs on them, then your relationship will be doomed. Your partner will eventually come to resent you for your lack of trust.
Unless you see major warning signs that your partner is slipping up, you need to maintain an open mind and withhold judgment.
8. Don’t Forget About Your Self-Care
When dating a recovering addict, it can sometimes feel like the relationship is all about making sure that they’re doing okay.
But remember, for a relationship to work, things need to be equal. And just because you aren’t a recovering addict, doesn’t mean that you don’t have issues of your own.
When dating a recovering addict, it’s very important that you don’t get so wrapped up in their needs that you forget your own.
Regardless of if your partner is struggling or doing great, you always need to make time to take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating right, sleeping well, exercising, and finding time to enjoy your favorite hobbies.
Dating a Recovering Addict: Are You Ready for the Next Step?
As you can see, there is a lot that you need to keep in mind when dating a recovering addict.
However, while it can be difficult to date a recovering addict, keep in mind that all relationships have their challenges. Every couple has obstacles to navigate, so don’t let a small misstep in your relationship make you feel like dating a recovering addict is impossible.
As long as you’re committed and there’s love, you can get through any rough patches.
If you have any questions or comments about these tips, please let us know in the comments below.
And, be sure to check out this guide to learn what to do if your partner relapses.