Dating a Recovering Alcoholic [Tips]

My Significant Other Has Relapsed 

You are dating someone that is a recovering alcoholic and they have relapsed. Emotions are high. You are probably confused, upset, and sad. The next steps you take are crucial. Know that you are not alone and that there are always ways to help. If the person you love is struggling, call us at 405-583-4390 to find out more about recovery options. We can help make this process easier for both of you. 

You Have Not Failed 

What to know about dating a recovering alcoholic is that you have not failed, and your significant other has not failed. As long as they are still committed to recovery, a relapse is only a bump in the road. But it is still hard for both of you. Your partner is going to feel as if they let you down. And you might even feel as if they did let you down. Don’t feel guilty, your emotions are valid and understood. But what is important is how you react. Don’t blame them, instead let’s learn.

It is important to remember that during the recovery, your significant other’s temptation to return to alcohol is going to be high. Do you know how it feels when you really want that chocolate bar? Or when you are craving that cup of coffee in the morning? Take that feeling and multiply it by a thousand. Your loved one is struggling beyond anything you could comprehend. They are scared and you feel helpless. The good news is that alcoholism is treatable and manageable.

Relapse Happens 

Relapses occur more than you would think. Relapses don’t mean the individual has given up or failed. Treatment programs have started to better incorporate sections for the possibility of a relapse. Alcoholism is treated as a chronic illness. You wouldn’t expect someone with depression to be happy once they received medical or therapeutic help magically. That would be an unrealistic and rude expectation. Therefore, it also isn’t fair to expect perfect results from an individual going through alcoholism rehabilitation. It is going to take time. If they rely on medications and forget to take them or do not want to take them, patience and grace will get you a long way when dating someone who is a recovering alcoholic.

Relapse can also be a sign. If your significant other goes back to their old habits, this could indict that a change is necessary. Encourage your loved one to call their doctor or sponsor. Their rehabilitation treatment could use some modifications, or it is time to consider a new treatment plan. Since alcoholism is like a chronic disease, it will take time for them to rewire their behaviors. Their relapse could be a sign that they need a different kind of help, and that is okay! Figuring out what doesn’t work is just as beneficial. 

The hard truth about relapses is they can be deadly. This is important for you both to know the reality of this situation. Once someone has stopped drinking, their body has begun to heal. Their tolerance will decrease, and their body is no longer accustomed to the previous amounts they once drank. If they attempt to drink a large quantity of alcohol like they used to, they risk having an overdose.

Address the Relapse

You are part of your loved one’s support system! This is an amazing comfort for them. Not everyone knows what it’s like dating a recovering alcoholic. It is hard for you of course, but fighting this alone would be so much harder for them as well. If someone you love is already in treatment, this is the time to encourage them to call their doctor. However, if they haven’t participated in treatment then enrolling needs to be the next step.

What to expect when dating a recovering alcoholic includes many unknowns. But there are some common reactions when treatment is brought up. Get ready for excuses. Your significant other will try to justify their actions. They want to believe it was just one mistake and that it isn’t that big of a deal. But even if it is just one occurrence, it is still a relapse. This is difficult but you need to be both gentle and firm. Show them you care about their sobriety by simply saying, “Let’s get you some help.” 

Once they have accepted your help, provide support where you can. If your significant other has never been to treatment, offer to help them look. Offer to sit in on phone calls or meetings with them as they are researching. Don’t forget to ask them how they want to be supported too!

What to Know When Dating a Recovering Alcoholic

The great news is that alcoholism is treatable. But you need to know that dating someone that is a recovering alcoholic will not be easy. You are going to have to adapt a great deal of your life for them. But as long as the relationship is safe and healthy, you can do this. You care about this person and it is going to be better on the other side, as long as everyone on the same page about what you have to know. 

Here are some tips for dating a recovering alcoholic. You have to know their triggers. To help avoid future relapses, know what caused them to return to alcohol this time. For example, often stress is a trigger. It can create a vulnerable state of mind. This can cause the initial alcoholism and be a contributing risk later for relapse.

