Public Affection

Lovers at Sunset

A Personal Story of Dating in Collegiate Recovery

It is often said in the rooms of 12-step meetings that we are “growing up in public.” The people around us who stand shoulder to shoulder with us share in our triumphs and our failures. They see us grow and change day by day in our recovery. This belief is especially true regarding our relationships in recovery.

Dating in college is tricky, dating in recovery is tricky, dating while in college and in recovery can be especially fraught with challenges. If we date someone outside of recovery, they may not understand us, and we may have very different ideas of what constitutes a fun Saturday night. Dating someone in recovery means we have to place our relationship in the public eye, and dating within our Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) means we must be willing to have a very public relationship, and we are obliged to keep that relationship from affecting the community in a negative way.  It can get very complicated, very fast.

My own experience was that I came into collegiate recovery in a relationship, with someone who was in recovery, and we both applied and got into school together. For the CRP this was a gamble, the staff had no way of knowing if our relationship was healthy, positive, or drama-free. Relationships within a CRP can pollute the community vibe with negativity, and, when things go sour between two people, it can polarize people into certain camps—those who side with one person, and those who support another. It can be a troublesome affair.

My girlfriend and I had long talks about what we could contribute to the CRP as a couple. We talked openly about the viability of our relationship, and we sought to bring some principles into our transition to college. We committed ourselves to always acting civil to one another in public, no matter how stressed things may be at home. We shared the trials of our relationship in our separate seminar classes. We were willing to put our relationship out there in public. We were willing to have others look at our relationship and learn from it.

We had always had certain boundaries in our relationship. Being in recovery, we made a decision early on that we were not to comment on one another’s recovery. We were not to “take inventory” on the other person’s recovery. We went to separate meetings, and we had separate friends. We maintained these boundaries in the CRP. When we had trouble, we turned to those sources of wisdom outside of our relationship, and we trusted one another to keep up with their own recovery.

Coming into the CRP was a new level of public living. We all knew one another at the CRP, and we were all very close. As a couple, my girlfriend and I participated in many related activities together. We served together in student organizations, and we saw each other every day at the CRP. Personally, I tend to be a private person, so this experience was a difficult one for me. At the same time, being a person in recovery, I needed that system of checks and balances that such a public relationship has to offer.

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