Author: Justin Mckibben
Hey there average blog reader, you come here often? Today we are talking about one of the more personal topics that gets discussed on almost every forum related to recovery. From sponsor to sponsee conversations, to personal therapy sessions, even the infamous group text has consisted of back and forth opinions and perspectives about whether or not an alcoholic or drug addict in recovery should date a non-recovering ‘normal’ person, also known as a ‘Normie’.
These mysterious and miraculous creatures can seem like the great white whale to some, and to others it may seem more like having an atom bomb with no clue if you cut the red wire or the green one.
The subject of dating is often debated in many fellowships of recovery altogether, especially for those in early recovery. Some people expect you to stay completely abstinent from the opposite sex for a prolonged period of time, while others believe that it is an outside issue that is too far outside their jurisdiction.
I know I would be the furthest thing anyone would want as a relationship counselor. However, I will take the time to point out a few important factors in this kind of intimate collaboration.
Flirting With Temptation?
While some people would dare to say that being involved with a normie is dangerous, but is it really that serious? Some would argue that for people in sobriety dating a normie will create situations of unnecessary temptations.
They might tell you that going out on dinner dates or to events can put someone trying to stay away from drugs and alcohol in compromising positions. One could believe that dating a normie would put pressure on an addict or alcoholic to use or drink just to make an impression, but are people in recovery going to trash their sobriety over a date?
It is understandable that most people would suggest sponsees or people they know are very early in sobriety to steer clear of dating, but that’s not just normies, that’s typically meant to include ALL of the opposite sex. Even then, it’s not really a rule or requirement in sobriety to be abstinent in sex or relationships, it is simply suggested by some to avoid such a commitment.
Others would say, as I was taught by my sponsorship family, that my sponsee’s intimate relationships are really none of my business. My business is the 12 steps, and that is about it. Offering experience is as far as my outside opinion goes. Even my personal experience is not the end all be all, because of course everyone is different, and we all have our own journey, so someone else with more sobriety may have a very different experience.
Neglecting the Program
Some of us hopelessly romantic types believe that going above and beyond to make a more intense and intimate impact on a person requires time, energy, and attention to detail. While none of this is necessarily a bad thing, when it becomes more important than our program, it is a serious problem for many people.
Again that goes double for most people in early recovery. No this doesn’t always present a problem, but often you may see that when someone is romantically involved with someone who is a normie, the normie doesn’t understand recovery, and why it takes up so much time to attend meetings and meet with sponsors or sponsees.
When that happens, some will neglect their program more and more to put that extra time and attention into the relationship. They say whatever you put before your recovery, you will loose first if you relapse. So in theory this means a recovering alcoholic or addict would give all their time to a person, and once they start drinking or using again because they didn’t give time to recovery, that person leaves them anyway. A vicious cycle indeed.
Luckily, there are other programs in place for the loved ones of addicts or alcoholics who want to be more involved in understanding the disease of addiction, and how it carries on into service, family, and relationships. If an addict or alcoholic is romantically involved with a normie, it is helpful to refer them to these fellowships.
Know the Deal
The deal is this, for anyone who loves an addict or alcoholic, there are certain things to expect when they work an active program of recovery. Sometimes it is a late night phone call from a sponsee who is on the brink of half-way house mutiny, and sometimes it is a weekend spent with other drug addicts and alcoholics in a hotel watching them read, laugh, and pray about things that a normie doesn’t relate to. And sometimes it means understanding their past, and nurturing the fact they are building their future.
For a normie who wants to be part of that future, it can be scary, but it can also be the most beautiful experience to meet someone who has gone through so much transform.
For the recovering addict the deal is honesty, humility, and vigilance. If you intend to date a normie, and you want to be romantically intimate, you should be prepared to be honest about your abstinence. Even if you keep your anonymity at first, being clear about your abstinence from drugs and alcohol can avoid a lot of these issues. Being humble can keep you doing service and staying accountable, and being vigilant will keep you on your P’s and Q’s.
What’s Love Got to Do with It
Come what may, love is boundless and powerful. I know a number of people in recovery who have successful relationships with people who still drink. My sponsor is actually engaged to a normie. Love knows no race, religion, gender or class. Love just is, and it is everywhere.
To tell an addict or alcoholic to stick with ‘your own kind’ or it won’t work is almost like telling a deaf person they can only be with another deaf person or they won’t understand each other, and they won’t be happy. Sure it won’t always be easy, but what love worth having comes without a few hurtles?
My opinion, and experience. That is all that I have offered here today. No expertise or rules to live by, just a few hints from my own experience and the experience of others. Dating is already such a slippery slope for many of us who have a habit of wrecking relationships. We don’t always expose anyone to our insanity, but when we do, it’s usually when we are in love.
So whoever you choose to share it with is up to you. Your lover can be ‘normal’, but make sure your LOVE is anything but. Recovery from drugs and alcohol is far from impossible, and beyond getting clean and sober, the real recovery becomes about emotional sobriety in real relationships, so make each one count. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135. We want to help. You are not alone.