It may surprise you to find out that you are dating someone who is in active recovery from alcohol misuse. This doesn’t have to change the foundations of your relationship, how much you care and love that person, or how you treat them, but it might influence you to become more aware of their behaviors and needs.
No two people are alike, and no two recovery processes will be either.
Because everyone’s needs are so unique, it takes time to figure out what styles of communication work best between two people and what boundaries you want to set.
Like with every relationship, challenges arise, and it’s all about how you rise above and enact change. When you are dating someone in recovery, there might be some more unique challenges that come your way.
If you’re in a relationship, you know that the past is the past, and everyone has one (even you), but coming to terms with your partner’s past struggles with alcohol might take a little bit more understanding and willingness.
It can be difficult for someone in recovery to continue to ask for help, but it’s what they need! If you are reading this article, it’s because you love someone who is in recovery, and you want to learn about the ways you can show up and support them.
Not only do we thank you for taking this seriously, but your partner will too!
What Should I Know About Alcohol Use Disorder?
Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is something that affects many people. It’s a disorder that can often get overlooked because of how prevalent alcohol is in our society.
Having alcohol use disorder means you are unable to control your usage of alcohol despite a variety of consequences that have lasting effects. You will build up a tolerance to alcohol, find that you cannot go a day without it, and experience withdrawal symptoms as the effects of alcohol wear off, causing you to start drinking again.
It can begin to feel like a never-ending cycle when struggling with AUD, so entering the recovery phase is a big deal. However far into recovery your partner is, relapsing happens, so it’s essential to recognize the signs of someone struggling with AUD.
What Are Some Signs of Substance Use?
If your partner is using a substance again, you might notice that their behavior is changing, and they are acting strangely.
Some signs that they might be drinking alcohol again are:
- Being on edge; experiencing nervousness or shakiness.
- Withdrawing from you, family, friends, and social situations.
- Revisiting old (alcoholic) friends, places, or behaviors.
- Neglecting tasks, their jobs, self-care, or other responsibilities
- Becoming more irritable and trying to push you away.
For many, if they are experiencing a relapse, they might be very ashamed to tell you because they feel guilty about going back to their old ways. This is where your support is necessary! It can be difficult, but showing them you care can go a long way.
What Does Recovery Entail?
It can be difficult to pinpoint what “recovery” looks like. Everyone’s journey to recovery is different because people have unique needs. Not everyone experiences the same degree of alcoholism, meaning that the support they desire will be different.
SAMHSA’s working definition of recovery highlights that an individual will work towards improving their health and wellness and improving their everyday life through 4 major areas of focus:
- Home life: Having a stable and safe place to live.
- Health: Managing the disease and making healthy choices to improve both physical and mental well-being.
- Purpose: Having independence, striving towards goals, and participating in society.
- Community: Having networks of supportive people surrounding you who want you to succeed.
The stages of recovery may differ, depending on who you are talking to, but they typically go from “early abstinence” to “maintained abstinence,” ending with “stable or advanced recovery.” Some people might be in the early stages, where staying abstinent from drinking is very important, or they could be going on several years of sobriety, still practicing their abstinence and looking for ongoing support from their spouse.
How Should I Approach Dating Someone in Recovery?
A person going through recovery from alcohol use disorder understands how difficult it can be to be in a relationship. It can be uncomfortable to explain why they are sober because they risk being viewed differently and potentially losing a relationship.
When it comes to dating someone in recovery, there are certain things you can do to make the relationship successful, all while feeling supported on both sides!
1. Assess Their Sobriety
Dating for someone who is actively working on their sobriety can be overwhelming. They have a lot going on, from getting their life back on track and abstaining from alcohol to attending support groups or outpatient programs.
Seeing someone consistently might not always be feasible.
This means that if you are interested in someone who is brand new to their recovery journey, you might come across more bumps in the road. Sometimes, waiting for someone to be one year into their sobriety before dating helps ensure they are in the right headspace to take on a relationship.
Don’t you want to be the best version of yourself when you start dating someone?
It takes time to heal from years of alcohol misuse, and you can’t expect someone who is in early recovery to focus their efforts on anything but improving.
2. Find a Communication Style That Works
Everyone communicates in their own specific way, but you must be on the same page with your partner. To be supportive and capable of helping them, you need to understand their needs while also addressing your own.
You shouldn’t have to walk around on eggshells around your partner as they continue their recovery process, so making sure that you are discussing your concerns, whether it be in relation to their recovery or other personal matters, can help them in their recovery.
Stress and conflict can be triggers for those who are abstaining from alcohol, so finding a way to maintain the peace and in turn minimize those urges, helps.
3. Understand the Weight That Comes With Recovery
People in active recovery from alcohol use disorder might carry some of their own baggage, and while you don’t have to take control over it, you should be prepared. Struggling with alcohol can leave behind damaged relationships, financial issues, and even run-ins with the law.
You should ask your partner to be upfront about these issues in the first place so that you can assess your own tolerance levels and not be left in the dark. Knowing how much they are comfortable sharing is better so you aren’t surprised later.
4. Figure Out How To Best Support Them
Not every person will be looking for the same kind of support from their partners as they might others in their lives. You are not meant to be your partner’s entire support system, and if they are in active recovery, they should have a sponsor or peer support group to go to.
You should directly ask how you can support them. That could be driving them to and from AA meetings, holding them accountable, or helping them sort out their finances.
The best and easiest way to support your partner through their recovery is to abstain from using alcohol around them. Going through the journey together and limiting your alcohol use can make it a lot less easy for your partner to relapse, and they will see how seriously you are taking the process.
If someone supports them and actively participates, there are more incentives to maintain their sobriety.
5. Know Their Triggers
Sometimes it can be difficult for someone in recovery to be around certain people and places, as it brings back memories and puts the idea of drinking at the front of their mind. Actively avoiding certain locations, topics of conversation, and people can help to minimize how much your partner thinks about drinking.
Sometimes, triggers arise, and you can’t avoid them.
If you are understanding of what that means for your partner, it can make getting through the situation a lot easier. Having someone support you during these incredibly tough times not only strengthens the bond you two have but relieves a lot of stress from your partner.
Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder With Soba
Relapses happen. If you are prepared, your partner can have an easier time with finding help and fighting for their sobriety. Inpatient programs at Soba Recovery are here to help your loved ones get back on track and focus on their own needs.
Regardless of if your partner relapses, you should encourage them to attend weekly AA meetings or go through an outpatient program where they are active in peer support groups.
Maintaining sobriety is not an easy task for anyone, but when they know they have someone behind them who supports and loves them regardless, it makes it all that much more worth it!