When they finally manage to get past all of the chemical baggage that they had been carrying with them for so long, what you will find in most instances is that former addicts have just as many outstanding qualities as anyone else, and this can make them a joy to be around for family and friends alike.
But what about romance, dating, and even marriage? Is it wise to form a more intimate connection with an ex-addict or alcoholic, no matter how dramatically they appear to have turned their lives around? In looking at the experiences of others, what we can say is that many who have formed romantic partnerships with former substance abusers have come to regret that decision immensely, while others have been able to establish satisfying permanent relationships with those who have successfully put their past addictions behind them. So there really is no hard and fast rule here – but there are some things you should think about before getting more deeply involved with someone in recovery. And if you do decide to date someone with a history of drug or alcohol use, there are a number of signs you must watch out for in order to make sure your new partner is living up to his or her promises of sobriety.
Proceeding with Caution
Recovering substance abusers often possess excellent attributes that are forged by the intensity of their personal experiences. They are often very compassionate and non-judgmental in their relations with others, will not shy away from confronting difficult problems head on, and will usually be right there to help those they love through their own darkest hours. Successful recovering addicts and alcoholics will have learned much about the importance of honesty and open communication during their rehabilitation process, and this can carry over into their relationships with those to whom they become close.
But when addicts and alcoholics suddenly begin closing down and become reticent to share what they are thinking and feeling, or to talk about what is happening in their lives, this is most likely a sign that something is wrong. Unexplained absences, a failure to return phone calls, showing up late, and explanations for behavior that don’t ring true are a just a few indications that things have gone amiss – and when something is amiss with a recovering addict or alcoholic, unfortunately there is very good reason to assume the worst.
Making it Work
All recovering addicts have certain triggers that could lead to relapse. Before becoming involved with them, it is important to sit down and have a good long talk about what those triggers might be, based on their past experiences and on the insights they have gained during their counseling sessions and during their time in AA or NA. With good communication about this topic, the partner of someone in recovery can do a lot to keep the process on track – while protecting themselves at the same time.
While recovering addicts or alcoholics can make excellent companions, there is one principle that should be followed without exception – do not become involved with someone in recovery from substance abuse unless they have been clean and sober for at least one year. This is the advice that addiction counselors always give to their patients, and it should go double for anyone thinking about becoming involved with a former drug or alcohol abuser.
If someone in recovery is asking you out or making other kinds of advances at an earlier stage of their rehabilitation, it means they are ignoring the recommendations of their counselors, and this is not a positive harbinger of things to come. We are talking about people with addictive histories and personalities here, and if they are trying to jump into a relationship too soon, there is a very good chance they are attempting to fill the void they feel inside by replacing their drug of choice with something else that will give them the high they are craving. This is what leads to love or sex addiction, and you do not want to be the object of affection for someone who may simply be bouncing from one kind of compulsive behavior into another.
Trust, But Do Not Trust Blindly
We all deserve the right to be happy, and to experience love, and this includes those who have battled back from the depths of addiction. But before they are ready to enter into a successful relationship, former substance abusers must put their past patterns of behavior completely behind them. If you are planning to become involved with such a person, there is a chance it could work – but only if your prospective companion is serious and dedicated to his or her recovery.
Whether he or she is really committed to getting better and staying better for the long term is what you must figure out for yourself before you open your life and your heart to someone who has apparently stepped back from the abyss of drug or alcohol addiction. Before taking that final leap of faith, you must be completely honest with yourself and avoid any kind of wishful thinking, because if you ignore any ominous signs that are present and choose to become involved with a former addict anyway, when they finally go over the edge of that abyss and plunge into the depths below there is a very good chance that they will take you right along with them.