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Should I date a recovering addict?

Posted on 08-23-16 in Self-help


You’ve met a magnificent person and have already been on five wonderful dates. Everything is going great. At the end of your sixth date, however, your partner drops a bombshell on you:

“I’m a recovering addict.”

What do you do? Should you tell your friends or family members? Should you continue to date this person? Or should you break it off now before things get too serious?

Here are a few things you need to know before dating a recovering addict.

  1. You need to be able to trust your partner.

Drug addicts — even former drug addicts — aren’t always easy to trust. After all, they’ve probably spent a large portion of their lives hiding their habit from their friends and loved ones. When they were in the grips of their addiction, they may have ignored promises, made unwise financial decisions or even broke the law. Even if they’ve been clean for years, you may find it hard to believe them.

Trust is essential in any serious, long-term relationship. If you find that you cannot trust your partner, you should not be in the relationship.

  1. You need to understand that addiction is a chronic illness.

Addiction — like diabetes and schizophrenia — is a chronic, lifelong illness. Even a person who is in recovery is still technically an addict, much like how a person in remission from cancer can redevelop symptoms. Some days will be better than others. A relapse is always possible.

You need to be willing to stand by your partner and help if things get rough. You might need to quickly leave parties where alcohol is being served, or call your partner’s sponsor if he or she starts demonstrating symptoms of a relapse.

  1. You need to ask your partner who is allowed to know about the addiction.

Relationships are exciting. You might want to tell everyone you meet about your new significant other. Keep in mind, however, that your partner’s history of addiction is very personal. Do not talk about it with your friends — or even family members — before your partner is ready.

Have a conversation about when and how to share the news with your family. When the time comes, consider compiling a list of resources that may help them better understand your significant other’s illness.

  1. You need to accept your partner’s baggage.

Everyone has baggage: a stupid mistake you made as a teenager, a poor relationship with a parent, or a regrettable experience after drinking too much wine.

Former addicts often have more of these experiences than most people. They may be estranged from family members. They may have poor credit. They may have been evicted from a home or fired from multiple jobs. Even if these things happened long ago, the repercussions can extend to the present.

If you are not comfortable with someone’s past, you should not date that person — regardless of whether or not he or she is a former addict.

  1. You are not obligated to date anyone.

This may be the most important piece of advice: Don’t date someone just because you’re “supposed” to. Your emotional needs are just as important as your partner’s emotional needs. If you’re in a relationship that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy, leave it. If your partner relapses and starts to abuse you, leave it.

Addiction is an illness, but your safety and your comfort come first. If you find yourself making sacrifice after sacrifice, take a step back and evaluate the relationship. Are you happier with this person or without this person? Both you and your partner deserve a healthy relationship built on trust, respect and happiness.

Sovereign Health’s addiction treatment program offers comprehensive treatment for individuals who are addicted to substances, including alcohol, opiates, cocaine and amphetamines. We do more than help our patients through withdrawal — we also provide therapy and restorative activities to educate our patients and their family members. For more information, contact our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Courtney Lopresti, M.S., is a senior staff writer for Sovereign Health, where she uses her scientific background to write online blogs and articles for a general audience. At the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her master’s in neuroscience, she used functional neuroimaging to study how the human cerebellum contributes to language processing. In her spare time, she writes fiction, reads Oliver Sacks and spends time with her two cats and bird. Courtney is currently located in Minneapolis. For more information and other inquiries about this article, contact the author at


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