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How to Be a Good Partner to Someone in Substance Abuse Recovery (When You are Not in Recovery)

How to Be a Good Partner to Someone in Recovery (When You are Not in Recovery)

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but it always serves as a reminder of the importance of love and partnerships in our lives. Choosing a partner in recovery adds a new layer to relationships and requires a healthy understanding of your role in the recovering individual’s life.

Here are some things to consider when dating someone in recovery:

Recovery Comes First, No Exceptions

This may be hard to understand initially if you’re not familiar with the realm of recovery, but it is a commonly stated idea that those in recovery will ultimately lose anything that they put before recovery in their lives.

Understand that for your partner to show up for you as their best self, they need to keep recovery at the forefront of their life. This means attending meetings, stepping away to call their sponsor, sharing things with their recovery network that they may not feel comfortable sharing with you yet—it requires trust and patience on your behalf.

Educate Yourself ASAP

The first step to understanding your partner in recovery is understanding the disease of Substance Use Disorder. Al-Anon and Nar-Anon literature are a great place to start, as they are both groups geared specifically towards loved ones of those in recovery.

You might find it helpful to attend an Al-Anon or Nar-Anon meeting in your area to develop a support network of other individuals with loved ones in recovery.

Offer Support and Leave it Up to Them  

Instead of assuming, ask your partner what you can do to best support their recovery. If they want you to attend meetings with them for support, and that’s something you feel comfortable doing, share that moment with them.

Don’t be offended if they opt to go alone. This is a very intimate and private time for the individual in recovery, so don’t take it personally if they ask you to stay behind.

Keep Communication Open

Early on in the relationship with your partner in recovery, a few very important things should be established. Open and honest communication is a must. You need to sit down with them and talk about your expectations for the relationship. This might be the amount of time you want to spend together, how much you’d like to communicate during the day or even simple things like the kinds of activities you feel comfortable doing together. This is a great opportunity to talk about your needs and listen to your partner when they tell you where they are able to meet you in regard to these.

Boundaries are also very important to establish in all relationships, specifically for those in recovery. You should understand your partner’s triggers, and discuss with them how you can help them avoid these, and what you should do in the event that they have a moment of struggle. Take some time to think about what you will and will not accept in the relationship, because your partner should also understand your boundaries.

Find the Silver Lining

Though it may take some extra work at times, if your partner is dedicated to their recovery, the opportunities are endless. It’s important to focus on the chances for gratitude in this situation—gratitude that you’ve met your partner at this time in their life, as opposed to when they were in active use.

Recovery and 12-Step Programs can provide a sense of openness, vulnerability, honesty, and growth for your partner—things that those in recovery may not be able to access as easily. As your partner focuses on their recovery, look inward and assess the areas of yourself that you too could work to improve. This is a beautiful chance to grow alongside another person. Most importantly, just take it a day at a time.

For more information, resources, and encouragement, “like” the Fellowship Hall Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at @FellowshipHallNC.

About Fellowship Hall

Fellowship Hall is a 99-bed, private, not-for-profit alcohol and drug treatment center located on 120 tranquil acres in Greensboro, N.C. We provide treatment and evidence-based programs built upon the Twelve-Step model of recovery. We have been accredited by The Joint Commission since 1974 as a specialty hospital and are a member of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers. We are committed to providing exceptional, compassionate care to every individual we serve.