Help me handle this complicated crush.
January 16, 2008 7:38 PM   Subscribe

What to do now? I'm a single, mid-thirties female, and I have a crush. Oh, wait. It's a lot more complicated than that. I'm sorry this is so long...

Here's the situation. I recently got back in touch with a good college friend after our being incommunicado for no particular reason for about 15 years. Since this happened, in about November, our communication has been steadily ramping up. First it was an email every now and then. Now it's IMing 1-3 times a day for at least an hour each time. I've found myself falling more and more into that fantastically happy crazy giddy state that is a crush. I could go on and on about this guy--he's funny, he's educated, he's sweet, he's making me mixed tapes (I KNOW!), and we've begun getting more in detail about hopes, dreams, fears, worries, issues, etc. We've both remarked on more than one occasion that we have some spooky coincidences with regards to everything from life outlooks to places we've lived over the years.

He lives about 6 hours from where I do, in a city that I happen to travel to a couple of times a year. At one point he mentioned he might be taking a trip vaguely nearby where I live (3 hours away), and mentioned that we should meet for lunch. I did him one better, and planned a trip to the city near where he lives. Two of my closest friends live there, and I will be staying with one of them. I let him know that I'd be in town, and it turns out we will be meeting up. This weekend. (For the record, I hoped that he'd be in town, but I'd have made the trip either way, because ROAD TRIP! FRIENDS! YAY!)

I'm *very* inexperienced with dating and rarely meet men that I click with. FINALLY, when I least expected it, I am interested in a guy. The way I've been thinking about it is, sure, there would be some potential challenges if anything happened (vastly different cultures, different religious outlooks, kind of different political stances--though we're both socially liberal), but none of them would be a dealbreaker. Tricky to deal with, but probably doable.

I also fully recognize that my fantasies about what could be are just that. Fantasies.

There are a few problems. One, I can't tell if he's interested in me "like that." I've straight up told him a couple of times that I've developed quite a crush on him, and his response has been...ambiguous. His responses have been jokey. "Don't worry, I'll eventually cure you of that notion!" which to me could either be a mild rebuff or a kind of unsure flirting. His actions have been more encouraging. Like I mentioned, he's burning me some mixes of things he'd like to share with me, for the ride home. He's planned an evening out for the group of people I'm going down there to see. He's offered to take me sightseeing. He took a funny picture of himself, captioned it, and emailed it to me, on a day when a couple of things had gone kind of pear-shaped for me.

Sorry to be so wordy. Let me sum up that last concern. I don't know how he feels. I haven't exactly asked yet. I'm scared to find out whether he likes me or not. I'm scared that he will. I'm scared that he won't. I'm not sure how to handle that. Any suggestions? Zen techniques?

The second question is of FAR greater consequence, though. Today when we were IMing, he disclosed that he's a recovering addict--alcohol and cocaine. He's been sober since about last April, and this isn't the first time he's done rehab. He says this feels a lot more positive this time, and that for once it doesn't feel temporary. He's also bipolar, but he had mentioned that before, and it didn't faze me too badly on its own.

Likely relevant information: I have my own mental health issues that crop their head up from time to time . I am currently climbing out of a depression that hit a few months ago (at almost the same time as this man and I began communicating) when I went off my meds, under supervision. Apparently my brain didn't like that so much and rebelled.

OK, so given the crush combined with the very recent disclosure of addiction, I'm completely thrown. I've been letting my little fantasy world ride around in my head mostly unchecked, and now there's this big bad scary situation.

My expectations up until just a little while ago were of going to visit, maybe smooching or holding hands, maybe not (but I was for sure leaning towards the "he likes me" side) and just being nice and mindful despite my zeal.

Background is essentially done.


1) Can anyone please give me a heads up about the reality of dating someone who's recently in recovery? And who also has a bipolar disorder? Should I back away now? This scares me.

2) Can you give me some suggestions about how to chill out and just let things develop? (for now, and in general)

3) Any suggestions on how to gracefully move on from high hopes that get dashed? Major disappointments in dating tend to paralyze me for quite some time.

I've had friends tell me that I tend to reject men so that they don't have a chance to reject me. For what it's worth. I'm trying not to blindly do that.

