No matter how nonjudgmental of a person you may be, finding out that the person you’re dating is in recovery can be a tough truth to navigate.
Depending on your background and how much you understand about the disease of addiction, reactions will vary.
For some people, finding out that the person you’re dating once suffered from substance abuse can be hard to understand. How can the person you know now be the same person who abused drugs or alcohol? For others, it may be a little easier to accept, especially in cases where one has dealt either first or second hand with a substance use disorder.
Either way, it’s important to take a few things into consideration in order to better understand the person you are dating, as well as prepare you for potential occurrences.
Do Get an Overall Sense of Their Sobriety
It doesn’t matter how emotionally mature you are or how willing you are to adapt to their recovery needs, if the person you’re dating hasn’t been sober for at least a year, it’s most likely not a good idea to begin a relationship with them. Recovery is a long process.
While everyone has their own unique timeline, it is most risky to get involved with a person in their first year of recovery. The first year should be dedicated to a lot of self-work and self-care, as well as learning how to create healthy routines.
Do Ask Questions
The more you are able to understand their addiction and triggers, the more you will be able to understand their emotional undercurrent. This doesn’t mean you should grill them on every nook and cranny of their past. Rather, you should ask questions that show you want to gain a deeper understanding of them.
In many cases, people who have suffered from a substance abuse disorder hold their recovery and sobriety close to their hearts. If you are going to invest in the relationship, it’s important that you show an interest in their recovery story.
Do Accept Your Partner’s Baggage
If you are going to move forward with the relationship, then you have to be willing to accept the baggage that comes with it. The fact is, after a person’s life has been infected by addiction, there are going to be facets that are still fractured. They could have legal, family, health, or financial issues. This doesn’t make them a bad person, it’s just a part of the disease.
Be honest with yourself. Are you willing to accept the person for all their faults or not? If not, be kind and terminate the relationship before getting further involved.
Being supportive means that you must be educated on their recovery process and know their triggers. This may mean that you can’t drink around them or that you need to take steps to remove other triggering stimuli. It also means allowing them space and time to practice self-care.
Again, it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you see addiction is a major character flaw, it’s going to be difficult to be genuinely supportive. Suspicion masked as support doesn’t count.
Don’t Smother Them with Unwanted Help
In other words, don’t think that because someone suffered from substance abuse that they are need of someone to take care of them. Oftentimes, people in recovery are some of the healthiest people you’ll meet because they have taken a lot of time to physically, emotionally, and psychologically improve themselves.
In addition to the fact that they probably don’t need your help, you run the risk of causing an emotional relapse if you interfere unnecessarily. You might also want to check-in with yourself to see if you suffer from codependent tendencies. Someone who struggles with codependency is going to have a hard time successfully navigating a relationship with a person in recovery.
Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Manipulated
The truth is, addiction is a chronic disease prone to relapses. According to a Psychology Today article, an estimated 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery relapse.
Unfortunately, relapse can happen at any time. Don’t let yourself become deaf to your warning sirens. If something seems off, ask.
Keep an open mind, but remember the last thing you want is to be pulled down into the spiral of someone else’s downfall. This may sound heartless, but the power of addiction is ruthless. Sticking around will only pull you into the center of the storm.
Don’t Make Assumptions
It’s natural to feel inclined to jump to conclusions when dating a person in recovery, but be careful in your assumptions. Just because they are late meeting you or not answering the phone does not mean that they are off doing drugs. Becoming consumed with worry or anxious about the potential of relapse will only strain trust. And, if you’re just beginning to date someone, starting off with broken trust is a sure way to ruin something before it ever has a chance to begin.
Don’t Forget About Your Own Needs
Everyone is need of self-care. A person in recovery will often have a lot going on, including regular group meetings or therapy. Understand the importance of a meeting, even if it is happening on a Friday night.
Try to develop your own hobbies and interests separate from your partner. Over reliance on any relationship to fulfill needs is only a sign of codependency. Figure out what you can do to improve your state of being, so you’re better equipped to enjoy your time together.