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Dating someone in recovery can be difficult for some people, especially if they don't understand the complexities of addiction and recovery. It's important to truly understand the difficulties your partner might face during their recovery journey. It's also important to know how to best provide support and guidance, or know when to walk away or take a break from dating someone in recovery.
Below are some tips that can help you when dating a recovering alcoholic or dating a recovering addict.
Studies have shown that people undergoing recovery from substance use disorder often have feelings of shame or guilt. These feelings can hinder recovery, creating poorer outcomes for sobriety. Although your partner might have made past mistakes while in the throes of their addiction, it's important to not create feelings of shame and guilt. If you do not want to forgive your partner for past mistakes, there is nothing wrong with this either. Be true to yourself and decide to walk away, instead of quilting your partner.
Contrary to popular belief, relapse actually occurs in stages. These stages including thinking about using again, creating excuses to be closer to using, and finally using substances. These stages all come with their own signs, such as:
By recognizing the signs of relapse, you can recommend your partner get help and provide additional support.
Setting boundaries can help prevent co-dependency between you and your partner. A co-dependent relationship is not uncommon with people dating a recovering addict. Some signs of co-dependency include:
By setting boundaries with your partner, you can help prevent co-dependency and not allow your partner's addiction to overtake your own emotions.
Communication is perhaps the most important factor in any relationship, whether you're dating someone in recovery or not. Keeping lines of communication with your partner is essential to build trust and encourage them to continue their recovery journey. Listen to your partner if they express feelings of dissatisfaction in the recovery, have feelings of depression or anxiety, or feel they need more treatment.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse considers addiction to be a chronic disease. This means that alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder will likely affect your partner for the rest of their lives. It's important to understand that your partner will always have a risk of relapse, especially during difficult periods of their life such as:
It's important to encourage (not force) your loved one to continue treatment, especially if you feel they are at risk of relapse. This can happen any time after recovery, so it's best to mentally prepare.
Putting yourself first is the most critical part of dating a recovering addict. Whether that's engaging in self-care, getting mental health treatment and counseling for yourself, or reaching out to your friends and family, no one is more important than you. By focusing on yourself, you can be ready to help your partner during recovery, or even recognize the signs of abuse and know when it's time to walk away.