People do funny things when they’re in love, desperately looking for love, or just feeling a little lustful, especially after abstinence from intimacy, whether it’s either self-imposed or a consequence of being… well, dumped. However, it can get a little tricky at best, or even downright dangerous, if your potential future partner is a drinker, and you’re finally, finally clean, sober, and in alcohol recovery.
“Maybe that’s why I wanted to get lost somewhere,
because I wanted to be found.”
– Corey M.P., U.S. writer, graphic designer, and author of “Hearts and Errors”
It’s a conundrum, isn’t it? Now, common sense dictates that any half-intelligent individual (who has survived the life of an alcoholic, sought professional treatment, and found the golden chalice that is sobriety), would never put their addiction recovery on the line in such a possibly reckless way.
Did I just say “common sense”? Ah, there’s the problem, right there.
When it comes to a human being’s hormones, common sense often goes right out of the window. In fact, if that particular human being, hormones and all, has been devoid of real intimacy for a significant period of time (as someone would be if they had managed to transform from an alcoholic into a sober person), common sense would have purchased a ticket on the first Greyhound bus out of town, and now be halfway across the next state. In other words, gone.
Is This You?
Now, if you’re reading this and you’ve suddenly thought, “Oh. My. Word. He’s talking about me!”… well, I probably am. And let me tell you this straight off – I’ve been where you are (in fact, I’ve been in a lot of the dark, scary places alcohol took you to, as well). Like you, I emerged from the other side of addiction – wiser, stronger, and focused.
Alcohol (and cocaine, too) nearly took my life. Thankfully, like you, I found treatment – a residential facility that put me right (well, most of me). Endless AA meetings in Cottonwood, AZ, and more and more soul-searching. That was over 6 years ago now, and I’m still clean, I’m still sober, and, of course, I’m still in addiction recovery.
Oh, and I’ve dated, too, successfully – on occasion (actually, I’m married now – happily, too). The counselors and therapists at the facility that had my company for over 3 months educated me from scratch. It’s their expert advice on relationships in recovery that I’ll share with you now. Here’s all you need to know about “Dating A Drinker When You’re Clean, Sober & In Alcohol Recovery.”
Relationship Rules in Recovery
The first set of rules should go without saying, but we’ll say them anyway – they are, without a doubt, that important.
- Rule #1: No-one, absolutely no-one, is worth sacrificing your recovery for.
- Rule #2: Remember Rule #1. The. Time…
- Rule #3: Do not even think about starting to date until you have one full year of successful, continuous alcohol-free sobriety.
- Rule #4: If you are not confident about your addiction recovery, or you are still experiencing powerful cravings, or social situations make you nervous and put you on edge, remember this old AA adage: Relationships = Relapse. So don’t go there.
Right, those are the basics out of the way. The next set of rules apply if you’re still prepared to jump into that new romantic relationship…
- Rule #5: Be 100% honest. Being honest allows you to be yourself, and to act naturally in front of this strange, new (and attractive) person. It’s completely your choice if, at this stage, you wish to share the darker moments of your life story.
- Rule #6: Sober dates. Nowhere is it written that “dates” have to involve alcohol. In fact, in my own experience, a sober date encourages you to be a little more creative with your ideas, eg. for a setting, and so on.
- Rule #7: Ensure you have a contingency or backup plan if things start to go wrong. You never know, they might rapidly turn into a raging alcoholic themselves, and that is definitely the wrong kind of person for you to be around.
- Rule #8: Keep your support network updated. Let them know what you’re doing, ask for their advice, and keep them updated, too. Remember, your support network will still be there long after they’ve gone if things don’t work out.
- Rule #9: If your new relationship is overloading you with stress, you need to end it. Now. Stress is one of the biggest relapse triggers out there, and if you do find yourself becoming stressed to the point of considering taking a drink, go straight back to Rule #1, and quickly, too.
- Rule #10: Your sobriety is a precious, hard-fought-for, and an exceptionally personal milestone in your life. You should be proud of your sobriety, and what you have achieved. If your new partner doesn’t feel this way about what you have achieved on a personal level, then, sadly, you will be far better off with someone who understands the enormity of addiction recovery. Trust me, I found that one out the hard way…
All You Need is Sobriety
A new relationship at any time should be a sign that life’s working out ok. However, when you’re in addiction recovery, you really can’t take anything for granted, and it’s imperative that whatever you do, you do not jeopardize your hard-fought sobriety. Follow the rules above like they were the secrets to life, and all will be good. Fail to follow them, and your next relationship could be with alcohol – again.
Whatever you do, remember Rule #2. Good luck.