You can find me a:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. Okay, you seem to really, really, really want this guy to like you. Stop focusing on whether or not he likes you. Just breathe, girl. Spend the weekend, see how it goes. He has a boat load of issues you are just sort of glossing over, like being bipolar. That is a pretty significant condition and coupled with addiction issues, it ain't pretty. Are they deal breakers? Only time will tell. His addiction situation and recent recovery are probably his primary focus right now, and rightly so. Also, he also sort of gave you a warning already about "Don't worry, I'll eventually cure you of that notion!" Um, pay attention to things like that, they are little bread crumbs on the trail telling you important things. Take it down a notch. Enjoy being giddy, you couldn't help that anyway, but don't see it all in black and white--relationships are shades of gray, you aren't geographically close, he has issues, etc. Play it by ear. Breathe. Breathe. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 7:58 PM on January 16, 2008

For what it's worth an average guy is unlikely be making you mix tapes and IMing at length unless he was at the very least highly interested. Assuming he fits into a stereotypical 'guy' mold (does anyone?) this is a hopeful sign.

1)prepare to be let down, try not to enable, and try to be understanding :(
2) experience dating would be helpful here, sorry that isn't more helpful
3)cant' offer advise, but I think asking this clearly demonstrates evidence of the next sentence you wrote, again, sorry that isn't more helpful
posted by oblio_one at 8:10 PM on January 16, 2008

Sounds to me like he might indeed like you, but he is reluctant to start something due to his recent/ongoing issues. He may be aware he is not in a place to have a relationship right now, so perhaps he's trying to gently dissuade you/let you know the potential pitfalls.

My only advice is, try not to plan too much for a future romance that may not happen- just in case. You can't stop being excited, obviously, but if you find yourself imagining a relationship with him, try and take your mind off it and think about something else, so you don't get too disappointed if it doesn't happen.

Try to be careful, and try not to involve him/blame him too much if your fantasies don't come to pass. Best wishes for a happy weekend though, and just see where you are after that!
posted by indienial at 8:18 PM on January 16, 2008

Think less. Be more.

(Seriously--even if this is a worst-case situation, you're not going to think your way out of it. And if it's really viable, it's not going to work because you think your way through it.)
posted by LairBob at 8:23 PM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

1) Can anyone please give me a heads up about the reality of dating someone who's recently in recovery? And who also has a bipolar disorder? Should I back away now? This scares me.

This may or may not be unpopular, but I strongly advise you to avoid getting into a relationship with someone in this situation. Could it possibly work out? Maybe. I'm sure stranger things have happened. But it's much more likely to turn into a nightmare of crazy bullshit and addiction. Don't have sex with crazy.

Once he's been sober for, say, 2 years with no major manic/depressive episodes then maybe consider it. But you don't need crazy drama in your life, and knowingly getting into a relationship with a recently recoved bipolar person is just begging for crazy drama.
posted by Justinian at 8:25 PM on January 16, 2008

I feel like I should clarify that I am not suggesting you cut him out of your life, or not be friends, or anything like that. But a romantic relationship involves a huge set of connections and responsibilities that complicate matters tremendously.
posted by Justinian at 8:32 PM on January 16, 2008

Yeah...I wanted to also clarify I wasn't suggesting that you should automatically pursue the relationship. Just that the best answer, yes or no, isn't just going to come from your brain.
posted by LairBob at 8:40 PM on January 16, 2008

I would urge you to take a step back from this and think about how much of your power you're giving away here: You've planned a trip to see him. You've told him repeatedly that you have a crush on him, even after he gave an ambiguous response. And you haven't even seen him yet!

I know that you really WANT him to like you. But I do not - and I'm sorry - think that it particularly sounds like he likes you in the same way you like him, or at least not in an uncomplicated way. If he's less than a year into recovery, he may be pretty committed to not starting anything until he has at least 12 months. It may be that, or it may be that he's enjoying your attention, but not particularly looking to date you. Of course, maybe he wants to marry you immediately, but his actions don't particularly sound like that.

I encourage you to slow down, breathe, enjoy the trip to see your friends, and don't push yourself into anything. If he wants to have dinner with you, let him ask. Don't offer. Try not to have elaborate marriage fantasies and whatnot. Etc.

(I'm sorry to sound like a 50s dating-advice book.)
posted by thehmsbeagle at 8:40 PM on January 16, 2008

I think you're focusing on all the wrong things. You have had your mental health problems; so has he. You probably have a shared ground of experience that makes it easier for you to appreciate each other, what you've gone through, what it means, what people like you need. Rather than looking at that as a flaw in either of you, it's probably something that, taken together, would be a strength of your relationship.

