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Recovery from alcohol abuse is an ongoing process throughout someone's life. Yet, at some point, moving forward and creating new relationships is an important step. Getting back into the dating world after starting a sober journey can be exciting and intimidating. It can also be intimidating for someone dating someone in recovery.
Whether you're in recovery or dating someone with a history of alcoholism, here are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Transparency is everything for both parties involved. As someone in recovery, it's important to be upfront and rip off the proverbial bandaid. Let the person know during your initial conversations that you're in recovery and what the process looks like for you. Tell them how long you've been on this journey, if you’re seeking treatment, and how you see this impacting your relationship.
It's better to be candid in the early stages of the dating process to avoid wasting anyone's time or energy. If you don't feel ready to share this information, you probably aren't ready for a healthy relationship.
If you're dating someone who shares their struggle with alcoholism, don't hesitate to ask questions. Ask how long they've been in recovery, how their addiction has impacted previous relationships, and what they expect from a partner in this situation. If you decide to give this relationship a shot, consider finding support meetings for you to connect with others in a similar situation.
While discussing this subject will be difficult, it's important to evaluate their willingness to share. Hesitation to discuss their recovery timeline or details is a red flag indicating that they might not be ready for a relationship.
On a positive note, setting a foundation for open, honest communication is a healthy start for any relationship.
Significant changes and stressful situations are often triggers for those in recovery— even when the changes are positive. When navigating a relationship as someone in recovery or with someone in recovery, it's best to take things slow. Plan to take small steps forward and discuss how everyone feels before continuing.
It's essential to understand the differences between someone in early recovery and someone whose sobriety is more established. Most treatment programs recommend avoiding new relationships during the first year of recovery, as some people replace a substance-based addiction with a relationship-based addiction. In other words, the feeling of love and acceptance (and the ensuing flood of happy hormones) becomes a new fixation, rather than allowing the brain to let go of the old one.
Someone who has been in recovery for years has a more stable foundation. While focusing on sobriety and manageable changes is still a priority, there's less risk of rushing into things and seeing a negative outcome. People in this stage of the journey also have more self-awareness.
As someone going through recovery, it's essential to slow down and take things one step at a time, even if your heart (and hormones) are telling you otherwise. As someone dating a person in recovery, it's important to take a step back and not get caught in the emotions. It feels great to be viewed as someone's hero or muse, but it's not a good foundation for a stable relationship.
Remember that there's no rush; good things happen slowly.
One of the challenges of being in a relationship with someone in recovery is that your relationship should always come second. The first and most important relationship will be between that person and their sobriety. It has to be for recovery to be successful. When getting into a relationship with someone, understanding that importance is essential.
As someone navigating recovery, you might feel compelled to put that focus on the backburner and prioritize your relationship with the other person. It can feel uncomfortable or wrong to put yourself ahead of someone you care about, but you need to have that stability in place for your interpersonal relationships to thrive.
If you're entering a relationship with someone working to overcome alcoholism, take some time to educate yourself about addiction. Read about the importance of Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, managing stress, and the science behind addiction. If you aren't willing to do the research, you shouldn't pursue the relationship.
As someone in recovery, you deserve a partner who's ready to take the time to read about addiction and understand the recovery process. If they're not willing to dedicate time to education about addiction, consider it a red flag.
Shared values are important in every relationship, but particularly when someone is in recovery. Recovering alcoholics can successfully date someone who still drinks, but only with appropriate boundaries and priorities.
There's a big difference between someone who wants a glass of wine at dinner and someone who likes partying every weekend with their friends. There's no shame in someone living the lifestyle they want, but sometimes that's not in alignment with recovery. Recognizing this disparity is essential for pursuing or ending a potential relationship.
Self-care is essential for both parties in a relationship. If you're dating someone in recovery, finding time alone to engage in your hobbies and wellness is essential for your health. Similarly, if you're in recovery, making time to focus on stress management and mental health is also integral for success.
Ideally, you'll find space in your lives for individual and shared self-care activities. Maintaining open communication about your needs is also a form of self-care during a relationship.
Finally, you must know your personal limits and boundaries and when it's time to part ways. As someone dating a recovering alcoholic, there's no shame in admitting that you aren't ready for this journey. As someone in recovery, there's no shame in saying that you're not ready for a relationship and still need to focus on your personal journey.
Letting go of someone you have feelings for can be incredibly challenging. Relationships based in addiction and recovery often breed co-dependency. As someone facing addiction, the thought of going through a break-up and what that means for your sobriety can be overwhelming. Conversely, feelings of guilt around putting someone in that position stops progress on the other side. Take a step back and use support systems to navigate an amicable break if possible.
Deciding to date again during recovery is a big decision. So is dating someone going through the recovery process. Set your boundaries, move slowly, and maintain open communication for success.