Questions To Ask Yourself Before Dating An Alcoholic

By The Fix staff 06/12/19

Being upfront about challenges and boundaries can help you establish a healthy relationship.

Couple in a pool taking a selfie on a first date with a sober alcoholic.

"I'm an alcoholic."

It’s not something you want to hear from a potential partner. Even if you are in recovery yourself, dating an alcoholic can be daunting. After all, people who have struggled with substance use disorder likely have baggage. However, you shouldn’t let that scare you off.

Consider this: people who are in recovery and telling you about their past substance abuse are owning their faults. They’re being upfront about the challenges they have had, and are showing you that they’re willing and able to do the hard work of staying in recovery.

If you are considering dating an alcoholic, it’s good to be honest with yourself and your potential partner about how that will affect your relationship. Here are five questions to ask yourself before diving into a relationship with a recovered alcoholic.

Are they upfront?

Many people are functional drinkers and are able to hide their bad habits until subtle signs tip off the person that they are dating. You don’t want that approach of secrecy and lies. Even if someone is sober, but not forthcoming about their recovery obligations, like 12-step meetings, it can undermine trust in the relationship.

If someone is being secretive, either about their drinking or about their program, that’s a red flag. However, if the person you’re dating is upfront and honest from the start about their experience with substance use disorder and how it affects their life, they’re likely worth a chance.

Is their recovery well-established?

People who are newly in recovery have a zest for life that can be hugely appealing. However, the early days of recovery should be spent focusing on the relationship with self, rather than romantic relationships.

Twelve-step traditions strongly advise against dating during the first year of recovery. If you or the person you are interested in is during that phase of early recovery, consider hitting the brakes until your sober lives are better established.

Will I be able to maintain my own program?

If you’re in recovery yourself, think about how dating an alcoholic will affect your own recovery program. Sharing the bond of living in sobriety can be a beautiful experience; you can talk about your challenges and victories with someone who really understands them.

However, it can also be a challenge. For example, if you’re struggling, you may unintentionally trigger your partner, or vice-versa. Take an honest inventory and be up front with yourself about how living closely with someone else in recovery might affect your own recovery journey.

Will I be able to have healthy boundaries?

If you decide that dating someone else in recovery is right for you, take steps to make sure that you are both maintaining healthy boundaries. For example, going to a meeting together might be great, but you should also both have your own meetings that you can attend without your significant other.

Be cautious of becoming codependent with one another. Addiction and codependency often go hand-in-hand, so making a conscious effort to maintain a healthy dynamic in your new relationship is important.

Am I okay when they put their recovery first?

Many people want to know that they are the most important thing in their partner’s life. However, that won’t always be the case if you’re dating an alcoholic or someone in recovery. After all, if they don’t maintain their recovery they will not have the means to engage in a healthy relationship.

Reflect on how this will make you feel. Will you be frustrated if you’re scheduling dates around recovery meetings? Will you be jealous if your partner needs to take a call from their sponsor or sponsee? Or, will you be able to accept these inconveniences knowing that they help your partner live a healthier life?

If you’re considering dating an alcoholic, you shouldn’t be afraid. However, you should take time to consider whether this is right for you, and how their recovery will affect your life.

AA Dating Service is a website that connects sober people looking to date.

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