Well, what is it you’re trying to do: build a friendship or build a relationship? It’s not unrealistic to build a friendship with the guy. After all, he’s in a place where he could probably use as many close friends as he can get while he continues his first year of sobriety. But building a relationship with the guy — a relationship you have yet to even openly discuss? Being sexually exclusive without calling yourself “exclusive”? Putting all your eggs in a basket that is far from stable? Well, that just has “disaster” written all over it, if you ask me.
I’m by no means an expert on addiction recovery, but from what I do know it’s not an easy path — especially the first year. It takes an extreme amount of focus and dedication, and while that’s not to say a recovering alcoholic/addict can’t be a good partner eventually, I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to invest the kind of dedication and commitment it takes to maintain a healthy, monogamous long-distance relationship — something I do know a little about — while battling the demons one battles in the first year of sobriety. If you really care about this person and want him to get healthy, don’t put that kind of pressure on him. Be his friend for now. Talk on the phone with him, visit with him if you feel like it, but leave expectations of romance and exclusivity off the table. If, in eight months to a year, you’re still feeling like he could be the one, revisit the idea then. But in the meantime, let him focus his energy where it’s most needed: his health. Because if he doesn’t get a handle on it, he won’t be a good partner for you or anyone else.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.