According to the American Addiction Centers, it’s estimated that 17.5 million American adults have been dealing with alcohol abuse in the year 2017. This represents 5.3% of the US population, making it likely to date someone during their recovery journey.
You’d want to forge a healthy relationship with your future partner, and a history of drug abuse can be a challenge that you both need to work your way through.
Being a supportive partner can help your significant other stay sober, which is a task you shouldn’t take lightly.
You have to come to this relationship with an open mind, and show extra empathy and understanding. Even if they’re no longer dealing with active addiction, success of substance abuse treatment is the key for a successful relationship in this case.
Follow along as we explore the challenges and tackle the concerns of dating a recovering alcoholic.
When Is a Good Time to Start a Romantic Relationship with a Recovering Alcoholic?
The first few months recovering from drug addiction are the most demanding. This is the period with the most shakeups to one’s routine, and when the recovering person starts to learn healthy coping strategies to deal with their cravings and intense emotions.
The first 6 to 8 months are the trickiest when it comes to replacing alcohol addiction with healthy habits that become a cornerstone for a sober life. It’s important to prioritize self-care during this early period and focus on restoring mental and physical health.
Dating during the first year of addiction recovery is challenging for all the intense emotions that the other person might be going through. They might be seeking love as a replacement for their alcohol use, and would be expecting their partner to provide the same state of euphoria that only alcohol could deliver for them.
Problems can easily arise with such high expectations. It might be a good idea to skip the early recovery phase until your prospective partner is ready to tackle new relationships. It’s always advised to wait till your partner is sober for at least a year before starting dating.
Tips for Dating a Person Recovering from Alcohol Addiction
We’ve put together a list of the best advice you need to bear in mind before you begin dating a person who battled addiction to alcohol.
The goal here is to shed some light on unique aspects to dating a person recovering from substance addiction to help you establish a healthy, successful relationship. Here’s how:
1. Evaluate Where You’re Standing
Before you start dating, it’s important to ask yourself all the hard questions and see where you’re at with this new relationship. Different people have different capacities and it’s important to define and accept your boundaries without any stigma.
It all starts by asking yourself whether your current lifestyle fits into dating a person in recovery and how flexible and adaptable you are to make meaningful changes if needed. Whether you have the emotional maturity level needed to date a recovering person is another mental exercise that you have to tackle.
2. Learn About Addiction
For you to be an understanding partner to your significant other, you need to be well educated about alcohol use disorder (AUD). One reliable online resource that you can check out is the website of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
You can also join support groups for friends and family of people recovering from alcohol addiction. You get to learn from their experience on how to handle similar situations and have a safe environment where you can share how you feel and get support.
3. Keep Your Partner’s Health In Mind
Depending on how far along your partner is on their recovery journey, they can be very fragile and easily relapse. Be mindful when planning dates, so instead of going to a party, a music festival, or a bar, you can go to the movies, or a park.
Such a thoughtful attitude shows your partner how much you care about them and that you both have a shared goal; ensuring your partner’s recovery.
Also, it’s critical to pick up on your partner’s triggers and any potential mental illness they struggle with. It’s usually hard to avoid triggers at all times, but doing your part will go hand in hand with your partner’s efforts to control their urges.
4. Prevent Codependency
Being a source of ongoing support and encouragement to your partner doesn’t mean you can necessarily change their behavior. Being sober is their decision alone, and you can’t always save people from their own unhealthy behaviors.
During the recovery process, your partner can show patterns of codependency in the form of poor decision making, low self-esteem, and always seeking the approval of others.
You need to identify these signs early and seek help when needed to draw a healthy line between support and dependence.
Couples therapy can be a helpful means to tackle mental health problems that might be associated with alcohol use disorder. It will also give a platform for both partners to address their concerns and communicate their needs.
5. Set Healthy Boundaries
When dating a recovering person, you’ll be involved in their sobriety journey as much as they are. You can easily lose track of your own wellbeing while taking care of them. This will be bad for the both of you down the line.
Learning how to deal with such stress in healthy ways and reflecting upon your mental health should be as high on your list of priorities.
You can find more resources about addiction treatment at Curednation, including insurance coverage, hospital admissions, and mental health support for families and partners of a recovering person.
6. Avoid Passing Judgment
Don’t let the fact that your partner had an issue with alcohol use factor in how much you trust them.
Also, the fact that they’ll be hanging out with friends in a bar doesn’t mean they’ll go back to drinking alcohol. You need to show that you trust your partner’s commitment for remaining sober as this will give them the self esteem boost they need to trust in themselves.
Trust issues can arise on your partner’s end as well. They might think they’re not worthy of this relationship and for that you might be cheating on them or planning to leave.
You also don’t know all the factors that led your partner to fall into the trappings of alcohol addiction. Having preconceived notions about the “kind of person they are” from the lowest point of their life is both judgmental and ungenerous, which isn’t what a recovering person needs.
7. Be Ready for the Risk of Relapse
We can’t emphasize enough the importance of learning the early signs of relapse. This way you can intervene and reach out to your partner’s treatment center and get them admitted early. Substance use, when addressed in the early stages, loses many of its potential risks.
The addicted person can avoid many of the dangerous adverse health events, as well as the negative outcomes in their relationships.
Dating someone recovering from alcohol use is a full time commitment that you should be ready to tackle if you choose to commit to them.
You should be open to tweaking your lifestyle to work around your partner’s treatment plan and encourage them to remain sober. If at any point you can’t do that, it’s better for both of you to walk away from the relationship. If that’s not done, you run the risk of becoming unhealthy partners standing in the way of each other’s growth and life goals.
Finally, understanding what your partner might be going through can help when it comes to preventing codependency, setting boundaries, and avoiding enabling behavior patterns.