Don’t feel guilty if you were part of the cause, learn from it. Learn from your mistakes and address theirs. When stressed, your loved one is looking for comfort. They believe they can find comfort in alcohol because it will make them calm. Part of the recovery process is changing those habits and squashing the belief that alcohol can solve their problems. In time, when they experience stress they will realize that they can find calm and comfort in something else. 

Dating a Recovering Alcoholic When You Drink

Finally, it is time to answer the question that has been in the back of your head. If your significant other is an alcoholic, are you allowed to drink? No, you can’t drink in front of them, and here is why. Imagine if you were choosing to become a vegetarian for health reasons. You still enjoy meat and this is a struggle for you. And every night your partner proceeds to eat steak and chicken right in front of you. The temptation of the substance you are so desperately trying to avoid is taunting you a foot away. That is how it would feel if you had a drink in front of someone you care for who is struggling. 

Thus, what to expect when dating a recovering alcoholic includes making certain sacrifices. This doesn’t mean you can’t drink alcohol at all. You aren’t hiding anything if you chose to drink with your friends. Just refrain from drinking in front of your significant other in order to support their recovery. Avoiding temptation at the beginning of recovery will produce a stronger outcome in the end. 

What To Expect In Your Relationship

What is it like dating a recovering alcoholic: “sacrifice” in fact sums it up in many ways. How much are you willing to give up and where do you draw the line? As their partner, you should never tolerate physical abuse because of their addiction, or because of anything else for that matter. This is unacceptable whether you are married or only dating. If you and your partner are arguing a lot due to their addiction, on the other hand, this is to be expected.

Couples often become frustrated when they still have problems after substance abuse has been treated. This is because the addiction caused ramifications in the relationship such as tension, distrust, and conflict. Once the alcoholism has been addressed and treated, now you need to deal with the problems that grew out of it. 

Marriage counseling is highly encouraged. Attaining sobriety means you have a chance to build a healthier and stronger relationship. Again remember, this is not solely your responsibility. This is a combined effort from both of you to improve your relationship and happiness. Understanding the reality of hardships and sacrifices you will face is important. But keeping in mind that there is a better future on the other side is just as key.

If You Both Are Recovering 

If you and your loved one are both in recovery from alcoholism, then what do you do if your partner relapses? At this moment the most important factor for you to remember is your own recovery. You have come so far, and you cannot let your partner’s relapse push you into one of your own. Protecting yourself is your number one priority. Once you have discovered that your significant other relapsed, immediately call someone who you can talk to. This can be your sponsor, or a friend or family member. The point is to create immediate accountability for yourself. 

Once you have reached out to someone, begin to process your own emotions surrounding the relapse. Understand that you are unable to control your significant other and that their choices are their own. If you feel as though you can be too easily compromised then you will have to consider removing yourself from the relationship. But do not give up on your partner yet! Once you have talked with others to stabilize your own recovery, talk to your loved one. Approach them with what you know and tell them that they should seek help. 

If staying will risk your recovery, then healthy boundaries need to be put in place. Whether that is distancing yourself or leaving completely will depend on your situation. When you both are recovering, it is scary to see your partner relapse. Until you see true progress in your loved one’s recovery, you have to remember your own life is just as important.  

Tips For You Personally

When dating someone that is a recovering alcoholic, it is important to remember to take care of yourself. If you are married, then this experience has been a true testament to your vow of ‘in sickness and in health’. This has probably been an overwhelming experience for you. As much as you may love this person, you can’t take on all of their burdens. Remember to value and prioritize your own health too. The risk of co-dependency is high in couples where one partner has an addiction. You can support them without them completely relying on you for their recovery.

Many find it helpful to join a support group and get together with others who are also supporting their significant other through treatment. These are great sources of comfort and advice, and it will provide a safe space for you to be honest about your emotions. No one expects you to be unwavering during this time. Processing your emotions with others who understand your situation will be beneficial for both you and your loved one. Remember to respect, support, and love yourself. Call us today and we can help guide you through this process. 

Written by Julia Bashaw


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