Mary Faulkner, who has over 30 years of sobriety and is the author of Easy Does It Dating Guide: For People in Recovery cautions that relationships are “the number one relapse trigger”.
Faulkner compares dating in recovery to “playing football without gear, running barefoot over sharp rocks, and having dental work without the benefit of painkillers. It can be the great escape, bounce you back into relapse, or trigger a new addiction.” This isn’t to say that you must date someone within the recovery community, in fact, many argue that those should look outside of recovery for a balanced relationship. But regardless of which script you subscribe to, the bottom line is that dating in recovery can put you in some very vulnerable situations.
Here is a guide: 10 ways on how to avoid relapse if you’re dating someone who drinks:
1) Do not have alcohol in your home. I was warned early in rehab not to have booze in my house in case I had a bad day and reached for it. I think this is very good advice.
2) Keep going to meetings or in touch with your online recovery community. You need to keep reminding yourself you are an alcoholic so you don’t think “my partner is drinking I will too.”
3) Explain your behaviour when drinking to your new partner and that it would be a disaster for you and them if you went back there. This may encourage them to abstain from drinking when they are around you.
4) If attending gatherings where everyone is drinking apart from you always have some people in recovery you can call if you get triggered. Tell your partner if you feel like picking up a drink.
5) Exit as quickly as possible from the situation if you actually think you are going to pick up.
6) Work on keeping a separate identity to your partner by maintaining your own interests, activities, hobbies including contact with all your recovery friends.
7) If you start to think “I’m cured maybe I can drink again” read your Step 1 about the horrors of your addiction or any written work you have done in treatment or groups.
8) Get more support in terms of seeing an addictions counsellor if you can afford it.
9) Include other recovery people in your social activities or holidays with your partner, when possible, so you are not the only person not drinking and have support for your recovery.
10) If you have a spiritual practice, some form of meditation or prayer, use it to ground yourself and ward off cravings. If not, check in with how you are feeling every day. If you are very angry upset or tired maybe avoid social situations where you will be exposed to alcohol.