The issue is that you haven't seen this guy for 15 years. You don't know him now. You didn't "meet him again." You exchanged IMs with him. That's not a complete way to relate to a person; it's only partial. You think there might be potential for something more. But you're not sure, or at least I hope you have enough sense not to be sure. He's not sure either. He wouldn't be spending an hour a day on you if he hated you; but he's not sure you're the next great thing to come along in his life, and he's expressed that uncertainty to you by his ambiguous or jokey replies. He'd be crazy to be sure based on a few months of IMing.

So I don't blame the guy, and I don't blame you either. Go meet him and find out who he is now. Hold off judgment, hold off trying to plug him into your romantic fantasies, until you see what the situation is on the ground. For all you know he's married and looking for a little on the side; or he may feel just the way you do and you fall for each other instantly. Only one way to find out, and it's not to Ask MetaFilter; it's to go do it.

For what it's worth, incidentally, I think you're on the right track. I think your approach is sound except that it's making you anxious. Don't be anxious; you're doing what you gotta do.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:11 PM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

Minus the part about the object of your crush being a recovering addict, I feel like I could have written the above very recently. It's spooky.

In my case, I just had the "are we in the friend zone" talk with my "crush" today. The answer was yes, and, though disappointing, it was actually a weight off my shoulders, since it confirmed my gut feeling about the situation and took away the vagueness that had been hanging there.

Even without the issue of his very recent sobriety in the mix, I caution you to have zero romantic expectations for this person. Zero.
posted by medeine at 9:32 PM on January 16, 2008

I dunno...

You gave him a pretty gigantic green light when you told him you had a crush on him...and got an ambiguous response. That's a red flag for me. Maybe he didn't want to hurt your feelings by coming right out and saying he doesn't feel the same way.

I admit, his actions seem pretty promising, and he's kind of an ass if he continues them, knowing that you two aren't on the same page.

And as another mentioned, stop worrying about whether or not he likes you, and decide if you actually like him.

Crushes kinda suck when your 30+... good luck!
posted by clh at 9:59 PM on January 16, 2008 [2 favorites]

your you're
posted by clh at 10:02 PM on January 16, 2008

Be careful the bipolar / addict combination can be deadly. My first advice is don't get romantically involved. If you do, be careful - be sure to meet the people who know him best and can warn you if he goes off the rails - family, friends, etc. Take what he says with a grain of salt. Make sure he's on his meds, and best of luck.
posted by zia at 10:16 PM on January 16, 2008

Make your play. Love is about risk. Try not to live in fear of your own reaction to rejection.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:20 PM on January 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with Justinian.

He isn't THAT interested in you, and at the very least has stuff of his own he needs to work on, and from what I hear addicts really should have 12 months sobriety before they date again anyway. And he lives far away. And bipolar on top of all of that?

Odds are very high this guy is a trainwreck, and you will be crushed all to hell. I'm sorry.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:10 PM on January 16, 2008

I speak from a great deal of experience when I say that unmedicated bi-polar addicts are the best sex you will ever have so go for it. But get out once plates start being thrown.
posted by cmonkey at 12:03 AM on January 17, 2008 [9 favorites]

Given that he's been in treatment and rehab it's quite likely his ambiguous responses have been because he's worried about hurting you, not because he's unsure if he likes you.

1) Can anyone please give me a heads up about the reality of dating someone who's recently in recovery? And who also has a bipolar disorder? Should I back away now? This scares me.

It scares him too, in a lot of the same ways, for a lot of the same reasons. This is what it's like, and you know a lot of this already yourself: someone with a mental health problem, when dating, has vast numbers of fears, most of which are totally exaggerated. He fears he might hurt her somehow. He fears if he tells her the truth, she will run away. He fears that the more he loves her, if she does leave, the more likely he is to go back on the drugs or otherwise freak out. He fears that if he doesn't tell her the truth, and she somehow discovers that he's worse than he's been saying, she will no longer trust him; but he fears that if he tells her how bad it can get, that's "reinforcing it". He fears that if he tells her the truth she will always be looking him over for symptoms and may assume every little flaky bit of behavior he has is due to the problem, not just normal human flakiness. And so on. Then there is the hope that he can be loved, that maybe he can have a normal adult relationship.

