Dating someone who’s recovering from alcoholism or drug abuse can be a challenge, but when you care for someone, accepting the challenges that come with your relationship is part of growing together and becoming closer. Dating someone in recovery can be hard at times but it can also be a rewarding relationship if you know how to navigate through the rough patches.
There are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for the struggles of dating someone in recovery. Being aware and understanding or the complications that come with being close to someone who’s going through something serious and real is the best way you can give the relationship a chance to succeed.
Understand the Disease
Alcoholism and other addictive personality disorders are complex mental health illnesses. The first step in dating somebody in recovery is understanding what they’re suffering from.
Look at it like any other illness. If you wanted to date somebody who had diabetes, you’d want to understand the illness, how it affects them, and how you can help them get through it. You want to approach a recovering alcoholic or drug addict in a similar way.
Don’t view their addiction as a choice. While you might see it as a choice, for them it’s a behavior that they’ve worked incredibly hard to stop and sometimes they don’t feel like they have a choice. Looking at addiction as an illness instead of a choice will help you understand and sympathize with the person you’re dating.
When somebody does drugs or drinks a high volume of alcohol, the brain is filled with feel-good chemicals. It creates more dopamine than is naturally typical, making the emotional side of their brain feel extremely good. Next time your partner thinks about doing the drug, the emotional side of the brain will crave the good feeling, even though the rational part of the brain knows that it will be bad for the body. This is how an addiction is started.
To learn about the illness, do research online or even read a book about alcoholism or addiction. There are plenty of resources designed for people who have recovering addicts in their lives with information and help on how to support them through their journey.
Know How to Be Supportive
Just like any relationship, knowing exactly how to help your partner will come with time, as you get to know each other. However, at the beginning of a relationship, it’s important to talk to your partner about how you can support their recovery and what they are and aren’t comfortable with.
For example, find out if they’re comfortable going to a restaurant that serves alcohol. Ask if they mind if you drink a glass of wine with dinner. Get to know their triggers and situations that make them feel uncomfortable and don’t put them in a situation you know is hard for them. When you talk about their recovery, ask the person how they like to calm down. can also find out if they usually like talking to somebody on rough days or if they would rather be left alone.
Knowing all of these preferences will help you support your partner in the best way possible. Sometimes, you think you know how to act and respond to situations based on what you would want someone to do for you. However, everybody is different. What you would want might not be what your partner wants or needs.
Be Open and Honest
Honesty is incredibly important when it comes to relationships with a partner in recovery. Honesty both with your partner and with yourself.
With your partner, you want to facilitate open and honest conversations regularly. If either of you are having any concerns or worries, don’t hesitate to bring them up with each other. Sometimes, you might be angry about something might not want to address the issue because you’re afraid it will make them relapse or make things harder for them. This isn’t healthy. There are ways to tell them how you’re feeling without being too harsh or insensitive, so try to look for those ways to communicate.
It’s also necessary to be honest with yourself. If being in this relationship is just too much for you or isn’t what you want in life, you need to get out. On the other hand, if you truly love your partner and are willing to work through their recovery with them, let yourself. Friends and family may try to dissuade you, but if you listen to yourself you’ll be able to love that person fully and be the support they need while also getting what you need from the relationship.
Recognizing that relapse is a possibility is another thing to be honest about, for both you and your partner. Talking about the possibility of relapse and even having a plan in case it happens isn’t a bad idea in this type of relationship. Being on the same page will make it a little bit easier if it ever happens.
Seek Support When Necessary
There is a lot of support out there for loved ones of people with alcoholism or addiction, such as family members and partners. There are books, websites, online support groups and real-life support groups to help you get through the difficult times.
Al-Anon is a group intended to give support and understanding to friends and families of alcoholics. There are meetings you can attend that allow you to listen to other people’s stories and gain a better understanding of your relationship. Groups like this can really help you get through the more difficult times in the relationship.
Know That It Isn’t All Bad
Dating somebody in recovery can be hard sometimes. But the relationship can still be loving and amazing. Don’t let the recovery become the focus of your relationship. Instead, make the relationship about the two of you as people, not as a recovering addict and a supporter. Take the time to be in love, enjoy the little moments with each other, and work towards a future. This relationship may be complex, but it can also be extremely rewarding.
If you decide to be in a relationship with somebody in recovery, you’re making a brave and life-changing choice. You’ll face hurdles that other couples may not have to deal with, but you’ll also become closer than other couples. You may have days that seem like the end of the world, but you’ll also have days when you feel on top of the world. It’ll be a rollercoaster, but you’ll be next to someone you love.