Advice for Dating a Recovering Addict

Finding out that someone you’re interested in dating is a recovering addict can be overwhelming. Whether you’ve been exposed to recovering addicts before or not, it’s normal to feel hesitant about getting involved with one romantically. Under the right circumstances, however, it’s possible to have a fulfilling romantic relationship with someone in recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs.

dating an addict

Questions to Ask a Dating Partner Who is in Recovery

Before dating a recovering addict, get answers to these questions:

  • How Long Have You Been Sober? – It’s crucial to know where the recovering addict is in their journey. Ideally, they should have at least one year of sobriety under their belt. In early recovery, recovering addicts are busy making sense of their new, sober selves. If you date someone newly sober, they’re apt to change a lot in the months and years ahead – and you may end up not being all that compatible with them, after all.
  • What is Your Dating History Like? – Find out if the person you’d like to date has dated anyone else since becoming sober. Delve deeper to also inquire about what their romantic relationships were like before recovery. Sometimes, people recovering from addictions to drugs or alcohol may also have addictions to sex and romantic relationships. They may use romantic relationships to distract them from the work of maintaining sobriety, which can be disastrous for both parties.
  • What Are You Doing to Maintain Your Sobriety? – Ask the person you’d like to date if they are currently in any recovery program or otherwise taking active steps to maintain their sobriety, like attending 12-step meetings or meeting regularly with a therapist.
  • How Can I Support You? – Ask about the other person’s expectations of you in their recovery journey. Do they expect their partner to support their recovery actively, or would they rather handle most of the work themselves? Are there triggering situations or things you should know about to help them maintain their sobriety?
  • Are You Ready for a Committed Relationship? – Becoming infatuated with someone and wanting to spend lots of time with them is one thing; committing to them for the long haul is another. Early on in dating a recovering addict, ask if they are really ready for commitment. Will it get in the way of their recovery process? Since becoming sober, has their life settled down enough to focus on a partner?

How to Support Someone in Recovery as a Romantic Partner

Let’s say you ask the recovering addict you’d like to date the questions posed above and feel secure about proceeding with the relationship. Before deciding for sure, figure out if you are capable of supporting your new partner. Some of the primary ways you can be supportive while dating a recovering addict include the following:

  • Accept Their Past – Accepting your partner’s past is crucial for any successful relationship, but it’s imperative when dating a recovering addict. Everyone has baggage, but recovering addicts sometimes take years to sort out the messes created by active addiction. Your new partner may still be struggling with financial, legal or health issues stemming from their use of drugs or alcohol. To have any hope of a long, successful partnership, it’s vital to accept your partner’s past – even if it’s still haunting them.
  • Learn Their Triggers – All recovering addicts are at risk of relapsing. According to Psychology Today, 40% to 60% of all people in recovery relapse at least once. Relapses often happen when someone is triggered by a situation, event or other issues, so it’s important to learn about your new partner’s triggers. Once you know what they are, you can consciously shield your partner from potential triggers that could send them into a spiral of relapse.
  • Adapt Your Lifestyle Within Reason – You may have to make lifestyle changes to accommodate dating a recovering addict. These changes may be based on the triggers mentioned above. For example, if you normally enjoy a drink or two before bedtime, you may have to find another way to unwind. If you regularly go to the club or the bar, you may have to cut back on those activities to avoid triggering your partner.
  • Educate Yourself About Addiction – Read a few books about addiction and recovery to understand what your partner is experiencing. If possible, attend a few 12-step meetings with your partner, or try a group like Al-Anon to gain insights into being involved with someone in recovery. Have your partner share their story about addiction and recovery with you to understand what they’ve endured – and what they’ve overcome.
  • Communicate Openly – From square one, communicate openly and honestly with your partner about all aspects of your lives and relationship. Avoid the common pitfall of assuming the worst about your partner. Instead of assuming they’re out drinking when they don’t reply to your texts right away, for instance, give them the benefit of the doubt and ask them about it later.
  • Take Care of Yourself – Codependency is a common issue for people who are romantically involved with addicts and recovering addicts. Just because your partner is in recovery doesn’t mean that their needs are all that matters. Self-care is crucial for you too, so make it a priority.
  • Be Realistic – If you’re a hopeless romantic, you may assume that your love and support are all your partner needs to stay sober. In reality, relapses occur for countless reasons, so you should be prepared for them and understand that they may happen despite your help.

Embrace Your Relationship with a Recovering Addict, But Take it Slow

Recovering addicts have been through a lot, but they’ve also overcome a lot. They can be excellent, supportive partners, but nothing is guaranteed. The best rule of thumb when dating a recovering addict is to take things slowly. Resist the temptation to plunge full steam ahead. Instead, enjoy the budding relationship and give it time to grow. It could end up being the best relationship of your life.

Published on: 2022-03-30
Updated on: 2024-06-19