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How to Date Recovering Alcoholics

by Maura Banar

Recovery from alcohol dependence is lifelong, notes the American Medical Association, even if the individual never consumes another drink. Because alcoholism is a chronic condition, dating and relationships should be conducted in the context of the individual's recovery, a personal and unique process. People in programs such as Alcoholic Anonymous are encouraged not to date or otherwise pursue relationships until they have achieved one year of sobriety. Even after a year, there are factors to keep in mind if you are dating or considering dating a recovering alcoholic.

Educate yourself on what alcoholism is and how it can potentially affect you. The National Institutes of Health report that the effects of alcoholism can range from mild to severe for the recovering individual as well as for his supports. As a source of support for the person you are dating, you need to understand that person's triggers as well as his sources of ongoing wellness and abstinence. If possible, attend local groups created to provide support for friends and family members who love a person with alcoholism.

Make a concerted effort to maintain open channels of communication with the person you are dating. Communication is important in any dating scenario, but for a recovering alcoholic, communication is vital. Unless you are also a recovering alcoholic, don't purport to understand or put yourself in the shoes of another person who is sober. If you do have experience or education regarding alcoholism, keep in mind that each person with alcoholism is unique and so is her path in recovery. If you have questions, asking her frankly, but respectfully, is the most appropriate way to increase your understanding of her recovery and alcoholism.

Join and attend a local chapter of Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a group support program for family, friends and other individuals who have someone in their lives with alcoholism. In contrast to support groups for recovering alcoholics, Al-Anon focuses on the shared experiences of people affected by someone's alcoholism. Meetings vary by location, but typically include a venue that encourages problem-solving through shared experiences. If you don't feel comfortable attending a support group alone, ask a friend or family member to accompany you until you feel comfortable.

Suggest dating activities or venues that don't include alcohol to the extent possible. A recovering alcoholic who is attending AA or similar meetings regularly is encouraged to avoid exposure to alcohol, at least in the early stages of recovery. At a certain point, however, nearly everyone will be in the presence of a potential trigger and must work through their inclinations. As a person dating a recovering alcoholic, you aren't expected to completely change your patterns of behavior, but you do need to be mindful of the potential effects of alcohol-included activities. Effective communication that includes asking the person you are dating how comfortable he feels attending an activity in which alcohol may be served gives him the opportunity to opt out if he's not ready to face that situation.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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