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Author: Shernide Delva

Truthfully, I did not know what to expect the first time I discovered I was dating a recovering drug addict.   I was slightly concerned it would not be the right match. After all, only another addict could express the same empathy and support, and surely, I would not be able to provide that, right? At least, that was my first thought.

Fortunately, the recovering addict/non-addict relationship can be quite a healthy one. Around the same time I started the relationship, I was hired to write about addiction and mental health. This job was a great tool because it allowed me to educate myself on addiction and open my mind even further. I realized addiction impacts everyone, whether it is through personal experience or from an outside perspective. Over 20 million Americans suffer from an addiction of some kind. Therefore, everyone is affected by the disease of addiction in some way or another.

Furthermore, past challenges like a drug addiction can become be a positive influence on a relationship.  In my case, it made for someone who was open, honest, and consistently working on themselves, which was a nice change of pace from the previous guys I had dated.

Still, for a non-addict, finding out the person you’re seeing is in recovery can bring on a host of different reactions and emotions. It can be hard to grasp the idea that someone who seems healthy and self-aware, was dependent on substances at one point. There will be challenges, just like any relationship.  However, before you dismiss the possibility of a relationship, and write the past off as “baggage,” pause for a moment and read this article…

Healthy Recovery = Healthy Relationship

In some ways, recovering addicts can be some of the healthiest, most balanced individuals you can ever meet. It can be a refreshing change to be with someone who wants to improve themselves.   However, there are a few things to be aware of.

To start off, your potential partner should have at least one year of sobriety, preferably much more. Finding out the guy I was dating had five years of sobriety was a good sign. A person with few years of sobriety under their belt is more likely to be following an effective recovery program.  The less time in recovery, the more likely the person could still be finding their way in sobriety.

Everyone has a different idea of what an effective recovery program means. For the most part, it should include a combination of things like attending meetings, having a sponsor/sponsee, therapy, spirituality, exercise, and/or meditation. Staying away from drugs and alcohol does not always equate to recovery. In fact, “dry” is a terminology used to describe a person who is abstaining from drugs/alcohol, however, is absent from a recovery program. Learn about what emotional sobriety means.  Ensure your partner is actively pursuing their recovery before entering the relationship.

Here are some dos and don’ts to help make the education process easier. More importantly, keep an open line of communication with your partner. Address your concerns.  The key is to be with someone who wants a relationship that focuses on both your needs. Shy away from those who let their past challenges define them. Instead, focus on someone who lets their past positively impact their future.

The Dos and Don’ts of Dating Someone in Recovery:

Do: Get the Facts.
DON’T: Make Snap Judgments.

It can be easy to make snap judgments about drug addiction and recovery. Instead, educate yourself on addiction and learn to let go of stigmas you may have had about addiction in the past. Personally, I always felt like I was a compassionate person; however I found that even I had some stigmas about addiction I needed to let go of.  Learning that it was not a “choice” was something I needed understand fully. Until I researched the disease of addiction, I did not fully know what that meant on a psychological level.  It is okay to admit that there are some stigmas you have to work on. However, make the decision to get the facts before acting on those judgments. Ask questions and express your concerns.

Do: Support their recovery program.
DON’T: Deter their efforts and push them away from recovery.

When I first found out I was in a relationship a recovering addict, I thought I could not be as encouraging since I did not share the same past. Fortunately, through communicating these concerns, I realized that the most effective thing you can do is support the recovery process.  For some addicts, dating someone who is not in recovery can be a refreshing change.  The best thing you can do is support their program 100 percent. Encourage them to go to meetings. Go to a meeting, if possible.  If they need to go every day, support that need. It may be tempting suggest skipping a meeting to spend quality time together, however, remember the relationship will only work if your partner remains sober.

Do:  Stay in the present.
DON’T: Ignore your needs, and resist moving forward.

While it is good to sympathize with the past, remember your needs in the relationship are priorities as well. Most likely, you have also gone through difficult challenges in your life too. Do not get stuck over- sympathizing about the past.  Instead, both of you should empower each other. Move forward and grow together.

DO: Trust your Partner in their recovery process.
DON’T: Ignore the signs of a relapse.

Whether it is one year or ten years, addiction is a disease, and relapses do happen. While you should trust your partner in their recovery, it is important to understand and recognize the signs of a relapse. Trust is important in a relationship. However, challenges do happen and you may be able to spot the signs and prevent a relapse in its tracks.

Overall, relationships are challenging, whether addiction is part of the picture or not.  Education and counseling can help with overcoming the concerns you may have about a relationship with someone in recovery. Most of all, communication is the key.  If you or someone you love is struggling, please call 1-800-951-6135. We want to help.

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