It is not uncommon for people who marry an addict or an alcoholic to look back over their first few dates and, with hindsight, be able to pick out some key indicators there was an addiction problem.
However, during the initial stages of dating, especially when the relationship is in the intense infatuation phase, it can be easy to willfully, or not, overlook or rationalize the very behaviors that could eventually lead to the breakup of the relationship or the marriage. Dating an alcoholic can be a tricky reality to spot, and accept.
For many people who have limited experience with alcoholism and addiction, the subtle signs of dating an alcoholic can be difficult to see. This is made even more problematic if the addict is considered to be high functioning, meaning she or he is able to maintain a job, go to school, and have relationships without manifesting the full-blown signs of addiction or alcoholism.
Often, high functioning addicts use their ability to operate in society as proof they do not have a drinking or drug abuse problem. These people are also savvy in hiding their addiction, and they often use drugs or alcohol in secret, limiting their use around partners to more socially acceptable levels to avoid detection. What can make it even harder to see and discuss in the open is that often the person themselves is in denial about it.
Initial Red Flags You May Be Dating An Alcoholic (Or Any Kind Of Addict)
Here’re some of the key signs to look for in the early stages of a relationship that may signal alcohol or drug abuse.
- Physical changes
People with addiction problems have physical or physiological changes that can be identified as part of a pattern. This can include unexpected fatigue, sweating, headaches, nausea, red eyes, signs of a “cold” that seem to occur on a regular basis, lack of appetite, or changes in appetite. People also tend to have less interest in their physical appearance when using or recovering after a binge.
- Emotional changes
During both the high and the aftermath of the use of alcohol and drugs, emotional and mood changes are common. This can include irritability, anxiety, emotional outbursts, anger, blame, defensiveness, and denial, or unwillingness to discuss concerns or to talk about the issue.
- Blows hot and cold
It is not uncommon for addicts to have times when they focus their attention on their partner, and then times when they focus on the addictive behavior. This can result in a hot and cold type of relationship, often include periods when the addict is out of contact and offers excuses or refuses to talk about the absence.
- Leading a double life
Addicts may drink or use drugs on their own, but they may also have a separate group of people they use with. Typically, the addict is very careful to keep their partner away from this group, so they often lead a double life in a very real sense of the word.
Other signs to watch for include secretive behavior, lying and becoming angry when caught, paranoid types of behaviors at times, or the constant need to find activities and things to do that include drinking or the use of drugs.
If you are concerned about a partner, an honest discussion about your concerns is often the best choice. How the partner responds is often an indication of their willingness to make changes or their desire to continue on with their addictive pattern of behavior. As much as you care about your partner, if you’re concerned that you’re dating an alcoholic or addict, the best thing you can do is put it out in the open in an honest, kind and respectful way.
If you can keep well-being, your own and your partners, at the center of your focus you can help to overcome a significant amount of potential pain in the relationship. Addiction is a serious and sensitive issue to manage in a relationship – don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for help if you need to.
Sherry Gaba helps singles navigate the dating process to find the love of their lives. Take her quiz to find out if you’re a love addict, sign up for a 30-minute strategy session, or learn more about how to get over a break up. She maintains a private practice in Westlake Village, and is a sought after online dating and relationship coach. For more information visit www.sherrygaba.com or sign up today for Sherry’s online group coaching program. Buy her books The Marriage and Relationship or Infinite Recovery