5 Q & A: LGBTQ Relationship Advice for Addiction Recovery
You probably know that alcohol and drug use is higher among members of the LGBTQ+ community than the general population. Not only does my community recreationally use substances more than our straight counterparts, but our rates of drug and alcohol dependence are also higher.
The famed Stonewall Riots were a response to a police crackdown in a popular gay bar, and they’ve become a place where many of us have found partners. It can be challenging to navigate the gay dating scene if the sober you is ready for a romantic relationship. If you think back to the last few date invitations you’ve had, how many of those were offers to ‘grab a drink?’ You certainly have a lot of questions, so I’ve compiled a list of the top five Q & A LGBTQ relationship advice. I’m addressing some dos and don’ts for same-sex dating in recovery.
When Can I Start Dating?
Some of the most difficult times in recovery are the first few months, also called early recovery. There are essentially five stages to addiction recovery, and each one serves a critical purpose for long-term sobriety.
Wait one year from the date of your last time drinking or using. This is the general rule offered by AAs, NAs, therapists, recovery coaches and everyone else with relevant experience. Your first year recovering from substance use disorder needs to be dedicated to you and your recovery. If you’re like most addicts and alcoholics, you’ve probably been incredibly selfish up to this point in your life, and you have a pass to continue to be for the first year in recovery. Now is the time to focus on you and build a solid foundation for long-term recovery. Don’t argue, don’t overthink, don’t think your situation is special or unique, and that you should be the exception to the rule. You’ve made it this far by taking suggestions and listing to others, so keep it up.
How do I Know if I’m Ready?
During our active addiction, the vast majority of us weren’t in healthy relationships. We lied, sometimes cheated and took unfair advantage of our significant others. The new you should take a long, honest look at previous relationships and identify the mistakes you’ve made. Some questions that may be pertinent for LGBTQ relationship advice include:
- Where were you dishonest?
- Where did you abuse trust?
- What was lacking in your communication?
- Was it a codependent relationship?
All of these questions need to be answered before you begin a new relationship. It requires time to retrain your brain to recognize unhealthy behaviors in all aspects of your life. After a full and truthful evaluation of your previous relationships, you should ask yourself a few questions before you dive back into the dating pool.
- Am I prepared for disagreements?
- Do I know what healthy conflict resolution looks like?
- Am I prepared to respect boundaries?
- Am I able to positively contribute to another person’s life?
If you’ve answered affirmatively to these questions, you may be ready to start dating. However, you should discuss the topic with your sponsor, sober peers and your therapist.
Can I Still Go to The Bars?
Yes – well, maybe. It entirely depends on where you are in your recovery. It is critical in early sobriety to avoid triggering situations that remind you of old behaviors. If you are in your first year of recovery, it is unwise to visit old hangouts where you engaged in substance use. In fact some of the best LGBTQ relationship advice is to first establish a relapse prevention plan prior to engaging in dating and formulating relationships.
To play on an old adage, the road to addiction hell is paved with best intentions. Your brain needs time to recover, rewire and rest from its chemical-induced haze. The purpose of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and 12-Step programs is to literally rewire your brain to think and behave differently, but it takes time and effort. The last thing you want to do is to inadvertently undo any progress you’ve made for a quick hook-up or a date. All conversations about returning to old hangouts need to occur between you, your sponsor and your therapist. If you’re in an Intensive Outpatient Program (5-Day IOP), this would be a great topic to bring up and discuss with your peers! If you decide to return to the bars eventually, be sure to bring a friend that is aware of your recovery as an added layer of accountability and support.
What if Someone Asks Me to ‘Grab a Drink?’
Alcohol relapse is a grim reality. Establishing an alcohol relapse prevention plan can help you understand your personal triggers and what to do to avoid certain situations that may cause harm. For LBGTQ relationship advice in early recovery, there are some things you should understand.
You’ll be asked this question a lot. You know all that honesty your recovery peers have been talking about? Now is the time to showcase your new ability. My usual response is, “Well, I don’t drink, but I’m totally down to grab a coffee!” To my surprise, 99.9% of responses have been something along the lines of “That’s awesome!” or “Good for you!” It has not at all been an issue.
That being said, you need to evaluate the person you’re going on a date with. If you’re using an app, use it to your advantage. Do they have a drink in most of their profile pictures? If so, they’re probably not a good match. Some apps, like Hinge, already have a profile section where users answer questions about their substance use. If they check the boxes for alcohol, weed, cigarettes and drugs, they’re probably not an ideal candidate for you. Go ahead and swipe left.
Early vetting of potential mates is a good start, but you’ll have no idea of someone’s relationship with drugs and alcohol until you get to know them better. Don’t be afraid to have an honest conversation after a date or two and move on. Your long-term sobriety depends on your choices, and choosing a partner without substance issues – and that understands your situation – is critical. If a potential partner has a problem with your sobriety, it says a lot more about their relationship with substances than yours.
Can I Date Someone From a 12-Step Meeting?
This commonly referred to as “13th stepping” and a gray area. Indeed, if you’re in your first year of recovery, the answer is no. If you have more than a year of sobriety under your belt, you also need to consider the recovery time of the other person. It’s unwise to date anyone with less than a year of sobriety for all the reasons mentioned above, and you should never go to 12-Step meetings looking for a partner. Meetings exist to help others live a life free of alcohol and drugs and are not a substitute for Grindr or a gay bar.
However, I do know at least half a dozen couples who are happily married after meeting each other in a 12-Step group. If you happen to find someone whom you develop feelings for, it is OK to ask them out on a date, but not inside the rooms. Be mindful of their boundaries and ask the person out for coffee and then have an honest discussion about your interest.
Dating in sobriety will be a new, fun and rewarding experience. You’ll quickly notice how much you’ve grown and matured in recovery because the difference between your new and previous relationships will be stark and apparent. Just remember to make sure you’re ready to embark on this new endeavor and to respect boundaries, keep it honest and be transparent.
If you’re wondering about your relationship with alcohol, use this link to take our free online quiz to see where you stand. You can also check out our blog about the top five reasons treatment might be right for you. If you’re ready to talk about treatment, call our admission specialists at 855-678-3144, and we’ll walk you through the next steps.