Dating a Recovering Alcoholic - Tips and Advice

Everyone makes mistakes in life – it is what you learn from them that can determine whether you drown in the consequences of bad choices or are able to swim ashore. Recovering alcoholics are among those who are trying to do the latter which is why if you are dating one, you may face certain ups and downs in your life together. However the very fact that they have made a choice to turn their lives around bodes well for your relationship and here are a few tips to make the ride easier.

Gather information

If you are serious about dating a recovered alcoholic, it makes sense to find about as much about the condition as you can – since in small ways or large, your life will surely be impacted by your partner’s situation. Alcoholism is a chronic mental health disorder that a person usually struggles with for his or her entire life. Over time and/or with therapy, a recovered alcoholic should be able to cope more effectively with his illness, but during times of stress or significant life changes his/her desire to drink may intensify. So read a book or go through online resources about the struggles people with alcoholism have faced. Even better, ask a mental health professional about the disorder and what you can do, as a partner, to ensure that your date is able to stay on the path to recovery.

Be open to talking about it

See if your partner wants to discuss his/her battle with alcoholism with you. Ask him/ her about their unhappy experience and at the same time share with your partner your views and experiences with alcoholism. However keep in mind that alcoholics often have a reason for why they struggle with drinking so much, and recovering alcoholics may still be trying to work through those previous problems. Be understanding if your significant other isn't ready to talk about his or her past, but let them know that you will be there when they are ready. When the time comes that he or she is willing to talk, be supportive and never judgmental. Listen to them patiently and don’t be quick to offer an opinion or solution. When you think you have opened the channels of communication, also share your own concerns and hesitations about being with a recovering alcoholic. This will bring things out in the open and your partner may be actually relieved about addressing relationship issues instead of keeping things under wraps.

Plan dates with care

It is usual for regular couples a fancy restaurant on a special occasion like an anniversary or Valentine’s Day and celebrate with a glass of wine. However if your partner is a recovering alcoholics, he/she may not be capable of stopping at only one drink. You should never put your partner in a position where she has to choose between remaining sober and being with you. Take all this into consideration before planning dates, family gathering, work parties or any other outing. At the same time, individuals who have stayed sober for many years at a stretch may be more confident of their ability to resist temptation. Thus your partner may be perfectly fine being around alcohol as long as he/she does not drink any. However others may find this too tempting and would prefer to be in other environments.  Communicate with your significant other to find out what they are and aren't comfortable with. Listen to your partner’s concerns and respect the boundaries that they need to live by. Discuss with him or her whether they are comfortable with you drinking in their presence. Be respectful of your partner’s desire to maintain his/her sobriety and change your drinking patterns based on his/her needs. Even when he/she is not bothered by people drinking around him, avoid making alcohol a central part of your social or romantic life; instead explore shared hobbies or common interest in music, sports and travel to make your dates fun so that there is no need for artificial stimulants like alcohol.

Make AA part of your lives

Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most popular resources for people struggling with alcoholism.. In fact many alcoholics remain in AA for years after they've quit drinking because it offers them support in resisting temptations. So encourage your significant other to continue to attend AA meetings or any other de-addiction program, even if he/she has been sober for a while. Your association with the AA should be something that both of you are proud of.

Besides being a great help to those trying to kick the bottle, the AA is also a valuable resource of information and support for families affected by alcoholism. So when dating a recovering alcoholic, even you can explore the option of joining an AA support group which is focused on the people affected by alcoholism, such as wives, husbands, parents, partners and children; these groups allow people to share their experiences and benefit from the support of others. Find one such support group in your area and attend one of their regular meetings. Here you can share your story and why you have come to the meeting. Continue your participation in the support group for as long as you feel necessary.

No matter how long your partner has been sober or how regular he/she is with AA meetings, keep in mind that relapse is possible. The best possible way to minimize such a possibility is to beware of the triggers your partner has told you about. If he/she has a stressful or bad day, engage in an activity that has stress-reducing qualities such as going for a walk, listening to a favorite soothing music or attending a support meeting.

Love each other as equals

When dating a recovering alcoholic, it is easy to slip into the dynamic of the saint and the sinner. However it is best to avoid a holier-than-thou attitude towards your partner, even though the latter may have made mistakes in the past and is still feeling the consequences. Recovering alcoholics have already accepted that they have a problem and are seeking help. And while you may not have drinking problems, almost everyone has some issue or another that they struggle with. By admitting to yourself that you are not perfect and may also have problems, you create a bond with the person and help the relationship grow stronger. Finally avoid focusing your entire relationships on your partner’s battle with alcoholism. Be aware of him or her as a person, not as a disorder, and you will find in your partner much to be love and be proud of.