Relationships with a recovering addict can be complicated. While many people will come into their recovery experience already in a relationship, others will not. Many have divorced or separated from spouses because of their addiction. Whatever stage of relationship you may be in, you need to learn new methods for dating in recovery. Even married addicts will find that they need to begin many aspects of their partnership on a new footing when they stop practicing an active addiction.
Regaining Your Emotional Balance
Emotional balance is difficult for the first several months, and begins to stabilize in time. Those first few months can be very uncertain for those who are feeling their emotions and learning to express them for the first time in many years. Active addiction robs each person of the ability to participate in an emotional relationship with themselves, and with others as well.
Addicts become so estranged from their own feelings that expression of them is impossible. Add drugs or alcohol to the mix, and there is little emotional experience for either partner. If they both drink or do drugs, they will both need to stabilize in their early recovery before they are available for emotional responses to their significant relationships.
Enter the single addict, who believes that they are ready for dating. Many treatment professionals will counsel that they remain outside a romantic involvement for the first year of recovery. This is a good idea, but few addicts will heed this advice. Therefore, practicality suggests that there be guidelines set for them to follow in that vulnerable time.
Although no recovering addict will admit their vulnerability, it exists just the same. Most consider themselves to be well on their way to lifelong abstinence. This is a scary time, because they are the last ones to recognize their own relapse indicators. One of the most powerful is becoming romantically entangled too soon into their recovery.
Three Must Dos when Getting Back "Out There"
Since it will most likely take place, despite the counsel of wiser minds, here are a few pointers to follow when getting back into the dating world:
1. Set Boundaries
If dating another recovering addict, be sure that you are clear on the idea of drinking and drugging because it can be difficult to find new activities that don't trigger a relapse. Be sure that your date does not include going to parties or bars where alcohol and/or drugs are going to be circulating. The discomfort of being with a new person can easily lead one to drink or drug to "fit in" or calm nerves. Be sure the other party understands that you are serious about this recovery.
2. Share Your Feelings with a "Safe" Friend
Too often, it is the emotional imbalances present when beginning a new relationship that set off newly recovering addicts. Be sure to communicate your feelings of insecurity, longing, loneliness, and others to your sponsor and a supportive friend with whom you do not have a romantic involvement. Sharing these feelings with your new romantic partner or date might lead to them trying to take care of your feelings and/or validating them. This is an unhealthy situation, because that is not the role they need to play.
3. Remember to Have Fun
Allow yourself to enjoy the emotions of a new romance; they can be quite heady. Just also be sure to give yourself a great deal of support so that they do not take you into dangerous places.