Recovering alcoholics and relationships can be a match made in heaven or a slippery slope into relapse. The person in recovery is ultimately responsible for deciding if they are ready to be in a relationship, but as someone dating a recovering alcoholic, you can aid in the journey by learning and understanding needs, as well as lending healthy support.
The Recovering Alcoholic
For a recovering alcoholic, every day involves a varying degree of struggle and coping; as with everyone, some days are good and some days are bad. If you are dating someone in recovery, it is important to understand that in addition to normal life activities, they are working very hard to rebuild themselves.
Being in recovery is about much more than just sobriety. Alcoholism is often a symptom of, or defense mechanism against, other mental health issues or traumatic life events. As someone interested in a relationship with a recovering alcoholic, you will need to understand these factors as well.
It is Not a Sober World
To better understand the daily struggle of a recovering alcoholic, take just one day and note—actually physically document—the instances of exposure to alcohol or the alcohol culture. Billboards, radio ads, work conversations, after-5 meetings, parties, restaurants, TV, internet . . . the references are everywhere, all the time. Each time a recovering alcoholic encounters one, they must engage their coping mechanisms, and that is work.
Alcohol has been part of society for over 9,000 years and continues to be deeply ingrained in a large percentage of daily activities. The days of 3-martini lunches may have dwindled to almost nothing, but it is still part of many traditions and celebrations.
Timeline for Dating Someone in Recovery
Most recovery programs like AA and other 12-step programs recommend that a recovering alcoholic not date during their first year of recovery, or, at a minimum, concentrate on healing for the first 6-8 months. As someone who cares about the recovering alcoholic, you may be able to help by keeping your distance during that time, as much as it may hurt to do so.
Dating a Recovering Alcoholic Advice
Every relationship takes work and communication. When you are dating a recovering alcoholic, there are different things that you must learn and think about. You may be able to have a successful relationship by employing work, patience, understanding, and caring, along with these helpful tips:
- Understand their loneliness. Sometimes recovering alcoholics feel as if they are alone in this struggle.
- Take the relationship very, very slowly, particularly if they are in the early stages of recovery.
- Share in engaging, exhilarating activities that may give a similar “rush,” or that can take them to a completely new place where the problems of alcoholism have never existed for them previously. Camping, kayaking, fishing, museums, arts, and crafts—find anything new that has never, and will never, include alcohol for them.
- Establish boundaries and ground rules. Are they ok with you drinking in front of them? What are they comfortable sharing with you?
- Make them understand that you are in this together. You are there for them.
- Ask how you can help. Assumptions can be damaging, and just knowing someone cares enough to ask can be a huge help alone.
- Know and understand their triggers. No need to make their recovery harder than it has to be by putting them in situations that are troublesome.
- Allow them the responsibility for their recovery. Do not enable them or make excuses or play the blame game. This is their journey, you are along for the ride to help.
- Do your own research, and do a lot of it. Voice any concerns and questions you may have.
- Know yourself and your limits. Do not put yourself in an unhealthy position in any way while trying to do too much for a recovering alcoholic.
Contact Steps Today
If you have a loved one who is struggling with addiction or alcoholism, help is always available. Contact Steps Recovery Centers today with your questions and concerns or for more information about our successful recovery programs.