Recovering from addiction is a huge accomplishment.
You should feel proud of your hard work and optimistic about the future. But moving on to that future can be scary, especially when it comes to dating.
Fortunately, dating in recovery does not have to be difficult. In fact, many of the strategies you developed during your recovery will actually help you form happy and healthy relationships. The key is to take some steps to prepare yourself to share your experience with another person.
Choose when to Disclose
You have the freedom to choose how and when you disclose your experience with addiction to other people, including potential partners. You wouldn’t expect someone to divulge every flaw and mistake on a first date, and you shouldn’t feel that pressure either. Instead, you can wait for a natural moment to broach the topic, such as after you have gotten to know your partner and feel safer with them.
Waiting to disclose is not the same as deliberately misleading your date. As someone who has successfully completed the recovery process, you know that relationships are based on trust. It’s never a good idea to lie to someone you hope to become close to. If your date asks you a question that you don’t feel ready to answer, honesty is the best policy: tell them that you will share the answer eventually, but it’s difficult for you and you want to wait until you’ve gotten to know each other better. A good future partner will respect your needs.
Once You Do Disclose, Be Prepared for Questions
As someone who has struggled with addiction, you’re probably very aware of misinformation and lack of awareness about this disease. Your date may not be as educated as you are about the medical and psychological roots of addiction. Keep an open mind and prepare to respond calmly and clearly to any questions that might arise. Talking to family members and friends who have not struggled with substance abuse can be a helpful resource for understanding your partner’s point of view.
Give Them Time
It’s a good idea to end a conversation about addiction by giving your date some time to reflect. Talking about a painful part of your past might be emotional for both of you. The truth is that not everyone is ready to date someone who has struggled with addiction, just like not everyone you date will be a good match for you long-term. Remember that all people, even those who have never been addicted to substances, must be prepared for some rejection when they begin dating. Finding your best fit is a process, but a good partner will accept and appreciate you.
Communicate Openly and Directly
Once you begin a more serious relationship with someone who knows about your addiction, it’s important to communicate openly to avoid conflicts. If it’s difficult for you to go to certain social places like a bar or party, let your partner know why this is a struggle. Flexibility is key: you might tell your boyfriend or girlfriend to go out with their friends on Friday, and suggest an alternative activity for the two of you on Saturday. Remember that relationships are always about compromise. The key is making your needs and expectations clear, while listening to and respecting the needs of your partner.
Stay Connected to Your Network
Love and relationships are hard for everyone. Staying connected to sponsors, therapists, and good friends is all the more important when you enter a situation that may cause you emotional stress. It feels great to have a partner who supports you emotionally, but don’t neglect your support network when you begin a new relationship. You need to stay connected to the group of friends and family who helped you recover and maintain your sobriety.
Recognize Your Advantages
Going through the recovery process involves intense reflection, self-control, and understanding. The tenacity and emotional understanding you have gained by succeeding in recovery can make you a very good romantic partner. In fact, many people who have never experienced therapy have little practice understanding themselves or dealing with difficult emotions. Recognize and be proud of all you have to offer in a relationship.
Don’t Rush Yourself
As you read this post, you may feel inspired and excited about the prospect of starting a fun new relationship. Or, you may feel daunted by the idea of dating again. Both responses are okay. Being in a romantic relationship is not a measure of your success in recovery; sobriety is your success. If you don’t feel ready to date, don’t worry. Continue developing the healthy habits and relationships that you formed during the recovery process, and working to become the best version of yourself.
Dating after addiction can be scary, but it’s far from impossible. You’ve done the hard work; now it’s time to reap the benefits!