Dating An Addict- Codependency!
Relationships are challenging regardless but for addicts it can be a very quick road to relapse!
Understandably, insecurity is a genuine and regular part of a recovering persons journey, especially in those early stages. There is a human need within most of us to want to be in a relationship but addicts biggest faults are poor boundaries and for quite some time will not know where these start or even end!
Many addicts are doing quite well until they get into a relationship and they suddenly go blind and deaf!
Unfortunately there are no shortage of people who think a boundary is a ‘4’ in cricket and nothing more! Healthier relationships have visible boundaries that promote degrees of essential independence. It is not healthy and be joined at the hip and do ‘everything’ together. That can only work in the short-term! An addict in early recovery does NOT have the capacity to create or respect too many boundaries. Unfortunately, your typical addict, despite time in rehab will still have elements of selfishness, impatience and a poor listener! This can be exhausting for the addict’s partner who wanted a partner and not a project!
Two Addicts Do Not Make A Whole!
An addict going out with another addict can be particularly concerning. Once the ‘pink cloud’ has burst then its all downhill. Two people in a competition to get the most attention can only end in disaster in nearly all cases.
All of us need other people in order to grow, that is a fact. Unfortunately though your typical addict has no filter and is prone to making bad choices and have few, if any boundaries. The ‘inbuilt’ need for instant gratification can linger for years and so our impulse control is raw and untamed. This is exacerbated by the belief that “If I am not using drugs then I must be doing ok” which of course is nothing but a denial statement.
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 this is usually within a romantic 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