So those are some of his, hopefully groundless, fears. He needs to know that he can be honest with you, that you can tolerate with equanamity a certain amount of harmless flakiness. If he tells you he wants to be left alone for a few hours or a few days, that doesn't mean he doesn't love you any more. Neither the manic nor the depressive moods are entirely "the real him". How much of the real him you get will increase over time as he gets better.

He needs to be told, with tact and discretion, if he's acting strangely or worrying you. You and he will work this kind of thing out together. If he can't be told, he's not ready to date. He might not know that until you try. You need to keep your own sanity and your own sense of reality. Him in mania mode can be extraordinary fun and incredibly generous, but if he gets up in the night and says he wants to get a credit card and fly to Cuba with you tomorrow, you need to be able to draw a line. (See above.) So, set firm limits on how much money he's allowed to spend on you, for instance.

Of course he may not be anywhere near that variable. YMMV.

2) Can you give me some suggestions about how to chill out and just let things develop? (for now, and in general)

Your plans for being nice and mindful and maybe smooching all sound ideal. Meet for dinner somewhere nice. Don't drink alcohol. Have your phone, and arrange for your girlfriend to have hers on, in case you need an out (it doesn't sound like you will, though). If you do go home with him, don't have too many expectations with regard to sex. Cuddling is good. It sounds like you both have a serious need for reassurance.

3) Any suggestions on how to gracefully move on from high hopes that get dashed? Major disappointments in dating tend to paralyze me for quite some time.

Don't expect your hopes to be dashed.

Even if they are, being paralyzed by it is entirely normal. Spend time with friends. Eat icecream. Watch movies. When you feel a bit better, go out and have a good time. Realize that there are thousands of people you meet every day who you could fall in love with; just because it didn't work out with one guy, doesn't mean it won't with one you meet the next day.

Good luck, I hope things work out well for you both.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 12:03 AM on January 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Hey, I hate to be that guy who tells you to fib, but quit being quite so honest with him. You don't have to tell a guy you have a crush on him. You certainly don't need to do it over an IM. But while that horse is out of the barn and halfway to Mars by now, you can still take a deep breath and slow down. If you're too eager, if you want it to work too much, it will fuck things up - not only in the way he feels about you, but the way you feel about him. Trust me on this one.

That said, I think it would be fine for you to see him. Maybe it's not yet time for a serious relationship, but don't let anyone scare you off of this entirely. I have no idea about dating an addict, so I don't know about 1). As for 2), it helps to understand that if you don't chill and let things develop organically, the relationship will fail in all sorts of catastrophic ways. No one wants to be put on a pedestal. No one worth knowing, anyway. Have fun, express your interest in subtle ways, but quit running your mouth about the crush and all that. Re: 3): you have to understand that dating is a numbers game. There's always someone else, and if this guy doesn't work out there are 3 billion others you haven't dated. I know that's a facile and easy answer to give and it's a slap in the face on a, like, solo Saturday night spent watching American Gladiators, but it's true nonetheless.

Good luck. You sound nice.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:57 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

I was thinking, "wonderful, good going anonymous, for finding such a great guy"...until I read that he was recovering from two kinds of addiction.

From someone who has dated a recovering addict before, I ask you, nay, beg you to think twice about getting la-la over this guy. If you're not prepared, you could be in for a world of hurt. Main sign to look for? Is he exhibiting obsessive behaviour over anything in his life, such that it seems out of balance with the rest of his life? Bear in mind that this thing could be you. What it means is that he hasn't yet dealt with the impulse to overindulge to his detriment, simply transferred the impulse onto something other than alcohol and drugs. It will be wonderful for a while, but soon he's going to need more stimulation, and unless you ramp up to meet his demands, he's going to lose interest.

I'm so terribly sorry to be the downer here. Regardless of what you decide to do, go in with your eyes open. Good luck!
posted by LN at 5:09 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm *very* inexperienced with dating and rarely meet men that I click with.

This jumped out at me. Could it be that, having met someone you like and who might like you back, you are putting all your eggs into one rather fragile basket? My advice would be this: One, don't come at this guy out of a space of desperation. If you are inexperienced at dating, and rarely meet men you click with, then it might be that you are glomming on to this man because you don't sense many other possibilities. Don't sell yourself short. Don't think to yourself, "OMG MY LAST AND ONLY CHANCE!" Bipolar + addict = serious issues that don't bode well for a long-term relationship.

