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What to Know About Dating Someone Recovering from Addiction

Deciding if you should date someone who is recovering from addiction is similar to approaching any new romantic relationship, but with some specific challenges and factors to consider. Someone who has successfully completed outpatient addiction treatment might be a self-aware individual with life experience that will help them avoid the pitfalls of the past.

Of course, it is also possible that the risk of relapse might keep you from developing the depth of trust and stability that you need in a romantic relationship, or your own past might play a role in your decision. Timing is also important. Addiction treatment centers usually recommend that those in recovery wait at least one year before starting a new romantic relationship.


The One Year Milestone

When an individual undergoes medically supervised detox or intensive outpatient treatment for addiction, they are starting a life-long journey of sobriety. During the recovery process, most people need to work through their past obstacles and learn new lifestyle habits. They also need time to recover from the physical effects of drug or alcohol abuse.

Where is your potential date on this journey? Recovering addicts are usually advised to wait to start dating for one year after they become sober. This not only protects them from breakups and emotional stressors that might trigger a relapse, but it also helps protect you from either being hurt by their behavior or unknowingly causing them to have a setback.

You can certainly be a sober friend to someone in their first year of recovery, but, if you meet them before the one-year mark, it might be best to wait for dating. If they are willing to go against their treatment recommendations, it may be a sign that they are not likely to remain sober.


Important Things to Consider Before Dating a Recovering Individual

Once that one-year mile marker has been reached, there are some steps which may help you gain some clarity about whether or not to date a recovering addict, and also some signs to watch for which might make you decide to politely decline this opportunity. This is your decision, and there is no single right or wrong answer for everyone, so keep an open mind as you consider these points:


1. Take a Look at Yourself First

Not everyone is the right match for someone struggling with addiction or in outpatient rehab. This step is about knowing yourself and considering if this match might be destructive for either of you. Some character traits you may have which could make dating someone in recovery an unwise choice include:

  • If you have a tendency to try to “fix” or “rescue” people in a relationship, which might lead to codependency—a mutually unhealthy relationship based on the addiction.
  • If you have a habit of choosing relationships where you sacrifice everything to make the other person happy, or a past history of abusive relationships.
  • If you have addictive behaviors (even gambling or eating disorders) or use drugs and alcohol on a semi-regular basis yourself.
  • If you are romanticizing your date’s former drug use and lifestyle as exciting or edgy.
  • If you hold a belief that your partner is completely “cured” and will never be challenged by cravings or relapse in the future.
  • If you feel you cannot be supportive and empowering of your partner’s need to maintain their sobriety.


2. Educate Yourself About Addiction

Also, take some time to find out about addiction recovery and treatment. Knowing a little more about how addiction affects brain chemistry, emotions, and intimacy will help you understand what your potential date is going through and why it is important to wait for that one-year mark.

Some proactive steps you can take to be a supportive influence and avoid the common pitfalls of dating during recovery include:

  • Learning more about the addiction and recovery process from an outpatient addiction treatment center or another reputable source.
  • Joining a support group for friends and partners of recovering addicts and alcoholics.
  • Making an honest assessment based on what you have learned of your friend’s commitment to sobriety.
  • Asking about relapse prevention, understanding the likelihood of relapse, and planning how you will respond if a relapse occurs.


3. Be Willing to Avoid Triggers in Daily Life

happy man holding heart

As you learn about addiction in general, you should also have an open and honest discussion about what triggers cravings for your prospective partner. This will help you navigate with them and support their unique needs. It may be that some small sacrifices will be required. Knowing that you are willing to make these trade-offs will help you in your decision.

  • Giving up socializing in bars, taverns, and dance clubs.
  • Not spending time with people who use drugs or alcohol.
  • Not attending sporting events or concerts where drugs or alcohol are served.
  • Toasts at weddings and events will need to be sparkling fruit juice.
  • Even clinking glasses, certain music, and smells associated with using might need to be avoided.
  • Understanding that if a trigger suddenly occurs, your date might need to call their sponsor or attend a meeting right away, leading to some canceled plans.

These restrictions based on triggers may grow less over time, or new triggers might be discovered. Your willingness to make these small lifestyle changes may be the determining factor in whether you decide to move forward with dating this special person.


4. Dedicate Time and Energy to Yourself

As you enter into a relationship with someone in recovery, be sure to find a balance for your own needs. Your wellbeing and happiness are equally important and deserve your attention. Some ways to make sure that you aren’t giving up too much to the relationship include:

  • Attending your own self-help, counseling, or activities with their support, just as you will support their scheduled meetings and urgent therapy.
  • Finding your own support system of trusted people with whom you can share your challenges and concerns.
  • Setting relationship rules about addictive behaviors and substances, discussing relapse prevention and setting clear expectations.
  • Accepting your partner’s encouragement to explore your own interests, passions, and talents.
  • Establishing a relationship with open communication, mutual respect, and empowerment; avoiding the roles of caregiver or enabler.


5. Recognize Manipulative Behaviors Associated with Addiction

People who have been living with addiction become adept at justifying, hiding, or manipulating others into accepting their behavior. During treatment, these behaviors are brought out and the individual has the opportunity to work on themselves and eliminate these relationship-damaging habits.

However, no matter what treatment options are offered, changing how they relate to others is a difficult process, and old habits and ways of thinking may return despite the individual’s desire to change. Watch for these warning signs of manipulative tendencies:

  • Attempts to make you feel responsible for his or her drug use.
  • Bargaining with their responsibilities to attend meetings and treatment as if doing so is a favor to you.
  • Accusations that you are overly suspicious or untrusting if you ask questions or discuss limits.
  • Cutting off communication, secretive behavior, and evasiveness.
  • Asking to borrow money or other favors, implying that without your help they will not be able to stay sober.


6. Forgive the Past and Empower the Future

Your romantic prospect will come with a past, as we all do. You may have made mistakes yourself, and building trust starts with being honest about your histories and upfront about your plans for the future. This is not only good for relationships but an essential part of the recovery process.

  • When your partner is honest about triggers and thoughts of relapse, this is a sign of developing trust and an opportunity to support them in seeking help.
  • Sharing past actions that we know were wrong and hurtful takes courage, and your acceptance and encouragement of their ability to change are
  • Working together to support each other in a healthy lifestyle and strong relationship may be one of the most important factors for a successful


The Individual Is Not Defined by Their Addiction

Perhaps the most important factor to consider is the unique human being in front of you. People become addicted to substances not through lack of strength or willpower, but for a wide variety of reasons that include genetics, abuse, societal factors, and environment.

What matters more than how they became addicted is how committed they are to you, to the relationship, and to their own recovery. During residential or outpatient addiction treatment, they may gain advantages, relationship skills, and self-awareness that can be beneficial to your relationship.

An individual in recovery may:

  • Be ready and willing to be fully engaged in an interdependent relationship.
  • Have acquired life skills during treatment which improve relationships, parenting skills, and career opportunities.
  • Be accepting of your past mistakes and challenges, and even able to help you talk through lingering emotions and achieve a deeper level of trust together.
  • Have realistic expectations of themselves and others.
  • Be dedicated to a healthy and sober way of life.

At RECO Intensive in Delray Beach, Florida, we prepare our clients to build strong, supportive relationships as they learn about themselves during recovery. Our intensive outpatient treatment programs treat all aspects of addiction, helping people to achieve healing and restore their lives.

Making the decision to date someone who is challenged by addiction should be an informed and open-hearted one. By taking the time to understand and consider these factors, you can choose the best path forward for yourself and those you care about. If you or your partner need help with issues of addiction in an advanced and flexible format, contact us today to overcome the past and protect your future together.

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