Entering a new relationship is both exciting and scary, especially when the person you’re dating admits that they were once addicted to drugs or alcohol. Dating a recovering alcoholic doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, and it can actually make your relationship stronger. Of course, it’s always important to date someone who you trust and value, so if you look at addiction as a character flaw, dating a recovered addict may not be the best choice for you. But, if you care strongly for the individual, you can certainly make things work and lead the healthy, productive lifestyle that you always dreamed of.
A Healthy Recovery Can Lead to Healthy Relationships
Most recovering addicts have spent time in therapy, so they are no stranger to talking about their feelings and understanding their inner emotions. They may have also come to terms with their past, something that many ordinary adults lack. Additionally, recovering addicts learn essential life skills, healthy coping mechanisms and the factors that lead to a strong relationship. They are better able to listen, communicate their emotions and even set boundaries.
It seems ironic that a recovered addict can actually be more secure than someone without a previous addiction, but that’s the power of therapy. Recovery gives people the time they need to explore their past and work through problems while also learning critical life skills. Not only can recovered addicts make excellent partners, but also they know how to get the most out of life.
The men and women who take part in therapy learn a lot about the meaning of life. Many have hit rock bottom and know what it feels like to be at the lowest possible point. They appreciate life and the second chance they didn’t think they were going to get. Through recovery, addicts learn how to live a fulfilling, meaningful life.
In the act of “finding themselves,” many recovering addicts become spiritual or choose to volunteer their time to a particular cause. Others involve themselves in a hobby or start a new career. Since recovery is a lifelong process, recovering alcoholics must continue to improve themselves. Their commitment to recovery is a refreshing attitude that hopefully shines through in their personal relationships, too.
The Length of Sobriety Matters
If the person you’re dating admits that they struggled with addiction, know that it takes a lot of guts to tell you this. A person that has been recovered for years or even decades will probably leave you feeling differently than someone who is newly recovered, and for good reason. The farther away from recovery that a person gets, the less likely they are to relapse.
According to Psychology Today, it’s best when an addict has at least one year of recovery under their belt, and preferably, many more. Also, the individual should be actively working on a recovery program, attending meetings, volunteering their time and practicing self care. If your partner has been sober for at least a year and is actively working on their recovery, these are good signs that they are fully committed to their recovery and are ready to be in a trusting, healthy relationship.
Your Role in the Relationship
Remember that you, too, may have to make changes in your own life to be in the type of healthy relationship that you want. For example, if the person you’re dating was addicted to alcohol, you may need to avoid drinking, even in social situations. Also, there may be times when you have to attend support groups, AA meetings and counseling sessions. While it isn’t your job to keep your loved one sober, you will need to be part of their support network and encourage them to stay sober, even if it takes precedence over you.
You must also know your own tolerance level, as many addicts have baggage that isn’t automatically erased. They may have racked up a lot of credit, have a criminal record or legal troubles. They may be working on strengthening their relationships with family and friends, and there may be stories about wild nights and other reckless behavior. If you struggle to understand some of these choices, understanding addiction is helpful. Addiction is a brain disease, and it causes people to act out in harmful manners.
We all have our limits when it comes to the people we date, and you have to know what yours are. But, know that you can happily date a recovering addict and share your life with someone who is strong, positive and fully aware of what it means to lead a life full of direction and purpose.