Many times a recovering alcoholic has no idea what a healthy relationship consists of because many alcoholics grew up in dysfunctional families with either one or both parents abusing alcohol. A person in recovery from alcohol addiction may have abused alcohol all of their adult life, so this is an experience they have never had before. You need to approach your relationship with much compassion, respect, and understanding.
Understanding a Recovering Alcoholic
If you are just starting your relationship with a recovering alcoholic, you need to know what is involved with addiction recovery. Recovery is a continued process. The alcoholic has to work every day to fight cravings and avoid triggers that can lead to a relapse. They must abstain completely from alcohol; don’t think that they can have one or two drinks and be okay. With alcoholics, it doesn’t work that way. They may believe that they will stop with one or two, but the fact is that they won’t. Always be considerate of your partner, and don’t ask them to go to places or associate with people that will tempt them to drink.
A recovering alcoholic must attend meetings and continued counseling, especially in the first year of recovery. Attending meetings needs to be a priority on their list of responsibilities and activities. Don’t ask your partner to skip meetings to go to a movie or some other social activity. These meetings are a necessity for them to remain sober. You can attend some meetings with your partner which will help you to understand their struggles and fears better. Each day brings new challenges and new hopes for a recovering alcoholic.
Accept the Person for Who They are Now
If you knew this person before when they were abusing alcohol, you know what kind of person they were then but what you don’t know is what kind of person they are now. Who they are now is something they are still discovering also. You may not know your partner’s real personality, and they may not know who they truly are without drugs or alcohol. He or she has to have time to work out their true feelings and to discover who they are deep down inside. They may need more “alone time” than you are happy with; however, you should respect their wishes and allow them all the time they need to figure it out.
Accept the fact that your partner is a recovering alcoholic and always will be that. Don’t ignore the fact that their past is a part of them and always will be. If you can’t support them in their sober lifestyle, you don’t need to be in a relationship with them. Loving and accepting a person for who they are, past and all, is a part of any healthy relationship.
There is Always a Chance of Relapse with a Recovering Alcoholic
Just as with any addiction, there is always a chance of relapse with a recovering alcoholic. Relapse is very real and is why recovery can take so much work, especially in the early stages. Your support along with family support is essential for a recovering alcoholic to remain abstinent. Living in recovery is not an easy task; it takes a lot of effort to accomplish this life, but it is very possible. Some people do manage to beat addiction on their first try, while others have to go back and try again. There is no reason for your partner to be ashamed of this or to feel like they are a failure. You need to reassure them and offer support and encouragement as they pick their self up and try again.