On that note, nobody wants to hear this while they are crushing hard, but try expanding your horizons, and make it possible for you to meet other men. If you have a sense of possibilities in your life, rather than scarcity, it will be easier for you to get into a healthy relationship rather than one based on need and desperation.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:18 AM on January 17, 2008 [4 favorites]

What Justinian, zia, and LN said. This is not a promising situation. You need to pull back and stop obsessing so you can have half a chance of figuring out what's really going on. I have to say that, as a guy, I don't get the feeling this guy feels about you the way you want him to. You might well be able to pull him into a relationship by coming on hard, but it doesn't sound to me that that would be a good thing for either of you. I could, of course, be wrong, but I'm pretty sure I'm not wrong about the pulling-back thing. You can't make good decisions when your head is full of desperate longing and fantasies.
posted by languagehat at 7:19 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding medeine, including the bit about this situation being spooky and sounding like I could have written it myself recently.

Be brutally honest with yourself in this situation. Men rarely make the woman do the chasing if they're really interested.
posted by fan_of_all_things_small at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Partly what you are feeling is just the normal "wheeeee!" of a new love interest (magnified by your upswing from the depression). But part of this is being driven by your choice of communications technologies. Email and IM are perfect vehicles for developing a crush, because they let each of you package yourself in the best light, and leave out all the intervening complications of real-life contact (like eye contact, tone of voice, body odor, and so on). You see this a lot with internet dating, where people will often get into very hot and heavy electronic communication, only to find things not so perfect when they meet in person.

I think you should quit the IM, move to phone and in-person talking, and see how things develop. The bigger question is of course the bipolar and addiction on his side, and your own mental issues on the other side, and I don't think anyone here can have a very clear window into that from what you have written. If he is a 100% sober person who is committed to a lifetime of one-day-at-a-time recovery, and takes his medication/goes to therapy/does whatever it is he needs to do for the bipolar issues, and you maintain whatever regime it is that keeps you on an even keel, that is a pretty good foundation for a relationship, and both of you will probably have a wealth of empathy and understanding for what struggles the other has gone through. If not, well, both of you should run for the hills.

But given that ambiguity, I think that your real focus here should be on finding better ways to communicate that let you understand where each is coming from much better. There is a world of difference between "Don't worry, I'll eventually cure you of that notion!" accompanied by a kiss and a hug, and the same sentence said while averting his eyes and frowning, but a million years spent on IM will never clarify it in the way that a moment of observation will. Even a voice on a telephone will tell you more. Use email and IM to maintain a relationship; be old-fashioned and use more nuanced communication methods to build a relationship.

And, like others have said, stop overthinking this and seeking too much clarity. Focus on: Is this healthy for you? Are you feeling good? Does he make you smile? Could you introduce him to your friends and family? Is he honest and consistent? If so, then things are ok, whether or not you marry/have five kids/run away to Bali next week. Relationships, and friendships as well, are built out of an accretion of small actions and small decisions, not just huge gestures (like saying, "I have a crush on you!"). The small stuff is the foundation on which you can stand -- if the small stuff is good, the big stuff is solvable.
posted by Forktine at 8:40 AM on January 17, 2008

You won't really know how things are going until you've spent some time together and had a chance to really talk. Give him a chance but respect his space if he says he's not ready. If it's a good thing you can come bck to it when he's in a better place.

Enjoy the giddiness! :)
posted by MiffyCLB at 8:56 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

In my experience, bipolar people are likely to cheat on their partners. (Just google "bipolar + infidelity" - apparently I'm not alone in this observation.) Hypersexuality is one of the diagnostic criteria of mania. Also, addicts aren't the most terribly reliable or honest people. Like cmonkey said, they're a wild ride in bed, but it's wise to approach relationships with bipolar/addicts with extreme caution.

You seem insecure, and I don't think you'd handle being cheated on too well. Take care of yourself now - work on your own issues and get comfortable in your own skin first. Then the attention of some guy will be much, much less important to you and won't cause this kind of anxiety.
posted by desjardins at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2008

I am currently dating a recovering addict (he's not bipolar, though). I strongly agree with what aeschenkarnos's first paragraph above about whether or not he is interested in you. IMO he sounds very interested and VERY aware that he is not supposed to be thinking about dating right now. I suggest you do some (a lot of) research on addiction and treatment. Be aware that starting a relationship early in recovery dramatically decreases the chances that he will continue to stay sober.

