This topic looms large in the mind of any single former addict. You struggle to put your past behind you, but still need to be vigilant about your personal challenges, and truthful about your history.
First, a disclaimer: dating in early recovery stages is simply not a good idea. It’s essential to focus on yourself during this time, learning self-care and practicing the coping techniques that you’ve learned in therapy.
But once you’re ready to start dating again, how do you bring up this topic? When is it appropriate? How much is too much information? Will it scare them away?
After all, dating is hard enough without a big surprise like addiction in your personal history. We can’t give you a silver bullet that will make all of your relationship worries and woes disappear, but here’s some advice to help you be successful with both dating and your recovery:
Put Sobriety First
Stick to your personal guidelines that help you stay sober. Don’t overextend yourself. Take your time and go slowly. It’s also important to seek out the right partner. Many recovering addicts fall into relationships with others who share our struggles. That’s okay, but ask yourself these questions: will this person respect and support my sobriety? Is this person a healthy or unhealthy influence?
Put Away Shame
Most of us are hesitant to talk about our addiction recovery because we’re worried that we’ll be ostracized and judged for our past mistakes. However, it’s important to have a healthy perspective on your addiction and recovery while you go into dating. You’ve endured and fought with a colossal foe. You’ve confronted difficult things and worked to make yourself a better, stronger, healthier person. While confessing your past may bare your past mistakes, it’s also a good time to reflect on the progress you’ve made. In many ways, you have become stronger and healthier than many people who have never had to confront addiction. You’ve learned important things about yourself, your needs, and effective methods of communication, boundaries, and relationships. That’s something to be proud of!
When and How?
Is it really appropriate to bring up on a first date? Usually not. But then, you don’t want to wait too long to tell them, either. So here’s our two-step advice:
(1) Bring it up casually (but not flippantly) early on. Details can be vague and you probably don’t want to dwell on the subject. In fact, you don’t even have to use the word addiction. During the first few dates, the subject will actually come up organically when you’re talking about your job, relationship history, family members, or moving history. Instead of hiding your past, touch on it, and then move on. For example: “At that point, I got involved with some bad patterns and had a really hard time, but made some efforts to make some specific changes in my life, and now…”
(2) Have a serious talk about it before you’ve both decided you’re in a serious relationship. It’s hard to judge timing here, since it can be so relative. But try to bring it up sooner rather than later,. Be ready to be understanding and patient with their reaction, without letting it reflect too hard on your own self-opinion and your perspective on your recovery. Be honest, and answer whatever questions they need to know.