Most single people can write a book about their weird, awkward, and terrible dates. You are probably thinking of a few right now. However, the person you are dating right now is different.
Besides dating someone thoughtful and kind, you are also dating someone in recovery.
For some people, dating someone in recovery from drug addiction may be a deal-breaker. But you believe a person’s past doesn’t define them. And while a person in recovery has done a lot of work on themselves, this relationship may come with unique challenges.
For this reason, dating someone in recovery should not be taken lightly. Maybe you have family members struggling with substance use disorder, so you know a little about recovery. However, a lot of people do not understand recovery. So, let’s begin there.
What Does “in Recovery” Mean?
You are falling for someone in recovery, and you want to know exactly what it means. A person in recovery has a history of drug or alcohol misuse but has since stopped and is in treatment.
It’s important to know there isn’t a cure for substance use disorder, and treatment is a lifelong process. For this reason, when dating someone in recovery from drug addiction, you need to understand where they are in their recovery, each other’s boundaries, and how you can support their recovery journey.
What is it Like Dating Someone in Recovery?
All relationships have challenges, even new relationships. However, dating someone in recovery has its own set of challenges. You will need extra understanding and empathy. It also requires extra patience and awareness of when they are struggling.
When dating someone in recovery from drug addiction, it is crucial for them to keep the routine established in early recovery. Typically this routine includes attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
An excellent way to support them is by offering to attend meetings with them. Keep in mind they may need to attend meetings alone so they can speak without fear of upsetting you. For this reason, do not feel offended when they want to go alone. Instead, use this time to focus on your interests and self-care.
How Does Dating Someone in Recovery Affect You?
Relationships are supposed to enhance you and your future. Dating someone in recovery from drug addiction is no different. For this reason, your relationship should not revolve around your partner’s substance use disorder.
However, you will do things when dating someone in recovery from a drug addiction that you may and may not do in other relationships. For example, all relationships require healthy communication, but when dating someone in recovery, you must be willing to ask hard questions.
What are Important Things to Know About Dating Someone in Recovery from Drug Addiction?
People in recovery have overcome a lot of challenges to get where they are today. For this reason, a new relationship must enhance and not disrupt their recovery. So, it is important to know the following about dating someone in recovery.
Recovery Comes First
No matter what, recovery is the most important thing for a person with substance use disorder. This does not mean they care for you any less. Staying grounded in their treatment and recovery not only benefits them but your relationship as well.
Recurrence of Use is Possible
No matter how long a person is in recovery, a relapse is always possible. Substance use disorder is a chronic disease. For this reason, if a person stops treatment, they can go back to using drugs or alcohol.
If a recurrence of use does happen, however, it isn’t the end of the world. In fact, relapse is so common in the beginning stages of recovery, 40 to 60 percent of people relapse. For this reason, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states it is not evidence of failure but an integral part of the recovery process.
One Addiction Can Replace Another
A person in recovery from drugs or alcohol often looks for something to relapse that addiction. This happens because they crave the rush they receive from drugs or alcohol. For some, they replace their drug addiction with a relationship.
New relationships have a “honeymoon phase,” which produces extreme happiness like a drug high. For a person in recovery, relationships can interfere with addressing issues crucial in recovery. For this reason, establishing boundaries is important to the well-being of both you and your partner.
What Boundaries Should You Have When Dating Someone in Recovery?
Boundaries are crucial to the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of each individual. So when you start a new relationship, both people need to express their boundaries. While everyone has different boundaries, certain boundaries should always be in place when dating someone in recovery.
Important boundaries when dating someone in recovery from drug addiction include:
- No drugs, alcohol, or paraphernalia in your home
- No friends who use drugs or alcohol in your home
- Mental, physical, or verbal abuse is not allowed
- Attending treatment and support groups is required
- Stay away from places where misuse occurred
- Open, healthy communication is a must
While setting and holding to boundaries when dating someone in recovery can be difficult, it is essential to explain that boundaries are your way of supporting their recovery.
When Should You Shy Away from Dating Someone in Recovery from Drug Addiction?
When the person you are dating tells you they are in recovery, the first question to ask is, “how long have you been in recovery?” The answer to this question is very important. If the answer is less than one year, it might be better to remain friends for now.
Why is dating in the first year of recovery not recommended? Recovery is hard. The cravings for drugs or alcohol, along with the “party” atmosphere, can be challenging to overcome. It is easy for someone new to recovery to seek that “high” feeling, and new relationships can bring that.
A common rule in recovery is no dating for the first year. The reason being is, addiction treatment involves more than staying away from drugs or alcohol.
Substance use disorder treatment focuses on healing the whole person, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Relationships within the first year can become a distraction and lead to relapse.
How Can Dating Someone in Recovery Benefit You?
Although you have never had issues with drugs or alcohol, dating someone in recovery from drug addiction can have many benefits, this is especially true if they have been in recovery for a long time.
A person with years in recovery shows they are true to their word and their commitments. That when they set goals, they pursue them with everything they have. And, if you are also living a life free of drugs or alcohol, then you can support each other’s goals.
Dating someone in recovery can also help hold you accountable for your goals and dreams. Recovery is about being accountable for your actions. So, someone in late recovery has shown they can be accountable and also hold others responsible for their actions. This can be extremely beneficial to healthy relationships.
Are You a Bad Person for Not Dating Someone in Recovery?
Who you choose to date or not to date is a personal choice. Dating someone in recovery from drug addiction has unique challenges that you may not be ready to take on. Maybe you have your own inner struggles, and supporting another person will be too much to handle.
However, it is important to be gentle while being honest with the person about why you don’t want to date them. Be honest about not being comfortable right now, starting a relationship with someone in recovery right now. But also stress how amazing they are and if the timing was different, maybe it would be different.
How Do You Decide if Dating Someone in Recovery is Right for You?
Although dating someone in recovery for drug addiction has unique challenges, it is not much different from dating someone, not in recovery.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I like being around this person?
- Do I feel comfortable when I am with them?
- Do we have things in common?
- Do our backgrounds complement each other?
- Do we have the same life goals?
- Am I willing to be free of drugs and alcohol to support them?
- Will I feel responsible if they have a recurrence of use?
If the answers lean toward you should date this person, and you are willing to fully support their recovery, you should date this person. Just take it slow; know that you are not there to fix this person. All relationships are complicated so remember self-care is as important as supporting the person you’re dating.
Educate Yourself on Recovery from Drug Addiction at Sana Lake Recovery
Are you dating someone in recovery but know very little about the recovery journey? Supporting the person you’re dating means more than having patience and making sure they go to meetings. The best thing you can do for yourself and the person you love is educate yourself. Give us a call today to learn more about substance use disorder and the recovery journey.