Important things to remember:

1. You are not responsible for his behavior. You cannot keep him sober. You cannot make him relapse.

2. He will ALWAYS be recovering. He will NEVER be recovered. This does not mean that he might not make a wonderful partner; it just means he will never be "cured."

3. It might work out wonderfully. It might work out terribly. If you choose to be in a relationship with him, you are choosing to accept that risk, just like in any relationship.

At some point the two of you need to really openly discuss the addiction issue and what that means. If you choose to be in a relationship with him, I can't suggest strongly enough that you find a therapist who understands addiction.

As for this weekend, just enjoy spending time with him and getting to know him again and not over the computer. You don't have to (and shouldn't) decide whether or not you want to get deeply involved with him for a long time. Best of luck!
posted by argylekneesocks at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2008

3. It might work out wonderfully. It might work out terribly. If you choose to be in a relationship with him, you are choosing to accept that risk, just like in any relationship.

This is true but misleading. The relative risk in choosing to pursue a relationship with a newly sober bipolar addict is vastly different from the risk in choosing to pursue a relationship with an always-sober mentally healthy individual.
posted by Justinian at 10:22 AM on January 17, 2008

Frankly, the bipolar stuff would scare me more than the recovering addict stuff, but that's me. Bipolar people are awfully damn difficult to deal with on a day to day basis, and I say this as someone with a bipolar brother. They're wildly unpredictable and you never know which person you might be speaking with at any given moment. The depression waves get longer and longer as they get older and they are soul crushing. However.

That aside, the other problem I'm seeing with all of this is pretty much what other people are saying. You're crushing; he's ambiguous; you're only talking via IM and email and, um, look: it's been two months since November; he's only six hours away and nobody has made the trip yet? To give you a data reference, I reconnected with an old college boyfriend in October. He's 4 hours away. We ended up talking on the phone every single day. By mid-November he'd made the trip up here twice and by mid-December we were, for lack of a better term, going steady and by early January we were making a 1200 mile road trip together. Yes, that's kind of fast and YMMV and all that, but what is he waiting for? What are you waiting for? Conversely, what is he hiding from you? Why no visit, why no phone? If this was really romance, I think you would have seen him by now or at least spoken to him on the phone regularly. Stop worrying that you're going to scare him off (if he scares off that easy, well, he wasn't any good in the first place, anyway) and call him.

When you do see him, try to be as zen mind as you can: don't expect anything, just go with the flow. Trust your instincts. Don't overthink stuff; listen to your gut. And if you find that the minute you start listening to your instincts your brain begins whirring like an overheated fan making all kinds of excuses and explaining why that actually is not a red flag, it's okay and he'll change, then back away slowly. But if that doesn't happen and when you're with him your instincts and your brain are in accord (when you're with him. Everybody freaks out in the middle of the night alone. Ignore that.) then you're golden.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:45 AM on January 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

My feeling, from his behaviour and the situation as you've described them, is that he knows he shouldn't be getting into a relationship because of his issues - but he likes you and the idea of it is far too tempting to give a firm 'no' to.

Whatever you do, take it very very slowly.
posted by dickasso at 11:14 AM on January 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

The relative risk in choosing to pursue a relationship with a newly sober bipolar addict is vastly different from the risk in choosing to pursue a relationship with an always-sober mentally healthy individual.

If you've got a way of picking always-sober mentally healthy individuals out of the crowd, share it. Seriously.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:09 PM on January 17, 2008

If you've got a way of picking always-sober mentally healthy individuals out of the crowd, share it. Seriously.

I don't have to; I can point at the guy the asker is talking about and say he is a bipolar addict who hasn't even been sober a year.
posted by Justinian at 3:10 PM on January 17, 2008

Meh. He's been sober almost a year, and the bipolar thing is probably under control too. In your position, I'd be more concerned that I'm over 30 and crushing over someone through the internet who lives pretty far away. It's an easy way to pretend intimacy - I've had the talking-to-people-every-day-all-day IM crushes before. I almost moved to Boston for one guy that I hadn't even met. People's real feelings can so easily be hid through this medium. On the other hand I've had lovely affairs with IM crushes. Just nothing serious, but then I don't believe even a tiny bit in long distance boyfriends. If you both do, have at it.
posted by herbaliser at 3:18 PM on January 17, 2008

All of this stuff is widely individually variable. I'm a former cocaine and heroin addict and was diagnosed bipolar in rehab. I'm really not. I've never had a manic episode, although I certainly qualify for the bipolar II diagnosis of alternating periods of depression and hypomania. But hypomania is miles different from mania-- you don't believe you're Jesus or have wild orgies, you (at least if you are me) just are excessively productive and in an upbeat mood and have to try not to talk too fast when you are hypomanic.

