Addiction and dating aren’t exactly peas and carrots. Relationships are already difficult without any added baggage but now you have something else that you must bring up while dating. Dating “normies”, non-addicts has its own set of challenges but hey, if you love them, like them, want to get to know them, then don’t let your past stop you.
A Word on Dating “Normies” versus Recovering Addicts
Throughout the #ComingClean #StayingClean series, one thing has stood out more than most. Recovering addicts tend to date other recovering addicts. People have told us that it’s easier to date someone who understands what you’ve been through.
But there are still plenty of recovering addicts who date outside of recovery. Addiction and dating are not mutually exclusive.
We spoke to a young man that is in a relationship with a non-addict. He is 25 and she is 24. From this point forward, we will refer to him as K.S. His girlfriend has not been close to an addict before their relationship. K.S. has some interesting insight into addiction and dating.
When to Tell Them You’re an Addict
One question that we find quite often is “when should you tell someone you’re dating that you are in recovery?”
There is no universal answer for this, except that you need to tell them sooner rather than later. Some people will be ‘freaked out’ and they might not see you again. Remember that they just did you a FAVOR. There would be no point in going out with them if they can’t handle it right now.
Rejection like this is a positive thing. It means you won’t waste time on something that’s doomed to fail. Learn to love it.
Above all else, tell the damn truth. How many romantic comedies do you need to watch until you learn that truth, honesty, openness is the key to a healthy relationship?
You cannot lie, especially in the beginning, because it will end the relationship. And sorry to burst your bubble, this will probably not end in a quirky plea for a second change at an air port terminal. This ain’t a movie. You will likely just be ghosted.
Excel: Where did you meet?
K.S. – We work together, and we were co-workers for almost a year before she told me how she felt and we started dating.
Excel: What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?
K.S. – I’m going to make her dinner; I love to cook and she loves my cooking. We have talked about not making a big deal of Valentine’s Day, but on other days (like birthdays) we always say that and surprise each other with something much bigger. I’m looking forward to creating an elaborate surprise, and seeing what she’s got in store for me.
Excel: Is this your first relationship after recovery?
K.S. – Yes, but it’s not “after” recovery. Recovery is an ongoing process that I’ll have to continue for a long time.
Excel: Do you actively avoid alcohol or places like that when you go out on dates?
K.S. – She drinks sometimes, but we have some boundaries on it. She might decide to have a drink with dinner when we’re at a restaurant, that’s no problem. But places where drinking is a main focus, like bars or clubs, are something we avoid.
I’ll share a short story about this. New Year’s Eve, I went to a concert at a club with my girlfriend and her friends. I was sober, for the first NYE in my memory. (I am in an early stage of recovery.) I wasn’t tempted to drink, because alcohol was never my preferred substance, and I don’t have the same impulse to drink like I do to use. She was drunk, though, like her friends and nearly everyone else there. That’s different than a drink with dinner because the event and location is centered on drinking, which I can’t do. It made me feel more awkward than I expected, and I sort of felt left out, despite the friendliness of the people with me. After, I told her about how it made me feel, and she supports me. Now, we have some boundaries on it and she understands that it’s important to my recovery, and also that those boundaries may need to be adjusted.
The most helpful thing for both of us is that she really tries to relate in any way she can. I won’t share her story because that’s hers to tell, not mine. What I can say though is that non-addicts have hardships, too, that can help them relate. She may not know what it’s like to be an addict, but she knows what it’s like to struggle and hurt. In her case, she even knows what it’s like to live with a daily struggle. In that way, we find common ground and we are able to support each other when we need it.
Excel – Do You Have Any Advice for Recovering Addicts Who Want to Date?
K.S. – Recovery is hard work. Relationships are also hard work. Finding balance is not easy and non-addicts don’t always understand what addicts go through. It’s important to communicate, but it can also be frustrating to feel criticized by our partner.
My girlfriend is just learning about addiction for the first time. She is supportive, but being this close to addiction is as new to her as sobriety is to me. Sometimes her questions sound more like criticisms, but maybe she is just trying to understand my perspective because she wants to be helpful. As a said, she’s supportive of my recovery and she wants me to be happy, healthy, and safe – so it’s probably the latter. Recovery is my journey, but in a way, it’s also hers because she is dating a recovering addict. It’s important to be mindful of her perspective as well.