Dating An Addict -Tread With Caution
Twin Rivers & Relationships In Early Recovery
The biggest relapse dynamic is getting into a romantic relationship in early recovery. What is early recovery, well, in my opinion the first 2-5 years! It a tough call and that’s why so many fail at the first romantic hurdle, being in complete denial about how vulnerable and ‘needy’ they really are. The trap that many recovering addicts experience is that they are totally unaware of the kind of person that will be attracted to them and visa-versa! In other words; Damaged people only attract damaged people and if the person you meet is ‘not’ damaged then they soon will be due to the addicts behaviour.
This is why Twin Rivers incorporates Codependency within its recovery programme in the hope that clients who complete residential entrapment will be more informed about the dangers of relationships in the early stages of recovery.
Tread With Caution
A lot of people find that dating is hard and creates some anxiety, but dating an addict is something particularly stressful and unpredictable! If you date a recovering addict it’s not a totally bad thing as everyone deserves love and second chances in life!
You definitely need to be a strong person as there is always a lack of trust when knowing someone’s past history. An addict that has been clean for a couple of months or even years will have to understand that it takes time to build up trust.
Addicts can be very emotional and ‘needy’ people who demand a lot of time and attention. They can also feel very uncomfortable socially and often uncomfortable in their own company. Addicts will have broken so many people’s trust and destroyed so many relationships making it very hard for others to trust and act like everything is back to normal.
As addict’s experience various degrees of trauma in active addiction, they often find it hard with life challenges that non-addicts might not. Addicts in early recovery get stressed quickly, over-emotional, moody, demanding and sometimes overbearing. It’s not going to be an easy process and you will need to be patient and loving but do NOT lose yourself in the process or you risk becoming angry and resentful!
Drugs are so powerful and addicts feel they need them to function so when they stop taking drugs they tend to look for a ‘fix’ elsewhere and usually within a relationship.
Manipulation in relationships of this nature is extremely common as you will always hear what you want to hear and promises of behaviour change becomes something that doesn’t mean much anymore. The non- addict wants to believe everything they hear because they are perhaps blinded by love or have an overwhelming need to care for the addict and control their recovery process (codependency).
Manipulation comes in many guises as you may, for example get a phone call in the middle of the night pretending to miss you and need to see you but they really just need attention and confirmation of your concern for them! Addicts in early recovery are masters at making you feel bad about yourself; even to the point of questioning your own sanity!
Manipulation can go on for years and even though you suspect that you are the victim of this you may well feel ‘powerless’ to change this or set an essential boundary. It really is a lot to take on in understanding the process of addiction and recovery. You will need help to be able to cope with dating and loving an addict or a recovering addict. Al-Anon meetings are designed for people living with an addict – https://al-anon.org/
Without understanding the recovery process, you could make others resent you by always questioning them instead of supporting them.
Rehab gradually teaches addicts to deal with and cope with their daily lives again and as a partner, you can respect and help them but you cannot ‘carry’ the addict and do everything for them or you will make yourself unwell. In some cases, the partner starts taking medication or even drinking alcohol. If the partner is also an addict they are at constant risk of relapse!
It’s the hardest thing to watch someone you love and care about loses control in front of you and watch their life fall to pieces but it is not your responsibility entirely to scoop up all those pieces. Be smart and ask for help at Al-Anon or see a therapist.
Tough love is the order of the day!
Tough love is not necessarily about being ‘tough’ on your partner. Its more about setting essential boundaries and being tough enough to take care of your own needs rather than putting the needs of others first.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process