Bipolar diagnoses seem to be given out like candy these days-- find out what the real deal is before you decide that this means something particular about him.

And I say former addict because not all people have major recovery issues for the rest of their lives. Am I going to try casual use of cocaine or heroin? No. But do I still go to recovery support groups or stuff like that? No, haven't for about 10 years and nothing dire has happened yet. I used drugs from about 17-23 and I certainly cannot take heroin or cocaine moderately and wouldn't dream of trying (I reserve the right to possibly be re-addicted when I'm very, very old and have few other pleasures). But it feels bizarre to define myself for the rest of my life by that short period of time at this point in life.

So, my point is both conditions are hugely different from person to person. Some people can never get and stay clean; some do it on first try; most relapse a bit then ultimately stabilize. Some do need to avoid relationships for the first year-- some don't and there's nothing magical or even scientific about this advice. It just comes out of 12-step lore-- some of which turns out to be correct when studies are done, some of which doesn't.

Some people are bipolar and this means they wind up hospitalized twice a year. Other people are given the diagnosis because they talk a mile a minute when they are detoxing from cocaine and heroin.

It's kind of silly in my view to advise someone not to obsess or crush-- they're gonna do it. So see what happens and keep an open mind as much as possible to both positive and negative and enjoy yourself, is my advice.
posted by Maias at 3:40 PM on January 17, 2008

The first thing to be aware of is people are generally somewhat different in person to IM. Getting overly attached on IM is potentially a big problem and the more time you spend talking b4 meeting the worse it could be. Not saying thats what's gonna happen but you gotta be prepared given the ambiguity. Talk on the phone more and IM less, even if it means less contact. Its more real. At the moment you're missing all the context in his voice. I get your kind of nervous about meeting but its still better to meet someone you dont know as well than to meet someone you *think* you know.
posted by browolf at 8:07 AM on January 19, 2008

I speak from a great deal of experience when I say that unmedicated bi-polar addicts are the best sex you will ever have...

heh. the cmonkey speaketh much truth :) Unfortunately as I've related elsewhere, the crazy tends to rub off. Whether or no you want more crazy in your life at this point, well... that's up to you.

Personally, I'd see if you can back away emotionally and just try to enjoy each other's company. Your shared experiences with mental health issues may help to forge a strong friendship.

To his credit, the crazy x in my link up there sent up similar red flags, and we BOTH had our reservations about the relationship before proceeding, but I was just too stubborn to heed the warnings. He had also not managed to be sober for more than six months when we plunged in, so ymmv.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:23 PM on January 19, 2008

update from the OP
Hey...OP here. Here's what happened, in case anyone wanted to see what happened. I had a long discussion with a friend who's married to a recovering drug addict, which kind of put things in perspective for me, and I was able to kind of get over the high-fantasy dreamland level of crush before I left town.

The night I got to the city I was visiting, Crush was in the neighborhood for an AA meeting and stopped by afterwards. I was staying with my college roommate, and it turned out they had also known one another. We all shot the shit for a couple of hours, and then he went home (about an hour away). We all had plans to go out the following night, but weather put the kibosh on them. So instead Crush asked me to brunch on Sunday. He came and got me, and then we spent a number of hours catching up, this time getting more personal about his recovery. It was extremely clear that in no way is he ready for anything, and to tell the truth, I wasn't all that interested either. We never touched on the subject of "Us" or anything like that. It just wasn't necessary.

He made me 10 CDs, opened all doors for me, and paid for everything. As we said goodbye, we hugged warmly. We've remained in contact via IM, and I think we'll continue to do so.

Overall it was a great outcome, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by jessamyn at 9:29 AM on January 25, 2008

Congratulations, it does sound like a great outcome. Thanks for updating us.
posted by languagehat at 12:21 PM on January 25, 2008

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