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You finally meet that one person you have searched for your whole life. This is the person you can see your future with. You found your partner. Then they drop a bomb on you: they are a former drug addict or a recovering alcoholic. Is this a deal breaker for you? Are you ready for a long-term relationship with someone with an active addiction or with someone in a recovery program?
Recovering addicts tend to carry a great deal of baggage with them, but do not be quick to judge. They are people with feelings, too (obviously, or you wouldn’t have fallen for them in the first place!). People in recovery can also be some of the most thoughtful, caring people you will ever meet. Former addicts spend a lot of time learning how to better their lives and relationships while in substance abuse recovery. They learn how to build strong relationships and communicate effectively, which could be beneficial in any relationship. However, you have to make sure you have the mindset to engage in a relationship with a person with this experience. There are a few things to consider before dating a recovering drug addict.

Take your time

Before beginning a relationship with a former addict, find out how long they have been in recovery. Most recovery counselors tell their patients to wait until they are clean and sober for at least a year before getting into a relationship. Be aware that if a person is trying to start a relationship sooner than a year, they may be going against their counselor’s recommendation. Falling in love or dating an addict early in recovery may lead to a failed relationship. During the first year of recovery, former drug users or alcoholics will not only learn how to stay sober, but also how to live a satisfying life without drugs within long-term sobriety. They will learn how to care for themselves, build healthy relationships and communicate effectively. They will also learn about their triggers and how to avoid relapsing, which is crucial to recovery. All of this makes dating in recovery hard for them, too. During the first year of sober living, a former drug addict should stay focused on themselves and maintaining their sobriety.

A Recovering Addict Needs Support

Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and addiction treatment therapy sessions are crucial in the long-term recovery process. A recovering addict may attend several meetings a week, which may not always be at the most convenient time. But remember these meetings are key to a successful recovery. While attending these meetings, your partner should have learned about their triggers. Get involved and discuss what your partner’s triggers are and how you can help. This may involve avoiding social gatherings, and certainly not using drugs or even alcohol around your partner. While a recovering addict does not need to be taken care of, they do need support from loved ones.

The Past Cannot Be Changed

Former drug addicts are only human. Just like the rest of us, they have made mistakes in life. Having a realistic understanding that a former drug addict may have a rocky past that you cannot change is key to a successful relationship. Drug users often make bad decisions leading to broken relationships, debt, and legal issues. Bringing up negative things from the past can be detrimental to any relationship, especially when dating a former addict. You must be willing to let a former addict leave the past behind to better themselves and embrace sobriety.

Relapse Is Always Possible

Drug addiction is a lifelong struggle; it doesn’t just magically go away. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of recovering addicts relapse and watching a loved one struggle with addiction is one of the hardest things. While relapse is always possible, not all recovering addicts relapse and ones that do, are often able to get back on track before things get too bad. Being aware of the signs and symptoms of drug use will help you know what to look for and when to ask for help.

Don’t Lose Yourself

While dating a former addict, you may feel like you rank second to their former addiction, but remember you deserve to be happy too. You will need to decide what you want, then set boundaries. Discuss with your partner what you want and expect from your relationship. Be clear on how much you are willing to tolerate. Be supportive but don’t allow yourself to be used and trampled upon. Strong communication is vital when dating a former alcohol or drug addict. Watch for red flags that could be an indicator of relapse.

If you can see yourself being supportive and understanding, with firm boundaries set in place, you may begin to build a healthy relationship. While some have regretted their decision to date a former or recovering addict, others have had great success in their relationship. Dating a recovering addict may require a great deal of work, but this is true of any relationship. Being educated about addiction recovery can help you and your partner build a healthy long-term relationship together.