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Ask Dr. Zoe – Dating a Recovering Addict

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‘Dating a Recovering Addict’ Asked:

I have a friend who is getting serious with someone who’s a former addict. He has been through rehab more than once, but this last time seems to have been successful. He’s healthy and dedicated to his long-term recovery. I want to be supportive of my friend, and I know that people can change with hard work and commitment, however, are there some things that my friend can do to protect herself in this new relationship? Are there questions she should be asking him? Are there warning signs she should be aware of? I want to believe and hope for the best, but I also want to realistic.

Dr. Zoe Answered:

You are a wonderful friend to be so concerned. There aren’t a lot of questions she should be asking because when it comes to addiction, talk is cheap. She should let his sobriety stand the test of time, and that will give her all the answers she needs. Yes, people can change with hard work, motivation, and commitment. And when they do, their story is inspiring.

There is one question that anyone dating someone who has a history of addiction should want to ask if she is planning to get married and may want to have children with him: what is his family history with addiction? This will give her some information about how likely his addiction struggle was influenced by genetics and how likely their future children may struggle with this as well.

There are certain things that every woman should do to protect herself in a blossoming relationship. She must be willing to examine the relationship with eyes wide open—being honest with herself about his deficits and strengths. Many women make the mistake of viewing a new love interest with rose colored glasses. That’s what you should do after marriage, not before!

When you make excuses for red flag behavior instead of seeing it for what it is, you just create problems for yourself long term.

Red flags she may want to watch out for would be typical with anyone struggling with an addiction: dishonestly, defensiveness, unexplained missing time, odd behavior, any level of drinking or drug use, reduced productivity or change in sleeping habits, or even a development of an alternative addiction—which isn’t always a bad thing if it is a higher level addiction.

My best advice, take it slow, keep your eyes wide open, and let his sobriety stand the test of time.

Tell her she’s got this! It just takes a little Grit and Grace.

Dr. Zoe


To hear more about healthy relationships, listen to this episode from This Grit and Grace Life podcast: How to Have Healthy Relationships with All the Men in Your Life – 036!

Read what some of our writers have to say about addiction and dating in general: How to Know if Your Boyfriend is a Charity Case6 Ways to Love the Addict in Your Life5 Bachelorette Truths That Will Make You Glad You Watch, 7 Money Tips When You’re Thinking MarriageThe Reality of STDs: Hard Conversations You Need to Have, and 7 Things to Look for in a Man.
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Dr. Zoe is a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert who recently jumped out of a perfectly good plane just for the experience.

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