Throughout the time in treatment most individuals will hear that it is best to avoid intimate relationships for at least 1 year when you first become sober. Of course this sounds impossible or almost like a punishment. How can I be single for a year? What if I meet someone in a couple months? What if it’s not a serious relationship? These are just some of the questions that are typically expressed when faced with the concern of dating in recovery. Dating can be complicated to even consider at this stage of your recovery but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. When your thinking about engaging in a relationship with someone who is early in recovery it is important for yourself to take a step back and analyze the situation as well as self assessment in regards to the motivation behind the interest in the relationship.Are you looking to “rescue” or “fix” the person you are dating? If that’s the case, the relationship will most likely not last. A person in recovery can’t be fixed and doesn’t need to be rescued. The individual needs to be ready for change and in order for them to be successful in their recovery they need to do it for themselves not because someone they care about wants them to be sober again.
After completing this self assessment and your motivation for the relationship isn’t to save or help them. Consider these important factors when dating someone in recovery:
Be observant; listen and watch what the person is expressing both verbally and nonverbally
With any new relationship it’s fun and carefree in the beginning. The beginning part of the relationship is about learning about each other’s interests and identify the commonalities among each other to see if the relationship will work. It’s important at this time to really listen carefully to everything the individual is sharing about themselves. Being in recovery can be difficult and sometimes they can feel alone, especially if they don’t have family or loved ones in recovery as well. They may be trying to tell you about their relapse indicators or triggers without actually saying those exact words. Be mindful of this. Recovery is an ongoing process, therefore anyone in early recovery may tell you it’s a complicated process when it comes to disclosing their recovery journey. A good sign that is someone who is actively participating in a recovery plan and taking steps to look after their health will be staying active, eating well and getting enough rest.
Educate Yourself About Addiction
Look into al-anon meetings, support groups (these can even be found on facebook or other social media sites). It’s really important that you begin to understand the disease of addiction and the struggles that the person you are seeing is dealing with on a daily basis. Visit your local library or look for online resources to learn about this subject.
Keep in Mind that this is a Process
Recovery is a process not a short time event. It is important to realize and understand this. Committing to a relationship with someone who is in recovery means that you are committing to the ups and downs that any relationship would have but that could be more complex than that. It is important to understand that they need to attend their AA/NA meetings regularly and it is important to be supportive of this. It is important for them to speak to their sponsor (sometimes at nontraditional times of the day) and it is not that they are taking time away from you or not trusting you with their present concerns/struggles but it is more because of the ability to understand what they may be experiencing or triggered with at that moment.
It’s also important to be understanding of the person and their journey. Addiction is not everything the person you are dating did in the past. The individual most likely has caused turmoil within their family while in their active addiction, could possibly have caused legal concerns as well as financial concerns. Don’t go into the relationship with unrealistic expectations as well as try to stay away from having certain unrealistic standards for them that they may not be able to meet as it can cause unnecessary stress on the individual which can ultimately lead to a possible relapse. Be mindful of this and be comfortable with setting boundaries for yourself.
Recognize your Beliefs About Addiction
Recovery is an ongoing process, and there is no point at which a person is “safe” or “over” their addiction. It’s something they need to monitor on a daily basis. You cannot expect them to change their beliefs as well as they cannot expect you to change yours. It’s important to not try to control their recovery process or their idea of what recovery means to them because recovery is individualized and is different for each person.
Understand that Their Recovery Will Come First
Outpatient Therapy appointments, AA/NA meetings, meetings with their sponsor, support groups, and self inventory assessments are just a few things that they have to focus on and fully engage in while trying to maintain their sobriety. These are important in their recovery process and will need to be the main priority. There is a saying within the 12 step community that the first thing you put ahead of your recovery is the first thing you will lose. Please don’t make them choose because it can be life changing.
Be Open-minded to Changing your Social Habits
When dating someone in recovery, it’s important to understand their triggers. If they are early in recovery then ordering a drink with dinner may not be the best idea. Have a conversation with your significant other. Ask them if it is ok that you order a drink. Communication is the most important factor of your relationship and that goes for any relationship that you enter into.
It’s important to understand that you may also need to avoid certain types of social activities; concerts, comedy shows that offer alcohol, wineries, holiday parties, karaoke nights at a bar, etc. These are just a few complicated situations that can arise however again it is important to communicate with the individual as they may be in a different place in their recovery where they may be able to attend these functions with you but know that they may need support from you or their sponsor if they do attend these events.
At the end of the day your decision to date someone in recovery is ultimately up to you. Dating someone in recovery will require some adjustments and compromises, however all relationships require this understanding and acceptance in order for it to be successful. Each relationship is unique, just like the two people in it. If you feel comfortable with the individual and are open minded to the process then the relationship has a great foundation which is key in any successful relationship!