For some, the words “recovering addict” might be a red flag when considering dating options; the truth is, however, that if you are interested in pursuing a relationship with a recovering addict, and he or she has taken the important steps necessary to gain a grasp on sobriety, then a healthy relationship is possible. Here are some things that you should know if you are dating someone in recovery.
Understand their need for introspection.
During the first year or so of recovery from addiction, it’s important for the recovering addict to spend time focusing inward, getting a grasp on the deeper psychological effects of addiction and re-establishing an identity that doesn’t include addiction. This introspective time also helps the individual to avoid the stress that comes along with romantic relationships. So, ideally, the recovering addict whom you are dating will have spent a year doing those things. Even so, there will likely come occasions when he or she simply needs some alone time to cope with stress. Being willing to be present for support when it’s needed, but also be willing to step away temporarily at times like these.
Understand and accept the baggage.
You should know upfront that with addiction often comes other baggage such as damaged family relationships, financial problems, or past legal issues. And if the recovering addict is making progress in recovery, overcoming addiction and any issues that arose along with it, these are things that can be worked through. It’s important to talk openly about these forms of baggage while at the same time communicating what you can and cannot tolerate in the relationship.
Educate yourself on their addiction and recovery.
One of the best ways that you can be there to support your recovering addict is to educate yourself on their past addiction and to talk openly with them about their major struggles and most probable relapse triggers in recovery. Work with your partner to create a list of warning signs and things that might tempt him or her to use again. This way, you can support your partner in the way that he or she needs and be better equipped to help your partner stay on top of sobriety.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
In a relationship where one partner is working to overcome addiction, there runs the risk of codependency. Codependency in this case is an unhealthy type of relationship in which one person requires support in overcoming an addiction, and the partner becomes emotionally or psychologically dependant on this person who needs support. In other words, the partner’s thinking and behavior are continually organized around the recovering addict, causing the partner to neglect his or her own needs. Be sure that in providing support you are not neglecting your own needs.
Kris Groves is a Advanced Substance Use Disorder Counselor and has been working in the field of substance abuse since 1996. Kris is the Program Director for Renaissance Ranch. She has worked in general outpatient and intensive outpatient programs. As a volunteer for the Family Home Evening Program at the Utah State Prison, Kris educates women about addiction and recovery. As a family systems specialist, Kris works specifically with the shame-based family system model that addresses the family needs as well as the needs of the client. Kris’s passion and commitment for people and assisting them in their healing and recovery is a great joy for her.