Let’s face it – there are very few sane and healthy people who explicitly look at drug addiction as a perk when browsing online dating profiles. Typically, when someone falls in love with an addict, it’s despite their addiction and not because of it. And that said, being in love with an addict doesn’t always go very well.
On the other hand, dating a successfully recovering addict isn’t so bad. Addiction recovery takes willpower, dedication, mental fortitude, and the will to fight for something worth fighting for. It’s not easy. Those who get it done have something going for them, and that’s the ability to overcome adversity. It’s a remarkable trait.
Not Everyone Has It (Sobriety)
Not everyone can overcome addiction, and not everyone who’s on the path to long-term sobriety stays on the path long enough to achieve said long-term sobriety. The question is – at what point do you know you have it? And at what point is it healthy and a good idea to start dating again? At what point can you say you’ve truly achieved sobriety for long enough to put your trust and love in another person and commit yourself to a long-term relationship, and the possibility of more?
And much more pressingly – at what point can you say you’ve developed the mental fortitude to outlast and withstand the pain and anger of rejection without falling back into your own past vicious cycle? We’re going to try our hand at answering each of these questions.
What YOU Need to Know
First, we tackle the idea of dating while addicted. Answer: it’s not a good idea. Addiction means you’re prone to making emotional choices that affect you in the short-term, and your addiction can blind you to long-term circumstances and truly important priorities.
That means chances are you won’t be able to put your partner first. Even casual dating isn’t a great idea.
Let’s say you fall in love anyways, though. Is that bad? Not necessarily. While there’s a chance that you’ll ruin the relationship with your addiction – a pretty good one in fact – there’s also a chance that he or she might be the motivating factor you needed all along to convince you to stop using completely.
In a way, love can be your cure to addiction. But it isn’t always the cure to addiction. That’s the dangerous part. Don’t rely on the romantic notion of love as the ultimate motivator to get you off heroin, or meth. Seek treatment.
Dating in Recovery: How Soon Is Too Soon?
If you’re in the process of recovery, it’s a different story – but the fundamentals are the same. If you’re on a successful path toward recovery with whatever treatment you’ve found for yourself, then dating will only jeopardize your chances at long-term sobriety by introducing the potential of hardcore rejection and loss.
A break-up can be overwhelmingly painful, especially after putting your trust in someone for the first time since stopping your drug use.
That pain can really, really tempt you towards a relapse. It’s not a guarantee of course – if you’re strong enough, you can continue mourning your break up while remaining sober, or you can withstand the pain until you’re strong enough to let it all out.
However, if you’re faltering in your treatment, relapsing and unable to find your way through treatment, then perhaps having someone who cares about you and is stern about you getting better can help you, motivate you to take better care of yourself, and see yourself in a more positive light – firmly establishing your sobriety.
What THEY Need to Know
Of course, it’s important that you not only understand the dangers of dating, falling in love, and breaking up while being a recovering addict – you also need to understand that your partner needs to know how to date someone in recovery.
Dating you isn’t quite like any other relationship. They have to give you time and space to go to meetings, meet up with friends and family, be social, get into new habits and work on things and person projects that help you stay sober.
Furthermore, your hypothetical date-turned-partner will have to understand the commitment and responsibility of dating someone in recovery, such as knowing the signs of a secret relapse and helping a relapsed addict get back on the saddle of the horse. It’s not easy. They need to know that, and they need to know it extensively.
A Question Only You Can Answer
The Alcoholics Anonymous community has what’s called a one-year-rule regarding dating. It’s not a strict rule, it’s meant to be a generalization of the fact that you simply need some time to sediment the changes you’ve made in your life and consider yourself drug-free.
That’s really the most important distinction to achieve if you want to start dating again without worrying about a relapse – when you feel like you can stop worrying about a relapse.
Drug addiction acts like a disease of the brain, yet proper treatment can reverse the physical changes drugs make in the brain. As long as you come to terms with your past, achieve your closure, become sober and truly consider yourself done with drugs, you’re ready to ask yourself if that means you’re ready to start dating.
That’s right – ask yourself. Search your own feelings. Sleep on it. Think on it. Do you want to be with someone for good? Do you want to get into a relationship, and enjoy the joys of being with someone, while fully realizing the potential pain you have to embrace in the process? Are you ready for it?
We can’t answer that for you. We can say that it’s a good idea to wait for a period long enough for you to consider yourself sober. But past that, you have to answer for yourself if you’re ready to take someone into your life. You’re an adult, with adult responsibilities and important choices to make. Make them free of someone else’s final judgment, and instead listen only to the facts: addiction is hard, early relapse is probable, and successful sobriety is subjective.