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Dating can be very challenging, for anyone.
Throughout my recovery, there have been times that I’ve been on a date, or in a serious relationship when I’ve had to inform the other person that I’m in recovery. In some situations, they have been supportive and understanding—other times I’ve been hit with 100 questions, and experienced the perplexed, confused glares coming from the other person.
If you are not in recovery, but dating someone who is, there’s a good chance you have a ton of questions running through your mind. Substance abuse recovery requires acceptance, self-awareness, commitment, and perseverance—so do relationships.
Here are five things you should know about dating an addict in recovery:
We are human.
Addiction and the people struggling with this disease, are attached to too many societal stigmas. There is a good chance that you know someone struggling with substance abuse, or someone who knows someone struggling with this disease. However, if you have not been directly impacted by the disease of addiction, you have probably seen the image of addiction portrayed as a group of degenerate, unfortunate misfits. Until recently, societal stigmas on addiction have prevented addicts from stepping up and sharing their stories of struggle to hope.
The observations and personas, portrayed by the media, do not properly show the real stories and struggles of those of us who have struggled with substance abuse. These stigmas may contribute to the lack of vulnerability and willingness to trust our partners in fear of further judgment. It is important to remember that addiction does not discriminate—we are all human. Many of us were lawyers, doctors, mothers, teachers, and coaches. We are all human, just like you, who have had to overcome some difficult struggles. We are all deserving of love and acceptance.
You can’t “fix” us.
If you are codependent or struggling with the desire to “fix” others, there’s a good chance this relationship will not last. Our addiction is not an illness that can be cured by human aid, unconditional love, or consistent nurturing. Many of us have had family members and loved ones try to save and take care of us before—to no avail. Just because we are recovering from substance abuse, does not mean we need someone to take care of us. Our path to recovery requires us to sit down with other alcoholics/addicts, and look inward with self-awareness and take action on our defects of character. If we are solid in our recovery, we may be some of the most self-aware and healthy individuals you know. After all, our sobriety and our lives depend on it.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Lack of communication and avoiding asking questions can lead to resentment, false assumptions, and mistrust. If you have not personally experienced addiction, but are dating someone who is, it can be easy to pass judgment and jump to conclusions. If you are uneducated on the disease of addiction, there’s no better way to keep the communication open and establish trust than to go straight to the source, and ask any questions you may have. Our alcoholism does not mean you have to walk on eggshells. You are not responsible for safeguarding our sobriety—just be open to listen and accept the answers we give to your questions.
Accept our baggage.
Everyone has baggage, especially those of us in recovery. Recovering addicts may have a ton of baggage that we are trying to shove back into the closet. From legal, health, financial, family, and social issues—it’s important to know we are not bad people. Many of us have a perilous past, and we must face the music and deal with these things that continue to haunt us. Many of us are more willing to discuss these issues when we feel our partner is open to accepting us—even with the baggage we may bring along with us. Let your recovering partner know you love him/her exactly as they are, and you are willing to be supportive and accepting as they navigate through the wreckage of their past. Be honest about your level of tolerance, and if you got more than you bargained for, let us know.
Love won’t keep us sober, but support is always helpful.
As mentioned before, you must understand that no amount of love can keep an addict/alcoholic sober. This is especially true if an individual is not committed to his/her sobriety. If we are actively using or consistently relapsing, it is vital to put your relationship on hold while you support your partner to seek treatment for substance abuse. If your partner is committed to his/her sobriety, it is likely they have a solid support system. From sponsors to friends, we thrive in supportive communities. It is important for you to continue educating yourself on the disease of addiction, and be supportive of our recovery—not matter what.